The most frustrating element of the close season for any football fan has to be the constant transfer rumours pinging around forums and social media. The frustration lies in part with the obvious trolls- the “I saw X at Dens/Greggs in the Overgate today” crowd- and in part with the persistent rumours that are not resolved or that seem to fall through at the last minute.
However, despite these ongoing frustrations, for the first season in some time, Dundee seem to be playing a canny game in the transfer market. Rather than rushing- as we had to in 2012/13- to sign any free agent or journeyman we could possibly lay our hands on, or causing transfer fees to rack up due to loose lips about our targets (hello second administration), Hartley has operated under the radar. It’s widely accepted that we’re looking at Scott Vernon, Kevin Thomson and Alloa goalkeeper Scott Bain, but other than that Dark Blue fans are feeding off hearsay and guesses. Given the scale of our rebuilding job- I would imagine we will be signing 7 or 8 players in addition to extending the contracts of some of last season’s team- this is still a relatively low-level of leakage.
If we accept that Scott Bain of Alloa will be our back up goalkeeper, that leaves an experienced centre half, competition for Willie Dyer at left-back and Cammy Kerr at right-back, a starting midfield general, the elusive “creative midfielder”, a proven goalscorer and some more competition out wide as must-fill areas. It seems that those released from Hibs, Hearts and St Johnstone are favourites to fill these slots, but I expect a couple of these positions to be taken by unknown quantities from the English lower leagues or further afield.
Hartley absorbed scouting into his own remit when he was appointed, and given the changes he has implemented already at the club I’m sure he’ll surprise the fans with his signings. It’s been heartening to see that there are very few fans who have criticised Hartley so far for perceived inaction (a foolish charge anyway, given that the close season is still so young) or for those he has signed (Phil Roberts’ attitude has been questioned by some). This relative lack of pressure, and the relative freedom Hartley has to build a squad for the Premiership in his own image, is a welcome change from previous seasons. Too many armchair managers are quick to judge players brought in to their club, even those they’ve never seen or heard of before, but that trait is yet to emerge thanks to the confidence the fans have in Hartley.