I’m sick of sounding like a broken record but James McPake really needs to start getting a tune out of his stuttering Dees today.
Last week in this column, I said I feared the project ‘James McPake – Dundee manager’ was failing and failing fast.
However, he and his side showed they might just prove me wrong with an improved display against Hibs, albeit bowing out of the Betfred Cup following a 1-0 defeat at Easter Road.
There were signs that maybe, just maybe, he could still turn things around.
Not picking up all three points against Arbroath in the league today, however, and my story is back on.
See what I mean about a broken record?
It’s all well and good putting in a heartening performance against a high-flying Premiership side like the Hibees, but Arbroath at home is an entirely different thing altogether.
That kind of outcome just won’t do for the Dark Blues, I’m afraid.
They must win at Dens today, it’s as simple as that.
Even if they weren’t in their current slide, that would be the expectation among the Dee support, unable to voice their all-apparent discontent in person at the moment.
Given their current circumstances, not even a draw and another good display would do for under-fire boss McPake and struggling his side, in my opinion.
Anything other than victory, all three points and progress up the Championship table, at long last, should leave the Dundee hierarchy seriously questioning how they move forward.
I sincerely hope that is not the case, though.
Genuinely, I am willing McPake on to, finally, get things right after so long threatening to do so.
Hopefully, he can get the Dark Blues dancing to the same beat and back in a rhythm before long.
Finding that groove won’t be easy, that’s been the story of the 36-year-old’s whole tenure, but there are promising signs the Dee have finally found some kind of settled line-up after being dogged by injuries and Covid.
If he can get the men he trusts to deliver for him on the park against the Red Lichties today, there’s no reason why they can’t overturn Dick Campbell’s side.
After all, Arbroath have hardly set the heather alight this term, in stark contrast to taking the league by storm the previous campaign.
Of course, they, like many others in this tough second tier, always pose a danger, but Dundee can’t afford to think too much about the opposition when so much is at stake in terms of their own situations this afternoon.
They have to get the turntable that is their season and their gaffer’s reign spinning again.
Quite simply because you can blow fluff out of the needle all you like but if, your vinyl is scratched beyond repair, it’s maybe time to get a new record and find a sound you’re happy with.
Losing the nucleus of a successful crew to Covid-19 isolation couldn’t have come at a worse time for a Dundee United ship that was sailing along smoothly.
Minus Micky Mellon, his back-room team and nine first-team players for 14 days, what was already a big month ahead has taken on added importance for a Terrors side on a seven-game unbeaten run.
With United facing six tough tests in December, including clashes against the likes of Rangers, Celtic and Hibs, potentially being so heavily weakened could prove hugely detrimental to their hopes for the campaign.
Added to that, the Terrors have fallen to sixth without a ball being kicked courtesy of Motherwell picking up six points and six goals because of the SPFL’s ruling against
St Mirren and Kilmarnock (see below) to leapfrog them in the Premiership standings.
Now, though, it’s a test of United’s resolve in the most trying of circumstances.
From what is left of their football staff and what fixtures they will have to face, they need to find a way to stay on course.
United have already shown their willingness to put faith in the likes of youth coach Thomas Courts, taking control of the first team, and it is clear it will require effort from other background figures to pull the club through this.
Let’s just hope whoever is out returns minus the cabin fever!
With your manager, the rest of the first-team coaching staff and nine players ruled out because of the coronavirus, you would expect Dundee United’s trip to Livingston today to be postponed.
That may well be the case.
Given what we’ve seen this week with the SPFL fining St Mirren and Kilmarnock and forfeiting their Covid-affected matches, the league are backed into a corner.
United will fear any potential repercussions for rearranging the fixture. That, perhaps, is just.
However, I worry Neil Doncaster & Co have set a scaremongering precedent with their ruling.