Aidan Smith: Real Roy of the Rovers stuff as Dundee tear a strip off their rivals
Despite the best attempts of players to bring a dull uniformity to football - all of them talking the same way and scratching their ears and zoning out with headphones - most clubs manage to retain a personality that's entirely their own.
Mention Dundee and you think: funny, buckled main stand, funny way of pronouncing "pies", funny place all round. They're mad with money and big dreamers. ("Everyone wants a piece of us," beamed director Jim Connor in 2000, referring to media requests at the height of Caniggia Fever. "Everyone wants a piece of us," wailed the club on two separate occasions since, meaning the pie-warmers and other fixtures and fittings as administration hung over Dens). Yes, we all know Dundee - they're a soap opera, they're a blousy melodrama - no, they're a comic strip.
The fact that the luscious, pouting Claudio once turned out in the funny, old-fashioned, incapable-of-being-modernised dark blue, merits a comic strip. (The Kid from Argentina was a strip, in the Roy of the Rovers comic, with 15-year-old Jorge Porbillas following Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa to Britain until the Falklands War hastened his return home). The fact that Gordon Smith won a league title for the Dee at the age of 38 merits a comic strip, ancient players performing heroic deeds having always been a staple of the funnies. But maybe Dundee, the club who after all play their football in what is known the world over as Comic Town, have never been more deserving of immortalisation in pen and ink with whooshing vapour-trails for the ball than right now.
A couple of weeks ago Neil McCann unclipped his microphone, rose from the Sky Sports studio chair where he'd sat like all players-turned-pundits, in a pose accentuating his overdeveloped thighs, and got back out there for his first club in their hour of need, the very same Dundee. There's great strip potential in that, not least in the changing-room banter. You could have McCann being teased by his team-mates for spending too long in front of the mirror before kick-off, and of fancy stuff out on the pitch deserving of the quip: "That was one for the telly, by the way." He would, of course, be wound up remorselessly about his thighs, his shiny TV suits and his friendship with Jim White. But, in a moment of delirium of the kind you only ever witness in a strip's final box - this is too far-fetched to happen in real life, OK? - he would score with a late, precision lob to crown an incredible return.
Even better is the story of Craig Robertson. Until last Tuesday, this Dundee fanatic had to be content playing junior football with Lochee United - and you can imagine how many times, during the longeurs the East Region "Super" League inevitably throws up, that he must have fantasised about running down the wing for his heroes. Then he answers Dundee's desperate plea for players and suddenly this 30-year-old accountant is living the dream and helping the club to another vital win.Robertson is such a Dee nut that he'd already given them 14,000 from his Lochee testimonial to help get them out of administration. His generous act reminds me of a strip, which also ran in Roy of the Rovers, called Miionaire Villa. Its main character, David Bradley, was conniving and delluded. He put 2 million into Selby Villa's coffers in return for being allowed to play in the first team, even though he was complete rubbish. Bradley was so rich he had a butler and, on rainy match-days the servant had to have an umbrella at the ready (the only brolly-related football incident until Steve McClaren's much-derided decision to hoist one during an England game). I'm quite sure Robertson hadn't been trying to buy himself a game. Only a mad club would pick players who weren't any good and I don't think even Dundee are that bonkers. After his debut, Robertson couldn't help lapsing into football-speak (but he can be forgiven). "It was a dream come true," he said. "I'm usually in the stand watching with the fans so to be on the park was an unbelievable experience. All my mates were there as well as my family so it was an incredible night."
Only in a comic strip would this happen.
Or in Dundee.
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