THE best and worst of Dundee’s season thus far following the first round of Premiership fixtures.
If I was writing this in a few weeks’ time, there’s a good chance either Clarkson or Stewart would get the nod; however, it feels too soon, despite their obvious chemistry, to say they’ve been our stand-out players for the first quarter. There are also a number of players who, had they been fit for the entire first quarter, would be in with a shout, such as Simon Ferry and Kevin Thomson. Harkins has flashes of brilliance but is the definition of mercurial, although he is becoming more consistent. With all of those caveats included, I’d have to share the prize between Paul McGinn and Paul McGowan. McGinn has made the step up from the Championship with ease and offers an additional outlet on the right; McGowan has been a model of hard work, vision and consistency, and has yet to moan his way into a red card from the referee, so that alone deserves a medal.
Were I subjected to Iain Davidson on a more regular basis, there’s a good chance he’d have been nominated here, but in all honesty no player has done enough to truly deserve this accolade. The squad as a whole has a surprisingly small range of ability and effort and it feels a bit harsh to single anybody out. However, given the chance, my personal vendetta against Gary Irvine continues. In fairness, he’s actually substituted for the injured left-back Willie Dyer admirably over the last few months, but he still has shortcomings that for me mean he could never be considered a Premiership-level player. He has this bizarre penchant for flailing his arms like wind socks when he’s trying to block that causes my heart to skip a beat.
This is a bit of a tough one, given the massive turnover in personnel over the summer, but I’m going to plump for James McPake. He has a bit of a reputation for being a bombscare among Scottish football fans, but he and Konrad have formed a formidable pairing at the back that was the foundation of our early form. It was only once McPake picked up a dead leg- an injury that, due to our lack of depth at the back, he played through for several games- that things went a bit pear-shaped. Being subject to Hartley’s rigorous preparations and team instructions will also have benefited the Northern Ireland international.
Luka Tankulic. The big German striker looked like a real prospect in pre-season - then again, so did Carlo Monti- but has yet to score in the league for the Dees. Hartley’s favoured starter up front at the beginning of the season, he’s now fallen behind the partnership of Clarkson and Stewart up front, with Wighton and MacDonald getting more nods from the bench since. Although he’s undoubtedly got talent, he seems to be a real confidence player and a combination of a lack of chances/support up front and some unfortunate misses in early games this season seem to have wrecked his morale. Glib analysis from wee toerags like me probably doesn’t help that either, mind…
Best team performance
I’ve not had a chance to see Dundee for the last few weeks, but our performance in our home draw with Celtic was terrific. It was frustrating to see us pass up so many chances, but other than our finishing we executed our game plan perfectly and pressed and prodded Celtic’s weak points, with a half-fit Phil Roberts terrorising Izaguirre. Hartley outsmarted Deila all over the park and we showed a glimpse of what we could achieve in the Premiership this season.
Losing 4-1 to United at Dens was worse than root canal, and my root canal was botched and took a year to fix. We were an absolute shambles at the back and were unpicked time and time again, and the result kick-started a slump that saw us fall out of the top six and the League Cup (again, to United). I was one of only a few hundred Dees still in the ground when Stewart swept in a late “consolation”.
Most worrying contract
Dundee don’t offer anybody long contracts any more, so my cause for concern is that manager Paul Hartley is poached by another club. I’ve never had as much faith in a manager of Dundee as I do in Hartley; for years our club has been winging it on and off the pitch but we now seem like (whisper it) a stable team with an exciting future.
Top notch. What folk keep forgetting about our squad is that it was only put together in the summer; aside from Letheren and (thanks to injuries) Irvine and McAlister, none of our starting XI were at the club last season. That Hartley identified and signed an entire new team and got them to gel so quickly is a testament to the man’s ability. Our tactics and team selection have very rarely resulted in harrumphing from the Dens Park faithful, which is another minor miracle. We may not have hit the dizzy heights quite like Accies but we’ve made a solid start and proven our worth.