Gary Harkins has returned to Dundee after signing from Kilmarnock, but Adam Henderson asks how will the move affect the two clubs in the second half of the season?
Midfielder and Dens Park cult hero Gary Harkins has tonight re-signed for his former club Dundee following a two-year spell with Kilmarnock. Dundee had signed Harkins from Partick Thistle in 2009 for a £150,000 fee, but after the club moved into administration in 2011 he exercised his option to leave the club at the end of the season and Kilmarnock signed him for an undisclosed fee.
Last season Harkins was one of Kilmarnock’s key players, in both their League Cup run and good performances in the SPL. He made a total of 35 appearances scoring three goals. And this season Harkins has again been an important player for Kilmarnock having already made 17 appearances and scored twice.
However, with the signings of Borja Perez and Cillian Sheridan he has had less playing time in his preferred attacking midfield role and with Kenny Shiels now preferring a 4-4-2 formation, it seems like Harkins wouldn’t have been in the manager’s plans as much in the second-half of this season.
Despite persistent rumours throughout the January transfer window that Harkins would return to Dundee, the move has come as somewhat of a shock as less than a week ago Kenny Shiels denied there was any chance of it happening, he said: “I don’t know why you keep asking about him. He’s not leaving, he’s one of the best players in the SPL.”
Harkins is the third player that Kilmarnock have sold this January, following on from the departures of Liam Kelly and Michael Nelson. And with recent news of Kilmarnock’s money problems it seems the club are trying to lessen the wage bill and bring in some cash.
However, Kilmarnock do have a very good crop of youngsters coming through right now and Shiels has already spoken of how he wants to bring many of them into the first-team.
With the club’s SPL survival almost certain this season, Shiels may feel now is the right time to cut the number of senior players in the squad and rely on the youngsters. This will save the club money in the short-term and also provide long-term benefits as Kilmarnock’s stars of the future will only improve given first-team experience.
The club have also benefited from the youth system financially in the past few seasons with Liam Kelly, Michael Kennedy and Craig Bryson all having been sold for a total of nearly £1 million.
Although Kilmarnock have been cutting costs and relying on youth more this season, Dundee have been doing exactly the opposite by relying on more experienced players to help them in their bid for survival. Up front in particular is where they have looked weakest, with Barry Smith preferring Colin Nish, John Baird and Steven Milne over youngsters like Martin Boyle and Leighton McIntosh. Nish, Baird and Milne have only scored six goals this season so it seems like Harkins will be a good addition to the squad as he will inject some creativity into the side and help create chances.
Although it is understandable that Dundee would want to try to sign experienced players who could help them stay in the SPL, it has to be questioned if it is a good idea for a side who were in administration only two seasons ago – to be spending all this money on big-name players.
They have a number of good youth players who have not been given much of a chance this season, and considering how poor their form has been it surely would have been a better idea for the club to give first-team opportunities to the youngsters like Kilmarnock are doing. Even if they were to get relegated a whole season in the SPL would have been very beneficial to the like of McIntosh and Boyle. They also would have been cheaper than the more experienced players and could have gained the club more money in the future.
Barry Smith has chosen to go with the more experienced players this season and he will need them to perform to their best if they are to have any chance of staying up.
Dundee are just over 10 points adrift of Ross County, St. Mirren and Hearts and they will need to start earning points quickly if they want to avoid the drop. Harkins could be the catalyst to turn Dundee’s season around and there is a chance that they could stay up if they start winning games very quickly.
However, the club have also seen in the past few seasons how expensive signings can quickly lead to debt, cut-backs and possibly administration. If Dundee are relegated then it is possible that they could find themselves paying for these expensive transfers for a long time.