Dundee finished third in the Championship as the Scottish football shutdown due to Covid-19 halted a Dark Blues revival.
James McPake’s side – who had endured an indifferent campaign – had gone six matches unbeaten and enjoyed five clean sheets in a row when the action stopped.
But who were the leading men at Dens Park this season? How did McPake handle the scrutiny during difficult times?
The Courier’s George Cran and Calum Woodger have their say on Dundee’s 2019/20 season.
Player of the Year
GC: Defenders Jordan McGhee and Jordan Marshall deserve mentions in this conversation but, for me, Dundee’s best player this season has been Declan McDaid. Whether used as a flying winger, central midfielder or wing-back, McDaid has been consistently-strong throughout the campaign. McDaid and his bosses want to see more goals from the former Ayr man while his tackling inside the area in derbies needs some work but James McPake’s first signing as manager has been a gem.
CW: Declan McDaid’s versatility and quality at both ends of the park has been invaluable to Dundee, Paul McGowan has led by example and Kane Hemmings appeared to be warming up in front of goal. However, for me, Jordan McGhee is Dundee’s Player of the Year. He has been a beacon of consistency in a team that’s struggled to string more than three results together for large parts. The former Hearts man is capable of playing anywhere across the back, is terrific with the ball at his feet and has a goal in him, too.
Young Player of the Year
GC: Fin Robertson. There is no question on this one. The 17-year-old made 21 appearances for the Dark Blues this season – more than even manager James McPake expected. Consistently one of the steadiest performers in the team, particularly at the start of the season, Robertson has made a fine start to his career as a footballer at Dens – a career that promises much for the future.
CW: It is impossible to look beyond Fin Robertson for this one. The teenage midfielder is set for the top if he continues his current trajectory. Starting the season aged just 16, what impresses me most about him is his maturity on and off the park. Battling players sometimes double his age and size, the Dundonian kid has never looked flustered. He oozes class.
Goal of the season
GC: There were a few contenders for this but Danny Johnson takes this prize for his howitzer against Queen of the South at Dens at the end of November. That goal was overshadowed just seconds later by a defensive howler that gave the Doonhamers all three points but there can be no taking away from the quality of the Johnson strike with a spin and shot into the top corner from 20 yards.
CW: Sometimes it’s the assist not the finish that makes a great goal – this time it’s both. The 2-0 home win over Ayr was Dundee’s last game of the season because of the coronavirus and Kane Hemmings brilliantly opened the scoring. Coolly slotting past Ross Doohan after a surging run into the area, it was a typical Hemmings finish but the assist was more Dennis Bergkamp than Paul McGowan, who actually flicked the ball into the path of the striker with an exceptional piece of skill.
Most memorable match
GC: The 4-3 home win over Dunfermline showed both sides of the Dee this season. They flew into a 4-1 lead with some fine football but almost shot themselves in the foot by allowing the Pars back into a remarkable game late on.
CW: There wasn’t much to write home about after 60 minutes of Morton’s visit to Dens on November 1 last year. However, it quickly sprung into life as the Dark Blues went on to win 2-1, their third successive victory, with Jamie Ness returning from injury to net a stunning winner, dedicating the goal to his new-born son.
How has James McPake performed as manager?
GC: To say it’s not been plain sailing for James McPake’s debut season would be a massive understatement. The first half of the campaign was beset by consistency problems with nobody sure which Dundee would turn up. Signings made in January changed that and before the shutdown the Dee were motoring. Pass marks but Dundee should’ve been higher than third.
CW: It was always going to take the rookie boss a while to settle into the Dens Park hot seat but recent form has shown James McPake can make a success of his time in charge. He has made shrewd signings in his two transfer windows to date, is clearly passionate for the club and has been very open with supporters. They should’ve pushed United closer but next season will be where he is judged.
GC: The 6-2 derby – no prizes for guessing that one. The first one as a manager for McPake and certainly one he’d like to forget. An inability to defend their own box saw them swamped by a rampant Dundee United.
CW: The 2-0 defeat at Dunfermline in January looked like being the point of no return for James McPake as Dundee manager. The Dee were simply awful that night and let the Pars run all over them. To their credit, that result seemed to spark them into life as they went on a six-match unbeaten run with a raft of new signings.
Realistic target for next season
GC: It all depends on reconstruction but being in the Premiership the following season is a must. If that’s winning the Championship next term or surviving in a bigger top flight the aim should be the same for 2021/22.
CW: Premiership football must be the target and, if they are to remain in the Championship following reconstruction, Dundee should be title favourites.
If Dundee could sign one Championship player (United aside) ahead of next season, who would you recommend?
GC: It’ll prove very difficult to get him but Kevin Nisbet has been a stand-out for Dunfermline all last season. On-loan Lichtie Craig Wighton may well be on the shopping list already, though. . .
CW: Dundee need more in attacking areas if they’re going to get promotion next season and should be looking at Morton’s Nicky Cadden to balance with Declan McDaid on the wings. Kevin O’Hara at Alloa is an exciting young talent, too.