Dundee show deep spirit in the face of adversity

Docked points, deep in debt and with a very uncertain future, Dundee deserve plaudits for Saturday's win, says William Heaney

The weekend headlines in Scotland have been claimed by Celtic after their nine-goal-fest against Aberdeen, along with Motherwell and Kilmarnock who recorded impressive away wins. There was also the mayhem of the Edinburgh derby. However, arguably the best performance of the lot was Dundee’s 2-1 win over Partick Thistle in the First Division.

The scoreline may not have sent shockwaves around the football world, but given the week the Dens Park club have endured, they deserve credit for achieving any kind of result.

With the future of the club already in serious doubt due to a £365,000 tax bill owed to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Scottish Football League have deducted 25 points from the Dark Blues after they entered administration for the second time in seven years. They have also banned the club from signing any new players until they emerge from administration.

These penalties are merely the latest nails in Dundee’s coffin, having already had to make management team Gordon Chisholm and Billy Dodds redundant, along with nine players. The club have the right to appeal against the penalties imposed, but if unsuccessful, they are looking at the prospect of being stranded at the bottom of the table with a minus points total.

The current financial situation is a direct consequence of businessman Calum Melville joining the board in early 2009. His investment meant that suddenly Dundee had money to spend and, in Scottish terms, were big players in the transfer market. During the summer months prior to the 2009/10 campaign, only Celtic invested more in players.

With expensive signings like Gary Harkins and Leigh Griffiths within their ranks, there could only be one aim: promotion to the SPL. Initially, it was all going to plan, but a poor run saw boss Jocky Scott axed despite Dundee still being top of the table. And in the second half of the season Inverness Caley Thistle overtook the Dark Blues to clinch the title, and a place in the top flight.

Trying to buy the First Division crown had backfired in spectacular fashion, and this failure was compounded by Melville’s seeming reluctance to put as much money into the club as he had done initially. Whether he had lost interest or had financial worries of his own is unclear, but Melville has now left the board of directors.

"Two careless previous owners..."

Now, Dundee can only dream of challenging at the top of the table. While they still have a side capable of competing with the best the First Division has to offer, they could be forgiven for lacking somewhat in motivation, given the likely points deficit they will face.

However, Saturday’s display showed that the players who remain have the stomach for the fight, clinching victory with a Jamie Adams strike just four minutes from time. Thistle had levelled the game after a long-range opener from Griffiths, who looks likely to be sold in the January transfer window to raise some much-needed funds.

It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Dundee’s players: they’ve done nothing wrong, yet their livelihoods are at risk. They do at least have the option of moving to another club, unlike the long-suffering fans who are the real victims.

For the second time in a decade, Dundee supporters have been promised the earth by ‘millionaire businessmen’, only to see their club almost run into the ground on two separate occasions by patter merchants unable to back up their big talk. Back in 2003, James and Peter Marr ran up debts of over £20 million, signing the likes of Claudio Cannigia and Fabrizio Ravanelli. This time it’s Melville.

Dee4Life, the Dundee supporters trust, will continue to carry on the fight, but there are real concerns for the future of Dundee FC. A club with such a proud history, including semi-final appearances in the European Cup and Fairs-Cities Cup back in the 60s, will now do well to be in business at the start of next season. Though it wasn’t required, we now have yet another example of the perils of football clubs chasing the dream. 

William Heaney edits Scottish football blog FootballFutbalFitba.