Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Big spending Dundee on the up
There's a radical new uprising in the City of Discovery. Dundee have too often lived in the shadows of their neighbours United, but now it's the Dark Blues who are making the headlines.
They might ply their trade in the First Division, one league below the Tangerines, but they are certainly creating a real stir north of the border this season.
In fact, the Dens Park side are the second highest spending team in Scotland behind Celtic thanks to some new financial backing from Aberdeen oil tycoon Calum Melville.
Manager Jocky Scott has enjoyed a healthy transfer budget to work with this summer. He's been busy searching for the right blend of youth and experience to fire his side up to the SPL alongside some of the so-called bigger boys.
That's seen Scott blaze a trail in the transfer market splashing out more cash than clubs like Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs. Scott spent £150,000 to lure Gary Harkins to Dens Park from Partick Thistle, while Dundee also paid £125,000 for Livingston's Leigh Griffiths.
Those figures may seem relatively small in comparison to the huge fees regularly paid by clubs in England, but in Scottish terms they now equate to big bucks. It's remarkable to think that a First Division club has been able to invest more in their squad than the team that won the SPL championship last season.
Rangers pruned their squad significantly during the close season and manager Walter Smith only added one new face in French winger Jerome Rothen, who moved to Ibrox on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. But those are the bare facts and while the global financial meltdown affects some of the big hitters others are able to fly under the radar.
Scott may have made more of a statement by paying £275,000 for Harkins and Griffiths but he's also strengthened the squad in other ways. Dundee raided the Highlands by landing Brian Kerr from Inverness Caley Thistle and Ross County duo Ritchie Hart and Sean Higgins. Pat Clarke was added to the squad after leaving Clyde following their financial problems.
But perhaps Dundee's biggest coup yet has been the capture of Slovakian international Maros Klimpl following his release from Danish side FC Midtjylland. The midfielder starred for Motherwell during a loan spell last season and had been tipped to follow his old Fir Park boss Mark McGhee north to Pittodrie.
Klimpl, who marked his Dens debut with a win over Dunfermline, was also on trial at English Championship side Cardiff City during the close season but failed to win a deal with the Bluebirds. The Slovakian will be looking for an immediate return to the SPL and his form could be crucial in the race to win the First Division title.
Harkins, Hart, Kerr and Klimpl have all added a new strength in depth to Dundee's midfield while Higgins, Clarke and Griffiths have beefed up the Dark Blues in attack.
Scott's side have made a solid start to the new season but the experienced boss knows he needs to win promotion to the top flight or he'll be under severe pressure. But, with Melville now involved, Scott is certain to win further financial backing come January if he needs to improve his squad when the transfer window reopens.
Melville, a successful businessman, is clearly very ambitious and wants nothing less from Dundee to be playing top flight football in the very near future.
"I think Dundee have the potential to be a top six SPL club, although we have to be realistic," he said. "We're never going to compete with Rangers and Celtic. We can be a sustainable club playing SPL football every season. That's a perfectly reasonable aspiration.
"You have to invest to get into the SPL to get yourself into that sustainable position. But having said that we're in an extremely fortunate position in that we've got no debt. However, the board of directors can't do this alone, it's up to everyone that genuinely supports Dundee in the city to buy a season ticket and support the team."
The Dark Blues will face competition for promotion from Ross County, Raith Rovers and the former SPL side Inverness Caley Thistle. But Scott has the added luxury of good strength in depth with his squad which could well hold the key to his promotion bid.
He'll also be looking for a return from his big money summer signings in a bid to make the push for glory.
Harkins is still relatively untried but is expected to provide the creative flair in midfield for the Blues. Griffiths is still young and although he has been tipped for a bright future he can't be expected to shoulder all the goal scoring responsibilities on his slim shoulders.
No matter what happens during the course of the season it's sure to be an exciting campaign for Dundee and their supporters.