There is no such thing as a quiet day at Dundee FC, let alone a quiet year. 2010 was no exception to this as the Dens Park club threw up more drama on and off the pitch than any other club in Scotland.
We entered the year with justifiable optimism. We had so far only lost two games that season, Queen of The South away and Rangers in the CIS Cup. We were unbeaten at Dens in the league. We were sitting top with fellow favourites ICT and Dunfermline more than 10 points adrift of our pace. We’d even won the Challenge Cup.
Despite this, not all fans were completely happy with the way the season was shaping out. We were grinding out results but we weren’t winning as easy as many had tipped us to. From the 1-0 win against Morton on first day of the season, match reports involving Dundee described us as “lucky” and contained phrases such as “held on for victory”. It was clear that our spending didn’t make us automatic champions, we were fighting hard for our points.
The signs of a turbulent year ahead became evident in the first few days of the year. Dundee were scheduled to play bottom-placed Airdrie away but with the freezing temperatures it was clear the game had no chance of being played at New Broomfield. Dundee, eager to continue their impressive run of results in December, agreed to a fixture switch which would see the game be played at Dens and March’s fixture played at Airdrie. At first this seemed a great idea but with hindsight it was a disaster as Airdrie ran out 1-0 winners against a Dundee team that created a humiliating nothing.
Just as Dundee do however, the team bounced back immediately in their next game with a 3-2 victory against Dunfermline at Dens. An early goal from Griffiths was immediately cancelled out by Dunfermline but McMenamin put Dundee in front again before half-time. Second half, Dunfermline were dominant; getting the eqauliser and looking best placed to score a winner. It was however Griffiths who fired home the third goal late on to send the Dees 11 points clear at the top of the table.
On to the Scottish Cup and Dundee had a tie away to Livingstone. On paper Dundee looked dead-certs to be in the draw for the next round but the Third Division side pushed us all the way. In the end it took a Gary Harkins wonderstrike to separate the teams.
Next up was Queen of the South away. Palmerston is seen as a bogey ground for the Dark Blues but things were looking bright when Dundee were awarded a penalty in the first minute. unfortunately the bogey came back to bite (whatever that means) when Harkins’ penalty was parried to safety by the Queens keeper; Queens counter-attacked, won a free-kick just outside the box and Bob Harris expertly slotted it past Douglas. Dundee pressed hard in the second half and got their reward when Griffiths finished well from a distance.
Dundee were back at home for the final game of January but they failed to re-establish fortress Dens as Ross County ran out 1-0 victors. It was a lethargic performance all round for Dundee against Derek Adams’ well organised team and it also meant Dundee’s point advantage over County, who had three games in hand, was now only six points.
The new month first brought a Scottish Cup tie against Ayr United at Dens. Dundee were again favourites and people had already began to discuss the prospect of Raith Rovers in the quarter-finals but in typical fashion it was Ayr who started the brighter. Ex-Dee Tam McManus put the Honest Men in front within ten minutes. Ayr then had more chances but on-loan striker Ben Hutchinson put Dundee back on level terms before the interval. The Dees took control of the second half and eventually got the breakthrough when Ayr’s, ex-Dee, ginger keeper Craig Samson punched a Harkins free-kick into the face of Griffiths and the ball ended up in the net. Late on, it took a couple of wondersaves from Rab Douglas to book Dundee’s place in the quarters.
The only other action in February was an uneventful 1-0 home win over Partick. If I can remember correctly the only thing worth comment in this match was the goal; a thunderbolt from Eric Paton.
This result meant that Dundee were now 8 points clear at the top but with the other contenders all having games in hand nobody really knew where they stood. There was nothing we, the fans, could do but speculate. Personally, I subscribed to the theory that points on the board were better than games in hand and I couldn’t see County or Oueens going on a winning run to overtake us. Despite their early stuttering start where they suffered from the usual “first season syndrome”, Inverness were now looking like our biggest challengers. They had gone since early December unbeaten and were scoring goals for fun.
March and the season came to crunch time. Dundee had no less than seven games this month and I remember thinking that this was the exact reason that Jocky the Genius had built such an inflated squad. Now was our time to shine, all we had to do was keep the results going and we’d be in the SPL next season.
First game of the month and there’s no better to serve to the title of “crunch time” than a meeting between the two main contenders. Inverness came to Dens and immediately took the game to the Dark Blues. The first half saw Caley be completely dominant yet somewhat fruitless with Adam Rooney missing an absolute sitter. A massive sigh of relief came at half-time as the teams went in level, time for Jocky to give them a kick in the arse and get them up for it. But it wasn’t to be as seconds after the restart Caley got the opener. Dundee looked deflated and Caley soon got a second then set about killing off the game. Brian Kerr’s volley got the Dees back into with 15 minutes to go. With the crowd behind them and the memories of the Challenge Cup Final fresh in their minds the Dees surged for an eqauliser. It came, somewhat luckily, when a Gary Harkins shot from distance was wildly deflected into the net. The Derry went mental. “2-0 and you f**ked it up!”
Raith Rovers came to Dens next. The Fifers brought through a big away support and both sets of fans were excited about the chance of a trip to Hampden for the Scottish Cup Semis. As was the norm for away teams, Raith came flying out the traps. In a frantic opening quarter of an hour Raith had scored twice and had one wrongly chopped off. Griffith had hit the post for the Dees but going in at half-time, Dundee were stunned. Second half and Craig Forsyth pulled one back. Another dramatic comeback was on the cards but it didn’t materialise this time. (Highlights of this match can be seen in three parts. Here, here and here.)
With all cup competitions out-of-the-way Dundee now had only the league to concentrate on. There was 11 games left with 8 of these being away trips. Ayr United’s Somerset Park was the first and Dundee put in an average performance with the game ending 1-1. After this game the table was more clear; Inverness were now only 4 points behind having caught-up with their games in hand. Ross County were still in the best position to mount a challenge though with 6 points to caught-up and two games in hand.
Jocky signed veteran Bob Malcolm to bolster the defence but some of his summer signing had not yet featured at all in the season and some fans had already began to question the manager’s decision-making and choice of tactics from earlier on in the season. It was clear by now that a large number of supporters had lost faith in the boss but it was the 3-0 defeat to Airdrie that finally turned the majority against him. Dundee were simply awful that day and it was announced later than night that Scott had been sacked.
After initial talks with Partick Thistle and Ian McCall, Dundee’s search for a new management team ended up bringing in Gordon Chisholm and Billy Dodds from Queen of the South. Both were said to have been on very healthy salaries and a big fee was paid to Queens to secure their services. The task for the new gaffer was simple, steady the ship and steer the Dee’s to promotion.
First game for the management was Queens at Dens, live on BBC ALBA. It was looking good at half-time after Leigh Griffiths won and converted a penalty for Dundee, as the Queens defender saw red for the challenge. However, Bob Harris popped up with another wonderful free-kick to draw the visitors level. Dundee thought they had been awarded a second penalty in injury time but the referee changed his mind upon consultation with his assistant. So Queens held on.
Next up for the Challenge Cup holders was Ross County. A must win games as there was by this stage really no ground between us, Inverness and County. It was Dundee who took the lead at Victoria park through Ben Hutchinson but Steven Craig’s late equaliser not only kept Ross County in the title hunt but led to Dundee being knocked off the top of the table to Inverness.
It was argued that Chisholm and Dodds needed time to get to know the players and work out their best system. By the next match it was vital that they’d worked their magic and that we got a win result at Dunfermline. However, sitting in East End Park at half-time with Dundee 2-0 down and creating nothing, I began to wonder if we really had made the right choice of sacking Jocky. Harkins pulled one back in the last-minute but it was too late; another defeat and heading into April we were now 4 points off Inverness.
April started brightly for the Dees. A Colin McMenamin double and Sean Higgins strike saw Dundee win 3-0 at home to Ayr then a Pat Clarke header secured the points away to Partick Thistle.
Dundee next travelled to Morton and gave the season’s usual performance of going 2-0 down by half-time. Harkins and Griffiths did draw it level in the second half but by then we were relying on Inverness to slip-up.
A double-header against Raith Rovers brought us through to the end of April. Firstly a 1-0 defeat at Starks Park which confirmed Inverness as champions. The highlight of the match was 49-year-old goalkeeping coach Bobby Geddes being brought on as a substitute to replace the injured Tony Bullock. Then the match at Dens Park where Dundee ran out 2-0 winners; goals coming from Sean Higgins and a Gary Harkins penalty.
Inverness had confirmed their deserved status as Champions by thrashing Ayr United 7-0 in the penultimate game of the season. Now they could lift the league trophy in front of their home supporters but first they’d have to play the last game of the season and unfortunately for us, it was against Dundee. Chisholm’s team, playing for nothing but pride, put up a good fight: hit the post and pulled a tremendous save from the Caley keeper, but eventually went down 1-0.
Inverness ended off the season in champion-like fashion with 9 wins on the trot. It was a brave fight (at times) from Dundee, but in the end, we have to be objective and admit that over the course of the season, we didn’t perform well enough as a squad. Individual displays from players like Harkins, Griffiths and Douglas carried us through the disappointing season. One might dwell on the fact that if we had got rid of Jocky earlier, results might have picked up or maybe we shouldn’t have let him go at all, he did get us to the top of the league after all. But it’s not worth dealing in hypotheticals now.
Onto the new season. The era of Jocky was well and truly over. It was a fresh start for Chisholm and Dodds.
Dominic Shimmin became Gordon Chisholms first signing. Upon signing Dominic said “I’m very comfortable on the ball, very athletic and I think I’m quick, I’m strong and good in the air – just the general things you need to be a modern day centre half.” Looking back at this now I wonder why he didn’t mention that he was injury prone?
Chris Casement, Brian Deasley, Richie Hart, Pat Clarke and Maros Klimpl had their contracts terminated.
After a quiet June, some more news started coming out of Dens in July. Chisholm signed keeper Scott Fox, Stephen O’Donnell, Gary Irvine and Nicky Riley while Jamie Adams joined on loan.
The Dees played their first pre-seaon game in front of supporters with an uninteresting 1-1 draw with Arbroath. Colin McMenamin was Dundee’s scorer.
The next game was competitive with Dundee beginning their defense of the Alba Challenge Cup at home to Alloa. With just five minutes remaining of the tie the Dark Blues trailed 1-0 but McMenamin equalised and Sean Higgins got the winner in injury time to avoid an embarrassing early exit.
Dundee continued pre-season with a 4-1 win over Forfar. Craig Foysth put Dundee ahead in the first half and made it 2-0 after the break before Colin McMenamin and substitute Leigh Griffiths got themselves on the scoresheet.
Pre-season ended with a 4-0 win over Montrose in the Co-Op Cup First Round. New signing Nicky Riley notched two while Leigh Griffiths scored another from the penalty spot.
The league campaign started with a 1-0 win over Queen of the South at Dens. Heroes of the day were goal-scorer Gary Harkins and penalty-saver Rab Douglas. Villain was the referee for sending off Riley and trialist Netan Sansara after soft yellow cards.
The perfect 3-pointer start to the season however, was followed by a shock ALBA Cup exit as we went down 4-1 to Stenhousemuir. This was followed by a 1-0 away loss to Partick and 0-0 draw to Ross County at Dens.
Matt Lockwood and Charlie Grant were added to the squad on short-term deals but the disappointing month was capped off with the exit from the League Cup at the hands of Brechin City. Despite having a man sent off Brechin took a 2-0 lead before a Griffiths brace saw the Dees eqaulise. Dundee pushed for the winner and were awarded a penalty but Griffith missed the chance of a hat-trick; striking the ball high and wide to send the game into extra-time and eventually penalties. Paton, O’Donnell and Riley failed to convert their penalties meaning Brechin progressed.
Just as Dundee do however, the team bounced back immediately with a win over title contenders Falkirk at Dens, 2-0. O’Donnell and Riley got the goals within minutes of each other and just before half-time. Falkirk pressured Dundee, second half after keeper Rab Douglas was sent-off for bringing down a Bairns player.
Chisholm made more additions to the team with Njazi Kuqi signing and David Wittenveen coming in on loan from Hearts. But the next match ended in a disappointing 3-1 defeat at East End Park with Dundee playing like a shadow of the team that took apart Falkirk in the first half at Dens.
The month continued with a dire goal-less draw against Raith Rovers in Dundee; Rab Douglas having to pull out another fine penalty save to secure a point.
September finished with another embarrassing away defeat at the hands of Cowdenbeath. The hosts took a 2-0 lead in the first half with Dundee not really coming into the game until the final half-hour. Sparky got a goal back and had chances to go level but the best of his efforts hit the bar.
By this time it was clear that the season was not going as planned. The management duo had lost the support of the fans and calls for their dismissal were coming in from all directions. However the season was turned on its head when news started coming out of Dens that financial backer Calum Melville had offered his resignation from the club’s board. With the rumour mill in full force, days of uncertainty followed. It eventually became apparent that Dundee would be plunged into administration again due to a large unpaid tax bill and debts to directors.
Doubts about the future had to be put aside for the visit of Morton early in October. Matt Lockwood opened the scoring from the spot before Morton eqaulised just before the interval. Backed by a big and loud home crowd, the players rallied in the second half and a Colin McMenamin goal secured a spirited 3 points.
The fans applauded the players all the way off the park after the Morton result. We knew that it would be the last time we’d see some of the players at Dens. On the 16th, Dundee made 13 redundancies, Gordon Chisholm and Billy Dodds were laid off, along with nine of the first-team squad. The Dark Blues were left with a playing squad of only 13 and the club’s chances of surviving were rated at no more than 50-50 by administrator Bryan Jackson.
Barry Smith was handed the managerial duties and was plunged straight into the deep end with a game the next day, away to Stirling Albion. A large number Dees travelled to Forthbank and it was Dundee who took the lead through Leigh Griffiths’ strike. Albion drew level later on but the performance from both the players and fans showed that we were up for the survival fight.
Next up for the Dees was Dunfermline at home. Two Matt Lockwood hand-balls in the space of 5 minutes put Dunfermline in front after they converted both penalties but Dundee again showed fighting spirit by fighting back through Griffiths and Higgins goals.
The final game of October was a 3-3 thriller at the Falkirk Stadium. Another large travelling support saw Dundee start brilliantly with Griffiths and Higgins putting the Dark Blues 2-0 up after just 10 minutes. Two quick-fire goals saw Falkirk level in the second half but on-loan striker David Witteveen stuck Dundee back in front with 5 minutes to go. The goal caused brilliant scenes in the Dundee support with supporters joining the players on the pitch in celebration. The jubilation however, was sort-lived as the referee awarded Falkirk a penalty minutes later to level the scores at 3-3.
Attention now turned to the SFL’s punishment for Dundee entering administration. It was announced that they would deduct us 25 points. The harsh decision was greeted with outraged and was seen as detrimental to the SFL’s aim of protecting their member club’s safety.
Dundee fans chose the home game against Partick Thistle to show their “Deefinance” against the SFL’s decision which had endangered the future of the club. As the players walked out onto the pitch over 6,000 Dees held red cards and the Derry sung “No one like’s us, we don’t care” (Video below). Leigh Griffiths put Dundee in front with a superb long-range strike but Partick equalised on the hour. Just when it was looking like it would be the fourth draw on the bounce for Barry Smith’s men, on-loan Jamie Adams flicked the ball into the net resulting in wild scenes in the Dundee support.
The Dees then travelled north to Dingwall and secured their first away win of the season with a 3-0 win. Goals came from Nicky Rielly and two from Griffiths meaning the striker had netted 6 in the 5 games that Smith had been in charge.
November also saw fans fundraising efforts go into full flow. Craig Robertson, a Lochee United player and lifelong Dee, chose to donate all his testimonial money to the DFCSS fund whilst other fans climbed Ben Nevis for sponsorship.
Dundee, now on a six game unbeaten run, went into December with a little more optimism. There was still serious doubts over the future but results on the pitch were picking up, fans were raising money and the club had appealed the SFL’s decision so the point deduction hadn’t been put into effect yet.
Matt Lockwood’s penalty handed the Dark Blues their seventh match in a row undefeated with a 1-0 win at Morton. Then the Dees took apart Cowdenbeath 3-0 at Dens; goals coming from Forsyth, Riley and McKeown.
The 17th brought the news that Dundee’s appeal had been rejected so the 25 point penalty stood. However, the club submitted a further appeal; this time to the SFA against the SFL’s decision-making process.
Dundee’s last game of 2010 came at home to Stirling. The Dee’s continuing their impressive end of the year with a 2-0 win with the goals coming from O’Donnell and Griffiths.
The final news to come out of Dens of 2010 was a joint statement from the DFCSS and the Dark Blue’s Business Club to say that both are working together in the attempt to secure the future of the club for the fans.
Who know’s what it will bring. A lot depends on the eventual punishment that we receive. Right now it’s important that we continue this impressive run that Barry’s got us on as every point will be important come the end of the season. We could be in a relegation battle or if the punishment gets reduced to 10 ponts (the deduction that most other footballing governing bodies impose) then we’ve got a promotion fight on our hands.