Former Dundee captain Gary Harkins insists the Dark Blues should be a top-six Premiership club.
The football shutdown in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak could not have happened at a worse time for James McPake’s side, who had gone six matches unbeaten and kept five clean sheets in a row.
Their revival, however, came after a stuttering season in the Championship following relegation from the top flight in 2018-19.
Harkins, 35, told The Courier: “In one of my first seasons back at the club (2014-15 during Paul Hartley’s reign as manager) we finished in the top six. That’s where Dundee should be.
“They’ve done it before and they need to aim to come back and be there. This season has been difficult but it’s always a tough year when you first come down into the Championship.”
Harkins fell out of favour under former Dens Park manager Hartley and his third spell in the City of Discovery ended in August 2016.
He is now at Stenhousemuir after spells with Ayr United, Morton, Queen of the South and Partick Thistle.
But his affection for the Dark Blues – who announced plans to furlough players and staff on Friday –and their supporters remains.
Harkins was captain of the ‘Dee-fiant’ team of 2010-11 that overcame a 25-point deduction, after the club entered administration, to seal a mid-table finish in Scottish football’s second tier.
He said: “I love the club and I loved being there. The fans took to me straight away and we didn’t look back.
“One of my proudest moments in recent years was coming on as a sub for Thistle at Dens Park and getting a full round of applause.
“I had Dundee fans messaging me afterwards saying, ‘I haven’t seen that happen to an opposition player before’. That was really special.”
Harkins joined League Two outfit Stenny in February following his departure from Thistle but his season has been blighted by injury.
He added: “I had my first ever op last summer and I never got back to where I should’ve been. It’s been one of those seasons.
“The whole thing ending like this pretty much sums up the season for me.
“I’ve been lucky with injuries in the past and you just want to play – I love playing. So being injured, and not being able to join in training and games, has been frustrating.”
Like footballers across the world, the playmaker is adapting to life at home as the shutdown continues.
He said: “It’s been fine so far – you’re allowed to go outside once a day for exercise and I’ll go a run.
“When you play football, you finish early anyway and a lot of the boys will be used to having a bit of chill time.
“The worst part is that I’m having to see my daughter through a window – she’s got asthma so we’ve got to watch what we’re doing.
“It won’t be forever. You just want to make sure everyone stays safe.”