Dundee’s pre-season opener against Forfar Athletic may have been purely an exercise in building up fitness ahead of the Premiership season.
However, the 3-0 win at Station Park clearly demonstrated one undeniable factor affecting the Dark Blues’ chances in the top flight.
That the difference between success and failure is likely to come down to keeping skipper Charlie Adam fit and finding him space in the middle of the park.
Just because it is obvious doesn’t make it any less true for Dees as their team return to the top table of Scottish football.
Of course, a player with 26 international caps and over 200 English Premier League appearances to his name would be an asset.
But as most players were shaking off the cobwebs in the first friendly of pre-season at Forfar on Saturday, Adam’s left foot looked in pristine condition.
— Dundee Football Club (@DundeeFC) June 26, 2021
Yes, he was afforded more space against League Two opposition in a pre-season friendly than he will against Premiership sides in the middle of a league campaign.
Six minutes, three assists
However, his six-minute burst at the start of the second half at Station Park showed just how devastating his passing range can be.
Danny Mullen’s opening goal was a run-of-the-mill cross for someone like Adam.
The quality of it, though, out-foxed experienced campaigner Gary Irvine’s positioning and landed right on the foot of the Dundee striker.
That was just the starter for the Dens skipper as his appetite warmed up.
Moments later came the main course, dropping a long ball over the defence with pinpoint accuracy.
Paul McMullan took it perfectly, beating his man in the process, and fired past the goalkeeper for 2-0.
Then came the dessert, full of sugary goodness, as Adam placed the ball perfectly behind the Forfar defence for Luke McCowan.
The weight of the pass enticed goalkeeper Marc McCallum out of his goal, allowing new signing McCowan to nip round him and score.
The 200 Forfar fans in attendance had been quietly pleased with their side’s performance up to then.
However, there were audible gasps of appreciation at watching a player with the sort of talent Adam possesses.
And after each goal helpless shrugs suggesting ‘what can you do?’ when Dundee players celebrated.
And the display more than backed up manager James McPake’ assertion that his talisman would be even better for Dundee in the top flight this term.
Plenty to please James McPake
The Dens gaffer also had plenty more to be pleased about.
Changing his entire team at half-time, the goals came in the second half.
However, the opening period saw Alex Jakubiak return to the side after a forgettable debut season heavily disrupted by injury.
He looked very bright up front while Max Anderson shone in midfield.
The second half upped the tempo, however, as the goals arrived.
Forfar were unable to cope with Dundee’s runs in behind combined with Adam’s passing.
Fin Robertson also made a welcome comeback after last season ended early through an ankle injury while new signing Ryan Sweeney made his first outing.
A first clearance that skewed over the stand notwithstanding, the former Stoke and Mansfield man showed his power at the back, winning some impressive headers.
And trialist Corey Panter has something to offer at left-back, too, though McPake admits he’s yet to make a decision on whether to take the Luton man on loan.
Getting minutes into his players was the first job for the Dens boss but he was pleased to see another victory racked up.
In the closing stages of last season, Dundee were a team used to winning matches.
The key for them is to keep that particular habit going into the new season.
Who knows where it might take them?