BY UNVEILING him in the Alan Gilzean Lounge at Dens Park, Dundee may simply have encouraged playful references to their latest “big” signing.
But it is incumbent on those present to report that Christian Nade looks slightly trimmer than anyone might expect, particularly since he readily admits to not having played a game of competitive football in a year.
Like Gilzean, Nade once scored a winning goal against Arsenal. However, given his recent inactivity, the former Sheffield United and Hearts striker understands why Dundee manager John Brown yesterday challenged him to prove a point to the doubters.
Nade’s last match was almost 12 months ago in Thailand with PTT Rayong, whose claim to the player Dundee hope is relinquished in time for him to make a home debut tomorrow in the top of the Championship clash with Hamilton Accies. It is perhaps just as well that Brown is not expecting the new signing to run about too much. “I don’t want him running about the park, I just want him to work the centre-halves,” the manager pointed out yesterday. “Stay high up the park – the rest can do the work for him.”
Brown accepts that Nade has “been off the scene for a while”. However, he stressed how “hungry” the striker is to show people what he can do. The manager also described the three years Nade spent at Hearts as “a good spell”. There are others who might dispute this. A record of ten goals in just over 90 appearances does not point to a prolific striker, although the player himself argues that there were mitigating factors – and two of these goals were also important strikes against Hibernian. The first earned a point at Easter Road in 2007 and the second, two years later, set Hearts on their way to a 2-0 Scottish Cup victory.
“The way they played at Hearts made it difficult for me to score,” explained Nade. “They only played with one striker – I was up front by myself. I was more like someone who makes goals for others than score myself. To make the fans understand, that was hard. But when you are a footballer you need to take the abuse from the fans and the other clubs’ fans – you just have to take it.”
Nevertheless, he enjoyed his time in Scotland. “I knew I would come back,” he said. “I just want to score more goals this time. And, if not, then give some assists. I just want to bring what I can to the team. Maybe they can now play a different style, I don’t know what the coach has planned.”
Brown hopes Nade will help “free up some space” for the likes of Peter MacDonald, Craig Wighton and Martin Boyle –whoever is selected to play off him. “I think if we can get the ball in the box then he will be a handful,” added Brown. “He is not really renowned for scoring. But, hopefully, he is able to chip in [with his share of goals] and also keep us higher up the park.”
The difficulty in obtaining the necessary international clearance meant Nade’s recent attempt to re-emerge with East Fife was stillborn. His frustration over this means he is extra relieved to have won a short-term contract with Dundee until the end of the season. At only 29, Nade is too young to be fretting about reaching the end of the line in terms of his football career. He knew it was in danger of ebbing away in the Thai Premier League, where he initially played with Samut Songkhram after a spell in Greece with ALKI Larnaca. A serious injury interrupted his subsequent progress with Rayong.
“I can see the light now, I am very happy,” Nade said yesterday. “I want to thank Dundee FC for giving me the chance to get back in the game.” The French-born striker has impressed during the three-week spell spent training with the club. He won himself a contract with his performance in a bounce match on Tuesday. Previously there had been concerns about his fitness.
“It was not the best when he first came in,” conceded Brown. “But he started to look the part – I think he’ll be a presence too. He has a point to prove, a lot of people have written him off. So we’ll give him an opportunity. It will probably need a couple of defenders to handle him.”
Nade accepts fitness has been a constant issue – even when he was playing regularly for Hearts in his mid-twenties. “I’ve been working really hard,” he said. “My last game was a year ago. I had a cartilage injury that kept me out. But I feel as though I can handle going straight into the Hamilton game. I had been training for a while with East Fife as well before coming here so I am ready to go.”
Nade knows there will be scrutiny placed on him, not just by those Dundee fans who remain unconvinced by the merits of signing someone who has spent so long out of the game, but also by opposition supporters, for whom he is a likely target given past weight issues. “I can feel some pressure at the moment to be honest. I actually play better under pressure,” he said. “It’s a bit scary that I haven’t played for a while but I’m OK I feel more nervous just now than I will come Saturday, to be honest. But I want to do my best for the club and my team-mates.”
Brown confirmed Nade will go straight into the squad for tomorrow’s match, along with fellow signing Stephen Hughes, who agreed a short-term contract earlier this week.