Dee-fiant hero Leighton recalls ‘whirlwind’ start at Dundee as he opens new chapter in his career

Dee-fiant goal hero Leighton McIntosh is swiftly becoming a fans favourite at Arbroath as they aim for a play-off place in League One.

McIntosh, though, says he learned a huge amount from his “whirlwind” start to his career as a 17-year-old parachuted in to help a beleaguered first team at Dens.

Back in 2010-11, with the club plunged into administration and hit with a 25-point deduction while in the First Division, Barry Smith’s Dundee side upset the odds by staying up.

Leighton McIntosh wheels away after scoring the winner for Dundee at Ross County to secure his side’s safety from relegation in 2011.

And it was McIntosh himself who grabbed the headlines with his fourth goal in three games sealing a 1-0 victory at Ross County to keep the Dark Blues in the First Division.

He said: “It was a crazy time. I still get Dundee fans coming up to me and saying they were at the Ross County game and things like that.

“I don’t think I understood the severity of what was going on back then.

“When you’re young the only thing you care about is trying to get into the first team and getting more goals.

“It was all a whirlwind to be honest. Just getting the chance to play was enough for me let alone managing to score goals and pick up a Young Player of the Month award.

Leighton McIntosh pictured in 2012

“In that administration season there were a lot of young players called up but I managed to take my chance.

“I was 17 — it feels like a really long time ago now!”

A three-year contract followed in May 2011 but at the end of that, after 37 games and five goals, McIntosh was released by the club.

“I picked up a few bad injuries. A lot of people at Dundee knew I was struggling with a lot of injuries when I was younger.

“I had a chance of a three-year contract to play full-time and develop but the injuries were frustrating.

“I had hip and glute problems and the biggest frustration was it took so long to be properly diagnosed.

“I was back and forth all the time — one day I would be training then I was in agony and then fine again.

“It really hindered my progress when I was young.

“It took nine or 10 months to get properly diagnosed and then get me back playing. It was frustrating but it taught me a lot.

Arbroath’s Leighton McIntosh gets stuck in against Forfar’s Kevin McNaughton (centre) and Jamie Bain during the recent Angus derby.

“I’m an entirely different player now than I was then, I feel like I’ve improved a lot and understand the game a lot more now.”

Now 24, McIntosh has put those injury problems behind him and, after a short spell in Iceland at the start of this season, he’s been making a name for himself again — this time at Gayfield.

Six goals in his first seven games for the Red Lichties has helped fire Dick Campbell’s side into the hunt for a play-off place and a chance for a second promotion on the trot.

He said: “Steven Doris got a bad injury and they were looking for a striker.

“I had to sign on amateur terms until I got clearance and I’ve got a few goals so it’s going well.

“The boys have done so well to get this far considering the club just came up from League Two last season.

“We’d be stupid not to aim for a play-off position. We’ll be taking it game by game as usual and every game is a hard game but we’re definitely pushing for a play-off place.

“We have the ability in the squad to do it and I always think we can score goals against anybody.

“I’ve been given a chance by Dick Campbell and I feel like I’ve taken it so far. We’ve a good squad and a good bunch of lads which makes it so much better.

“Hopefully, I can keep helping the team get good results.”

His spell in Iceland was a short one – shorter than he realised it would be at the start anyway.

After signing for second-tier side UMF Selfoss in August, McIntosh turned out five times, scoring the one goal, before the end of the campaign saw a return home to Scotland.

He said: “The team were looking for a striker and I’d always wanted to play in another country ever since I was young.

“I went for it head on and signed to the end of the season – which wasn’t nearly as far away as I thought!

“It was a small town but football was everything there. The standard was good, too. We played some of the teams at the top of our league and they were really good quality – there were players there you’d say would be good in the Championship.

“A few of the teams were League Two standard and we were somewhere in between. The football there, though, is a lot more patient in the build-up than here. It took time to adjust because I like to get in behind and get chances. In Scotland it’s a lot more fast-paced.

“A lot of players do things the right way over there and sport conditioning is taken very seriously.”

“There are tons of things done with the kids and community as well, Selfoss is a very community-driven place.”

McIntosh has now scored in his last three games, including last week’s winner against league leaders Ayr United and the winner in the Angus derby against Forfar on January 2.

This weekend the Lichties take on ninth-placed Queen’s Park aiming to consolidate their place in the final play-off spot in League One.