Ecstatic one week, erratic the next and sometimes reaching the depth of despair, inconsistency was the order of the day. Although, and just like he did with his defence, with Neil McCann constantly shuffling his midfield cards and dealing out all manner of formations that required three, four or five players across the middle, not all the blame lies at the player’s feet. If there was one constant, in all honesty, it was change and our midfielders seemed, at times, utterly bemused by it all.
So, let’s deal first with the also rans, the bit parts and the guys of which we can rightly ask, “is he still at Dundee???”
Possibly falling firmest into that category is Derry City, sorry Dundee midfielder Nicky Low, a player who’ll be long remembered for nipping at the heels of The Arab’s ‘experienced and calming’ Guy Demel, until the big wheezing lump got sent off in a derby that set the tone for a season that tragically (I don’t think so!) culminated in Dundee United’s slide back into the wilderness.
In all honesty, apart from that, Low will be connected with time spent nursing injuries and an extended loan in the League of Ireland where the ever knock stricken lad suddenly became knockless.
Tom Hateley however, at least featured in some pre-season friendlies before heading back to whence he’d came the season before (Poland), while Danny Williams, after what looked to be a promising pre-season link up with the Randy one, appears to have simply disappeared into the ether after his contract at Dens was ended, a place otherwise known as Accrington Stanley.
Redemption, after what had been at best a questionable performance against his relegation haunted old club, Inverness Caley Thistle the season before, seemed to be headed the way of James Vincent as he featured early doors. But after a few short appearances in the League Cup group matches and early league games, the man that specialises in both huff and puff was Fife bound. Dunfermline’s ultimately fruitless promotion campaign in the Championship seeming to suit the toothless tacklers’ abilities perfectly. Although he’s still on our books of course - with hindsight it’s difficult not to conclude that the signing of these four players alone went a long way to sealing the fate of Dundee’s previous manager, Paul Hartley.
If these guys were the (not really even) bit parts, then there’s no denying that Player of The Year, Glen Kamara and my own personal vote for POTY, Paul McGowan, were the fulcrum of the Dundee side. The former may frustrate a growing section of support with his ability to find himself in great goal scoring opportunities while having absolutely no idea what to do once he gets there, but as a cultured, serene, ball winning midfielder, it would be fair to suggest that the Finnish internationalist has been something of an eye-catching revelation. As ever when we get a player who has made such an impact at Dens and beyond, the question has to be how long can we keep a hold of him?
A quandary that’s now also being asked about Glen’s midfield partner Paul McGowan for entirely different reasons. Somewhat curiously, Neil McCann initially seemed to have problems fitting Gowser into his plans, the diminutive midfielder famed for spinning on the spot with the ball when there’s no apparent need to, often the man to make way as the manager looked to add fresh legs late in a game. As often as not the move backfired, with the hoped-for change of impetus actually removing the fire from our engine.
Bagging a triumphant clinching goal against United in the League Cup (and a glorious pitch long celebration) and one of the goals of the season against Motherwell, as the campaign progressed, it became more and more clear that Gowser was the man making it all tick; resulting in the fiery, feisty lad’s all too frequent visits to the magistrate all the more worrying for the Dundee faithful, and of course, Gowser himself. As with Kamara, only time will tell if we see ‘our friend’ next season.
One player we definitely won’t see next time out is Mark O’Hara.
Arguably we didn’t quite see enough of him when he was here either - Sometimes deployed in the right-wing back role, sometimes as a sitting central midfielder and sometimes in a more attacking capacity, I’m not sure many really know the hard-working midfielder’s best position. Although it’s near impossible to argue that his best performance didn’t come against Rangers at Dens, with a tireless shift rewarded with two excellent goals. In fairness to O’Hara he scored a few other vital counters along the way and playing on against Hamilton near the end of the season after having lost two teeth in a collision left his dedication to the cause unquestionable.
However, for every Rangers game there was a performance like that where he seemed to cover every blade of the pristine Dens Park playing surface against Motherwell as we lost to them 2-0, without ever actually getting anywhere near the round thing he so desired. Mark leaves with our best wishes, but few in Dark Blue are all that devastated by his move to Peterborough.
Equally, if not more, frustrating was Roarie Deacon. A lad who clearly has skill to burn, good pace, a decent shot and plenty of fancy tricks. But somehow, he never quite lived up to that package. Too many games passed Roarie by and that he never looked capable (or interested enough) to keep working for more than 65 minutes in a game, meant that his decent number of assists across the season were often overlooked as the player himself appeared decidedly undercooked. Still, with a year in Scotland under his belt, there’s time for a player who can on his day excite the crowds, to come good.
Time however may not be on the side of Randy Wolters, the Dutchman’s period at Dens better remembered for Development League strops, releasing Christmas singles, being questionably (mis)quoted in the local press and having his Dad throw a tantrum about the lack of game time his son was receiving. Oh, and apparently falling out with the manager along the way (which seemed to be something of a trend for Mr. McCann).
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one cross doesn’t make a season and while we’ll thank Randy for finding Simon Murray’s head for the winner in Dingwall that sealed top flight football for another season, this lad still has it all (and then some) to prove. As they say, there’s a player in there somewhere. The question is can Randy find the ransom money and release him? And if he does, will he still be at Dens to prove it?
Leaving the enigma that was Scott Allan. Was the on-loan Celtic playmaker just not interested? Not fully fit? Unable to adapt to McCann’s systems? Or just not all that happy at Dens? Well, we’ll never know. Flashes of brilliance did appear – setting up Gowser’s goal in the second cup derby, the reverse pass for O’Hara’s winner against Rangers and his own strike that put ITC to the sword in a Scottish Cup replay. However, watching a guy, who had admittedly begun to find a little form, explode into being one of the best midfielders in Scotland after he wangled a (farcical) deadline day move to Hibs, was a tough one for most Dee’s to swallow.
The only other semi-regular performers in our midfield last season were Lewis Spence and Jesse Curran. The former arrived as a bit of a punt from the manager, the ‘agricultural’ youngster about to go part time with Brechin City after Dunfermline deemed him not up to snuff. A surprise move to Dens kept him away from trimming the hedge, but for all that he’s a trier who works his socks off and looked pretty solid when we were playing well, individual errors (like the shocker against Ross County at Dens that signalled a Dark Blue collapse) and an inability to truly stamp his authority on a game, leave many a little perplexed as to why the gaffer has extended Lewis’s time at Dundee.
Curran on the other hand seems to have something about his game that was otherwise lacking in our midfield. With the ability to beat a player and a directness maybe not seen since Paul Tosh last cried “CHAAAAAARGE” as he galloped towards the opposition’s goal, the young Aussie should have been a revelation in our team. And yet, with him being too easily brushed off the ball and still apparently getting to grips with the concept of defending, his game time was at a premium. Although there’s no denying that his substitute appearance away to Partick Thistle as we snatched a last gasp win, was game changing in all the right ways.
Other than all of that, we also saw young Jordan Piggot and Jack Lambert. The pair showing up really well in the Development League but not really getting enough game time (or the correct game time – a home hammering from Ross County and a Dens Park canter for Celtic) to judge if they’ll be capable of the step up to the first team. Both look to have promise though.
Nicky Low – What? Where?
Tom Hateley – When? Why?
Danny Williams – F
James Vincent – F
Glen Kamara – A
Paul McGowan – A
Mark O’Hara – C+
Roarie Deacon – C-
Randy Wolters – E
Scott Allan – C-
Lewis Spence – D
Jessie Curran – D
Jordan Piggot – too early to tell, but on what little we saw – D
Jack Lambert – as above - C-