Dundee Appoint Fan Favourite As New Boss At Dens
Some of you may know who this is, some may not. So for the Palace fans who follow my weekly articles, let me give you a brief rundown of Neil McCann’s career.
McCann came through the youth ranks at Dens Park, eventually making his debut at the tender age of 18. He would make his professional debut at home in a 1-1 draw against Airdrie and from then on, he would make his mark on the wing for Dundee.
I started attending my first Dundee games around the same time that McCann was establishing himself as a first team regular and he instantly became this young boy’s favourite player.
Most of my early days involved sitting in the Derry and looking forward to being treated at the pie stall by my father but when the ball fell to McCann’s feet, it’s when I really started to give my full attention to what was happening on the pitch.
One of his greatest moments in a Dundee shirt came in the League Cup Semi Final against the team he made his debut against, Airdrie.
It’s common knowledge that the clubs future was hanging by a thread but it became apparent that the team needed to reach the final to keep the doors opened. What happened next was magical.
With minutes remaining of the match and with it standing at one a piece, McCann produced one his finest ever moments when his cross turned into a shot and dipped into the back of the net. We were in the final and the club was saved.
I think he has always declared it was a shot but, well, you would wouldn’t you? I’ll let you decide …
A move was always on the cards for McCann and he eventually left us for Hearts for £250,000. This wee Dundee fans heart was broken but from that moment on, his career took off to another level.
A Scottish Cup winner’s medal for the Jambos in 1998 was just the start of his impressive medal haul but he would have to leave the Edinburgh side to achieve this. His next destination would be Glasgow and his employers would be Glasgow Rangers.
His move to Rangers would also prove to be fruitful for Dundee as a sell on clause saw the club bank £350,000. A tidy sum for us. Neil’s time at Rangers was impressive. He won two League titles, two League Cups and four Scottish Cups. Not too shabby if I may say so.
Southampton would be his next port of call but injuries hampered his time down south and he would move back to Scotland and re-join his former club Hearts. Again, injuries would play a major part of his time at Tynecastle before moving on to sign for Falkirk.
His last game for them and what many believed to be his last of his career came in the 2009 Scottish Cup defeat to Rangers. From then on, McCann would be seen working as a pundit for Sky Sports with his boots firmly hung up. Or so we thought.
Fast forward to 2011. Dundee had plunged into a second administration and were fighting every day for survival off the field as well as on the field. The blazers in charge had deducted Dundee a massive twenty-five points and placed a transfer embargo on the club. Luckily enough, the League rules allowed for teams to play a trialist for up to three games and the club would take full advantage of this.
Offering his services for free, then manager Barry Smith never hesitated to accept his offer despite McCann not playing a competitive game in twenty-one months.
His second debut would come against League leaders Raith Rovers at Dens Park in February 2011. The crowd were in a buoyant mood as just a few days before, Dundee had their CVA accepted which meant we just took a massive step towards survival off the field. Yours truly was asked to write the speech that then Dundee Chairman Stuart Murphy gave during half time but it would be our returning hero who would steal the limelight from this particularly proud fan in the stand.
With six minutes to go, Dundee were trailing 1-0 before Gary Harkins hit one of the best free kicks I’ve ever seen to draw us undeservedly level. This clearly rattled the Fife team and we pushed forward looking for the winner.
Then, well after the end of the ninety minutes, the fairy-tale ending happened.
As the ball was put back into the Raith box for one last desperate attempt, it would fall to the feet of McCann who managed to lob the ball over their keeper as he spun round. When the ball hit the back of the net, Dens Erupted into some of the best scenes I’ve ever witnessed at the old ground.
Neil McCann had come out retirement to help the club that gave him his first start in the game and he had just scored an injury time winner to gift them the victory. It was pure Roy of the Rovers stuff. The legs may have been long gone but judging by his celebration, the passion was still burning.
He would turn out a further two times for us that season and would forever be remembered as a vital part of the Dee-fiant team that season as us fans choose to call it. This only added to his legendary status within the ranks of the supporters and we didn’t think there was much more that this man could do for the club. As recent history shows, he still had a trick or two up his sleeve.
You probably already know if you read my articles but after the sacking of Paul Hartly, McCann was brought in with five games left of the season to help guide us to safety. It was an appointment that shocked many and drew ridicule from others.
Fortunately for us, it proved to be an astute appointment and he steered us to safety in the Premiership. This would lead to him being offered and accepting the job on a full time basis and even though there was some speculation linking other people to the post, many a fan were more than happy to see him taking charge.
So there you have it. Our new manager started his career with us, scored the goal that kept us afloat, came out of retirement to score the winner in our hour of need and then took the hot seat to save us from relegation.
It’s hard not to like this guy!
MON THE DEE!