John Robertson once labelled Dundee supporters “the fans from hell” following a short stint on loan at the club from Hearts during the 1997-98 season.
The point he was making is they didn’t have that much to complain about, since they were top of the league and they won all four games in which he played en route to winning the First Division title. More than 20 years later, he capitalised on another afternoon when the Dundee fans were an agitated lot.
The difference now is that he might accept they have a point. Not that he can afford to be too concerned about Dundee’s plight. As he said after masterminding an impressively straightforward 2-0 victory at the home of their play-off rivals, “We all have enough to be getting on with without worrying about how the opposition plays – I was as low as I could possibly be last week.”
Inverness responded to the 1-0 home defeat by Arbroath by heading down to supposedly in-form Dundee and going 2-0 up inside half an hour after well worked goals from Aaron Doran and James Keatings. They never looked like relinquishing this lead and the home fans voiced their displeasure at half-time.
While the reaction of these supporters became part of the narrative afterwards, the response was never close to being over the top. Indeed, if anything, it was the apathy that was alarming, particularly on a day when Dundee manager director John Nelms composed what was intended to be a rousing New Year message for the match programme. In it he promised, on his and chairman Tim Keyes’ behalf, to submit the application for a new stadium complex at Camperdown Park. “Most of the obstacles that were set before us have been sorted and it is time to kick on and get this thing built,” Nelms stressed.
Dundee fans are more concerned about assembling a team on the park to at least challenge for promotion. There have been signs manager James McPake might be on the right track. Saturday, however, was a huge step backwards, hence the criticism from the stands at half-time. It was not so apparent at full-time since so many had chosen to leave early. Mark Ridgers, the Inverness goalkeeper, only had two long-distance shots to deal with all afternoon.
McPake reckoned the fans’ reaction was justified and Jordan McGhee, the Dundee centre-half and perhaps their most consistent performer this season, felt likewise. It was something he recalled having to accept when playing for Hearts, where strong support is guaranteed if the team is doing well. If not, and lack of application is suspected, you can expect to hear about it.
McGhee played more than 70 times for Hearts, experiencing both the low of relegation in 2013-14 after the club plunged into administration and then the high of promotion back to the top-flight the following season.
“I’ve been through it before at Hearts where the fans voice their opinion as well and rightly so,” he said. “If you have a poor game you deserve it. If you have a good game, they are on your side. That’s football.
“It’s something I’m used to. It’s something I’d expect after a performance like that. Once you are concentrating and out there, you are only thinking about getting the three points. You don’t really take heed of what’s happening off the pitch although you do hear singing and booing. That’s natural.
“There’s added pressure as soon as you sign at Dundee,” he added. “Everyone knows what the aim is here – to try and get promoted. Everyone knows they have to shoulder a lot of the criticism and take the pressure in every game. It’s something you have to learn to deal with and deal with it fast.”
He’s right about that – Dundee have another potentially pivotal game against play-off rivals Ayr United on Saturday. Significantly, it’s at Dens Park again. Their hopes are not being helped by continued speculation over Graham Dorrans’ future at the club.
A short-term signing as he looked to regain fitness, Dorrans is deliberating whether to accept an offer from MK Dons, who are managed by former Norwich City and Rangers team-mate Russell Martin. McPake, another pal from their playing days together at Livingston, will need to pull out the stops to convince him to remain at Dens, particularly after Saturday.
“Of course, it’s important that we keep him,” said McGhee. “He’s played at the top level – in the English Premier League and with Rangers.
“He is a really important player for us. Apart from that, he’s great around the dressing room, helping and speaking to boys. It would be massive for us to keep him but he’s a top player and there’s bound to be interest.
“No one has really spoken about it [his future],” he added. “He seems happy here. He’s playing, he’s fit and he’s producing good performances. Everyone hopes he stays here.”