What a difference a month makes. The last article I wrote for Scotzine on Dundee was written in the midst of the hullabaloo surrounding the appointment of John “Bomber” Brown, and like most Scottish football fans, my reaction to his appointment verged from bemusement to apoplexy. Given Bomber’s managerial record, the events leading up to the appointment and his infamous rallying call on the steps of Ibrox, the stage seemed set for a new and even more ridiculous episode in the saga of Dundee FC to unfold.
I was right – the last few months have been ridiculous. However, instead of imploding, the club have gone on a ridiculous run that has many fans (including myself) dreaming of what would surely be the greatest escape in SPL history. Bomber has injected the side with steel and a confidence that was sadly lacking before, and although we’re still not scoring goals for fun, we’ve largely eliminated the daft defensive mistakes and lapses in concentration that had become our calling card.
His tactics have been spot on, and deploying Lockwood as a sweeper and Harkins up front in place of the ineffective Colin Nish have paid dividends in recent weeks. The maddening substitutions made at times by Barry Smith have been replaced with a positive substitution policy, with Conroy’s sterling performance against Hearts this weekend reaping rewards.
Although the Rab Douglas incident (which is still a mystery to many fans) still remains to be answered, and it would be just as premature to hail him as our saviour as it was to denigrate him before he’d taken charge, there’s no doubt that Bomber has turned Dundee around and made sure that even if we do go down, we’ll go down with our heads held high.
Overall, I probably subscribe to Tom English’s analysis of his reign so far, which is that Bomber has confounded the critics with his performance so far and deserved to be made permanent manager on a 2-year contract. The improving results of the U-20 team and Bomber’s emphasis on building Dundee’s youth and scouting arms also show a commitment to the future and vision that he wasn’t properly credited with before. Bomber himself stresses his experiences as a youth/reserves coach at Rangers as a major learning curve, and so it should really be no surprise that he’s keen to put in place a sustainable future for the club in the way that Motherwell and Hibs have.
On the other hand, while I can understand Bomber’s hurt at the vitriol aimed his way upon his appointment, his confrontation with Tom English on the BBC Sportsound podcast last week was a little over the top. Indeed, while Bomber’s outspoken nature ensure that we all remain entertained during the week with his comments on everything from United to the “scent” of St Mirren, some of them (such as his comments on Bale) have probably done more harm than good to his cause. If his undoubted passion and enthusiasm can be harnessed in a fully constructive manner, then there’ll be little for the critics to target.
I’m still to be fully convinced that Bomber is the right man for the job- the real test will come if (as is likely) we’re relegated, and in the choices he makes in the close season about which of our 26 players out of contract he will retain to challenge for the 1st Division title. However, on the basis of his record so far and the belief that’s been instilled in the team since his appointment, it would be churlish to not support Bomber and the team as they attempt the impossible.