For the first time as a Dundee fan, I feel that the Club has a real long-term plan in place. There have obviously been times in the past- the Bonetti era, the Calum Melville era- when the club has made big-name signings that have excited the fans, but there was always a nagging feeling (even before the brown stuff inevitably made its way into the fan) that this “progress” was a house of cards, with money being splurged rather than invested. We now seem to be matching solid, well-received football decisions with progress off the park, and in a strange way it’s these structural changes that are the most exciting.
Today, the Supporters’ Society posted an update on the work being done to revamp Dens Park. Designed by Archibald Leitch (the Main Stand being the one remaining aspect of the famous architect’s design), Dens has not been seen at its best for some time. However, this summer has seen a lot of investment in the facilities at Dens. For the players, this will be most evident in the changing rooms, which are being fitted with new flooring, ventilation, lockers, showers and bespoke ice tanks, as well as an interactive whiteboard for Hartley to work his magic; for the fans, the refurbishment of the Main Stand and improvements made to the toilet facilities in the South Enclosure will be of most interest. The most striking feature of the changes at Dens so far, though, is the re-seeded pitch, which looks absolutely glorious and is helped in no small part by the new irrigation system also installed.
The only bugbear of (some) fans that continues to roll on is the future of the South Enclosure ( “The Derry”), which looks a bit out of place next to the other three modern stands. Any work undertaken- to extend it along the entire length of the pitch or to redevelop it entirely seem to be the two options mooted most often- would be expensive and also subject to other considerations. Given its age, there’s likely to be asbestos, which is a pain to safely remove; additionally, the stand is the spiritual home for Dundee’s most vocal fans and opinion is certainly split on both what changes could be made and what changes (if any) should be made. It’s likely that any substantial changes won’t be considered for another season or two.
All of the above, combined with the establishment of our youth academy, vastly improved communication with the fans and a stronger online presence through social media and DFC TV, have shown that the Club is operating on a much more professional footing these days. I firmly believe that this progress off the park is as responsible for the uptick in season ticket sales- already beyond last year’s figures, and with a high number of new or lapsed season ticket holders- as promotion to the Premiership. When fans see that their Club is being run professionally and with an eye to the future, it does as much for collective morale as anything on the pitch can offer. Normality and stability are not two words often associated with Dundee!
Having said that, things have been coming together nicely on the squad side too. So far, we’ve signed 6 new players- goalkeeper Scott Bain, James McPake, Kevin Thomson, Simon Ferry, Greg Stewart and Phil Roberts- and have secured the services of Cammy Kerr, Willie Dyer and Martin Boyle. Of those under contract, Hartley has told Benedictus, Conroy, Riley, Doris and Reid they’re free to find new clubs, suggesting that Letheren, Irvine, Davidson, McAlister, MacDonald and Wighton are here to stay too; of those out of contract, only McBride’s future remains to be confirmed, with a mass exodus containing the likes of Christian Nade, Gavin Rae and Craig Beattie the first action of the close season. The one disappointment was that a new contract couldn’t be agreed with Declan Gallagher, who it’s understood is wanted by other Premiership clubs.
The current team would probably line up as follows:
Irvine – McPake – Davidson – Dyer
Thomson – McAlister
Boyle – Ferry – Roberts
Subs: Bain, Kerr, McBride, McDonald, Wighton
Laid out like this, it’s clear where Hartley’s priorities lie for the rest of the transfer market. In truth, Stewart, Boyle and Roberts are probably going to be rotated on the wings with McDonald used as an impact sub, leaving us in need of another centre forward. We are currently paper-thin at the back (for my money, Davidson is better in the screening role than at the back and shouldn’t be a first choice CB), and this will be a major concern. Although we have both Irvine and Kerr as RB choices, Irvine divides opinion amongst fans and Hartley might not want to throw Kerr (or, for that matter, his fellow colt Craig Wighton) into Premiership football. The elusive, much-desired “creative midfielder” role is still to be filled too; although McAlister is one of our top players, his major attribute is his hard work across the pitch and it may be a better use of resources to keep him further back and deploy another man further forward. The manager has stated he’d like to bring in 5 or 6 more players; a CB, RB, back-up utility defender, creative midfielder and an out-and-out striker would bring balance and depth to the squad and complete a productive and promising close season.