It’s easy to see why Dundee United supporter Paul McNicoll was voted SFSA fan of the year.
For starters, the 43-year-old is instantly personable, charismatic and has a dry sense of humour shared by many of his Dundonian cohort.
Those attributes come in handy when co-hosting The Dode Fox Podcast alongside Ronny Costello, the show’s immense popularity being another reason why fellow-supporters nominated him for the Scottish Football Supporters Association prize.
On top of that, McNicoll and fellow Arab Andy Crichton’s walk from Tynecastle to Tannadice raised £43,000 for the Tangerines over the summer, which went towards the club’s legal fees in the fight to secure promotion to the Premiership.
For the man himself, though, the real reason he won was far more obvious.
“There are no fans in any grounds at all this season and, lo and behold, I win fan of the year,” he said.
“It’s a low bar this year but, hey-ho, I’ll take it. It’ll never happen again!
Our guy 🧡🖤🧡🖤🧡 https://t.co/m4GF9jwuZG
— The Dode Fox Podcast (@dodefoxpodcast) February 6, 2021
“That slight bit of humour to the whole thing hasn’t been missed by me.
“The last winner was Colin Weir (the late Partick Thistle owner) and he put a lot of money into his club and is, obviously, no longer with us now.
“So the award has gone from a multi-millionaire to an absolute doughnut with no money.”
‘There’s a big sense of guilt about the whole thing but…it’s nice and something completely out of the blue’
Despite his humorous take on his success, McNicoll admits he was shocked to win and was keen to praise those who were by his side the whole way.
He added: “I knew absolutely nothing about it and when I got the email I thought Ronny was at it!
“I thought that he had set up a fake account and was just stitching me up to see if I would bite.
“Going from knowing absolutely nothing about it to reading the email which said I was nominated by quite a lot of people and, not only that, I’d actually won… it was a big shock.
“In the cold light of day, when you think about it, people have taken their time to nominate me.
“Since it’s been announced people have been kind of jumping on me a bit saying: ‘How did Andy Crichton not win it as well because he did the walk, too.’
“He was one of the guys that nominated me that I did not know about. There’s no issue with him and I but I do feel like a wee bit of a fraud, winning it on the back of something we’ve done.
“The other thing mentioned as part of the win was for the contribution to the podcast so, again, I don’t do that on my own. Ronny’s the brains behind the operation.
“There’s a big sense of guilt about the whole thing but, at the end of the day, it’s nice and something completely out of the blue.”
McNicoll at the double after Scots language prize
In fact, the prize is McNicoll’s second piece of silverware in the last few months after he and Costello won scots media person o’ the year at the Scots Language Awards late last year.
Awards do not validate the success of the podcast for McNicoll. Instead, the impact it has on people’s lives as it’s released every Monday to the tangerine masses is far more important.
“I’m not a big fan of awards, regardless of what sort they are,” he said.
“To have won two this year is ridiculous. There’s a bit of me that just does not take it seriously.
“It (the podcast) helped Ronny and I get through lockdown as well.
“It gave us something to focus on and look forward to but it was never the plan to be interviewing all these club legends!
“It’s just the best laid plans and all that, things just get flung out the window and you just make do with what you can.”
Is a normal life too much to ask for ‘Dundee celebrity’ Paul?
The Dode Fox Podcast, which has thousands of devoted listeners ‘tuning in’ each week, has made McNicoll and Costello household names among the Terrors’ support.
However, father-of-one McNicoll insists he’s not a ‘Dundee celebrity’ despite the SFSA proclaiming his stardom.
He said: “It’s great for my mum and dad – they’re proud as punch but I’m certainly not a celebrity.
“I saw in the SFSA’s article they mentioned I was a ‘Dundee celebrity’ but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
“I’m just a normal person. There’s nothing celebrity-like about me!”
Ever a man of the people, McNicoll simply yearns for a normal life.
For the Dundonian, that means a return to his seat in the Eddie Thompson Lower with son Leo (12) and dad Iain (60) as soon as possible, with Covid-19 denying him and many others that ritual.
“Myself and thousands around the country are absolutely choking to get back into the games,” McNicoll commented.
“It gives you a focus whether you’re having a good, bad or indifferent week. If you’re a football fan, you go to the games and it gives you something to look forward to at the weekend.
“You can still do that now, I suppose, watching it on the telly but it’s not the same.
“When the game finishes you just push a button and the TV’s off and that’s it. Whereas, when you’re at the game you have to wait and moan about how long it’s taking to get out the ground.
“You speak to people as you’re heading down the ramp at the back of the stand and then some people will go to the boozer but I go back to the Heggie for a pint or two.
“It’s just good to go over it, a post-mortem of what you’ve just watched.
“Sitting in the house you can’t celebrate too much when you win and there’s no point getting too despondent when you lose. It just doesn’t feel real, it’s watered down massively this season.
“Get everybody back in pronto!”