DERRY GOT SOUL: JIMMY JAZZ

McIntyre

This article might have been headlined ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ had the star of that show’s reputation not been somewhat tarnished these days, so The Clash will instead provide the soundtrack for this doffing of the cap in Jim McIntyre’s direction.

Up to the dizzy heights of the play-off spot after a run of four games unbeaten, the last of which was a gutsy draw against the second-best team in the country despite being a man down for 70 minutes. Eight goals scored and only four conceded in that time. Who saw that coming when Livingston put four past us without reply? Or even when Hibs went 2-0 after half an hour? By some Darwin-challenging miracle, a seemingly invertebrate squad have suddenly developed a backbone. And started scoring goals.

Our worries are far from over and away games at Rugby Park, Pittodrie and Parkhead add up to a challenging run, to say the least. St Mirren could lose both their next two games and find themselves off bottom spot. Given the ongoing precariousness of our league position and the dearth of points from our first dozen games, we might still face heartbreak in May. McIntyre may still live up to the warnings issued by Ross Country fans. But still … what a fucking difference.

Rock the Casbah Derry

Last week Dundee did something that proved beyond us throughout Neil McCann’s entire reign and scored four games in a top-flight game. Four! That’s half the amount we had scored the whole season up to then. We were also organised and hard-working. We defended solidly and attacked with purpose. And width! We played with width rather than making a few dozen passes that go nowhere ahead of the inevitable hoof up the park by ‘agricultural’ centre-halves clearly uncomfortable with building from the back. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, watching Dundee is, for the moment at least, an experience unlikely to leave blood spouting from your eyes.

As the old cliche goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you. Yes, Hamilton managed to drum up a performance as bad as anything we have produced this season but it is results against them and St Mirren that will largely dictate where we finish come the end of the season. If you look up six-pointer in the dictionary you’ll see a picture of Kenny Miller arms aloft as he takes the acclaim of the Derry after completing his hat-trick.

(Maybe we wont go) Straight to Hell

Having seen both Hamilton and St Mirren in action recently I’m feeling bold enough to state that we can finish the season in 10th place while still being far from brave enough to claim unequivocally that we will. Getting enough points on the board to give ourselves a chance of staying up post-transfer window was always the short-term aim, however, and that is suddenly looking like a possibility, not least because we’ve suddenly got a goal machine on our hands

If I’m being honest, Kenny Miller has probably looked after himself a bit better than I have over the years. Maybe he doesn’t even wince when getting out of bed for a nocturnal pish (It happens at our age – how’s your prostate, Kenny?) but signing someone only a few months younger than I am couldn’t help but set off alarm bells and these fears were hardly eased by his first five or six games for Dundee. But then King Kenny wasn’t exactly helped by being deployed on the wing, and the key to our recent improved form is rooted in two managerial masterstrokes:

  1. Playing players in their proper positions
  2. Playing as few of Neil McCann’s summer signings as is humanly possible

A left-back at left-back. Forwards up front. A physical presence in the middle. Pace on the flanks. 4-4-2 or as close to it as possible. Get the ball wide quickly and get crosses into the box. There’s nothing radical that Jim McIntyre has done other than strip the game back to its basics. The Livingston, Hearts and Celtic games could scarcely have gone worse but the circumstances surrounding them offered clear mitigation. There was definite improvement at Motherwell even if we lacked a goal threat and, while Martin Woods is clearly no Zidane, he is on a different level to those who had been flitting in and out the team prior to his arrival. We should have beaten St Mirren and the Hibs comeback was brilliant. And then we won a game (A FUCKING HOME GAME!!!) before grinding out a draw against Rangers that was almost as satisfying as Mark O’Hara’s hunskelping antics of the past couple of seasons.

Baby steps in the grand scheme of things, but big, bloody giant steps in the context of season 2018/19.

Move on Up?

When Nigel Farage called the proposed Brexit agreement “the worst deal in history” last week it immediately became apparent he was unaware Dundee once gave Hibs Martin Boyle in exchange for Alex Harris.

By way of illustrating the inequity of this trade, Boyle scored a double on his full international debut in the week that Harris came off the bench to make his debut in the 6th tier of English football. And yet Farage knew nothing of this.

Image result for martin boyle dundee

This level of unforgiveable ignorance should, of course, embarrass the serial liar, shameless hypocrite and professional ballbag into abandoning his Question Time residency and withdrawing from public life but the toad-faced irritant is hardly known for his humility. Instead I’ll settle for his predictably vacuous interjection providing a useful segue into a discussion about the staggeringly bad transfer moves the Dark Blues have completed over the past few years.

From A Window

Modern football is rubbish, part 1,428,005. No longer do we just debate our favourite players, matches and goals, but also our best administration (Dundee fans only, terms and conditions apply) and our worst transfer windows. It seemed that the summer of 2016 could never be topped (or bottomed, really) in this regard until Neil McCann watched the sun set on last season and told Graham Gartland to hold his beer.

Schadenfreude at relegating United was balanced with the fear from May 2016 onward as our deadly strikeforce was coveted on both sides of the border. At least they wouldn’t be leaving on the cheap though…

Despite John Nelms shouting ‘fake news!’ when the local press suggested that a clause in top scorer Kane Hemmings’ contract meant he could leave Dens for as little as £250,000, it turned out that it was the Dundee MD who was telling porkies. One half of said strikeforce had exited stage left, but at least we still had Greg Stewart…

Birmingham’s capture of Stewart meant 36 goals from the previous season had just walked out of the door, following in the footsteps of Gary Harkins after the Glorious One triggered a contract extension that Hartley was unwilling to honour.

Never mind, with the fat part of £750,000 burning a hole in our pocket and the last of ‘Bomber’s deadwood’ cleared to free up wages, we resources aplenty to strengthen in all areas. Instead we got:

James Vincent and Danny Williams – Rarely discussed in isolation by Dundee fans. Their pre-contract signings were announced in tandem, the pair were both handed three-year deals and, it is fair to say, both underwhelmed. Then-Inverness manager John Hughes claimed his club couldn’t come close to matching the money Dundee were offering ‘Vinilliams’ and, while it is hardly unknown for Yogi to talk shite from time to time, it certainly fitted with an emerging narrative of Hartley paying over the odds for duds he would dole out lengthy contacts to.

Michael Duffy – No one who witnessed Duffy’s brief and unillustrious spell at Dens could have foreseen him becoming the subject of an international tug o’ war between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Kevin Gomis – A late-window desperation signing impossible to describe without using the words slow, lazy, cumbersome, and shite.

Faissal El Bakhtaoui – Always seemed to be playing with one eye on his YouTube video and, for every screamer, there were five seagulls nursing a sore pus. Far from the worst of the Class of 2016 but not good enough either.

Tom Hateley – As meh a player as we’ve had in recent times.

Mark O’Hara – The closest thing we had to an unqualified success that summer, the Hunskelper’s status grows in his absence. To paraphrase Joni Mitchell, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. They paved paradise and signed Elton Ngwatala.

Yordi Teijsse – The name that sums that summer up. It’s unfair to be too critical of Yordi as he was clearly playing so far above his natural level it was untrue. Loaned out within six months of arriving before accepting a payoff to walk away early, Yordi was a caricature of a latter-Hartley era signing.

The summer of 2016 was also notable for Dundee’s lengthy pursuit of St Mirren’s Stevie Mallan, with the Dark Blues launching several transfer bids ranging in value from 5p to a bag of magic beans for the midfielder, who eventually went elsewhere.

January 2017

Marcus Haber, signed a couple of months after the window slammed shut, played a big role in improving results until January when, it was clear that Dundee needed to strengthen. Haber was handed a contract extension that seemed excessive even when he was at the top of his game, while Henrik Ojamaa and Marc Klok joined. Ojamaa wasn’t the player he was a few years earlier with Motherwell. The less said about Klok the better.

Summer 2017

Jack Hendry and Glen Kamara were obviously excellent signings while Roarie Deacon, Elliott Parish, A-Jay Leitch-Smith, Scott Allan and Josh Meekings all contributed to varying degrees. Then there were Lewis Spence, Randy Wolters and Sofian Moussa. Who can forget the day Moussa joined? The club’s twitter teasing us with a signing emoji next to a number 9, the ‘It’s Berbatov!!!’ texts from overexcited no-righters, the social media slow-reveal that started off with footage of our new striker’s winkle pickers, the ‘who the fuck?’, followed by the crushing disappointment of checking out his wiki page and YouTube video. Given the paucity of goals since, it’s arguable that McCann’s downfall began that day.

January 2018

It has often been remarked on forums that no one does January worse than Dundee and on the final day of the mid-season window Dundee somehow managed to exchange Hendry, Allan and Scott Bain for Simon Murray in a deal seemingly put together by The Fast Show’s Billy Bleach. Murray scored a few vital goals between then and the end of the season and Steven Caulker would go some way to filling the Jack Hendry-shaped hole in our defence, but still.

Summer 2018

Too soon. The wounds are too raw to discuss outwith the confines of a therapist’s office. It may yet prove to be the worst window since the one Robert Wyatt fell through. Quickly brushing over the players we signed and those we lost, we once again refused to acknowledge the reality of a club’s asking price and several attempts to prise Lawrence Shankland from Ayr’s grasp were doomed to failure.

Window Paine

Every transfer is a gamble to some extent. The Martin Boyle of 2018 is a much improved version of the raw speedfreak we jettisoned back then but no one was likely to name him in their worst ever Dundee XI. The same can’t be said of Harris and Hartley’s trade was a foreshadow of what was to come next.

What is truly frightening is the money Dundee have payed players not to play for us over the past few years. Nicky Loy, Rory Loy, Hateley, Williams, Yordi, Harkins, Wolters, Simon Ferry, Kevin Thomson and Luka Tankulic have all spent extended time on loan or accepted deals to walk away, some of them no doubt pretty lucrative given the length and economic value of their contacts.

Another three – Haber, El Bak and Vincent – continue to cost us money with their loan clubs stumping up only a percentage of their wages. That’s three players Hartley saw fit to hand out three-year deals to struggling to get a game at the wrong end of the Championship while impacting on our budget.

A couple of bad windows is all it takes to turn a comfortable Premiership side into one at the wrong end of the Fundesliga and we’re currently attempting to recover from a run of disastrous-disastrous-average-poor-disastrous ones. Incredibly, some of McCann’s summer recruits have left us pining for the likes of Haber and El Bak. Jim McIntyre faces an unenviable task in January as he needs to empty his squad of as much of the shite he inherited as possible while bringing in several players of a significantly higher quality. From now until the winter break we are firmly in damage limitation mode but as soon as that window opens we need to go about reversing the trend of recent years if we are to have any chance of remaining competitive for the rest of the season.

DERRY GOT SOUL: Running On The Spot

Last week’s Sportscene was an entertaining affair, and not just because it didn’t feature Dundee losing for once.

Midfielder-turned-contrarian Michael Stewart completely lost his shit over the issue of penalties, the cause of his ire being a spot kick awarded to Rangers, one not awarded to Motherwell, the one St Mirren got against us, and several other claims the Buddies made. One from the latter category in particular had the ex-Hearts man fulminating as he went out of his way to disagree with the more conventional opinions of Jonathan Sutherland and Steven Thompson, a man Mikey is in danger of being smirked to death by.

Image result for sofian moussa penalty miss st mirren

The soft penalty that Simeon Jackson won for St Mirren is just one of several decisions that Dundee, shite as we’ve been, are justified in bemoaning of late. While Jordan Jones was retrospectively punished for his dive at Dens last month, Mikael Lustig’s keenness to hit the deck has passed with barely any mention, while Sportscene didn’t see fit to show the Dark Blues’ own claim from the St Mirren game, or any of the three from the week before at Motherwell.

The subsequent conspiracies about the West Coast bias of the SPFL/BBS Scotland got me thinking about the penalty masters, misses, decisions and debacles from my time following Dundee.

The Prince

If football was more like its younger American cousin, Ryan ‘Special Teams’ Conroy might be regarded as an all-time greats. Eleven of Conroy’s 25 goals for Dundee came from the spot, a 100% record (so far as I can remember) that probably (I haven’t fully researched this TBH) makes him our most successful player from 12 yards out since the days of Andy Penman, the Penalty King himself. His record also laughs in the face of claims that left-footed players can’t take penalties.

From safety to where

When Matt Lockwood rocked up at Dens, Google informed us that he was a renowned penalty expert. Cucumber-cool Lockwood duly lived up to this rep before developing the type of yips that Eric Bristow whenever experienced when approaching the oche. Three pens were missed in just a few weeks, the last of which contributed to a Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Kilmarnock.

Redemption Song          

The only penalty shoot-out to determine the winner (as opposed to the destination of a bonus point) of a Dundee derby took place at Tannadice in September 1995. Neil Duffy turned out for United shortly after crossing to the wrong end of the street, but it was 38-year-old Billy Thomson and 34-year-old Iain Ferguson who put one over their old club while defying the curfew set by their nursing home. Thomson saved spot kicks from Gary McSwegan and Owen Coyle while Ferguson, who had been brought on in the dying seconds purely to take a penalty, put the ball past Ally Maxwell with his only touch of the evening. Dundee were through to a League Cup quarter final against Aberdeen and Fergie was allowed out the ‘Judas Bastard’ corner.

Satellite of Love

It seems strange now when games are shifted all the time to suit the dozens of companies who own the rights to broadcast Scottish football, but Dundee’s first home game to be screened live didn’t take place until 1992. The occasion was a Scottish Cup 4th round reply and Falkirk were the visitors. Bairns defenders Crawford Baptie and Forbes Johnston repeatedly assaulted Billy Dodds in the box only for referee David Syme to wave play on each time. Oh, and Falkirk scored the only goal right at the start of a 2nd half that kicked off so early that Sky were still on their ad break when the ball hit the net.

Last Night a DJ GK Saved My Life

Confess your guilty Scottish football secret. Mine is that I would have welcomed Dougie Imrie to Dundee many times over the years, despite his growing role of pantomime villain following a fracas or two with our players, management and supporters. He was always a thorn in our side in a footballing sense as well so when he stepped up to take an 87th minute penalty that would have left Dundee in serious relegation trouble at the tail-end of last season we all feared the worst. But his penalty was shite! Parish saved, Dundee were as good as safe and the Derry went wild.

Death or Glory

Billy Dodds again. A relegation battle again. Despite boasting a strike force of Dodds and Keith Wright, Dundee sat five points behind 2nd bottom St Mirren when the Buddies visited Dens with just four games of 1989/90 remaining. The League-winning side were brought out before the game to rally the crowd and Dundee came roaring out of the blocks with Alan Campbell opening the scoring in the first minute and the Dark Blues being awarded a penalty shortly afterwards. Dodds, who had already converted three spot kicks that season, stepped up but failed to make it 2-0. A young George Shaw equalised for St Mirren and a 2nd half winner meant we were absolutely fucked.

You Trip Me Up

The sound of Dumbarton players and the small band of travelling supporters screaming for a penalty was drowned out by 10,000 sharp intakes of breath. Hamilton were beating Morton 10-2, cancelling out our seemingly unassailable advantage in goal difference, so a Dumbarton equaliser would leave Dundee broken. Kyle Benedictus brought down Sons striker Chris Kane and the whole stadium turned to referee Bobby Madden. The blind bastard waved play on! We somehow saw out the remainder of the game and the Fundesliga title was ours.

This Is How It Feels To Be Lonely

If you have the chance to stretch your lead at the top of the league by pulling out all the stops to ensure your game against the bottom side goes ahead while your rivals sit idle you take it, don’t you? Well, in hindsight we wouldn’t. After switching the New Year 2010 fixture from a frozen New Broomfield to Dens, Dundee managed to reach peak Dundee by losing a game we couldn’t lose. Leigh Griffiths missed a 1st half penalty before Airdrie scored one of their own and Gary MacKenzie was sent off. By the time a game that should have taken place at Dens was played at Airdrie, our form was all over the place. We lost 3-0, Jocky Scott was sacked, Gordon Chisholm failed to arrest our decline, Inverness won the league with games to spare and Dundee were in administration within months.

Look Back In Anger

That you don’t get penalties against Rangers is a truth universally known. Except that you very occasionally do, and, in these circumstances, you have to make the most of such opportunities. What you don’t do is miss two in the same game. Which is what Juan Sara did in a match completely dominated by Dundee yet won by Rangers when Bert fucking Konterman scored the only goal of the game.

Eddie’s My Name

The same glitch in the matrix that results in two penalties being awarded against Rangers in the same game can also throw up last-minute spot kicks against Celtic. 1998/99 started slowly for Dundee (though in relative terms it was an Andy Kiwomya to this year’s Jim Lauchlan) with league defeats to Aberdeen, Dunfermline and St Johnstone as well as a League Cup humiliation at home to Alloa. What you don’t want in such circumstances is to be playing the champions next but a spirited performance against Celtic was eventually rewarded in the 90th minute. Having turned a blind eye to Stephane Mahe booting Brian Irvine in the pus in the box, the ref was perhaps feeling guilty when bald-as-a-coote Enrico Annoni, jealous of Eddie Annand’s blonde streaks, tripped the striker on the 18-yard line. Following a run-up that seemed to start at the Myrekirk Circle, Fast Eddie sent the resulting penalty into the net to claim a point for the Dark Blues. A season that would eventually see us finish 5th was finally up and running.

 

Of course, even when good fortune presents itself in the form of a free shot at goal from 12 yards out, you have to make the most of it. The fact we’ve been awarded two penalties this season and failed to score either aptly sums up our lack of goal threat. Given the way the season has gone subsequently, the likely two-horse race for 11th place and the fate of the man who brought him to the club, Sofian Moussa’s opening day miss at Paisley might yet prove as costly as any duffed penalty we’ve seen yet.

In a desperate bid to get the goals flowing might just be time to lobby FIFA to introduce specialist penalty takers and launch an audacious bid to bring Ryan Conroy back from Airdrie in January.

 

DERRY GOT SOUL: No More Heroes

Billy Dodds went some way to filling a Tommy Coyne-sized hole in my life before he too left us, ensuring I was au fait with heartbreak at a young age. This would prepare me well for the jiltings that would follow from then until my wife decided I was at least tolerable a decade and a half later.

Dodds was sold to St Johnstone not long after my 14th birthday and, to deploy a metaphor relevant to the time, it was worse than being asked to hand out textbooks just after the appearance of an uninvited classroom bricker. But the pain then was nothing compared to the cat-kicking anger of him signing for United four years later.

Sunday 22 November 1998 may henceforth have been known as James Grady Day, but in the run-up to the match all anyone was talking about was that Dodds would be facing Dundee for the first time since signing for United. In the end, things could hardly have gone better, with the pantomime villain having a perfectly good goal chalked off early before Grady’s wonder strike earned him a place in Derry folklore.

‘Dodds had nothing to do with an imminent financial implosion forcing his departure from Dens any more than he had with Alex Miller’s desire to throw him and three-quarters of a million quid at United in order to get his hands on subbie keeper Robbie Winters’, say our heads. ‘Fucking booooooo! Get that right fucking up ya, ya fucking wee prick’, say our hearts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gfIgA-PYyQ

Down in the Sewer

Despite their sense of betrayal, most Dundee supporters welcomed Billy Dodds back from the Dark Side as Anakin Skywalker rather than Darth Vader when Gordon Chisholm wanted him as his assistant. This, as we all know, did not end well.

What is undeniable is that both were shafted as promises made to entice them to leave secure jobs were quickly unravelled. Admin II: Admin Harder is a blight on our club to this day and the management team had every right to feel bitter about their treatment. But their subsequent decision to vote against the CVA that would take the club out of administration, a decision that increased the chances of a rebranding as The Dundee, saw sympathy for the pair amongst the fanbase instantly evaporate.

Those close to Chisholm and Dodds are adamant that they had no desire to bring about liquidation. They say the decision was based on their frustration not just at their sacking but at what they saw as a lower settlement being offered to creditors than was necessary. Calum Melville’s largesse being counted as loans and future rent owed to John Bennett being included in the total debt figure, therefore increasing the sum owed to a friendly creditor, rankled as well. Chisholm and Dodds, they insist, were lashing out at administrator Bryan Jackson and certain individuals on the board rather than the club or its fans, and would not have opposed the CVA if they didn’t believe the vote was already a formality.

Whether or not the result was actually ever in doubt has become a moot point in amongst the mythology of the time. Right up until the results were announced, Jackson was warning the vote was on a knife-edge and certainly few fans or employees were anything other than sick with nerves on the morning of the plebiscite.

Relief at the CVA passing quickly turned to anger when the administrator – in a breach of protocol – announced the names of the creditors in the No camp. It was a time of siege mentality when you were part of the problem if you weren’t part of the solution.

Whatever Chisholm and Dodds’ motivation actually was and regardless of the anger they felt at the ballot suddenly not becoming secret, the narrative was set. To fans, they had voted to kill the club and to staff, many of whom are still at the club, they had tried to vote them onto the dole.

Grudges are passed down the generations in football so this week’s events are staggering in so many ways. Perception is often more important than reality. Justifiably or not, Billy Dodds is toxic amongst the Dundee support. It is astonishing that he could have thought being linked with the assistant manager post once again would have met with anything other than widespread animosity. It is worrying that Dundee’s powers-that-be could have been so ignorant to the level of bad feeling this would generate at a time when we need everyone connected with the club pulling together under new manager Jim McIntyre.

Golden (Bomber) Brown

As my mate texted me this morning, boyhood heroes are falling all over the place. Dodds voting against the CVA has been dragged out into the public once again followed Neil McCann being sacked with one of the worst records of any Dundee manager. My pal now expects Tommy Coyne and Keith Wright to be outed as kingpins in a human trafficking ring and George Shaw to stand for election as a Tory.

In recent years, Sir Barry Smith and Bomber were other legends to have their relationship with the club strained by taking on the manager’s job. Even Grady joined the likes of Redford, Ferguson, Wilkie and co in the tainted corner, though he swiftly earned redemption by saying how much he hated life at Tannadice and what a mistake it was to go there.

Heroes might be an inevitable side-effect of being a football fan, but we could probably do with remembering that they may well prove to have feet of clay. However, football people – players, managers, pundits, directors and others – could do with putting their fan’s hat on from time to time to consider why a particular decision might be so unpalatable for the people who pay their wages.

Derry Got Soul: You Keep Me Hanging On

When did you stop punching the air? I was still doing on Tuesday when I remembered what had happened at the weekend. We won! An actual game of football! Two fucking nil!

 

Viewers in the DD postcode tuned in to Sportscene for the first time in weeks. Newspapers were bought so match reports could be savoured. Social media passwords were remembered. Unless I’m very much mistaken the weather has been glorious, dogs have stopped shiteing in the street and seagulls are in retreat.

 

Has being bottom of the league ever felt so good?

 

Football is a game of fine margins and wildly oscillating emotions. If the previous seven games hadn’t been so would-John-Hughes-make-a-difference dismal then beating another below-average side wouldn’t have felt so skip-to-work fantastic. Our luck may have been ridden at times in the second half but we should have been 2-0 up before Hamilton came into the match. Dundee deserved that win and fair fucks to every player in dark blue, those in the dugout and everyone who travelled through to lend their support. Players are hitting full fitness after injuries. Kenny Miller is returning from suspension. The manager’s knitwear is suddenly fitting better again.

 

Yes, yes, one swallow does not a summer make, the law of averages dictates that we had to win at some point and the patient’s condition remains critical, if a little more stable. But, at the same time, if you haven’t spent the past week pushing rationality to the back of your mind as you plot our run to Hampden then you’re doing football wrong.

 

We’ve got at least 24 hours of our unbeaten run to go, lads and lasses. Let’s enjoy it.

 

Derry Got Soul: It’s a Family Affair

I climbed through a gap intended for a toddler still giddy with the news Dundee were two-up at half-time. I was pursuing my son through a labyrinthine soft play area and, for once, couldn’t care less about the overweight hellbairns screaming in my face as they fired missile after missile in my eye.

Between plastic-covered rollers unsuitable for 37-year-olds on the cusp of overweightness I squeezed before traversing a rope ladder designed to inflict maximum possible damage on shoeless feet. At last we had reached the top of the Big Chute. This was the fourth or fifth time in a row we’d climbed to this peak and I decided to reward myself by checking the score. Unfortunately the signal was as weak as Neil McCann’s long-term employment prospects so back in the pocket went the phone and down the chute we slid.

“Again! Again Daddy!”

“I think it’s time you had a wee drink, pal,” I said, guiding him over to the café area. I pointed my phone at the space between the vending machine and vomit-covered high chair, the closest thing The Fun Factory has to a WiFi hotspot. What the fuck? 2-2 now and Inverness missed a penalty as well? The next 15 minutes passed in a blizzard of frantic score-checking and bad parenting. We held on for a draw that was to prove vital come the end of the season and the wee man was bribed into staying quiet with sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks. Even when I’m not at Dundee games I’m never really not there either. I’m sure you’re the same.

Time for Livin’

I’ve done Dumfries, Stranraer, Dingwall and Inverness and my share of daft midweekers that necessitated half-days off either side of them. I know the road from Glasgow to Greenock depressingly well. There are the only four SPFL grounds I’ve never seen Dundee play at. But all that stopped in November 2014. My life can be divided into two time periods – Before Bairn and Anno Bairn – and I’ve been to a grand total of five games outwith the city’s boundaries in the AB era with even home games having to be sacrificed on occasion.

Away games are no longer marked for on-bus antics, running to the front to celebrate late goals or learning which divisions of Police Scotland are most forgiving of public drinking/urination. The biggest moments of the season are remembered by the family-friendly venue you happened to be at on that day.

The problem is that even when I’ve not physically followed the Mushy Peas, I can’t passively let the game proceed and wait until 5pm or later to discover the outcome of a match I’ve no influence over. The descent from Perfect Family Man begins at 2pm when the results of McCann’s latest tombola turn are known. Then there are the inevitable “THE FUCK???” “Where’s Kamara?” “Fucking Moussa again” and “cunt is a clown” messages to various group chats. Then the game actually kicks off and I’m obsessively check for updates, feeling utterly impotent and shaking with adrenaline even when miles away from the action.

I was jumping up and down by the bear enclosure at Camperdown Wildlife Centre when we went 3-0 up at Dingwall and my demolition of a household wall become more ferocious when Scott Brown scored the winner for Celtic against us. I was on the boat-shaped climbing frames at Campy (far inferior to the 80s pirate ships BTW) when St Johnstone went two-up after 20 minutes and was checking my phone throughout the whole of Ferdinand the Bull when we extracted revenge the following season. Everyone remembers where they were when they heard JFK had been shot. I will always remember being at a play date at Little Pipers when Partick Thistle scored their injury-time winner last year. Trying to maintain a poker face when Dundee are getting scudded and you’re at the birthday party of a child with a Dad known to be an arab is one of the most important skills of Derry parenthood.

If You Want Me to Stay

It’s hardly unknown for punters to stop going to games – at least temporarily – after the birth of children. Time is tight, a stupid amount of organised activities must be negotiated and partners tend to get hacked off at being abandoned for the six hours it takes to watch Dundee get hosed at Fir Park before you return too drunk to help with the bedtime routine. And, as new man/millennial/snowflake/sappy as it may sound, spending your only day off together as a family is frankly more rewarding than watching a goalless war of attrition at Livingston. So giving up away days is a fair exchange for keeping your season ticket, even if your pre- and post-game pub time might now be limited by the vagaries of children’s entertainment.

The best thing about having family isn’t love, joy or the expectation that someone will look after you when you become an incontinent shadow of your former self. No, the best reason to bring children into the world is that it gives you an excuse to miss certain away games, even if a bit of you still ends up travelling through with the lads.

Derry Got Soul: There Is A Light (That Never Goes Out)

There Is a Light (That Never Goes Out)

The above team pic re-emerged on Twitter last week and, in 2018, begs to be critically evaluated through the medium of emojis:

That strip 💙

Donald Mackay’s flares ✌🏻

Iain Fleming’s hair ✊🏻

Frank Upton’s Gazelles 😎

Cammy Fraser only being 23 on the pic 😮

George McGeachie only being 21 🤭

Jim Shirra’s double chin 🍻

The other thing that stands out is that there were some cracking footballers pictured, players who would win promotion that season and lay the foundation for nine straight Premier Division terms. The 1980s was a much better decade for music, fashion and the Mushy Peas than most people realised at the time, with the Smiths, Lacoste and Keith Wright providing the antidote to Duran Duran, tartan jeans and Ross Jack. Three straight top-six finishes? A cup final (of which we will never again talk)? Four semis? Average crowds not far shy of 10,000? What you wouldn’t do for a bit of that action these days.

Us being quite good in the 80s did however coincide with a certain other mob enjoying their best ever period, something that perhaps made contemporary fans less appreciative than they should have been. It was by no means a bad time to be a Dundee fan, but it was a frustrating one.

How Soon Is Now?

I was first taken along to Dens in 1983, with my old man’s warning not to repeat any of the language I was about to hear in front of my mum (strangely this warning didn’t extend to teachers, policemen or others who were presumably fair game in the ‘fuck off you cunt’ stakes) ringing in my ears and for the next few years Dundee always seemed to be the verge of doing something, but never quite getting there.

A return to Europe was missed out on the last day of the season twice. Our best managers were enticed elsewhere. Great youngsters were brought through and rough diamonds were brought in but their time at Dens overlapped like Jim Smith filling in at full-back.

Ian Redford departed for Ibrox before that team pic was taken while Stewart McKimmie (1983), Iain Ferguson and Cammy Fraser (both 1984), Bobby Connor (1986), Ray Stephen and Colin Hendry (both 1987), Tosh McKinlay and John Brown (both 1988) and Tommy Coyne (1989) caused varying degrees of anguish for the Dundee support when they moved on. Jim Duffy’s career was (temporarily) ended by injury in 1987 but at least we would hold on to Keith Wright into the 90s.

Redford, McKimmie, McKinlay, Ferguson, Fraser, Brown, Connor, Coyne, Wright and Hendry would all win medals and/or caps after their time at Dens, leaving you to wonder what might have happened had we been able to hold on to them all a bit longer. The problem with playing counter-factual football is that it’s easy to ignore the laws of cause-and-effect. The signings of Bomber, Connor and Stuart Rafferty were funded by Rangers raiding Dens for Ferguson and Fraser. Likewise, the Cobra and Mongoose partnership only came into being after our bid to bring Fergie back from Ibrox was turned down.

That’s not to say us Dees don’t have some reason to curse the failure of the planets – or defence and attack in our case – to align though. The free-scoring side of 87-88, with Coyne at Wright at the top of their game, was hamstrung by a leaky backline after Duffy’s early-season injury while Colin Hendry, who would go on to captain his country and win the English Premier League, had been sold as a misfiring striker before his potential at centre-half was recognised.

Archie Knox once remarked that Dundee were three players short of a very good team but every time one of those jigsaw pieces was found, another gap would appear elsewhere in the puzzle. If it was this that led him leave Dens and return to Alex Ferguson’s right-hand side at Aberdeen, then his frustration was more than matched by the Dundee support. The decade’s optimism, which Archie had done more than anyone to engender, suffered a lingering, 18-month death from October 87 to March 89 when Duffy, Bomber, Tosh and Super Tommy were lost to us in turn. Relegation followed in 1990.

By the new decade, the descent into the madness for which Dundee has been renowned ever since had begun. Instead of becoming a team capable of regularly appearing at Hampden and competing in Europe, Angus Cook was trying to merge us with United.

That Joke Isn’t Funny Any More

The much-maligned Vince Mennie, often heralded as our worst of all time, had the misfortune to be a poor player in a good team. Vince was a far better player than many to have pulled on the Dark Blue since. His fate is similar in some ways to Dundee’s in that era. With Aberdeen and United enjoying periods of historic strength in addition to the Old Firm and a resurgent Hearts, not to mention a good St Mirren side, the 80s may have been the hardest decade in Scottish football history to make an impact. All the same, given the quality of players to have trodden the hallowed turf over that period, it can’t help feel like a missed opportunity.

The same, in poorer man’s terms, could be said of the past four-and-a-bit years. We were promoted to a renamed Premiership missing three of the country’s biggest five sides. United would drop out two seasons later. Inverness, Ross County and Championship Hibs won silverware before Celtic shat themselves over Rangers’ return and appointed a proper manager. We’ve managed a solitary top 6 finish, have barely troubled the latter stages of the cup competitions and seem locked in a perennial relegation fight, one we may well succumb to this season. The chance to open up a gap over United on and off the park that would impact on the fortunes of both for a generation has been squandered and at a time when our owners have provided their managers with what they admit is a top 6 budget each year. In relative terms, all this represents a far bigger missed opportunity than the 1980s.

Still, as today’s players are fond of saying, we go again. Or, as Morrissey put it before he went all EDL, there is a light and it never goes out…

Derry Got Soul: Let’s Go Round Again (2018 Derry version)

Our resident podcaster Grant has penned the first of a series of blogs for the site on our shite state of affairs. Grant Hill worships at the altar of Tommy Coyne and Keith Wright. He is also the author of two books – Clubbed to Death and AK-86: Two Shots in the Heart of Scottish Football. You can buy both for the very reasonable price of £10 by emailing Grant.

Let’s Go Round Again (2018 Derry version)

There is a quote routinely credited to former Dundee full-back Albert Einstein that perfectly sums up the situation facing his old club.

Einstein, freed by the Dark Blues after falling foul of the club’s strict rules surrounding hair length, is said to have defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Having appointed 20 managers in less than four decades and racking up almost as many administrations as cup finals in that time, Dundee’s modern history demonstrates that eat sleep sack repeat is no recipe for success.

But just as Gordon Brown’s claim to have ended boom-and-bust proved as premature as a virgin enveloped by Beyoncé, John Nelms’ pledge to eradicate hire-and-fire looks some way off for the minute.

Despite the obvious need to bring stability to the club, the peg Neil McCann’s perennially on-trend cardie hangs upon could hardly be any more shoogly following an unconvincing first season and a calamitous start to this one. Whenever a manager gets his jotters, the football commentariat, who have likely paid very little attention to the events leading up to the sacking, bristle at panic-merchant fans and the short-termism of directors. To which the obvious response is to respectfully tell them to fuck right off because they haven’t had to watch the shite the fans have. Unless you’ve seen your side pumped 3-0 at home by Ayr in a game that Mark fucking Kerr strolled your opinion is invalid.

The brilliant Bands FC project recently used Dundee’s crest as the inspirations for the Average White Band’ badge in recognition of the US-conquering funksters’ roots in the City of Discovery. One of AWB’s best-known records is Let’s Go Round Again. The pairing seems inspired as it looks like we may need to do just that again shortly.

 

Soul Searching

Analysts will tell you that the most successful teams are the ones who make the fewest managerial changes but the obvious caveat here is that managers at these clubs tend to be doing better than most, hence there being less need to replace them. As Dundee know more than any other club in Scotland, the cost of failure – in this instance relegation – is huge. Are the chances that persisting with an obviously struggling gaffer will lead to long-term improvement great enough to take that risk?

Of those to have managed Dundee over the past 40 years, only Donald Mackay, Archie Knox, Jocky Scott mk I and Jim Duffy mk I have left of their own volition. The rest were moved on one way or another. How many went on to achieve success that gave you reason to think they should just have been given more time? Would playing hide-and-seek up Campy have eventually payed off for Dave Smith? Was taking 7 from Airdrie just a bump in the road towards greatness under Alan Kernaghan? Or were we right to jettison them only to get it wrong when it came to appointing a replacement?

If Duffy II-Kerno and Jocky III-Chisholm taught us anything it’s that ‘any cunt would be better than that cunt’ is possibly the worst shout in football. Sacking Paul Hartley was the right thing to do. Replacing him with a novice with great taste in knitwear but a questionable temperament is looking a worse decision by the game. Yeah, we clearly need to stop switching managers but getting the right one in the first place is key to that.

Pick Up The Pieces

‘I’d rather see us play good football and lose than win ugly’ is another cliché trotted out by fans who haven’t quite thought through its implications. Neil McCann has certainly insisted his team play the ‘right way’ but, other than in increasingly rare patches, it hasn’t worked. As a result, we are actually worse to watch than the supposedly anti-football teams in our league who aren’t afraid to go direct, play the percentages and let their opponents know they are in a game. Losing ugly is the worst of both worlds.

Going back to that quote attributed to Einstein, what does it say about McCann that he keeps trying to play from the back and expect different results? Instead of creating a Derryfull of converts screaming ‘on the kerpit! keep it on the kerpit! Fucking kerpit futba, Dundee!’ the faithful are gripped with fear every time Meekings or Kusunga get the ball played to their feet.

No-one would love McCann to deliver a pus-shutter of a result at this Ibrox than me but the odds are longer than Alan Dinnie’s Mayor of Nairobi (allegedly). After that it’s Hibs at Dens. Even if he was to suddenly embrace pragmatism, it might be too late. To extend the Average White Band metaphor (is it a metaphor? I’ve had a long day), it looks like our board may have to Pick Up The Pieces once again. If so, we can only hope they get the hard part right this time.