JOHN Brown was yesterday handed the job of Dundee manager on a permanent rather than interim basis but the new man insists the Dens Park club’s time in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League is not up just yet.
The former Rangers defender took over from Barry Smith as a temporary measure in late February but the position is now his for keeps after signing a two-year deal.
The 51-year-old has lost just one of his seven league games in charge as he bolstered the fragile side left in the wake of Smith’s sacking. Three wins and three draws also reduced the 15-point deficit facing the Dens Park side at the bottom of the table on the day of his appointment to a ten-point gap now separating them from St Mirren.
A win for St Mirren at Hibernian today, however, will send Dundee back to the Irn-Bru First Division but Brown believes his side could yet be playing top-flight football next term.
Asked if he thought he would be working in the second tier after the summer, Brown said: “No I don’t. We are still fighting to stay in the Premier League. If we can take it another week and make a few people very nervous then great.
“People had us down a number of weeks ago. The players have shown the right attitude and managed to get results.
“We need to win tomorrow and then look elsewhere and see what the result is. But we’re not out of it.”
With just four games left, a Saints win at Easter Road or anything but a victory for Dundee at home to Hearts and Brown’s first act as permanent boss will be to pick up the pieces from a relegation.
But Dundee chief executive Scot Gardiner believes his new manager has merited his appointment. “It was a straightforward decision in the end,” he said. “Results are everything in football and obviously John has got results. I’m not surprised by the impact he’s made because I have appointed him but I am surprised at just how well he’s done. We have lost just once in the league since he took over and if you had asked me before we gave him the job if losing one game out of seven would be acceptable, I’d have said that would be really something.
“But what John has done has been really something, hence why he’s got the job.”
Brown enjoyed a four-year stint with Dundee as a player before going on to sign for Rangers in 1988, where he became one of the Ibrox club’s nine-in-a-row icons. But returning to Tayside to manage his former club was a special moment. He said: “I came in as interim manager and I was fine with that. But I was also confident in my own ability to push on and get the job. So it’s a fantastic day for me and my family. Many years ago my family would travel up here and watch me play for Dundee. My parents will be very proud to see me back here as manager full-time.”
Hearts won at Kilmarnock last week and are making a belated push up the table. They also have the added incentive of trying to pass Hibs in their quest to again finish top Edinburgh club in the SPL.
Under Gary Locke there have been steady signs of improvement, and the new Hearts manager has kept faith with a number of youngsters who worked their way into the first team under predecessor John McGlynn. Callum Tapping is one of them, and he believes it is time he graduated to become a first-team regular at Hearts.
The 19-year-old midfielder claims his move from Hamilton to Tottenham in 2009 was like “going back to school”. And, after signing for the Tynecastle club two years later, he was mentored by former Gorgie favourite Paul Hartley during a loan spell at Alloa earlier this season. Tapping has been in and out of the first team since returning to Hearts in January, but has since become part of Billy Stark’s Scotland under-21 plans. Ahead of the trip to Dundee, he looked forward to taking the next step in his career.
He said: “It has been a good year for me. At the start of the season I didn’t expect to play as many games as I have done. Trying to maintain a place is hard but I am enjoying it.
“My aim is to be a Hearts regular at one point, I would love that and to get there would be great. Alloa was a great experience. I realised straight away it was different from playing youth and under-20s football and with Paul Hartley, who is a Hearts legend, it was always good.
“Every game and every week, he was giving me bit of advice, letting me know what I should do to do better and what he thought would help me to progress and it helped.” Tapping recalls fondly his two “star-struck” years at Spurs, saying: “Harry Redknapp was the manager of the first team but I didn’t deal with him.
“The facilities and standard was brilliant. You don’t realise what you have got when you are down there. It was like going back to school, it was like a stepping stone to improve.
“On the odd occasion the first team would need players and you would be around players like Tom Huddlestone and Sandro, it was a good experience. I was a bit star struck.
“I was 16 and had been watching them on Sky television and then training with them the next day. It was a bit crazy but it was good. But now it is time to push on.”