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The Dark Blues
  • Doon Derby Magic from The Wizard

    Winging It

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    Most Dee’s will have been saddened by the recent departure of Craig ‘CW33’ Wighton to Hearts. The parallels between the journey he is setting out on and the one taken by his now ex-manager, Neil McCann, just over 20 years before him, also something that won’t have escaped those of a Dark Blue persuasion.

    Making his Dundee debut in his teens, becoming the club’s youngest ever goal scorer along the way and having been lauded by his peers and elders are all bold boasts. And yet, it was his squirting, squirming trundler that sauntered its way through the entire Dundee United defence to nestle in their goal in the final moments of the never to be forgotten Doon Derby that will always see ‘CW33’ as part of our club’s history. That Craig leaves an impressive legacy at Dens is an understatement, especially considering he’s still only 21.

    With so much going his way, Wighton’s departure for a reported £250,000, doesn’t seem that much of a shock. However, unlike his manager before him, the major difference this time is that this youngster, so far, has failed to truly fulfil his potential. Most people believe that Wighton’s ultimate position within a team will be the traditional No.10 role as the playmaker sitting behind the front two; pulling the strings, tormenting opposition midfielders and chipping in with more than a few goals of his own. 

    Hence, the question really needs to be, why have Dundee supporters, seldom, if ever, seen ‘The Wizard’, as he was dubbed by the likes of Gary Harkins no less, in that role? In truth, only his one-time Dundee managers, John Brown, Paul Hartley and Neil McCann, can answer that question. 

    Instead, the role that the tricky ball player was most often asked to fill was one that has proved to be a poisoned chalice for many a Dee. All manner of players squeezed and squashed into a role that was never going to suit them. The dreaded wide left midfield berth…

    We don’t have to go any further back than last season to find Neil McCann asking the, admittedly at a much mower level, free scoring Faissal El Bakhtaoui to play on the left wing. The slightly built whippet looking a forlorn figure as games passed him by. Admittedly El-Bak would also be tried unsuccessfully in umpteen other positions, but as often as not the striker could be found struggling to take on the opposition right back and over hitting crosses into The Derry. 

    So, obviously this is a weakness of Neil McCann’s managerial style? Well, probably yes, and possibly no, for he is not alone. From the top of my head Dee legends Jim Duffy and Jocky Scott were equally afflicted by a desire to utilise players completely unsuited to the role of a winger, as their wide left option. 

    Don’t believe me? Well, ask yourself why Colin McMenamin, who scored a barrowload of goals for the likes of Livingston and Gretna before coming to Dundee, and Queen of the South and Ross County after his departure, had his early goal scoring form for The Dee’s ignored as Jocky asked him to protect the full back and whip in crosses from the left. After all, this was a player who needed to stop a stranger and ask him for directions if he found himself anywhere other than in the opposition’s penalty box. 

    Something that could also be said for Rory Loy, a poacher who found himself, quite rightly, surplus to goalscoring requirements when Kane Hemmings hit a career high purple patch for Dundee. Harrying defenders and putting in crunching tackles was never on Loy’s agenda and arguably his spell under Paul Hartley’s tutelage ruined the striker’s career.

    Other less obvious ‘wingers’ to plough the wide left furrow at Dens include a couple of players whose own individual talent proved enough to rise above being played out of position. Leigh Griffith’s tenacity, blistering pace and accuracy from distance more than enough to hide his questionable deployment. While the glorious one, Gary Harkins, was (and still is) capable of mesmerising defenders with his fleet footwork and the merest shimmy of his ample hips. Still, like Craig Wighton, ‘GGH’ was a maestro you wanted pulling the strings from the centre of the park, devastating defences as he did so.

    Less successful was the man of not one goal, but of Juan, two three strikes against Dundee United, Juan Sara. Who, once the goals dried up under Jim Duffy’s direction, also found himself playing deeper and deeper and, on occasion, marginalised out on the left. With his confidence already shot through his sudden lack of goals, playing in a position that he was never suited to was only going to end one way. The DAB destroyer becoming a pale, impotent shadow of the player he had once been.

    However, the most ludicrous left winger I’ve seen in my time going to watch Dundee is actually one of our cult heroes. A goal scoring target man with time spent at Celtic, Aberdeen, Middlesbrough and Watford – and fresh from a reasonably prolific spell with Motherwell – Willie Falconer is undoubtedly one of the most effective, out and out, frontmen we’ve seen at Dens over the past twenty years. 

    So what his manager at the time, the much moustachioed Jocky Scott, was thinking as Dundee lined up at home to Rangers on a cold February evening in 2000, with the hustling, bustling, centre back bursting Falconer hugging the left hand touchline, I don’t think anyone – including Jocky – will ever know. Old ladies used to ask ‘Big Wullie’ if he needed a hand to cross the street, so the only shock when the seasoned frontman spent 90 minutes falling over his own feet, hitting defenders with ‘crosses’ and losing the ball over and over, was that his manager didn’t see it coming. Rangers did and promptly left Dens with a victory of seven goals to one. 

    To Willie’s great credit, he outlasted his manager at Dens, resisted Ivano Bonetti’s cull of Scottish players and went on to successfully partner no less than Claudio Caniggia in the Dee’s frontline. Quickly putting to rest one of the most bizarre midfield ‘experiments’ we’ve ever seen.

    In fairness to these strikers come left wingers, even players who were supposedly ‘meant’ to play out there, have found the position too much for them when they arrived at Dundee. Mark Gilhaney, having destroyed The Dark Blues for Hamilton Accies down the left wing on numerous occasions, looking like a lost wee laddie asking for his Mum when he pulled on a Dark Blue shirt. While Freddie Daquin is legendary for his ability to run down the wing and straight out of play. Although to be fair to the Frenchman, he proved just as adept at that skill on his favoured right flank as he did when hunting for some never to be found form on the left! 

    And yet, last season, with the welcome exception of his top flight securing cross onto the head of Simon Murray, Randy Wolters made nearly all of these men look like world beaters. The burly, attitude packed wide-o showing up without a trick in his bag, or an end product to sell. 

    But surely not every player to play wide left over the past few decades for Dundee has been absolutely, dreadfully awful in that role? Well, when he was played a little deeper, Gavin Swankie gave it a half decent go, while, to be fair, it’s hard to say that the much maligned Ryan Conroy doesn’t show up rather favourably against most of those both before and after his time at the club.
     
    Ryan’s wing-partner Nicky Riley, also gave it a half decent go when he was put on his less favoured side. While there’s no denying that the man of many, all and sometimes no midfield position at all, Greg Stewart, did a lot of his best work while playing down that flank. Although a certain Kevin Holt might not be so keen to agree...

    Hence, we might just need to go back to the gaffer, Mr Neil McCann, to unearth the last Dundee player to truly make the left wing his own. Dropping his shoulder to beat players, hitting the byline to expertly stick the ball on Jim Hamilton’s napper and scoring the occasional wonder goal, just as he did the night he helped send Dundee to the Coca Cola cup final.

    Which, of course, begs the questions of why our current manager, a man who spent years tormenting right backs, prefers such a narrow formation, and why can’t he find a left midfielder with even a tenth of the potency he possessed?

    With Craig Wighton now wearing the maroon of Hearts, who will be next to be left out in the cold? Well, we’ve already seen Jean Alassane Mendy run about lost against St Johnstone out there and, of course, one of Scotland’s most prolific goal scorers of the past couple of decades, Kenny Miller, become more and more frustrated as the curse tried to overcome him on his debut for Dundee. Calvin Miller, it’s over to you. No pressure now... 

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    • By Billy Campbell's Ghost
      DUNDEE BREAK HEARTS TITLE HOPES WITH MAGNIFICENT SEVEN!
      Without raising the pain barrier too much too soon, I will skip back three decades to another season when again our Edinburgh friends were beaten by a whisker to League glory, this time by
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      Three seasons on, during season 1964-65, it was the turn of Hearts and Killie to stir the hearts of their fans towards glory.
      Hearts were to meet Dundee at Tynecastle in a league fixture that season that would ultimately have a significant and decisive impact on Hearts title aspirations.
      Dundee's league-winning team of 1962 was breaking up and stars such as Alan Gilzean, Ian Ure, and Gordon Smith were no longer around and although quality players were still in abundance at Dens, any hopes of emulating the achievements of these immortals was beyond even the talents of a quality Dundee pool that season.
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      On the 27 February, 1965 the teams that trotted out were:
      Hearts: Cruickshank, Shevlane, Holt, Polland, Anderson, Higgins, Jensen, Ferguson, Wallace, Gordon and Hamilton.
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      Well the result that day made all of Scotland sit up and question whether the Hearts title bid was serious and whether they had the tenacity to keep it going.
      The severity of the damage was a 7-1 victory for manager-less Dundee in front of an astonished Tynecastle audience!
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      Alan remembered the astonishing result and how Dundee took Hearts apart with a devastating display of football that left the Tynecastle players and crowd shell-shocked and completely demoralised.
      Kenny Cameron and Andy Penman both had a hat-trick each with Alan Cousin sticking one in at both ends to balance his contribution for the day!
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      Alan explained, 'all the lads got on famously together with no cliques and our travels abroad included a number of 'winding down' sessions where the celebrations of an excellent result on foreign soil were something special. Bob Shankly was a tough disciplinarian but recognised the need for a happy squad. We always seemed to be laughing and maybe that is the secret of a good team spirit and in turn good performances on the park - where players will play hard for one another'
      Even the differences in ages between the likes of Andy Penman at 19 and Gordon Smith in his 30's had no effect on the camaraderie at Dens and with Alan Cousin only sharing his footballing duties, with teaching the togetherness feel still came through.
      In fact while I was talking to Alan I had an uncanny feeling of affection and a bond with these lads that I'm sure all Dundee fans who can recite 'that team' can identify with.
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      Alan has the 'usual' opinion on Gillie Senior as a player no-one could touch for finishing and Charlie Cooke as an outstanding talent who could turn a game with an instant flash of footballing genius.
      Opponents Alan remembers with relish are the two Hearts stalwarts of Dave Mackay and John Cumming who always gave him a tough time in more ways than one! Alan also rated highly the Rangers side of the early sixties with Jimmy Millar and Ralph Brand as two stars who enhanced an outstanding Rangers team.
      Alan still has Dundee connections and mentioned that there is a son of Cousin playing top-level sport in Dundee as well as son of Gillie!
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      Copyright unknown

      View full blog
    • By Billy Campbell's Ghost
      DUNDEE BREAK HEARTS TITLE HOPES WITH MAGNIFICENT SEVEN!
      Without raising the pain barrier too much too soon, I will skip back three decades to another season when again our Edinburgh friends were beaten by a whisker to League glory, this time by
      Kilmarnock in season 1964-65 by what was then goal-average (goals for, divided by goals against) and not the goal-difference mentioned above that we know today.
      Unusually, the race for the title did not involve either of the Old Firm and both Hearts and Killie were playing such attractive football that the football fans of Scotland outwith the Old Firm welcomed another break in the Glasgow dominance of football honours.
      The Jambos and our own Dark Blues had both won titles in 1960 and 1962 respectively and Scottish fans of these clubs would have celebrated as long as possible had they realised the dominance round the corner! - Nine-in-row-Celtic, and the year 1980 before a great Aberdeen team under Alex Ferguson would again break the monotony of the roll of honour in Scottish football.
      Therefore the early sixties and the days of the Mersey Sound were days to be revered for provincial football fans, notably Dundee, Hearts and Kilmarnock. While the Beatles were entertaining at the Caird Hall, the local heroes of Dens Park were dishing out their own form of entertainment at a football ground near you!
      Three seasons on, during season 1964-65, it was the turn of Hearts and Killie to stir the hearts of their fans towards glory.
      Hearts were to meet Dundee at Tynecastle in a league fixture that season that would ultimately have a significant and decisive impact on Hearts title aspirations.
      Dundee's league-winning team of 1962 was breaking up and stars such as Alan Gilzean, Ian Ure, and Gordon Smith were no longer around and although quality players were still in abundance at Dens, any hopes of emulating the achievements of these immortals was beyond even the talents of a quality Dundee pool that season.
      Bob Shankly had also departed Dens for the Manager's job at Hibs so under the temporary stewardship of coach Sammy Kean, Dundee headed to Tynecastle with the hopes of sneaking an away point against one of the champions-elect.
      On the 27 February, 1965 the teams that trotted out were:
      Hearts: Cruickshank, Shevlane, Holt, Polland, Anderson, Higgins, Jensen, Ferguson, Wallace, Gordon and Hamilton.
      The Dundee line-up was Donaldson, Hamilton, Cox, Cousin, Easton, Stuart, Murray, Penman, Cameron, Cooke and Robertson.
      Well the result that day made all of Scotland sit up and question whether the Hearts title bid was serious and whether they had the tenacity to keep it going.
      The severity of the damage was a 7-1 victory for manager-less Dundee in front of an astonished Tynecastle audience!
      Rubbing salt into the wounds for Hearts was that all eight goals were scored by Dundee with the Hearts effort being an o.g. from Dundee's Alan Cousin.
      I managed to track down Alan Cousin in his capacity as a Deputy Headmaster at Lornshill Academy in Alloa, where he has spent a happy 16 years, with his wife, Anita incidentally, a fellow teacher at the same school!
      Alan remembered the astonishing result and how Dundee took Hearts apart with a devastating display of football that left the Tynecastle players and crowd shell-shocked and completely demoralised.
      Kenny Cameron and Andy Penman both had a hat-trick each with Alan Cousin sticking one in at both ends to balance his contribution for the day!
      As Alan recalls, 'My goal for Dundee that day was a good one, with me dribbling round Jim Cruikshank in the Hearts goal to slip it into the net, and I remember Charlie Cooke complaining that he hadn't scored that day'!
      Of course Charlie was the king of the dribble and was a bit cheesed off that he hadn't got in on the act.'
      'The game got easier as it went on and at the time we had no idea the damage it would do to Hearts title aspirations as we all know now that they lost 2-0 at home to Killie on the last day of the season to be pipped for the title on goal average. Even if they had kept the score down a little they would have won the title that year'!
      Alan gives a different perspective on the times he had at Dens Park with the view that a secret weapon of the 1962 team may have been LAUGHTER.
      Alan explained, 'all the lads got on famously together with no cliques and our travels abroad included a number of 'winding down' sessions where the celebrations of an excellent result on foreign soil were something special. Bob Shankly was a tough disciplinarian but recognised the need for a happy squad. We always seemed to be laughing and maybe that is the secret of a good team spirit and in turn good performances on the park - where players will play hard for one another'
      Even the differences in ages between the likes of Andy Penman at 19 and Gordon Smith in his 30's had no effect on the camaraderie at Dens and with Alan Cousin only sharing his footballing duties, with teaching the togetherness feel still came through.
      In fact while I was talking to Alan I had an uncanny feeling of affection and a bond with these lads that I'm sure all Dundee fans who can recite 'that team' can identify with.
      I was too young to be part of it but, strangely feel I was, and I'm sure this was due to stories of a Golden Age being told by my father who was and still is a great admirer of that era.
      Alan Cousin remembers the atmosphere in the town at that time as 'being fantastic with it affecting every strata of Dundee society - the city was at fever pitch and after the Old Firm, Dundee were the best supported team in Scotland! '
      Alan has the 'usual' opinion on Gillie Senior as a player no-one could touch for finishing and Charlie Cooke as an outstanding talent who could turn a game with an instant flash of footballing genius.
      Opponents Alan remembers with relish are the two Hearts stalwarts of Dave Mackay and John Cumming who always gave him a tough time in more ways than one! Alan also rated highly the Rangers side of the early sixties with Jimmy Millar and Ralph Brand as two stars who enhanced an outstanding Rangers team.
      Alan still has Dundee connections and mentioned that there is a son of Cousin playing top-level sport in Dundee as well as son of Gillie!
      Alan's elder son, Michael is playing First Division rugby with newly-promoted Dundee High school FP while he completes a Phd at Dundee University in Neuro-Biology . Alan's other son, Martin represented Scotland at under 16-level cricket and these lads are proving the Cousin family have as much talent as their old man although it seems a shame neither can kick a round ball with the style of their dad!
      My impressions of Alan from our chat was that like all the other players I have chatted to for this series, he had very fond memories of his time at Dens Park and would always cherish the friendships and laughter he shared with his team-mates.
      If the current Dundee players are reading this and take anything from it I hope it is to make sure you enjoy your playing days lads, and remember to get the laughs going as it may help us to the trophy we all crave for.
      We have been praised for our cavalier style of football this season - why not the Laughing Cavaliers?
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      Despite this setback, Dundee would claw their way back into the lead when Craig Curran swopped on a defensive mistake to set up Andrew Nelson who hammered home the what would prove to be the winner.
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      It was a deserved victory for the Dee. In sharp contrast to the last time both sides met at Dens Park, Hearts took apart a shambolic Dundee side that night but, on this occasion, it was the boys in their white away tops who bullied their counterparts.

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      Continue reading by clicking the link below.

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    • By UWTB1893
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      Continue reading by clicking the link below.

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    • By Barkblue
      Since coming into the club in 2013 the American has now had to appoint, quite staggeringly, three managers, what with John Brown capitulating with the promotion finishing line in sight, Paul Hartley admitting he had run out of ideas as his team stared relegation in the face and now, the unbelievably convoluted removal of Neil McCann.
      Arriving after Hartley blurted out that he’d tried everything he knew as he failed to turn round the fortunes of his ailing squad, the tenure of Neil McCann went from the third coming of the Messiah, to that of a manager constantly being ridiculed by former players. The cowardly smirking of Celtic reserve goalkeeper Scott Bain on social media (a pathetic trait that he has previous for) at McCann’s removal might have said more about the easily irked keeper than the punted manager. But with Julen Etxabeguren having already gone to the press with stories of a gaffer who would lose the rag at players after a defeat only to apologise once he’d had time to reflect, recently being backed up almost word for word by ex-Dee Kevin Holt, these stories are either true, or McCann gave his players more reasons than most to hold a grudge against him. 
      These three were not alone, the Dutchman (I wouldn’t quite call him a footballer…) Randy Wolters being quoted (in pigeon English by the ever (un)reliable Evening Telegraph) as saying he and the manager had patched up their differences after a fallout. While the scarlet pimpernel of the frontline, Marcus Haber, talked of suffering the same fate, but without the late season reprieve Randy received. So with all that in mind, the evidence does really begin to stack up.
      Even Dee legend and the man who rubbed copious amounts of salt into those dayglo gapping tear stained DAB wounds, Craig Wighton, hinted as he left for Tynecastle, that all was not well within the Dundee backroom. Yes, you could point to the fact that none of these players could hold down a regular place in McCann’s team (with all the chopping and changing he did, was anyone a regular??) but Faissal El Bakhtaoui also had a swipe at the management team (Graham Gartland has to take some of the blame too) as he left. While the freezing out of Darren O’Dea for long spells deserves some sort of explanation too.
      In the end, McCann was sacked for poor form on the park and an especially abysmal record at Dens, where home fans barely knew how to celebrate Benjamin Källman’s recent goal against Motherwell (his first for the club), so starved of the ball hitting the net have we become. And all that being tied to a pathetically poor product to watch, even though we were continually fed the fabrication that the football on offer was ‘entertaining’ - no Neil, it wasn’t. Fans had had enough and his removal and replacement by Jim McIntyre had been too long in coming. In fact, far too long. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
      When Hartley was removed, the appearance of McCann in his superhero cardigan was not so much a surprise to Dundee fans, but more of a complete and utter, where the hell did that come from, shock. McCann had admittedly served the club well in his first term at Dens as a player (who can forget his Coca-Cola Cup semi-final winning goal against Airdrie in Perth?), before coming out of retirement to help the club through its second period in administration (scoring one of the most celebrated late game-winning goals at Dens in living memory). But that still didn’t explain how he materialised out of the Sky (Sports studios) to take on his first real role in football management. It was a crazy appointment, but crazy appointments sometimes work… and it did. 
      With five games remaining Dundee bagged 7 points to secure safety through three backs to the wall, fighting, spirited displays. Something that was a heartening sight for a support who had been put through the mill in the months leading up to these unexpected events.
      It should have been a glorious swan song for a man who could across those three spells at the club be quite rightly viewed as something of a magician. But no, there was more. After having chased the then St Mirren manager Jack Ross (not Ross Jack as I have to remind myself every time his name comes up) halfway around Europe and still somehow failing to convince the man – a Dundee supporter, no less – to take the manager’s job, Dundee managing director, John Nelms dressed it all up, quite ridiculously, as an attempt to offload out of favour striker Rory Loy to the Paisley club... 
      Man up John and tell it like it is, eh? 
      Rather bizarrely, the man at the top then sidled back to his ‘get out of jail’ interim manager, who had already turned the full-time position down!! Lo and behold, without an interview process, without looking at other options and without, seemingly, a better idea, a pundit with basically no football management experience was handed a transfer budget. Allowing him to sign, across three transfer windows, something like 27 players (yes, really) and slowly rip the heart out of a squad that yes, had underperformed and yes, needed some serious augmenting, but which at least had a handful of players who knew the league and what it took to survive in it. Destined to fail? You betcha!
      Dither, dither, dither. As Dens burned, Nelms fiddled and diddled, watching defeat after defeat. One league win in eight games which was no surprise to anyone unlucky enough to watch Dundee regularly last season. And as if all that wasn’t enough we were also embarrassed at home by not one, but two Championship sides in the League Cup. 
      Then, with merely days left of a fortnight’s international break, the decision was finally made and McCann and Gartland were mercifully removed. Leaving any potential successor to have exactly two days with his new squad before what proved to be a disastrous managerial debut in Jim McIntyre's first game in a four-day doubleheader against new league sensations Livingston, before taking on table-topping Hearts. Madness.
      Along the way, Jim Jefferies, Mark McGhee, your Granny and my next door neighbour all seem to have been sounded out about being, well, not a Director Of Football, but some sort of advisor to McCann. Which translates into ‘we don’t believe you can do the job, son’. Although depending on what you believe, this ‘non-job’ would still have meant the removal of assistant manager Gartland. Jefferies turned it down, a series of events he happily told the press about even after the club denied they’d approached him (professional to the last). 
      McGhee? Well, he’s a buffoon, so let’s just leave that there and be thankful. How we then made the leap from, ‘here’s the help you need Neil...’ to ‘there’s the door mate…’ who knows? But it needed to happen and should have done weeks, if not months earlier.
      Welcome to Dens, in record quick time (what no interviews? No application process? No putting out feelers? Again?) Jim McIntyre, the ex-DAB (as was Tommy Coyne, so, you know, let’s put that to one side and see how he goes), who so far has made all the right noises in the media about turning the ship around, binning the style of play that became such a millstone around McCann’s neck and has experience of achieving safety with another seemingly doomed top-flight team in Ross County.
      So surely we can now all focus on the job. Galvanise the support and start winning games? 
      Oh no, not on your damn well nelly. Let’s instead take one of two men who have played for Dundee, had a previous, disastrous, management role at the club and has then been outed as voting for Dundee Football Club to die, and ask him to take on the role of the assistant manager! The very same position he’d been removed from by the club just before his unforgivable act. 
      Make it up? You couldn’t, could you? 
      Who’s more naive here? McIntyre? Dodds? Nelms? (Nelms even suggested that McIntyre’s escape act with Ross County – joining them when they were bottom and steering them to the safety of 9th in the league wouldn’t be enough for him to be happy!!! Get a grip man, everyone else will welcome 10th as though we’d just come first in a beauty gala, been presented with the rosette at the local gymkhana and collected £200 for passing go - all while blindfolded and hanging upside down wearing a straightjacket and with a lemon in our mouths!)
      But let’s be fair to these lads, because local board members like Steve Martin should have quickly been able to sense danger and steered John Nelms right before he had to face the press and talk of fan uproar. Either Mr Martin can’t see the wood for the trees, or he has less influence over what happens at the club than the DFCSS – and that would take some doing.
      Hence Nelms had to go to the press and explain that a fan backlash had delayed the appointment of an assistant manager for our new leader. But still, it’s not done. No confirmation that Dodds won’t be coming. No announcement of who will be. Instead, we were led into the Livingston debacle by a new manager, no assistant, self-inflicted egg on our face and almost more bad feeling towards the club than there was before they removed a manager nearly everyone wanted rid of.
      Our new first team guru must be wondering what’s he’s walked into. Welcome to Dens Jim McIntyre. I truly believe the fans want you to succeed, are willing to let your playing past stay there and want to have you at the club for a long time to come. 
      If the job wasn’t already hard enough, Dundee Football Club have done their utmost to ensure that it just became even harder.

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