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Found 2 results

  1. barkblue

    Winging It

    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...
  2. UWTB1893

    Ex Dee Interview: Juan Sara

    Juan Sara played 107 times for Dundee over 3 years and scored 35 goals for the club in the league, domestic cup competitions and Europe. He would then pull on a Dundee top for one more time for Julian Speroni’s testimonial much to the delight of the fans. Sara was happy enough to do an interview for the Up Wi' The Bonnets Facebook page so the fans could hear from the player that gave ‘United three’. What made you move to Dundee in 2000? I was playing in Paraguay at the time and Ivano and Dario Bonetti knew Fabian Caballero and wanted to bring him to Dundee. I and Fabian both had the same agent and the Bonetti’s needed another striker. They both watched a video of me and were impressed as I had done well that year. What was your first impression of the Scottish game? It was very different from the style of play in South America. I was also very impressed with the organisation in the Scottish game which works so much better than in South America. Also I was able to celebrate towards the fans which is something you couldn’t really do because of the violence that sometimes happen over here. I remember travelling to Starks Park to see Dundee play Raith Rovers in a pre-season game at the start of the Bonetti era. I also remember we took a sizeable support. Did that surprise you to see such a big support for a friendly game? Yes, I was very surprised at the support as it was only a friendly. It was also the first time I played for the club and I scored in that match. I think Raith scored 2 goals but we won the match. You famously scored a hat-trick against Dundee United at Dens Park in a 3-0 victory. What do you remember about the game? I do remember this game but it was over 10 years ago so sometimes it’s hard to remember everything. I watched the game on the internet (UWTB YouTube Channel) and felt lucky to win the first derby of the season and to also score 3 goals. I enjoyed that night and feel lucky to be the last person to score a hat-trick in a Dundee Derby and also score in other derby games. I read that until recently that Dundee had went 10 years without a derby win but back then we won most of the games against them (Dundee Utd). I also remember that night when Fabian got a serious injury. What other memorable moments stick out from others from your time at Dundee? The first season and finishing in the top 6th was memorable. Also being the 2nd top goal scorer that year behind Henrik Larsson and scoring 17 goals. Playing in Europe with Dundee was also memorable and being able to score 35 goals in total over my career here. Living in Scotland was also good as I love the country and also the fans. I loved the fans here. Who was the most gifted player you played with at Den Park? Claudio Caniggia of course! He was a star around the world and I was very lucky to be giving the opportunity to play alongside him. Julian Speroni was also a fantastic player and also Fabian Caballero, especially before his injury. He was a really gifted player. Gavin Rae was a great player, really strong and Beto Carranza who was very skilful and great to play along as he could always make something happen. Giorgi Nemsadze’s quality was also unbelievable and he was the captain for Georgia’s national team at the time. There were lots of very talented players at Dundee at that time. Your ‘Jesus Loves You’ t-shirt celebration after scoring a goal is still iconic within the Dundee support. Were you ever punished for this? Also how did it feel to see fans wearing this t-shirt? I remember seeing them only a few days after we won 3-0 at home to Dunfermline on the opening day of the season after you had scored. Yes I was punished once at St Mirren after scoring when I received a yellow card then not long after, received another yellow card for hand ball and was sent off. Ivano and Dario both had a talk with me and told me to stop it as it was no good to me or the club if I kept doing it. This was more down to the FIFA rules at the time that stopped me or anyone else for taking off their tops when celebrating a goal. The messages on the t-shirts were part of my life. I enjoyed being able to spread the message and share the glory with him (God) for everything in my life and also show my faith. It was also nice to see Dundee fans love it and to also see them on sale and the fans wearing them! I saw lots of them recently when I was in London for Julian’s testimonial which was brilliant. What was it like working under the Bonetti’s and then also Jim Duffy? Did you enjoy it? Yes, it was easier to work under Bonetti because of the Latin connection. We had the same culture, he brought me to Dundee and also the Italians and Argentines have the same culture. We also had the same style of play. They liked to play passing football which was different from the Scottish style. Jim Duffy was different to Ivano and Dario but he was a very good manager. He was harder but made you want to try better. I was sent out to Coventry on loan but before going and after coming back, he made me want to work harder. Away from football, did you socialise with your fellow team mates and was the team quite close? I spent a lot of time Julian Speroni and Beto Carranza; they were my two best friends while at the club. I also had good relationships with Savo (Steven Milne), Barry Smith and Gavin Rae. Obviously I was closer to people from my own country. The team was close also but sometimes it wasn’t easy because the team had many nationalities from Argentine, Spanish, and French. It was a dark day when Dundee went into administration. You of course lost your job along with 24 other employees. Can you describe what it was like to be around the club prior to the financial meltdown? Was there any hint that this was about to happen? No. There was nothing that happened that made you think it was about to happen. You didn’t expect this to happen to a Scottish club but you would to an Argentine club so it was a surprise. It was so sad for all of us involved. I was from a different country and in Scotland without a job. Also my wife was pregnant at the time so it wasn’t nice not knowing what was going to happen. I noticed you won the league with one of your clubs a few years back. Was this your first league title? I’ve won 4 league titles in total including titles in Switzerland and Mexico. I played professionally for 20 years and played in many of countries but I feel I still could have done better. I had 3 or 4 serious injuries over my career which in total probably put me out for around 6 months. It was great to see yourself, Carranza, Ketsbia, Caballero and Nemsadze all turn out for Dundee in the recent Julian Speroni testimonial in London. How special was that night when you saw the support that had travelled down to cheer on Speroni and all of you? It was fantastic to see the fans show their support for Julian. They were all there to support Julian. After 10 years at Crystal Palace, it was very clever of him to bring Dundee down for it as it showed he never forgot the club. It was very nice to come back to play for Dundee and also see the fans after 12 years but at the end of the day, it was all about Julian and his career. Dundee took just under 2,000 fans to this game on a Tuesday night. This shows the affection the fans have for the players that were on show and a few of them have called on a match up here at Dens against Palace with yourself and other ex-players to pull on a Dundee top again. Would this be something you would be interested in? I would love to come back to Dundee. I never made it to the city when I was in London as I was travelling to Spain to attend some training sessions at Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. I’m a coach now and trying to improve everyday so these were vital for me to attend. If there was ever to be another Dundee v Crystal Palace match in Dundee then I would love to come back for it as it would be good to see old team mates. Also I lived in Dundee for 3 years so I would love to see the city again and walk around it. I would love to visit the places that made me smile and have nice memories of.

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