The unveiling of a new strip tends to be the time for dreaming. Conveniently, both Dundee United and Dundee held launch events on the same day. As well as sharing a street, it became clear the clubs have a common ambition in the coming season – to win a trophy.
Of course, such targets have a habit of unstitching during the course of a long, arduous campaign. But in the hazy days of summer, why not succumb to reverie when slipping on some new threads? This is what happened across the great (fashion) divide yesterday.
“I don’t see why Dundee can’t go on, like the gaffer has said, to win a cupNicky Low
In an era when trophies are being shared around to the extent they are, this goal should not be considered an unrealistic one either. The last eight major knock-out honours have been won by seven different clubs, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and St Mirren among them. The Dundee clubs are conspicuous by their absence from this recent roll of honour.
Dundee’s yearning is perhaps more pronounced. While their rivals lifted the Scottish Cup as recently as 2010, the Dens Park side last won a major trophy in the early 1970s. It could reasonably be argued they are the biggest club in Scottish football to have gone longest without winning a trophy.
New signing from Aberdeen Nicky Low hopes he can help rectify this. A member of the Aberdeen League Cup-winning side of two seasons ago – he in fact scored one of the penalties in the shoot-out win over Inverness – it isn’t often a player leaves Pittodrie for Dens in the hope of earning a winner’s medal. But Low, a left-sided midfielder, wonders why not?
He is heartened by Paul Hartley’s recent pronouncements on the subject. The manager has stressed it is high time Dundee made a mark in knock-out competitions. Low, who was sporting the new home strip (dark blue top with white piping, white shorts with blue piping), is happy to have re-united with Hartley, once his captain and mentor at Pittodrie.
“After training he would teach me, tell me where I needed to be, where I was going wrong, and tried to help me and encourage me,” recalled Low. “He used to take time to help me and encourage me and I really appreciated that.”
With the player’s career in need of a kick-start after 15 years at Pittodrie – Low joined when he was eight – he hopes Hartley can now have a positive influence on him again.
“I think the top six is a realistic aim. The club did really well last season to get into the top six and the boys had a terrific season,” said Low, now 23. “And I’m sure that for most teams apart from Celtic, the cup competitions are the best chance of silverware in Scotland next season.
“There have been a lot of transfers already and lots of teams have been trying to strengthen, so I think the league will be even better next season. I am looking forward to it.
“Reaching a final with Dundee is a realistic aim,” he added. “If you look at the teams who have been there in recent years like Kilmarnock and St Mirren, I don’t see why Dundee can’t go on, like the gaffer has said, to win a cup.”
Across the road at Tannadice, centre-half Callum Morris showed off the new United away strip (predominantly white top, black sleeves, white shorts). Whether this shirt can become associated with glory remains to be seen.
But Morris believes United can go a step further than they managed in the last two seasons, when they reached successive finals. Heartbreak lay in wait both times for the club, though Morris was only involved on the latter occasion, when they lost to Celtic in the League Cup final. He was with Dunfermline when United fell to St Johnstone in last year’s Scottish Cup final but won a race to be fit for the trip to Hampden Park in March.
Despite the downward slide many date back to the departure of key players Gary Mackay- Steven and Stuart Armstrong, and also the potential loss of centre-half partner Jarek Fojut, Morris is convinced United can improve on last season’s performance. As well as reaching a cup final, Jackie McNamara’s side finished a disappointing fifth place in the Premier League.
“If you look back to the start of last season we were top of the league for spells and I don’t see why we couldn’t do that again,” said Morris. “We just need to focus on being consistent.
“We definitely weren’t consistent enough. That’s a massive thing. If we can get that going then we can push at the top of the table. Also, after getting beaten in the [League] Cup final last season you want to go one better. Everyone is so hungry to pick up a trophy.”
Another potential factor in how they fare in the coming season is Nadir Ciftci’s fate. Even if he remains at a club where he has refused the offer of a contract extension he faces a stiff sentence for an alleged biting offence in the last league game of the season versus Dundee.
“He will be a big miss,” agreed Morris. “Everyone knows what he can do. He’s a one-off. He can do things a lot of people can’t do. But in saying that we have a lot of talented players who could step in there.
“Robbie Muirhead came in and did really well, scoring good goals. Henri Anier will have a full pre-season behind him this time. There are people who can take the reins from him and get us goals.”
As well as securing a winner’s medal, Morris has another, more personal target. “My personal goal is to get through the season injury-free,” he said, having suffered thigh and Achilles problems last season. “If I can get back in the starting 11 again and have most games under my belt then that will be great for me.
“We started last season so well and Jarek and I had a good partnership going. Injuries then came and plagued much of my season and I missed some big games.
“That is behind me now, though, and hopefully I can enjoy next season and stay fit. Part of what I was doing in the summer was related to that. I have done a lot of work with what happened last season injury-wise in mind.”