‘Perfect day’ for Dundee comeback defender, Julen Etxabeguren

Julen Etxabeguren.

Julen Etxabeguren has returned to San Sebastian where he will Basque in the glow of a “perfect day” at McDiarmid Park.

Describing his feelings in the wake of playing a competitive game of football for the first time in nearly a year wasn’t easy for the Dundee centre-back.

But, after putting in an accomplished performance as a second half substitute against St Johnstone and being part of a 2-0 win, wiping the smile of Etxabeguren’s face wasn’t easy either.

“After 10 months I can’t put into words the feelings I had,” said the former Real Sociedad defender.

“It’s been a long, long way.

“I played in the (Dave Mackay) testimonial game and for the under-20s a few times but this is 100% different. It’s a competitive match.

“To get a win is great as well. It was a perfect day.”

Etxabeguren revealed that it has been the simple things that he has missed the most in his time out of the game since rupturing his Achilles tendon in March against Partick Thistle.

He explained: “It’s probably been the day of the game – the excitement before it, the nerves, even the smell of the grass.

“These are the small details that you don’t think about when you are playing every week.

“When you’re out for a long time you appreciate it even more.”

Although 10 months is a long time, the recuperation has never become a mental torment.

He said: “The rehab went very smoothly and I have to thank everybody in the club for that – the doctor, the physio and my team-mates.

“They helped me to recover better. So I wouldn’t say there were any dark days because I was always meeting the targets that I was expected to.”

Centre-back is arguably Dundee’s position of greatest strength – certainly in numbers – and Etxabeguren is the last of the players in that position to get the opportunity to impress Neil McCann.

“I didn’t get the chance to show the manager what I could do when he arrived,” he said.

“I’ve worked hard and tried to improve every day so I could get a place in the team and when that happened I would play well. You have to take your chance.

“The team has been playing very well and we’ve got a large squad so it isn’t easy.

“I know I have to improve many things but I’ll keep fighting.”

McCann’s footballing philosophy matches up perfectly with his own.

Etxabeguren said: “The manager likes to play from the back and I’ve been used to doing that from my time at Sociedad.

“It’s a style of play I feel comfortable with. I love it.

“Sometimes it might look risky but when you get through the first line you have a lot of advantages.

“It’s about creating the best opportunities for our strikers.”

Meanwhile, the possibility of a fellow centre-back, Jack Hendry, moving on this month appears to be growing.

Reports have suggested that Celtic are going to table an offer, with English Premier League clubs also tracking the young defender.

Dundee will be able to demand a high price (upwards of £500,000) though if they are to do January business as Hendry has 18 months left on his deal.