The last time I wrote for TEB, it was February – Dundee had just won two-in-a-row, I was still using the ‘Up Wi’ The Bonnets’ name and my wife and I were expecting our first child in just a few months’ time.
Since then, and without stating the obvious, we have all suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic and our league season was brought to an abrupt end that was played out like some sort of soap opera.
Add to that, the UWTB name was ditched and I started up ‘The Dee Archive’ website, which is probably what you expect it to be – a website dedicated to Dundee Football Club with every competitive match, appearance and goalscorer in it, along with a whole host of other bits of information to sink your teeth into such as match reports and player profiles.
Of course, the big one for me was becoming a dad for the first time with the arrival of my daughter, Bella-Rose Smith. With the wife being a Dundee United fan, she will have to prepare herself when she’s older as we both vy to persuade her to align her allegiances to the other side of the road!
But you aren’t bothered about that, are you? You want to read about what it’s been like to support Dundee for a year and four months since my last article.
The league ending due to the Covid-19 break was a blow for Dundee as we were picking up the type of form that you would want to be seeing as the season reached near the end of its conclusion but as it became apparent that this virus was proving to be more deadly by the day, any quips we had were made meaningless and the entire world was put into lockdown.
That does not mean to say that the people running Scottish Football and our Managing Director would let a deadly virus steal the headlines.
If you haven’t already read about ’email-gate’ up here last summer, which saw the conclusion of the leagues and the promotion and relegation of teams throughout the tiers, I’ll advise you to give it a search because after being the brunt of many a joke from rival fans that were affected by it, it’s all a bit tiresome for me to even repeat it all!
So with that, I’ll dive right into what happened this season which eventually ended in our promotion back to the Premiership via the play-offs.
Before a ball was kicked, we had lost a few key players in Kane Hemmings and Graham Dorrans (who left during the start of the League Cup campaign) but manager James McPake made some solid signings which included local lad, Charlie Adam.
Hopes were high, the fans were optimistic we could challenge Hearts for the title but on the opening match for 2020/21, which paired us with the Jam Tarts in Edinburgh, we were rattled from pillar to post and defeated 6-2.
It wasn’t the ideal start to this campaign and it didn’t get better for a little while until we hit our stride in December and even though we suffered a wee stutter in February, we hit our stride for the rest of the season to claim second place on the very last day before we entered the play-offs.
Finishing second was massive for the club because in the current set up, 3rd and 4th place play each other over two-legs before taking on 2nd, again over two legs. Then the winner of that battle plays 2nd bottom of the Premiership over, you’ve guessed it, two legs.
So, we pippd Raith Rovers to second and we would meet said team in the semi-finals after the Fife team beat rivals Dunfermline. We easily took them to the cleaners in the first leg with a convincing 3-0 win and despite Rovers having a perfectly good goal incorrectly chopped off for offside, the win was never in any danger.
We did relax a bit in the return tie at Dens and were beaten 1-0 but the job was done in the first leg, so we would go onto face a Kilmarnock side who had been an ever present in the top flight for 28 years.
This setup is normally all in favour of the Premiership side but this year it was more even, and dare I say it, we went in with the better run in and it showed.
We outplayed the Ayrshire team at Dens in the first match and should have been out of sight by four or five goals but instead, we conceded a soft goal and with only a 2-1 to our name.
Even though the team were fantastic all over the park, losing a late goal was a bit of a sickener and had many of us fearing the worst – which I can thankfully say bared no fruition.
We rolled up to Rugby Park and put in the same high tempo performance we had seen at Dens days later and quickly found ourselves 2-0 up. Despite a penalty being converted by Killie, we would see out the game and make our return to the promised land with a fine 4-2 win over both legs.
The celebrations were fantastic but it felt weird having to do so in the comfort of my own home, but something we have become accustomed to.
While we continue to bask in the glory of making it back to the Premiership, I already have both eyes on next season, which will arguably be the toughest league we have had in a while.
The majority of the squad will still be with us for the ride – we have Charlie Adam, Shaun Byrne, Jordan Marshall, Paul McMullen and Jason Cummings to name a few who will be big players for us but we do need to strengthen up and down the park and add some depth to the squad.
But for now, it’s great to have that feel good factor back at Dens.
Mon The Dee!