After the utter shambolic season that you all had to read about and endure last season, I am pleased to announce that my first article for the new campaign is vastly more upbeat and shock horror, it involves some victories!
Like the season before and the one before that and the one before that, it has been another season of upheaval at Dens Park with what felt like 237 players either being released, not having their contract renewed or going back to their parent club. If truth be told though, I would only be able to pick only a few of the departing personnel that I would have kept at Dundee.
Nonetheless, this has given new manager James McPake a clean slate to work with in the summer. Oh, did I forget to mention we had a new gaffer?
Managing Director John Nelms decided to appoint a new manager from within Dens Park and he turned to former captain McPake who had been working with the youth teams since his career ending injury at the start of 2016.
It was a bold appointment, especially considering how long it took to happen. However, it is one that fans are right behind and for the first time in a long while, it would seem that our owners and supporters know that this is not just a quick fix, but more of a long-term hiring.
We have seen the whole structure at the club being given a massive and much needed overhaul. New coaches are in place including ones who have already managed teams to help our rookie manager, but one of the most important coups comes in the form of our new Technical Director, Gordon Strachan.
This could be one of the most important moves by the club in recent times that will hopefully have a massive effect not only off the field with all his knowledge but also on the field in future years.
Strachan comes to us with a new vision and blueprint on how to nurture future stars of tomorrow. After visiting a host of major teams, the former Scotland manager has come back to the club where he began his career. Not only will he be implementing his plans, he will also be working closely with McPake, passing on the vast amount of knowledge that will only help our new manager.
With more or less every player leaving Dundee, McPake has done well in the transfer market. We have picked up numerous players from our Championship rivals and also signed a few from the Premiership who could very easily have stayed in the top flight. The big signing so far has been the acquisition of Kane Hemmings on a three-year deal from Notts County.
Hemmings spent just one season with Dundee in 2015/16 before moving down South but his departure has left a massive void upfront ever since. His 28 goals in 44 games was always going to be hard to replicate and try as we might, no-one has come close since.
So, on to the action …
Our season kicked off back in July with the start of the Betfred League Cup group stages. We managed to finish top of Group D with two wins over Raith Rovers and Inverness Caley Thistle and draws with Peterhead and Cove Rangers, though we won the bonus point on penalties in both of these ties. For all of our effort, we were rewarded with a home tie against Aberdeen which will be played next week but more on that later.
Our Championship campaign, however, got off to a rather underwhelming start.
We faced Dunfermline in Fife last Friday and though we were all expecting a tough match, Dundee looked powderpuff compared to our victory over Inverness the week before and gifted the Pars a two-goal lead. We did manage to claw it back to claim a point thanks to two penalties but the signs were already there that we still needed some creativity in midfield to link up our men in the middle with our strikers.
East End Park is a hard place to go to and I would have gladly taken a point but it was the performance that annoyed me. A few changes at half-time did improve things on the field but with no real clear cut chances, it was frustrating.
We did get our first win however at the weekend against Ayr United at Dens. It was a tough match and we were made to work for it with a few nervy moments thrown in but we came out on top thanks to an Andrew Nelson goal.
Again, just like the Dunfermline match, we missed that creativity needed to cut open opposition defences.
Overall, there are still areas we can improve on but we have the making of a decent team and one that can challenge for the title. The main consensus among pundits and fans all point towards a two-way tussle with ourselves and neighbours Dundee united for the Championship title. Though I do agree with most of what has been said, we are rebuilding as a club and team and for me, a top three finish in this notoriously tough league would be a good start for McPake.
Then again, you look at some of our signings and with the budget we have and some will say either a first or second place should be our goal. I am probably one of the few that may be setting our aims a bit low but after last season, I guess I am just trying to save myself from more heartbreak!
So, on to next weekend. Aberdeen visit Dens Park in the second round of the League Cup and honestly, I cannot see us causing an upset. Our record is abysmal against the Dons and even though it will be their sixth match in eighteen days due to their Euopean campaign, I do not think we will see them visit us looking jaded.
Our history in any cup competition leaves a lot to be desired but cup upsets do happen, don’t they?
MON THE DEE!