Jamie Ness found out he was being thrown into the Old Firm cauldron a mere two hours before kick-off – and hopes memories of starring for Rangers can drive Dundee on to derby glory tonight.
Back in early January 2011, Ness was just a raw 20-year-old when he was handed his debut by former Rangers boss Walter Smith to face Celtic in their New Year’s Day showdown at Ibrox.
It was an experience the Ayrshire-born playmaker will never forget despite going down to their fierce Glasgow rivals who netted twice through Greek striker Georgios Samaras.
Now the 28-year-old, who moved to Dens Park from Plymouth Argyle earlier in the summer, is set to be a key man for James McPake’s Dark Blues in tonight’s televised clash with Dundee United when he hopes past Old Firm encounters can help him inspire his side to victory in this eagerly-awaited Tayside tussle.
Ness, who also netted a wonder goal just a few weeks later as Rangers fought out a 2-2 draw in their fifth round Scottish Cup clash with Celtic, can’t wait to sample his first taste of the Dundee derby.
Ness said: “I remember the goal mainly from that cup game. I think I scored in the second or third minute.
“We ended up drawing 2-2 in that game but could have won it. It was some experience.
“My full debut, though, was the Old Firm game as well about six weeks before that. I literally found out two hours before the game that I was playing.
“Walter Smith was the manager at the time and he just put the team up on the board and that was it.
“My name was up there and I didn’t really know how to react but then we just got on the bus.
“My family were coming up for the game but I didn’t even tell them I was playing. They found out through the radio that I was starting. They were a lot more nervous that I was.
“We lost the game with Georgios Samaras scoring two but I loved the whole experience.
“I loved the game, the atmosphere, everything about it so I really enjoy playing in these derby games.
“The Old Firm ones were the biggest ones I played in and hopefully I will be able to take that experience into Friday.”
Dundee are eager not to taste defeat and fall seven points behind Robbie Neilson’s Tangerines even this early in proceedings.
United have been tagged strong favourites going into tonight’s game but Ness has told his team-mates to ignore the hype and focus on closing the gap on the Championship leaders to just one point.
He said: “We don’t take any notice of that. They have spent more money than us this year and have been in the Championship a few seasons now. The pressure is on them massively to get back up this year. But we put that pressure on ourselves as well. We want to win the league this year – that’s our goal.
“We have had a couple of draws and they have won their three games so we know we need to go and get a result there on Friday. It is something we are fully capable of doing. We will just go and do what we can do.”
Ness is itching to play his part in Dundee’s tilt at the title following relegation from the Premiership last season, and has declared himself ready to step up in their quest for a top-flight return.
He said: “The result at the weekend drawing with Inverness wasn’t what we wanted so we need to go and put that right with a good performance at Tannadice.
“The lads in the changing room are also all aware of how big a game it is. So it is one I am hopefully going to be a part of.”