NEW Dundee captain Kevin Thomson last night insisted making the step up to the Scottish top-flight holds no fears for the Premiership new boys.
Thomson was unveiled at the newly-promoted Dens Park club yesterday after leaving Hibernian on Monday and joined Paul Hartley’s side along with former Easter Road team-mate James McPake and ex-Alloa goalkeeper Scott Bain.
Former Rangers and Middlesbrough playmaker Thomson was immediately installed as captain by manager Hartley as he prepares his squad for the return to the top flight next season.
Thomson, 29, insists Dundee, who clinched promotion from the Championship following a dramatic final-day win over Dumbarton, will not be scared of the challenge which lies ahead.
Thomson said: “I have spoken to the manager at length about the fact there is no-one to fear in this league. Everybody knows Celtic are going to run away with it like they did last year.
“So it is a great challenge for us to try to cement a place in the Premiership and show people we are more than capable of competing.
“I do not want to use the word ‘consolidate’ as that sounds like we are only trying to avoid relegation. We are not here to consolidate. We are here to finish as high up this league as possible. We do not want to be down the bottom scrapping.
“I am not going to say we are going to finish second or anything like that but we want to be challenging to get into the top six. That is achievable. I know the league inside out, I know all the players. Look, I know how difficult it is as well. It is not going to be easy, far from it. We are going to have ups and downs but, hopefully, there will be more ups.”
Thomson – who missed the first spot-kick of Hibs’ play-off penalties defeat to Hamilton last Sunday – wasted no time in kick-starting his career after departing the relegated club at the start of the week, and the midfielder revealed Hartley was a key factor in selling him on a move to Dens.
He said: “I am delighted to sign for Dundee. I have had nothing but positive vibes from the manager and to come here and work for him really excites me. I am really looking forward to the new challenge. Obviously, it was disappointing what happened last week, so to have something so good so quickly is a big pick-up for me. I didn’t want to be one of those players who touted themselves about right, left and centre.
“The manager showed great faith early doors in me and was desperate to get me here — that was good enough for me. It is obviously a big club. I can’t sit here and say I know the ins and outs of Dundee but I am sure I am going to learn pretty quickly.
“I saw what it was like on that last day of the season with Paul running up and down that touchline. I saw the fans and how passionate they were — that’s something I want to be part of.
“I spoke to other people but I didn’t have as much excitement as when I spoke to the manager. I used to try and kick him when I played against him.
“He told me I didn’t manage to but I seem to remember getting booked every time I faced him so I must have caught him a few times!
“The faith he showed in me straight away [meant] there was only one decision to make and that was to come to Dundee. He was a massive factor and his record speaks for itself already.”
Thomson is relishing his fresh challenge in the wake of his departure from Terry Butcher’s Hibs and believes the sky is the limit for the Taysiders.
He said: “I don’t want to sit and speak about Hibs. This is a new chapter in my life but I would like to put on record that I wish them all the best and every success. They are a wonderful club and one that is close to my heart. But I have a new challenge here and a manager that excites me.
“I know he is going to get the best out of me and, hopefully, I can repay him. Of course I do see potential here. The pitch looks good and I think there were more than 10,500 here on the last day of the season.
“I know season tickets are going well but, regardless of the crowds. I just want to come here and play some football. If we are successful on the park, then the fans will follow.”
McPake, who has also had spells with Livingston and Coventry, told the official Dundee website: “My agent spoke to Paul on Monday and I went up and I met Paul on Tuesday. I was happy with what I heard in terms of what Paul’s plans were. I was impressed with how he is going to take the club forward.
“I knew at the time Kevin was coming as well which shows the ambition as well for the club getting players of his calibre in.”
McPake has not played since October after being ruled out for several months with a back injury. The club captain returned to full training ten weeks ago but, despite insisting he was fit, Butcher opted against handing him a return, even amid the Leith side’s desperate run of one win in 15 games.
But after being subjected to a rigorous medical, McPake said: “The club were very happy with that and saw my fitness isn’t a problem so it was good and it’s been good to get it all finally sorted.
“I know Dundee is a big club. I’ve played at Dens. I played against Dundee when I was with Livingston and played against them with Hibs. For me, it’s back in the SPL again, it’s top-flight football for a club that I think deserves to be there and that’s where they should be.”
Meanwhile, Hartley reckons his signing spree – having already snapped up former Falkirk attacker Phil Roberts and Cowdenbeath’s Greg Stewart – sends out a warning to the rest of the SPFL.
Hartley said: “This is just the start. It won’t stop. Hopefully these signings send out a statement about what we’re trying to do. I’m delighted with the three signings. It shows we’re trying to move the club forward.”