It’s now seven years since Dean made his Edinburgh debut and his enthusiasm for the club remains undimmed but he confessed to nursing some doubts about whether he would be offered a new deal.
“I’ll be quite honest - I probably didn’t finish last year playing my best rugby and then you have a new coach and it took a long time for an opportunity,” he said. “And I guess like anyone, you lose a bit of confidence but as soon as you get back out there it’s like second nature.”
Dean had to watch from the sidelines as James Lang and Cammy Hutchison made the early running for Edinburgh at inside centre this season but the North Berwick man seized his opportunity against Ulster last month, coming on in the second minute when Lang picked up a knee injury.
He impressed in the 16-10 defeat at the DAM Health Stadium and retained his place for the Challenge Cup clash against Wasps the following week when he provided a pair of offload assists in another narrow reverse.
Both games were played amid a raucous atmosphere and Dean rates them among his best memories of playing for Edinburgh despite the results. He thinks the time he spent sidelined this season has made him appreciate more the opportunity to play for the club he grew up supporting.
“Because I’m getting on a little bit and there is a finite time on how long you can play, I think a lot of the focus was on just trying to get back and not taking any opportunity for granted, and really enjoying it,” he said.
“Playing in the last couple of games in front of a home crowd has been absolutely electrifying and probably some of the best memories I’ve had in a home shirt. Even though it’s been two losses, the feeling of being on the pitch and the crowd has been absolutely epic and has reinvigorated me to enjoy just playing and to push for next year as well.”
Dean has enjoyed some special moments against Glasgow, most notably in December 2017 at Murrayfield when his late try secured a dramatic 18-17 victory for the home side who played for 74 minutes with 14 men following Simon Berghan’s red card.
“I always really look forward to it,” he said of the fixture. “Having been here so long I understand how much it means to everyone. There are not many of us left who have been here for five-plus years. But for those guys, like Gilcho [captain Grant Gilchrist] who is really passionate, you can tell it means a lot. And I think that feeds through the team.
“You have to bring your best in these games and it’s always exciting to finish the season with this game, particularly with a big crowd. It’s been a few years since that.”