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Dark days at Dens: Dundee owner deserves much better return on so-called ‘investment’

Dundee's Cammy Kerr trudges off the field following relegation from the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Dundee's Cammy Kerr trudges off the field following relegation from the Ladbrokes Premiership.

On September 15 last year, I was working at Ibrox watching Dundee slump to their sixth defeat in a row against Rangers.

As Glen Middleton’s fourth goal hit the back of Dark Blues keeper Elliott Parish’s net, I turned to a colleague and confidently stated this was a season that would ultimately end in relegation for the Dens Park side.

I do not profess to have the clairvoyant powers of a Nostradamus but that prediction has now unfortunately turned out to be absolutely spot on.

It may have been early in the campaign for doom and gloom but my prophecy at Ibrox was based on the desperate opening results that had followed hot on the heels of a big summer recruitment campaign by former Dens boss Neil McCann that had placed an emphasis on future potential rather than proven ability to compete at the top level in this country.

A Dundee fan watches on in anguish.

The new-look Dark Blues could pass the ball for fun and attracted favourable comments for the way they did so but when it came to putting it in the back of the net at one end and keeping it out at the other, they were found sadly wanting.

Dundee relegated after tenth loss in a row

The manager was also found wanting with some of his team selections and a dogmatic insistence on playing out from the back, which is fine if your defence includes the likes of Virgil van Dijk – Dundee’s did not.

Dundee manager Jim McIntyre issues instructions from the sidelines.

After the Rangers defeat, the Dark Blues were beaten once more by Hibs before the wait for the first league win of the season finally ended at Hamilton.

However, a week later, McCann’s men lost to Kilmarnock at Dens with the club’s American owner Tim Keyes’ patience finally running out as he decided to wield the axe on the former Sky pundit with the club bottom of the Premiership.

Dundee owners reaffirm commitment to the club despite hammer blow of relegation

Dundee boss Jim McIntyre insists he is still right man for the job as his predecessor Neil McCann hits back at recruitment comments

At the time, I wrote, “Dundee can now ill afford any more gambles with managerial rookies and an experienced head is needed to steady the ship before it is too late this season”.

That was exactly what the club did just a day later when they appointed former Dunfermline, Queen of the South and Ross County boss Jim McIntyre as the new Dens manager.

The start to McIntyre’s reign at Dens was problematic with many fans up in arms over the prospect of Billy Dodds becoming his No 2.

The pair had worked closely together before but the former striker was held responsible by a large proportion of Dundee fans of acting against the club during the dark days of administration in 2010-11.

Punters were simply unwilling to forgive and forget, with Dodds calling a halt to talks about becoming assistant and McIntyre was forced to turn to Dens youth supremo Jimmy Boyle to fill the role.

The manager had previously saved the Staggies from what looked like certain relegation when he took over in Dingwall in 2014.

Promisingly, he said after his first training session with his new charges at Dens: “I would probably say there’s a stronger group in the changing room than the one I inherited at Ross County and I mean that with utmost respect.”

Despite that, his first game in charge was one to forget as the Dark Blues lost 4-0 at Livingston with the manager also quickly losing faith with some of the players he had praised on his arrival.

It became apparent that several of McCann’s summer additions were considered not fit for purpose by his successor with the likes of Elton Ngwatala, Kharl Madianga and Jean Mendy frozen out.

After the Livi defeat, there were three more losses before McIntyre steadied the ship with two draws and a win against Hamilton.

A 10-man Dark Blues then secured a creditable draw at Dens against Rangers before a brutal run of three away defeats in the space of a week at Killie, Aberdeen and Celtic Park knocked the stuffing out of the team with Dundee conceding 11 goals in the process.

A draw against Livi was then followed by a dismal defeat at home to St Johnstone to bring the year to a close, however the Dark Blues emerged from their early January break by stunning Hearts at Tynecastle, winning 2-1.

They failed to build on that success though, losing the next two games against Motherwell and then at Queen of the South, suffering a humiliating 3-0 Scottish Cup exit to the Championship outfit.

That debacle at Palmerston was the final straw for McIntyre who decided he could dispense with the services of on-loan Crystal Palace defender Ryan Inniss as well as winger Roarie Deacon.

They followed a well-worn path out the Dens exit that had already been trodden by others McIntyre had deemed surplus to requirements including Sofien Moussa, Lewis Spence, Marcus Haber, Calvin Miller, Adil Nabi, Andy Boyle as well as the aforementioned Ngwatala, Madianga and Mendy.

January had also seen an influx of a whole new team of signings with Craig Curran, Seny Dieng, Andy Dales, Andy Nelson, Andreas Hadenius, James Horsfield, Ryan McGowan, Ethan Robson, Scott Wright, John O’ Sullivan and the luckless Andrew Davies – who had only just got his foot in the door when he broke it in a bounce game against St Johnstone – all arriving on permanent deals or loans.

Transfer deadline day also saw the departure of star midfielder Glen Kamara. The Finnish international had signed a pre-contract with Rangers at the start of that month but was allowed to leave early after the clubs agreed a fee understood to be in the region of £50,000.

The new Dens arrivals helped Dundee pick up two draws against Hamilton and Killie before securing a win at Livingston.

That victory was, however, a false dawn with the team then embarking on a dismal run of 10 straight defeats culminating in Saturday’s loss against Hamilton that confirmed that Dundee were down with the club destined for the Championship next season.

All in all, it is a disaster for everyone connected with the Dark Blues.

The fact that a so-called big club could not save itself from relegation against rivals who have been almost as woeful this season in St Mirren and Hamilton, is nothing short of disgraceful.

McCann has to shoulder a lot of the blame but so does McIntyre, while serious questions are being asked about managing director John Nelms.

Considering the large sums of money owner Tim Keyes has ploughed into the club, he deserves a much better return on his so-called “investment”.

Money though is no guarantee of success and it may be some time before I am covering another Dundee Premiership game at Ibrox.

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