In his time at Dundee, Paul McGowan has seen three managers come and go, countless players follow suit and more than a little heartbreak.
There have been a lot of fine memories too – a top six Premiership finish among them – and the 33-year-old wouldn’t change his seven years at Dens Park for anything.
Promotion back to the top flight, though, would be the pinnacle of his time at the club so far.
Because 250 appearances have come and gone for ‘Gowser’ and he has no intention of stopping any time soon, whichever division the Dark Blues are in next season.
In taking to the field for the play-off semi-final second leg at home to Raith Rovers on Saturday, McGowan became just the second player to play 250 times for the club this century.
Only club legend Barry Smith has played more since the calendar left the 20th century behind.
Focused on the final
A man not given to sentimentality, McGowan isn’t concerned with appearance lists right now, however.
At least not until he’s “old and can barely move”. That’s when he’ll allow himself some satisfaction.
His only focus is on finding a way past Kilmarnock in the play-off final and, in the process, proving doubters wrong by getting Dundee back to the Premiership.
“Sometimes it’s been difficult this season,” he told the Courier.
“People have questioned us and it would be great to prove them wrong by getting back to the Premiership.
It was only right questions were thrown at us but it’s people saying we weren’t good enough that has fuelled us.
“This season is probably one where a lot of us have been questioned more than ever.
“It’s a big week for the whole club. We want to do it for the people at the club who stick by us through thick and thin.
“I always believed there was a team here and we are showing it now.
“I was the first to question us way back at that Ayr game. That was because I knew the team was there but our confidence was shot.
“We were losing poor goals and not giving ourselves a chance. Now we have sorted that, we look more solid at the back and are scoring goals.
“We are a totally different team now.”
‘Deserve to be in the final’
On the play-off final, he added: “We have deserved to get here and you can see the confidence in the team right now, it’s a really good place to be.
“We know the final will be a hard game – whichever team we were going to get it would be hard. We’re under no illusions it’ll be easy or anything.
“But Kilmarnock will know they have been in a tough game as well. They’ll have been watching us and know it’ll be tough for them.
“Killie are obviously favourites for the game but they’ll have it tough against us. If we play as we have been, we’ll give it a good go.”
— Dundee Football Club (@DundeeFC) April 7, 2021
How it all started
After leaving Celtic as a youngster, McGowan spent three successful seasons at St Mirren, winning the League Cup in 2013.
He was released by the Buddies in 2014, however, and was left pondering his next move.
That was until former Parkhead team-mate Paul Hartley called, backed up by another who had just signed for his hometown club.
“I was a young kid at Celtic when Paul Hartley was there,” he said.
“When I left St Mirren I didn’t know what I was going to do and Paul got in touch.
“Si Ferry had just signed for Dundee as well and he came on to me saying ‘come on, this’ll be great’.
“So I spoke to Paul and thought I’d give it a go. He had a vision for where he wanted to take the club, what they would do and the players they wanted to sign.
“So I went up and signed the same day as Paul McGinn, I think.
“Then in the first season we finished in the top six and it was an incredible season really.”
‘Club has been there for me’
McGowan made his debut in a 4-0 League Cup thrashing of Peterhead with goals from Ferry, Greg Stewart, Peter MacDonald and Luka Tankulic.
His league debut, though, came at Dens against Kilmarnock, a repeat of Thursday night’s play-off final first leg.
Hartley’s time passed before Neil McCann took over to be followed by Jim McIntyre and relegation.
However, there have been plenty of faces behind the scenes who have stuck around.
And, thinking particularly about times when McGowan has found trouble off the field, those are the ones the midfielder wants to pay back with promotion.
He added: “I’ve played under some good managers and there have been some great players as well. There are really great people behind the scenes as well like (kit lady) Lorraine (Noble) and so many others.
“I’ve been in a few bad situations as people know about but the club has always been there for me.
“I can’t speak highly enough of all the people there.
“John Nelms came down to Airdrie during my court case – that’s the sort of thing people don’t see.
“The owners are good people with good intentions, yes they’ve made mistakes, but I can’t speak highly enough of them.”
He added: “I hope I’ve repaid them by being a good servant to the club.
“I’ve played 250 games now, I never thought I’d do that. And I have loved every minute of being a Dundee player.
“I didn’t actually know what the number was until somebody tagged me in the message – I was totally oblivious to it.
Paul McGowan made his 250th appearance for the club on Saturday.
— The Dee Archive (@TheDeeArchive) May 17, 2021
“I guess it is a great achievement. It is a hard thing to do these days.
“When you get older you start to realise there are things you take for granted when you are younger.
“I always remember at Celtic Park we had a teacher called John Cushley. He’s sadly died since, but he would take in our homework and tell us our careers would be over like that.
“Of course, as a young player you don’t believe a word of it.
“I’ve settled down now as well, I don’t drink nearly as much as I did when I was younger. I’ve never been the quickest so I’ve been able to keep going.
“People have questioned and I have sat down and questioned whether I was good enough but, as I say, that fuels you.”
‘It will be my proudest moment in a Dundee shirt’
Dundee fans will be hoping that fuel is enough to drive McGowan and his team-mates on past Killie and back to the Premiership.
If they can do that then appearance No 252 at Rugby Park will be his most important of all in dark blue.
“It will be heartbreaking to go so close and not make it up,” he added.
“We have to go the hard way, which is always the Dundee way but we have a chance.
“It will take a big performance to beat Kilmarnock and there will be pressure so we will have to show we have the bottle.
“If we can get up, it will be the highlight of my career at Dundee.
“I finished in the top six in my first season and there have been a couple of games against United, scoring that cup goal was a good feeling.
“But it will be my proudest moment in a Dundee shirt.”