Dundee sit bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership. Joel Sked looks at why they will likely be the team relegated.
“The data shows that he is the best person to lead Dundee.”
It was one of the standout lines from Dundee managing director John Nelms’ programme notes ahead of Saturday’s clash with Aberdeen at Dens Park. It regarded manager Jim McIntyre.
They lost the game 2-0.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at some data. Under McIntyre Dundee have:
• Played 27 matches
• Won three
• 11.1 win percentage
• Conceded 56 goals
• Scored just 21
• Been beaten 5-0 and 5-1, plus 4-0 twice
• Lost the last seven
• Scored once in over more than nine hours of football
• Been bombed out the Scottish Cup by Queen of the South, losing 3-0 to a team who are now fighting their own relegation battle in the division below
Some may say the team are edging towards a return to the Championship. But when you break it down, this is a team spiralling head-on towards the drop, under a manager who is running out of ideas.
It is only fair to rewind to the start of the season when McIntyre wasn’t in charge and it was Neil McCann in the hotseat. The former winger professed a positive style of play and was dogmatic in his approach to getting his ideas onto the pitch. He put his faith in players who had little to no experience of Scottish football.
The names of Jean Alassane Mendy, Karl Madianga and Elton N’Gwatala will likely prompt a cold shiver down the spine of supporters. A shake of the head will be the reaction after mentioning Adil Nabi, Ryan Inniss and Jack Hamilton.
They ‘contributed’ to seven defeats from the first eight league games as well as an embarrassing exit to Ayr United in the Betfred Cup.
One goal in particular epitomised the difficulties of the McCann reign. Goalkeeper Hamilton was brought in from Hearts with the idea of playing out from the back.
Any supporter of the Tynecastle side would query such an idea and it was hammered home on the first day of the season. Hamilton tripped over the ball when trying to take on a St Mirren forward, conceding a winning goal to St Mirren who are now relegation rivals.
McCann had been supported by the Dundee board, as had Paul Hartley before him, and McIntyre has after him.
“We have brought in three managers,” wrote Nelms. “Two with little experience, backing them based on how we do things, providing a stable and safe platform. We desperately wanted them both to succeed but for various reasons they ultimately did not. Now we have Jim at the helm.”
Those in charge at Dundee are loyal and supportive and, on the surface at least, ambitious. They want to build a new stadium and move away from the crumbling Dens Park which is costing the club money each season in maintenance. It is so important they are a Premiership club while they go through this transition.
That’s why McIntyre was brought in: a safe pair of hands; the border collie to usher this riff-raff into the safety pen of the Premiership, away from relegation. Understandable considering his time at Ross County, who he led to League Cup victory and decent positions in the league.
Instead, watching Dundee now is the equivalent of witnessing the border collie charging about the field aimlessly as the sheep look on with a mixture of bemusement and indifference.
There is no direction and seemingly no plan to fix it. It was an appointment which looked doomed for failure from the start when he was unable to bring in Billy Dodds as his assistant. Those in charge seemed unaware of the former Dundee United striker’s history with the Dens side. Having previously been assistant at Dens under Gordon Chisholm, Dodds objected to the company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that took Dundee out of administration in 2011.
McIntyre has not been able to sort out the problematic defensive issues with calamity lurking around every corner. A highlights reel of goals conceded would be more at home at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival than the Scottish Premiership.
No team have given up more shots in the league, meaning whoever is between the sticks must feel like Goldberg in The Mighty Ducks, tied to the goals, facing an avalanche of shots.
The goal in the 1-0 defeat to Hearts last month was emblematic of defending straight out of Chuckles University. As the players fall over one another trying to clear the ball they appear to be actively trying to get themselves included in a new version of Nick Hancock’s Football Nightmares. They reached a whole new realm of comedy.
McIntyre has not been helped with Andrew Davies being unavailable since signing in January. He has broken his foot twice. Then again, it is naive to rely on a 33-year-old with a history of injury problems.
It is slightly better in attack but not nearly to the extent that it would offset the defensive displays. The arrival of Andrew Nelson provided a real boost. But his injury while celebrating a goal against Livingston was another staging post in Dundee’s dismally daft campaign, ruling him out for a few weeks. In addition, Scott Wright, on loan from Aberdeen, has gone off the boil recently.
The team pose little threat to opponents but have a self-destructive streak. Not a good combination.
Ross County fans were criticised for thinking it was time for McIntyre to move on. Those concerns have come to light in the City of Discovery. There have been an increasing number of strange changes to the team, unusual selections and then there is Martin Woods.
Signed in November, he is a favourite of McIntyre, as he was at County, and similarly undroppable. He is someone who is finished at this level. Decent on the ball but his ability to read the game, especially in a defensive sense, is akin to a drunk trying his hand at orienteering.
With five games left of the season and three points behind 11th-placed St Mirren, survival is still achievable, albeit they’ll likely have to face a playoff, possibly against rivals Dundee United. Yet, hope among the Dundee support is dissipating.
Whatever division the club are in next season, with the second oldest team in the Premiership this season on average and 24 players either returning to their parent club or out of contract it is the perfect time to rebuild and start from scratch in terms of the playing side.
Nelms wrote: “We are Dundee Football Club: No one likes us, and we don’t care.”
He will actually find that the club have been very well liked by opponents this campaign. And therein lies the issue.