Boss James McPake insists his Dundee side deserve to be a Premiership outfit as he prepares them for their top-flight comeback.
Now he has challenged them to prove it when they take on St Mirren in their league opener on Saturday at Dens Park.
The response last season to setbacks, disappointments and heavy defeats by roaring up the Championship table into second and through the play-offs proved the squad’s character says McPake.
Toiling at the start of the campaign after an opening-day thrashing at Hearts, serious questions were raised about Dundee’s chances of winning promotion.
However, the Dark Blues clicked into gear at just the right time, leaping into second place on the final day of the season.
Full of confidence, they made short work of the play-offs to earn their place back at the top table of Scottish football, emphatically answering those questions.
‘They’ve taken the knocks’
“The players have worked hard for this,” McPake said.
“It’s credit to the players. They’ve done all the hard work on the pitch.
“They’ve taken the knocks, the hard defeats, and they deserve to be back in the Premiership.
“We believe we’re a Premiership squad and it’s time to go and prove it.
“It’s now a new season and we forget last year but the key things we worked on last year will still be there.
“They all know each other, the systems, how we work. They know how we want to play.
“We’re up a level and know that. We played Premiership opposition last year and did OK but week in, week out is different so that’s why we needed to tweak it a bit.
“We need to go and enjoy it. We’ve worked ever so hard to get back to this level.
“It’s the only league in Scotland you want to play in.
– 12 points
– 11 goals
— Dundee Football Club (@DundeeFC) July 25, 2021
“No disrespect to the Championship, but when you look at the fixtures coming out and you’ve got the derby, Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen coming down here with a big crowd, St Johnstone down the road; it’s big, big clubs.
“This club deserves to be in that league and now we need to make sure we go in there and prove we deserve to stay in it.”
Target for the season
After such a successful end to last season, Dundee fans have high hopes for the season ahead.
However, the bookies are tipping the Dark Blues to struggle in their first season back in the top flight, battling it out with Ross County to be favourites for the drop.
And McPake isn’t looking any higher than 10th place when setting out his aims at the start of this campaign.
Asked his target this season, he replied: “The aim is to stay in the league. Absolutely.
“There’s no divine right for any team to stay in this division.
“Hibs went down, Hearts got relegated, Dundee United went down. Some big clubs have come out this league.
“First and foremost, our aim is to get enough points to stay in this league then we’ll see where go from there.”
Injury news – Charlie Adam and Liam Fontaine
Meanwhile, McPake expects to have captain Charlie Adam fit and available after he limped out of last week’s 5-2 win over Forfar Athletic.
The Dens skipper went off in the first half with a calf injury but has trained most of this week.
Liam Fontaine also came off during that game but is also expected to be fine, though Alex Jakubiak is a doubt for the weekend clash with the Buddies.
Cammy Kerr will miss the game with a knee injury.
“Both should be OK,” McPake said of Adam and Fontaine.
“Charlie didn’t train on Monday but that was us stopping him. He’s looking good.
“Jakubiak is the one we’re still touch and go with. It’s nothing serious but with the last year we’ve had, it’s not one we’ll risk or do anything we’d deem to be silly.
“Everybody else seems fit and excited.”
The Dark Blues will also have the five players who were self-isolating last week available for selection.