The Courier

ANALYSIS: Is Neil McCann’s Dundee record really that bad?

Neil McCann.

These are the days of knee-jerk reactions, faux outrage and perception trumping reality.

Football has no right to escape the ills which permeate wider society.

We have to get to the truth.

So we ask ourselves: Is Neil McCann’s record really that bad?

Could the Dundee boss be a victim of a rush to judgment or do the facts support the views of those fans who want him out?

The case needs some context.

McCann’s season thus far is best assessed in two chunks: Betfred Cup and Premiership matches.

In the cup, he won three out of four group games to finish second in the section. The problem for him is that the defeat was at home to Championship side Dunfermline and it could have been a lot worse than 1-0. Then came the horror show against Ayr United at Dens in the second round, when his team lost two men and were hammered 3-0 by yet another team from a division below.

In the league, they played well enough at St Mirren on opening day but still lost 2-1 and have since been beaten by Aberdeen, St Johnstone and Motherwell. A key criticism of McCann is, therefore, that his team have only bettered three lower-league, part-time teams – Stirling, Peterhead and Brechin – and lost every time they have faced a club from the Championship or above.

Let’s compare that to the start he made to last season.

The Dark Blues won their first three Betfred matches against Raith Rovers (a), Buckie Thistle (h) and Cowdenbeath (a). Their final group game was at Dens against Championship side Dundee United in a city derby that was drawn after 90 minutes before they lost the penalty shootout to United to finish second in the group. That, of course, mirrors what happened this season. Things would improve, however, in the second round when they dominated the rerun against United and finished worthy 2-1 winners. The cup exit would come against Celtic in a 4-0 loss at home on September 20 – no disgrace there.

By then McCann’s first full league season in charge had started badly with a 2-1 home loss to Ross County, who would go on to be relegated. The Dark Blues then lost 3-0 to Hamilton and 2-1 at Aberdeen before securing their first point with a 1-1 home draw against Hibs. There would be a 4-1 loss at Rangers before the first Premiership victory of the season was clinched – 3-2 at home to St Johnstone.

The date of the Saints match was September 16 so if Dundee don’t pull off an against-the-odds win at Ibrox in their next game this Saturday then datewise they will be deeper into this campaign than the last one without a league victory to their name.

Also worth noting when considering McCann’s record is the period between February 3 and April 7 of last season. During this spell, which started with another home defeat to Ross County (4-1 this time), they only took five points out of a possible 27 in the league and crashed out of the Scottish Cup thanks to a Dens defeat by Motherwell. His record during those barren two months was one win, two draws and seven defeats. The manager must have been grateful to Simon Murray, whose two late goals at Partick Thistle secured the solitary win of that period.

To put all that into context, let’s explore the records of his predecessors.

© SNS
Paul Hartley.

Paul Hartley was sacked by the board after a run of seven successive defeats, culminating in the 2-0 home loss to Hamilton on April 15, 2017.

The undoubted low point of that sequence was the 7-0 home humiliation dished out by Aberdeen. Thankfully, Dundee haven’t sunk that low under McCann.

Confirming Hartley’s departure, managing director John Nelms stated: “Unfortunately, the business we are in, sometimes change is necessary to achieve the goals we have set.”

Hartley had replaced John Brown in the job after ‘Bomber’ had left the club on February 3, 2014.

Brown had come in as first interim manager on February 23, 2013 to follow Barry Smith before being appointed on a permanent basis on April 26 of that year.

However, with the Dark Blues battling to get out of the Championship the following season he was on his way after a winless run of only three games (losses to Livingston and Falkirk followed by a 1-1 home draw against Alloa). Dundee were joint-top of the table at the time and would go on to win the title under Hartley just a few months later.

In season 2012/13, when Dundee were promoted to the top flight as Club 12 following Rangers’ fall, they beat Hibs 3-1 at Dens on November 17 but didn’t get another victory until March 6 when they beat St Mirren 2-1 at home – Brown’s first success in the Premiership.

However, the context here is that this was a club that hadn’t been expecting to be in the top division, had suffered a summer of uncertainty and was not properly prepared or equipped as a result.

By contrast, McCann is in his second full season in the Premiership and has been backed to the hilt when it comes to recruitment.

As well as a critical analysis of his overall record, McCann should also be wary of shocking results and performances lingering in the minds of supporters.

He may not have suffered a 7-0 embarrassment like Hartley but he hasn’t exactly been short of terrible scorelines.

I would rank the defeats as follows (worst first):

1 3-0 v Ayr.

2 4-0 v Hamilton.

3 4-0 v St Johnstone.

4 4-1 v Ross County.

5 3-0 v Hamilton.

He just can’t afford another one of those.

The conclusion has to be that McCann’s overall record does not stand up well to scrutiny.

He has been backed by owner Tim Keyes and Nelms with both words and cash but if the shoogly peg is not to come off the wall completely then results will need to drastically improve.

That’s not fake news.