The close season of 2000 was a strange one as we waited the appointment of a new manager at Dens Park.
The previous campaign had seen us finish seventh under Jocky Scott’s guidance in what had been a good season.
We had known since around April that Jocky wouldn’t be in charge but there weren’t any real signs who would replace him.
Then, in July, the surprise announcement came it was Italian brothers Ivano and Dario Bonetti who were going to be responsible for improving the squad that Jocky had built.
Little did we know then the transformation there would be to what was a successful team.
The two brothers came in and immediately it was clear to see Ivano was the more charismatic of the pair.
They brought with them a translator but Ivano’s English was understandable if not great.
Dario, on the other hand, was quite imposing in stature and character. However, once you got to know him, he was a decent guy.
They were only in the club a few days when we were whisked away to an Italian training camp, which was based on the top of a mountain, half-an-hour from civilisation.
It was a new experience for the Scottish boys and three weeks together was challenging even for the more placid players like myself.
The training itself was different, too, with the morning sessions no more than a jog.
It started on day one with a 1km run, building up to doing eight of these come the second week.
The days of being hammered physically were all gone, which was great, but the boys didn’t feel they were doing enough.
The afternoon work was all with the ball and focused mainly on shape, with the players getting to know what was expected of them in formation.
It was repetition which most found monotonous but it did hold us in good stead going into the season and it is something I have used frequently in my managerial roles.
There was an influx of Italians, which was to be expected, as most managers like to bring their own players in, but it did cause a divide.
I’m not sure if it was meant but we had two separate dressing-rooms at our home training base at Caird Park.
The home-grown boys were in one changing-room and the foreign players in the other, with the exception being Georgi Nemsadze, who found himself with us, something I think he preferred.
There wasn’t a problem as we all wanted to play football but the unity and togetherness you get in dressing-rooms just wasn’t apparent.
In saying that, when we went out on the park there was a cohesion that looked as if we had been together for years.
The players Jocky had at his disposal fell by the wayside one by one, until there were only a handful of us training with the first-team squad.
The rest were sent to train with Ray Farningham and Stevie Campbell, who, at one point, had 40 players training with them.
The ones left were the mainstay of the team with the likes of Rab Douglas (for a few months), Gav Rae, Willie Falconer, Steven Tweed, Lee Wilkie and Shaun McSkimming all playing big parts in the forthcoming league campaign.
It was crystal clear at the Bonettis’ first game in charge they would be different.
They turned up at the game and took their place in the dugout in their denim jeans and shirts, which was something that was new to the league.
It was more in tone with playing at Dawson Park but they had their own style and, looking back, probably set the dress code for some managers today.
Dundee games were exciting with the Italians in command
There were a lot of memorable moments for Dundee under the all-too-brief stewardship of the Bonettis back in the early 2000s.
Today I’m going to have a look at some games that stood out for me in those two action-packed seasons with the Italian brothers at the helm of the club.
The first game that springs to mind is the opening league game under their tenure.
MOTHERWELL 0 DUNDEE 2
July 29, 2000.
We travelled to Fir Park as something of an unknown quantity with all the new arrivals.
In front of us was a team who had finished fourth the season before.
In a side containing only five in the starting line-up from the previous campaign, Ivano selected himself on a day to remember for him.
We took the lead in the first half through a great Pat Billio strike from the edge of the box and, in the same half, the gaffer received a yellow card for a crude tackle.
The second half was taking shape when Ivano received his second yellow for another challenge and was duly sent off.
The remainder of the game was backs-to-the-wall stuff until Javier Artero went on a mazy run and scored one of the goals of the season.
It sent the massive travelling support home delighted and optimism was high for the rest of the season.
ABERDEEN 0 DUNDEE 2
October 14, 2000.
This game is probably most remembered for the debut of World Cup winner Claudio Caniggia but, for me, it was more notable as it was my mate Rab Douglas’ last game for the club.
The big goalie was unbelievable to play in front of as he commanded his area so well and made defending it so much easier.
He once told me if a ball came in to the box and he shouted for it to get out the way. I made the mistake of not moving once and still have the mark to prove it.
He deserved his move to Celtic and showed what a class act he was when he went there.
Caniggia marked his debut with a goal after coming on as a sub for the injured Steven Milne.
Just as impressive as that goal was the opener by Ivano, who chipped the keeper from about 20 yards.
It was a great day at Pittodrie but also a sad one for myself, knowing Big Rab was off to Celtic Park.
DUNDEE UNITED 0 DUNDEE 2
November 11, 2000.
I had played in, and lost, a few derbies but this is up there with one of the best performances I have been involved in.
Claudio Caniggia had put us in front in the first half after we capitalised on a mistake by a United defender.
The second was a great goal which was finished off by a magnificent chip from Giorgi Nemsadze. It was started at the back and four passes after keeper Marco Roccati had moved it out, Giorgi was scoring at the other end.
It was a great game, filled with the usual passion of a derby but won in the end by an exquisite finish from our Georgian team-mate.
There were plenty of other games that could have made the list, as at times, the football we played was outstanding.
The game when we beat Aberdeen to get into the top six for the first time was memorable, even if we celebrated a bit too much at the final whistle.
It looked as if we had won the league after the game but it was tremendous to celebrate any win with the Dundee fans who travel through thick and thin.
At the end of the next season it was expected that Ivano and Dario would be there for the following league campaign.
As usual, though, there is never a dull moment at Dundee and that summer was no different.