I think you have to go back to Gordon Chisholm to find a manager that last achieved a feat that no other Dundee boss has since. Whether Barry Smith, John Brown, Paul Hartley, Neil McCann or the current incumbent, Jim McIntyre, not one of those gaffers has united the support in a way that Chis and his assistant Billy Dodds did. Admittedly, the near unification was that no one thought the ex-Arab and Dee defector were the right men for the job and while circumstances overtook the ex-DAB and Queen of the South manager, that he followed a Dee legend in Jocky Scott, who was sacked while his side were still top of the table, didn’t help. However the disdain they received was well earned during what proved to be a truly abject period for the club on and off the park.
Since then, no matter who has stood at the helm of the good ship DFC Dens Park, there has been ever shifting sections of the great Dark Blue support who have simply refused to accept them. Sir Barry of Smith did the impossible, offering the Dee’s a season of Deefiance, with record breaking runs and the ability to stick two fingers up at the rest of Scottish Football delivered as his team shrugged off a 25 point deduction. But even that hasn’t been enough to stop some rewriting history and suggest that Barry had little to do with the upturn in form his team mustered, even though he found and then cajoled a mix of bit part trialists, youths, juniors and, admittedly, a handful of top-notch first teamers into an ever changing side that defied the odds on a weekly basis.
Sacked after he couldn’t work the same magic with a Championship team playing in the Premier League, it was Dark Blue Legend, or side-mouth talking Hun mad man, depending on your view point, John Brown, that just about turned the relegation headed ship around. However the anger that came from the stands every time Brown’s team didn’t work miracles meant it was only going to be a matter of time before a manager that put some fight back into an apologetic team would be shot down. Whether Bomber turned his guns on himself or was put in the crosshairs by the board is still a matter for debate.
That he tumbled from grace when his relegated Dundee team were second in the second tier meant that surely it would take a miracle to catapult The Dee back to where they wanted to be - the top flight. Enter The Messiah, or indeed, the very naughty, stubborn, fat beardy Paul Hartley, depending on your spin. With his Godly name erroneously bestowed on him by those seemingly desperate for the ex-serial promotion winning Alloa manager to fail, not only did Hartley get Brown’s team over the line and straight into the rumoured land of milk & honey, but he also catapulted the club up to its best league finish since the turn of the millennium.
And still he got it in the neck for cup defeats, and admittedly some of the most embarrassing derby disasters the club has ever seen. Although the Doon Derby payback he provided is something anyone who was there will simply never forget, no matter whether they were spinning triumphant dark blue above their head or sporting tear stained tangerine.
The only slight downside to that night of nights was that it confirmed Hartley’s team had slipped from 6th to 8th in the space of a year and his side tumbled further the next season. The wheels coming careening off at break neck speed and ultimately finding the much beleaguered Hartley, now known as an angry stubborn has been (Falkirk supporters might not even be so complimentary) openly admitting he’d run out of ideas as Dundee slipped to second bottom of the league.
Cue the least expected appointment in recent Dundee FC history (you might have to go back to ‘Coco’ Smith in 1988 for a more left-field appointment) as the ex-Dee young gun and returning Deefiant hero Neil McCann took on the job of securing the seven points from five games needed to ensure survival. That he did so in his first three ties in charge, with two away wins and a home draw, can in no way be underestimated. A team that looked in danger of being sucked into the one automatic relegation slot instead climbing away from the play-offs and to safety.
It was a cameo no one expected and one few thought was a good idea, so surely this master of Houdini like escapology should be offered the job full time? Well… two capitulations in the final two games of the special guest star appearance should have set alarm bells ringing and when the man himself initially turned down the offer to prolong his stay those bells should have become a blaring klaxon. But with no ‘plan B’ (a feature of John Nelms' time at the helm) and a change of heart from the end of season superhero, the stopgap became a permanent fixture.
What had initially seemed to be a masterstroke of survival quickly became an act of folly, McCann’s side and ideas occasionally inspired but often insipid. And after another season of flirting with relegation the early reservations of a section of the support began to spread through the believers who had bought into the supposedly modern, exciting brand of football we were promised but never quite saw.
Maybe more than any before him Neil McCann split the support. Those who remembered his playing exploits and who were firmly behind his managerial ethos still, even now, backing the man when it was clear to everyone else that his appointment had been a failed experiment that might eventually prove the catalyst to Dundee losing their top flight status. As all managers do, McCann clung on but with the club looking to foist outside ideas on him, things came to breaking point with The Dee at the bottom of the table.
Enter a man with all the attributes that most Dark Blues were looking for. A track record in mid-season rebuilding, a more pragmatic approach to grinding out results in the Scottish game and more than ten minutes of steering a club through troubled waters. Best to mention that he’s also an ex-Arab, wanted to appoint a guy as his assistant that many long suffering supporters remember as a turncoat who tried to kill this club when he – a certain Billy Dodds – and Gordon Chisholm (yes, that pair who last galvanised fan opinion in such a negative manner) voted against a win or bust CVA to come out of administration.
Not the best start, granted, but the anti-McIntyre sentiments from many have simmered close to boiling point from the moment he was brought into the club and it’s clear there’s a section of support already lining up to lambast him if he can’t patch up the clearly sinking ship he inherited.
Factor in that the type of player Neil McCann signed was never going to fit with Jim McIntyre’s footballing vision and that we are now trying to ship a minimum of ten players out of the club mid-season, while probably needing just as many to replace them, should be no surprise. It is, however, yet another recipe for disaster.
There’s no way back now. Three loanees - Calvin Miller, Andy Boyle and Adil Nabi - have been sent home. Marcus Haber has returned from his short spell at Falkirk only to be, quite rightly, shown the door, while Grant Nelson (who?) has also been given the bums’ rush. Another five, Kharl Madianga, Elton Ngwatala, Jean Alassane Mendy, Sofien Moussa and Lewis Spence, have been told they are no longer in the club’s plans and can leave. Then if you add to that Finnish international Glen Kamara following the path so many Dundee players have before him – to the bench at Ibrox Park – and to say that the pressure is on McIntyre to work miracles is a massive understatement.
Will the support give him time to get it right? Probably until about the 70th minute of the Scottish Cup return from the winter shutdown against Queen of the South. If we’re not 3-0 up by then it’ll be time to have a rummage for those well used pitchforks and burning torches. Best o’ luck Jim, I’m sure we’re all right behind you!
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