Paul Hartley tipped for Dundee after Brown exit

John Brown: Target for fans. Picture: SNS
John Brown: Target for fans. Picture: SNS
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Dundee are set to name yet another new manager after parting ways with John Brown yesterday.

The out-of-work Paul Hartley features high on the list of candidates after growing fans’ discontent saw Brown exit the Dens Park club. Hartley could be installed as early as today.

The news of Brown’s departure by what is described as “mutual agreement” comes after Hartley’s old club Alloa Athletic secured a point in a 1-1 draw against Dundee at Dens Park on Saturday with a goal scored with the very last kick of the game.

Despite this setback, Dundee remain joint top of the First Div-ision on points, although they are below Falkirk on goal difference. A statement last night from the Dundee supporters’ society, DFCSS, revealed that the group’s representatives on the Dundee board, Colin Reid and Bob Hynd, recently raised concerns about Brown’s ability to lead the team to promotion.

It is the fourth time since 1998 that Dundee have dispensed with a manager while the team is sitting at or very near the top of the First Division. Only once has it had the desired effect in terms of inspiring a team perceived to be faltering to promotion. This was on the first occasion, when Jocky Scott replaced John McCormack after the then owners, Peter and Jimmy Marr, decided that they wanted a “change in direction”. The comment provoked a memorable reply from McCormack, who asked: “Change direction? Where do they want to go? Down the table?”

Brown appears to have been more comfortable with yesterday’s developments. Indeed, according to a Dundee statement released in the afternoon, the manager conceded a change might be best for the club’s short-term aim to win the Championship title. Brown had admitted that the fans had been right to harangue him and “call for my head” after Saturday’s performance, which he described as “unacceptable”. He also added that he picked the team “so I’ve got to look at myself”.

True to his word, he met with chief executive Scot Gardiner and made the offer to step down. The club released a statement yesterday afternoon thanking Brown for his “valiant efforts” last season as Dundee fought to remain in the Scottish Premier League, and for his “diligence” during the current campaign as the Dens Park side look to make an immediate return to the top tier.

They sit second behind Falkirk on goal difference with 14 games to play and host third-placed Hamilton Accies, who are a point below, in a rearranged league game on Saturday.

“The club agreed with John’s expressed view that after recent results, this is the best way forward,” said the statement. “John stated that he has loved his time at Dundee FC as a player and as a manager.

“He still passionately wants Dundee FC to win the league this season and would share in our pride if we go on to do so. The board of directors would like to put on record their thanks not only for his valiant efforts in attempting to keep us in the Premier League last season when no-one gave us a chance, but also for his hard work and diligence in achieving the current points total which sees the club joint top of the league with 14 games of the season to go.”

Brown, a former youth coach at Rangers, stated on his arrival that he wanted to reinvigorate youth development at the club. Last month Dundee revealed plans to build a new youth academy in conjunction with the Showcase the Street social enterprise and the club also praised a transformation at reserve and youth level under Brown’s tenure.

Brown is the latest Dundee manager to exit the club at a crucial juncture of the season. As soon as Barry Smith was appointed Alloa Athletic manager on the eve of Saturday’s match, it felt fateful. Smith was sacked by Dundee a year ago, with Brown originally appointed as an interim replacement in a move that divided the Dens Park support.

Now Hartley, the man Smith replaced at Alloa, has been quickly installed as favourite for the Dens Park post. Brown took over at Dundee on 23 February last year with the club sitting 15 points adrift from 11th placed St Mirren at the bottom of the Scottish Premier League. The team made a late recovery to the point that they were eight points behind the Paisley team with three games remaining. However, a draw with Aberdeen saw them relegated.

While there can be no denying that Brown helped re-ignite the team last season, a recent record of one win from six home games has persuaded the Dundee board, including England-based chairman Bill Colvin and American director of football operations John Nelms, who is currently back in the US, to conclude that change is necessary now.