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Dundee transfer window assessed – who is a star in the making and which departure was a no-brainer?

The Dark Blues added seven new faces in the winter window with three departing.

Cammy Kerr, Owen Beck and Michael Mellon.
Dundee made seven signings with three departures - how good a window was it?

January 2024 was a busy month for Dundee as manager Tony Docherty bolstered his squad for a top-six challenge.

The Dark Blues went into the window with Docherty just looking to add a couple of fresh faces to his squad after a very positive first half of the season.

However, that plan had to be adapted when Owen Beck was recalled by Liverpool.

And Dundee’s partnership with Burnley made an immediate impact, with a trio of players moving north of the border for the second half of the campaign.

Instead of a couple of signings, Dundee made seven.

How good has the business been, though?

Courier Sport assesses Dundee’s winter window.

Transfers in

Dara Costelloe
Dara Costelloe swapped St Johnstone for Dundee. Image: Shutterstock

Dara Costelloe

The first signing of 2024 came out of the blue as young Irish winger Costelloe finished training with St Johnstone at the end of 2023 and turned up for Dundee training just a couple of days later.

The 21-year-old had fallen out of favour under Craig Levein at McDiarmid Park but has made an impact in his first few games for the Dark Blues.

First used at left wing-back, Costelloe had big shoes to fill in the absence of Beck.

Going forward he brought something to the Dark Blues, though defensively he struggled.

He played a part in both goals at Tynecastle last week and has shown already he’ll be a good addition.

Verdict: Good, versatile squad option

Curtis Main

Curtis Main
Curtis Main made his Dundee debut at Kilmarnock. Image: SNS

Powerful striker Main has been a regular fixture of the Scottish Premiership, spending six seasons north of the border with Motherwell, Aberdeen and St Mirren.

Early days haven’t yielded much from the big frontman, with three substitute appearances all he’s managed so far.

Short of match fitness after a dearth of game time with Indian side Bengaluru, Dens boss Docherty is expecting plenty from the 31-year-old.

Main played a big role in St Mirren’s top-six finish last season, scoring nine times. Can he repeat that feat at Dens?

Verdict: Useful addition

Ryan Astley

New Dundee signing Ryan Astley. Image: Dundee FC

One of only two permanent signings over the window, Astley is a Wales youth international team-mate of Owen Beck. The two also share the same agent and Beck played a key role in convincing Astley to move north from Everton.

Signed on a two-and-a-half-year deal, the Dark Blues are putting faith in the young defender.

Still only 22, Astley has only had one season of League One football to his name, so there is plenty to learn.

Last season he played 32 times for Accrington Stanley as they finished 23rd in the table.

Verdict: Too early to tell

Owen Dodgson

Dundee loanee Owen Dodgson. Image: SNS.

Along with Costelloe and Michael Mellon, another of the ‘Burnley Three’, Dodgson came in to help Dundee shore up the left side of their defence.

It’s not been an easy start to life at Dens Park, however. The former Manchester United youth player gave away two penalties in his first two matches.

However, he’s shown enough aside from that to say he’ll bring something to the Dark Blues backline.

Verdict: More to come

Michael Mellon

Michael Mellon opens his Dundee account at Livingston. Image: Shutterstock

The third Claret has already made a name for himself at Dundee, grabbing a goal and two assists off the bench on his debut.

Mellon already had 15 goals to his name for Morecambe in League Two this season and had been coveted by League One sides down south.

However, the link-up between Burnley and Dundee put the Dark Blues to the front of the queue.

Early signs are very positive. If Mellon can continue to find the net between now and the end of the season then who knows where the team can end up.

Verdict: A star in the making

Owen Beck

Owen Beck goes for goal at Aberdeen. Image: Shutterstock

Dundee missed Beck for those four weeks – they missed him badly.

But the love story between the young Liverpool star and the Dee is alive once more.

It’s been a stellar season so far for the flying wing-back and enticing him back to Dens Park is testament to the work done by Tony Docherty in building this squad.

Dundee once more have serious quality down their left flank.

Verdict: Star signing

Jon McCracken

Jon McCracken has returned to Dundee. Image: Dundee FC.

Another returning to the club where he started the season, goalkeeper Jon McCracken’s second coming was something of a surprise.

Having played for Accrington Stanley since leaving Dens, McCracken was unable to sign for any other club; a situation Dundee have used as an opportunity to get a good young goalie back on the books.

Currently injured, McCracken will compete with Trevor Carson for that first-choice slot when he returns to training in the next week or so.

The Scotsman impressed in his handful of games at the start of the season, keeping two clean sheets in four appearances.

Good with his feet, the 23-year-old is very much a modern-style goalkeeper and could bring something different to Carson.

Verdict: A good bit of opportunism

Transfers out

Marcel Lewis is yet to make his Dundee debut. Image: SNS
Marcel Lewis warms up at Celtic Park. Image: SNS

Marcel Lewis

The first departure from the squad in January was an unsurprising one.

Lewis hadn’t played a single minute in an unsuccessful loan spell from Burnley.

Verdict: No-brainer

Cammy Kerr

Cammy Kerr in action for Inverness. Image: SNS
Cammy Kerr in action for Inverness. Image: SNS

Seeing Kerr in a shirt other than a Dundee one was a shock when he made his debut for Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

And he quickly set about helping his new club shock promotion hopefuls Raith Rovers on their own patch.

In a decade as a Dee, Kerr has played a part in three promotions, including two league titles.

Though he is contracted at Dens Park until the summer of 2025, his lack of game time this season under Tony Docherty suggests it could be the end of Kerr’s time at the club.

Verdict: Potential end of an era

Zak Rudden

Zak Rudden holds a scarf above his head as he signs on loan for Raith Rovers.
Zak Rudden signed for Raith Rovers on loan from Dundee. Image: Raith Rovers.

Rudden had started a fair amount of games under Docherty, but two goals, one of them a penalty, isn’t a strike rate that will keep a striker’s place for long.

The arrivals of Main and Mellon also meant that Rudden had dropped down the pecking order.

Now he’s aiming to deny his parent club’s big rivals Dundee United the Championship title by helping Raith Rovers to promotion.

Verdict: Best for both parties

Overall grade – A

Dundee manager Tony Docherty at Rugby Park. Image: SNS
Dundee’s transfer window was a busy one for manager Tony Docherty. Image: SNS

What a window for the Dark Blues.

Comparing the squad now to the one that closed out 2023, there is no doubt Dundee are in a stronger place.

Docherty has plenty of options in every position. It’s a big squad and that could make it tough to keep everyone happy.

However, quality youth players, combined with experienced pros, is a recipe for success.

Some very good business has been done as excitement builds over what could be achieved this season at Dens Park.