DUNDEE manager Paul Hartley has revealed he is close to agreeing a new contract at Dens Park as he sets his sights firmly on winning the Scottish Cup with the club this season.
Hartley has earned widespread admiration for his work with Dundee since taking charge in February this year and has already rejected advances from Cardiff City who targeted him for their managerial vacancy earlier this season.
The 38-year-old guided Dundee to a 2-1 Scottish Cup fourth-round win over Aberdeen on Saturday and will now face another of his former clubs, Celtic, in the last 16 at Dens Park in February.
Hartley’s current contract is due to expire in 18 months time but he insists he is committed to undertaking a longer-term project at Dundee.
“We will speaking in the next few weeks about extending my contract,” said Hartley. “We’ve had initial talks already. For me, it’s a building job here and just learning as a manager. We’re trying to build up the club, build good solid foundations.
“I still think I’m learning the game. I’m only four years into my management career and I think this is an ideal club for me. It’s a big opportunity and I just want to build a good football team.
“Everything is right off the park, we’re financially sound. It’s up to me to bring good quality football to Dundee. I think winning a cup is realistic for us. We have a good enough squad with good experience. We have players who have won trophies before and we have a good mentality about us. That’s what we are trying to do.
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“When you look at the teams over the years who have won the Scottish Cup, there’s no reason we can’t do it, there’s no doubt about that.
“We’ve now had two of the toughest draws we could have got in the tournament. We managed to see off a very good Aberdeen team on Saturday and now we’ll have to be at our best to see off a very good Celtic team.
“It’s a tie we are looking forward to. We’re at home and we have shown against Celtic in the two league games we’ve played this season that we are more than a match for them.
“We know Celtic are a very good team and they showed that on Sunday against a very good young Hearts team. You always want a home tie and it couldn’t have been any more difficult than getting Celtic. We’re in good form and hopefully it will stay like that until that game in February, which is a long way away.
“Anything can happen. It’s a cup tie and we’ll give it our best shot. We’ll try to progress into the quarter-finals. We’ve played really well against them in the two games we’ve had so far and we just have to keep it going.”
Hartley enjoys his working relationship with the Dundee directors who allowed him to exceed his summer transfer budget to sign striker David Clarkson in September. The 29-year-old former Scotland international has now scored in all eight of his appearances so far, leaving him one short of equalling the all-time club record for goals in consecutive matches set by Johnny Bell in the 1920-21 season.
“The board realise now it was well worth it,” added Hartley. “I didn’t see it as a gamble, I thought it would work for us. All David needed to do was get fit. We now hope to keep him for a longer period of time.
“The board are very good. Everything I have asked for so far, they’ve come up with. Our budget was spent but they pushed the boat out a little to bring David in and I’m grateful to them for doing that.
“We understand the financial situation at most Scottish clubs but the board have been terrific, so I can’t thank them enough. They basically didn’t know a lot about David, probably because he was without a club for a long period of time.
“I’ve known him for a few years and we just had to get him in and get him fit. He’s enjoying his football and at 29, he should be enjoying it. He’d been training with Motherwell, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone but finances dictate sometimes.
“The advantage I had was that I’d played with him at Bristol City. I knew his qualities. He didn’t always play as a main No 9 – he played wide left at times – but I always thought his best position was through the middle. I know how hard he works and he’s a terrific boy also. Everything he’s touched so far has seemed to turn into goals.
“If he keeps scoring goals, who knows if he could get a Scotland recall? But we have good players in the national team. The best man to judge that is Gordon Strachan and he’s seen him a few times this year. He’s playing well and the main thing is he’s doing it for us and scoring goals.
“It would be great if he broke a record that has stood since 1920. If he doesn’t do it, then we still know how good he’s been so far.”
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