I’m 24 years old. In the 15 or so years I’ve been going to Dens, I’ve seen two administrations, one Cup final, ten managers, several derby wins (cheers, Ian McCall), two relegations and one First Division Title.
I’ve seen everybody from Claudio Caniggia and Temuri Ketsbaia to Joel Kitamirike and Jan Zemlik pull on the Dark Blue. I’ve seen absolute dirge and unbelievable skill (sometimes during the same match, or the same player). I’ve seen packed houses and ghost terraces.
However, there’s one thing I’ve not seen: consistency. We are the archetypal yo-yoing, unpredictable team of Scottish football, and while it can provide great excitement it can also be unbelievably frustrating. The early signs, combined with some healthy optimism, are that the arrival of Paul Hartley and continued investment off the park may finally allow Dundee to be more consistent and realise our potential.
Two bouts of administration, and the Enron-style antics that precipitated them, have robbed us of the chance to build slowly and for the future, eschewing the banker bet for the long-shot accumulator. Combined with some odd managerial appointments, poor transfer market acquisitions and the lack of a fully-funded, holistic youth system, Dundee fans have had little to cheer about for the past decade.
Salt has been poured into this wound by our close neighbours winning Cups, playing in Europe and bringing through some of Scotland’s most exciting players over the same period of time. This hasn’t helped the default pragmatism/pessimism/cynicism that Dundee fans tend to hold about our team’s prospects, and has undoubtedly contributed to lower crowds, creating a vicious circle of poorer finances and poorer performances.
However, even for the last home game of Bomber’s ill-fated reign, Dens attracted 4,000 home supporters- more than the average gate of three Premiership teams (Kilmarnock, ICT and Ross County), and just below that of St Johnstone’s average.
The first game under Hartley saw this increase to 5,206 – enough to put us in the top six of the Premiership by average attendance – and not at all bad for a game in early February. Although (or perhaps because) we share the city with United, we suffer less of an Old Firm drain than other parts of the country, and there is undoubtedly a large dormant fan-base that have been waiting for a reason to return to Dens.
Continuing to attract these fans to Dens for the rest of the season is vital for our title push. As well as providing the fabled “12th man”, an extra 1,000 or so on the gate- assuming few, if any, are season ticket holders, and an 80/20 split between full tickets and concessions – will generate an extra £25,000 or so per home game for the club before taking into account any extra merchandise or catering purchased.
With six home games remaining, that’s potentially £150,000 more in the club coffers that can be put towards the ongoing facility repairs/upgrades, new youth system plans or attracting Premiership-level players next season. The sums are obviously very crude, but the point remains.
For my sins, I’ve yet to see Hartley’s Dundee. However, I’ve never been as enthusiastic about booking my train tickets north for the forthcoming games against Morton and Falkirk. Here’s hoping there’s lots of fans, whether their last game was last month, last year or the last decade, that are similarly fired up.