Liverpool have cancelled a meet-the-players dinner scheduled for tonight at Anfield because Jurgen Klopp wants to keep attention fully trained on the club’s pursuit of league and European Cup glory. Dundee fans are considering scrapping their player of the year event next month for far less welcome reasons.
There are fears hostility – or worse, apathy – could impact on the event after a season that seems destined to be chalked down as one of the club’s worst of all time. Jim McIntyre is well down the line to equalling the club’s poorest ever run of results – he’s strung together eight consecutive losses to date, with the current worst sequence being 12 defeats in 1897-88.
Underlining how far back we are going, this run was ended by a 2-2 draw with St Bernard’s. As it stands, his is already the worst run endured by an individual manager. The 1800s nadir was when the team was picked by a committee.
There are also practical reasons for discussions having taken place this week about cancelling the player of the year event: are there any candidates worth the name? Perhaps one, Nathan Ralph. He has proved a consistent performer at left-back since coming back into the side following an injury picked up near the start of the season.
He has been a rare bright spot in a season of almost unremitting gloom. As poor as it seemed at the start, when Dundee slid to a seventh successive loss under Neil McCann, there can be little doubt that a mishmash collection of loan deal signings and players rescued from seeming oblivion have brought the side to a yet lower point.
But then it can’t be treated as too much of a surprise if players, several of whom were parachuted in midway through the season and are set to return to their parent clubs come the summer, have failed to display the required application.
Another reason for the player of the year do on 19 May being placed in jeopardy is the potential embarrassment of so few players being present. Since Dundee will clock off more than 24 hours earlier, at around 2.15pm after a possibly meaningless – for Dundee at least – home fixture with St Mirren, there’s scope for many of the first-team squad to clear off. Five of the team that lost for the fourth time this season to St Johnstone last Saturday are on loan. At times the number has been as high as six.
It’s a far cry from the time, in the not too distant past, when Dundee seemed to want to nurture young talent and had, in Craig Wighton and Cammy Kerr, two first-team regulars who are dyed-in-the-wool Dundee fans. Kerr has been in and out of the team and was displaced by a loan signing from Scunthorpe until winning his place back recently, while Wighton was sold earlier this season to Hearts, a move which helped finance a deal for the then 38-year-old Kenny Miller, who has not scored this year.
No wonder fans are dismayed. Some woke up on Sunday morning while still digesting the loss in Perth to learn of a clip posted on Instagram by Martin Woods – a player who has already suffered his fair share of criticism since being brought in by McIntyre in November having not played since being released by Partick Thistle last summer. Woods apparently chose the day after relegation became almost inevitable to post film of him driving along in his car listening to booming music while seemingly without a care in the world. Not a crime of course but hardly judicious in the current climate at Dens.
A substitute the previous day against St Johnstone, Woods was made captain by McIntyre on several occasions having been brought in to replace Glen Kamara, whose departure to Rangers could and surely should have been avoided.
Selling your best player midway through the season does not tend to lead to an improvement in fortunes. While Kamara might have been struggling to replicate his form of the previous season, he was invariably still the one player able to alleviate pressure with his ability to take the ball in tight positions. It’s understood that he, like Kilmarnock’s Jordan Jones, was prepared to remain to complete the season at his club before joining up at Ibrox.
Gallingly for Dundee fans, because of sums owed to Arsenal, his first club, and to the player himself, the Dens Park club may have got as little as £25,000 for the Finnish international – far below the £50,000 quoted. No wonder Steven Gerrard, on the day Dundee racked up defeat number eight in a row, was still voicing his disbelief at having got Kamara for so little after the midfielder put in another man-of-the-match performance in the 3-1 win over Hearts.
Decision-making has been questionable at Dens Park for some time. Even McCann’s sacking came after the team hinted at an improvement in fortunes following a 2-0 win at Hamilton Accies and an unfortunate 2-1 home defeat by Kilmarnock.
The club’s current four-person board has been described as non-functioning. John Nelms, the managing director, has been accused of running Dundee as a personal fiefdom after precious little engagement with supporters asked to pay premium prices. A new stadium, the ground for which was supposed to be broken this year, still seems a castle in the air.
I’d argue Dundee fans, particularly of the modern era, are the most afflicted in Scotland. Of all the supporters of so-called major clubs, they’ve had to put up with most. On top of their own team’s decline was the rise of Dundee United in the late 70s and 1980s. They’ve also endured six relegations since reconstruction – with a seventh pending.
The latest might well count as their most abject, rivalling the time in 2005 when they managed to surrender top league status despite having been nine points clear of bottom spot near the start of April.
Dundee will have to win three of their last four games just to equal their points total in 2012-13, when they had been bounced into the top flight – originally as the so-called Club 12 – after Rangers’ financial meltdown and were understandably unprepared for the step up in level.
There’s a suggestion there will be no reserve team at all next season: just under-18s then first-team. It won’t be the end of cut backs if and more likely when relegation is confirmed.
The harsh truth is after three years when Dundee had the chance to consolidate their place as the city’s top team after Dundee United’s relegation, they are nearly back where they started under their American owners. What a missed opportunity.