Getting away with it
There’s an apocryphal tale about two explorers walking through the jungle when they hear a tiger roar.
One sits down and takes a pair of trainers out of his back pack.
“You’re crazy. You’ll never out run a tiger!” says his colleague.
“I don’t have to out run the tiger”, the first explorer replies. “I just have to outrun you.”
What does this have to do with the ongoing travails of Dundee FC, I hear you ask? Well, that tiger is relegation and (hopefully) the first explorer is Jim McIntyre and his mate is both Oran Kearney and Brian Rice at the same time. It isn’t a perfect analogy but then again its author probably wasn’t thinking about a three-way scrap at the foot of the Scottish Premiership when they came up with it. Oh, and the trainers are this January’s transfer business.
A whole new team has rocked up to Dens over the past month. The last time we had this many loans Tam Burton was offering lenders 0.5p in the pound and telling them to be grateful for it. Will Jim McIntyre’s hastily assembled cavalry ride to the rescue? Can we actually get away with this?
The Patience of a Saint
Sitting on 13 points after 23 games would all but guarantee relegation under normal circumstances but this is no ordinary season. Proof that 2018/19 represents a lifeline for shiteness came last week when we lost a winnable home game and still improved our position slightly due to our rivals’ goal difference suffering more damage. If you were to pick any season to be historically bad, this is the one.
Less than two months ago this very blog was heaping praise on Jim McIntyre on the back of a glorious four-game unbeaten run that hinted at revival. We’ve won only one of the nine games played since then while recording a goal difference of -15. The utter clusterfuck that McIntyre inherited continues to act as mitigation but all managers will ultimately be judged on their record regardless of the size of the turd in need of polishing.
Another humiliating cup exit to add to the spreadsheet of doom is a major black mark against McIntyre. That we lost at a venue where we traditionally struggle, while contending with injuries, ineligibility and Ibrox-bound star players and facing one of the best strikers in the country isn’t in itself a surprise. The margin of defeat was inexcusable, however. Whatever difficulties the manager faced as he sought to overhaul his squad, many fans are rightly asking why Darren O’Dea was deployed as playmaker while three natural midfielders on our payroll weren’t even in the stands at Palmerston. Could some accommodation not have been made with Glen Kamara? Would extending a temporary olive branch to Elton or Madianga really have been more painful than taking three from a Championship team? Why not start one of the young midfielders on the bench?
Regardless of the manager’s culpability or otherwise in our cup exit, the circumstances surrounding the QoS replay wont arise again and we have to hope that the performances against Hearts and Motherwell are more indicative of what we can expect from the second half of the season.
With a whole new team signed over the past month it is almost impossible to predict how we will line up at Hamilton tomorrow, let alone how we are likely to fare over the remaining 15 matches.
Eleven players in and 14 (including the previously on-loan Marcus Haber and now-on-loan Matty Henvey) out represents an incredible turnover of personnel. The profligacy of Paul Hartley and Neil McCann have meant in excess of 80 players have been signed since promotion five years ago. Cammy Kerr, our longest serving player, has had more than 100 teammates by the age of 23 without moving club. Quite clearly this churn needs to end but that’s a conversation for another day. Right now we just need to concentrate on at least matching St Mirren’s point tally between now and May while bettering Hamilton’s. In a year of abnormal triple shiteness, normal rules concerning the points per game required to finish 11th or 10th have been suspended. Everything we have done over the past month and will do from now to matchday 38 will be judged relative to them.
St Mirren have effectively had the same transfer window as us – throwing together a new team of randoms on loan in the hope something sticks. Their fans are delighted to welcome back Kyle McAllister, but beyond him and Greg Tansey none but the most dedicated of Football manager obsessives will have heard of the rest much less have the slightest idea what to expect from them.
While neutral observers largely shook their heads at Martin Canning’s treatment, Hamilton supporters appear to see his sacking to be the best bit of business their club could have done this month, and they were the ones watching his side week in, week out, after all. Those fans are similarly delighted with the second coming of Tony Andreu but, depending on your perspective, they’ve either failed to overhaul their squad like us and St Mirren, or will benefit from greater stability.
From their early outings, Dieng, Dales, Nelson and Craig Curran all appear upgrades on what we had before. If Horsfield, McGowan, Robson, Hadenius, Wright, O’Sullivan and – if he stays away from bounce games – Davies all bring similar improvements to their positions then we stand a good chance of staying up.
Getting the Message
This transfer window, more than any other, was a time for solid signing rather than potentially-spectacular-but more-likely-disastrous gambles. That realisation didn’t always penetrate the collective Derry consciousness, however.
To scroll down the comments that accompany the unveiling of any Dundee signing on social media is to immerse yourself in world of dyspeptic rage where a section of fans – unconsciously uncoupled from reality by years of on-field misery – are unable to contain their dismay that the Mushy Peas have once again failed to announce a marquee signing.
Maybe the club has to take its share of the blame here. The interval between the wee pen and paper emoji being posted and the identity of the new man being revealed (on average six minutes – I’ve checked) feels intolerably long. “EMOJI KLAXON!!!” messages fly about group chats, chests pound, speculation grows. Your head soberly notes it’s probably the boy from Mansfield we were linked with while your adrenaline-filled heart screams “Berbatov! It’s Berbatov! It’s fucking happening!” And those teaser videos don’t help either. I remember being in the Taybrig “beer garden” with a couple of mates crowded round a phone screen as DeeTV tantalised us with shots of the new signing’s jeans, the outline of his jaw and a surprisingly lengthy focus on a pair of winkle-pickers. ‘Dundee Football Club is delighted to announce the signing of Sofien Moussa’. Who? “Must be good if they went to all that trouble” we convinced ourselves as while seeking out more information about our new number 9. “Ach, the fuck does Wikipedia know anyway? Let’s try YouTube”. A few videos of the Moose losing possession in midfield later and we finished our pints in silence then went home.
Ah, Moussa. We hardly knew ye. An era has ended, ladies and gentleman. Let’s hope the new one starts with us being less shite than St Mirren and Hamilton.