It’s not recorded how Jock Thomson, a stalwart member of the last Dundee side to lose their opening six league games, viewed such a dire situation when meeting reporters at Dens Park following a 1-0 loss to Hamilton Accies.
This was, after all, September 1928. The main stand was a new, state-of-the-art structure, freshly designed by Archibald Leitch. But it’s unlikely Thomson, or whoever else drew the short straw to explain what was going wrong to fans via the gentlemen of the press (in those times it almost certainly would have been gentlemen), will have spoken with the same passion shown by midfielder Paul McGowan on Saturday evening. The player in question probably would not have included so many swear words either.
McGowan was speaking from the heart. The time for minding his Ps and Qs was gone. This is getting beyond serious. Six league games, six defeats, the latest an appalling second-half capitulation to Hibs. Just two goals scored. Throw in a 3-0 home reversal against Ayr United in the Betfred Cup.
It’s not even October and Dundee’s goal difference is minus 12. Unsurprisingly this wretched start, their equal-worst stretching back to 1893, has deposited Dundee at the bottom of the league. They are at risk of becoming detached already.
Livingston are 11 points ahead, St Mirren and Motherwell four. Hamilton Accies, where they head this weekend, could stretch their lead over Neil McCann’s side to a very healthy nine points.
And it is Neil McCann’s side – for now. As with McGowan, the manager did not hide afterwards. But the time must be getting near when there’s a reckoning, because Dundee’s poor home form has dogged McCann’s reign. Fans are in revolt. More worryingly, many are simply staying away. As for the dressing room, McGowan provided a peek inside. Despite an attempt at togetherness, when the players gathered in a huddle on the pitch before being picked apart by Hibs, it’s not a happy place.
“I’m honestly sick of saying the same things over and over,” said McGowan. “It’ll come, this and that.
“We’re f*cking weak-minded as a team, we’re weak-minded. We played good football in the first-half, Hibs rarely threatened us. We looked very good, passing the ball. The goal f*cking kills us. And that’s just the mentality we’ve got now.
“When we go a goal down, we f*cking crumble,” he added. “That’s basically it. We crumble. OK, that’s maybe just the situation we’re in. Six games in. A couple of wins and we’re back up. But I’m just sick of repeating the same sh*te over and over. I’m banging my head off a brick wall.”
He included himself in this criticism. “I’m hammering myself here,” he said. “I’m hammering everybody.”
McCann was spared. According to McGowan, there is not much more the manager can do. “The manager is drilling it into us, he can’t do any more,” he said. “You can’t physically put guts and bravery into players.”
This is the kind of emotional, heart-on-sleeve outpouring we might expect from Neil Lennon, the Hibs manager. Instead, he was purring – rightly so. He described his side’s second half, when they scored three times, including a burst of two goals inside four minutes shortly after half-time, as up there with the best Hibs have played under him.
Florian Kamberi’s opening strike precipitated Dundee’s collapse. But Hibs’ game management was excellent. Martin Boyle’s strike after 54 minutes was the real sickener for Dundee – Boyle, of course, was allowed to leave by the Dens Park club. Lennon gave him an extra long cuddle when he came off after 72 minutes, work done, three points secured. Boyle’s replacement, on-loan Manchester City winger Thomas Agyepong, rounded things off with a quality strike near the end.
With Hearts dropping points, the win edges Hibs closer to their rivals. Craig Levein’s side have rightly received plaudits for the way they have started the season, but Kamberi believes there’s not much between Edinburgh’s top-flight teams. Hibs are five points and only two places behind their league-leading rivals.
“I think the Hearts team is not better than us if we compare the teams,” said Kamberi, who has five goals in five games this season. “They are doing very well. We have to accept that. We have to focus on ourselves to bring performances every week, not look to other teams.
“If we play like we did in the second half I think we can beat every team. But we have to bring this performance every week – that is the challenge.”