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Rab Douglas: Neil McCann can only do so much – it is up to Dundee players now

Neil McCann taking Dundee training.
Neil McCann taking Dundee training.

Dundee fans don’t need me to tell them but Saturday marks the start of the most important period of the season for the team.

The campaign will be defined by the remaining five Premiership games starting at Motherwell which will also be new interim boss Neil McCann’s first match in charge since taking over from Paul Hartley.

He has had a week working with the players to implement his ideas and bring in his own training methods but Neil has inherited a team that have lost seven games in a row as well as their previous manager and his biggest job will be restoring confidence.

Football is a confidence game and the Dundee boys have looked fragile during the poor run.

How does he restore self-belief? Well, training has to be fun – and I’m not saying it wasn’t under Paul – as well as tough.

The players will know by now that Neil sets high standards but some of them will also need an arm around their shoulders at the moment.

I notice he phoned all the players individually before he met them for the first time at training last Thursday and he also held his first couple of sessions on the pitch at Dens and that attention to detail is encouraging.

Neil has all his coaching badges but he has also worked under some great managers from Gordon Strachan and Harry Redknapp to Walter Smith and Alex McLeish and I am sure some of their influence will have rubbed off on him.

He also coached under Jim Jefferies at Dunfermline and he was always vocal from the touchline when they played Forfar.

But as I said, confidence is key. It is all very well looking great on the training pitch but you have to do it when it matters on game day.

Managers can only do so much and it is ultimately up to the Dundee players to be brave on the ball.

They have said the right things all season in the press – now their actions have to speak louder than words starting against Motherwell.

The Steelmen are also in a bit of bother at the wrong end of the table and I will have mixed feelings on Saturday as I used to watch Motherwell home and away when I was younger.

I have also obviously played for Dundee and go to watch them when I can up here.

So who will win at Fir Park? I hope both clubs retain their Premiership status. How’s that for a diplomatic answer!

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers,
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers,

Celtic’s treble dream is still right on track following Sunday’s comfortable win over Rangers at Hampden in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final.

I was speaking to a pal afterwards who made the point that at 2-0, Craig Gordon had to make a couple of great saves for Brendan Rodgers’ side but I always felt they had a lot more in their locker than the Ibrox men.

Celtic looked like they could go up another gear and I honestly think it will be some time before Rangers get near them.

Of course, the two sides meet again this Saturday at Ibrox and every Rangers fan will be looking for a big response from their side.

Being at home, I would be amazed if they don’t try to press and disrupt Celtic right from the first whistle.

Brendan’s team selection will be interesting, though. Moussa Dembele is obviously out for the season after pulling his hamstring in the semi-final and with the league tied up will the manager rest others?

His thoughts will obviously start turning to the Scottish Final against Aberdeen and that possible treble.

Stewart Petrie.
Stewart Petrie.

The nail-biting conclusion to the League 2 season continues this weekend and there really is no margin of error for my side Arbroath or Forfar.

We both won last week and there are now just two games of the regular season to go.

We had a great victory at Cowdenbeath last Saturday and Forfar now have to go there this weekend.

It is never an easy venue especially with Gary Locke’s side desperate to escape from the dreaded pyramid play-off spot.

However, we just have to concentrate on ourselves and our game at home to Elgin.

It is great though that every team in the league still has something to play for including our Angus neighbours Montrose who have now jumped up to fourth in the table.

Stewart Petrie, who I know really well after working with him at Forfar, has done a great job since taking over at Links Park and I am absolutely delighted for him.

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