Review of last season – Champions. In a division where Hamilton, Falkirk and Dundee all tried their hardest to not win the Championship it was Dundee who managed to finally put together a run of results that secured them the title on the final day of the season. Dundee were always challenging for the title last year under former manager John Brown but the decision was made in February to remove him from his position and replace him with Paul Hartley. Despite dropping some very important points towards the end of the season Dundee became a stronger team under Hartley and the club as a whole went through some positive changes at boardroom level. New investment gave the club the opportunity to make changes behind the scenes and Dundee finally became a stable club with a proper infrastructure after a few years of uncertainty over finances.
Players in – Kevin Thomson (Midfielder, Hibernian), James McPake (Defender, Hibernian), Simon Ferry (Midfielder, Portsmouth), Gary Harkins (Midfielder, St.Mirren), Paul McGowan (Midfielder, St.Mirren), Paul McGinn (Defender, Dumbarton), Greg Stewart (Striker, Cowdenbeath), Philip Roberts (Striker, Falkirk), Scott Bain (Goalkeeper, Alloa), Grant Adam (Goalkeeper, Airdrie).
Players out – Dan Twardzik (Motherwell), Christian Nade (Raith Rovers), Declan Gallagher (Livingston), Ryan Conroy (Raith Rovers), John Gibson (Alloa Athletic), Steven Doris (Stirling Albion), Gavin Rae (Free), Craig Beattie (Free), Stephen O’Donnnell (Free), Stephen Hughes (Free), Matt Lockwood (Sutton United), Sean Bonnett-Johnson (Free), Leighton McIntosh (Free).
What they still need – Looking at Dundee’s squad I think they still miss a commanding central defender. The worry for me is that James McPake has had a horrendous time with injuries in the last few seasons and if they get an injury at the back then it starts to look very light in that area. Going forward the midfield on paper is very strong but I think a proven goalscorer is still needed. Dundee have a few options for upfront but other than Peter McDonald who is now getting on a bit they don’t have the experienced striker that might be needed in the top division. Dundee’s midfield will create plenty of chances but it is whether or not they have the firepower to finish those opportunities that might hold Dundee back.
Expectations this season – There is plenty of optimism around Dens Park and rightly so. Paul Hartley is doing all the right things and making some smart signings. Much work is going on behind the scenes to sort out the youth development side of things and at long last it seems as though Dundee are beginning to lay solid foundations that will keep them in the Premiership. As for this season the expectation should simply be remaining in the division, anything else is a bonus. Securing their place in Scotland’s top flight will allow them to plan and prepare in a way that has eluded them in the past few years.
Key player – I think one of the signings of the summer might turn out to be Kevin Thomson and I know some people might disagree with that. There is no doubt that Thomson has completely lost his way in recent years but he arrives at Dundee with a desire to prove people wrong and get his career back on track. People forget he is still only 29 and that he has a wealth of experience behind him. I think the environment he is working in at Dundee will benefit him greatly and in turn benefit the team. He has been made club captain and that is a world away from being frozen out last term under Terry Butcher at Hibs. Football players with something to prove sometimes turn out to be fantastic signings. I think Thomson will be key to Dundee’s survival this year.
Young player to look out for – With Dundee trying to stay in the division this year it will be interesting to see how much game time some of Dundee’s young players get. Some managers like to protect their youngsters when the team are under pressure but I think Hartley will give some of his young players time to shine this year. One player that has been talked up locally and one that is making an impact at youth level internationally is Craig Wighton. He is a tall, athletic and powerful young striker that might just make an impact this year and is definitely destined for great things. There is a possibility that Wighton might end up going out on loan this year but hopefully he gets a chance to prove himself in the first team.
Opinion on Dundee – I’ve changed my mind a few times on Dundee recently. Originally I had them down to finish reasonably high up the table because I think that Paul Hartley is a very talented young manager and is making the right kind of moves to build a good Dundee side. He is ensuring that the club is being run well and has shuffled his coaching staff to ensure that the players are training in the right environment. The club made some good signings and I think Dundee’s midfield are looking very strong. However having thought about it again the thing that might let Dundee down this year is their fairly thin central defensive cover and the lack of proven goal scorers going forward. I don’t think Dundee are in any danger of going down this year and I think that they will surprise a few people but I still think they are three or four players away from a side that can begin to push the top six.
Prediction for this season – 9th