Dundee legend Barry Smith has lifted the lid on how he adapted to the Bonettis’ “off-the-cuff” approach to life at Dens Park.
It’s 20 years since the managerial duo of enigmatic brothers, Ivano and Dario, arrived to take charge at the Dark Blues.
Having played under some of the biggest names at the biggest Italian clubs, challenging for league titles and European trophies, the pair arrived with a burgeoning contacts book and plenty of ambition.
An influx of foreign players followed, with Claudio Caniggia, Juan Sara, Fabian Caballero, Marco de Marchi and Georgi Nemsadze arriving in the first year.
The second saw the likes of Temuri Ketsbaia, Julian Speroni and Fan Zhiyi come in.
The excess that funded all of these big names eventually caught up with the club as they failed to sell them on and administration beckoned a year after the Bonettis departed.
Prior to their appointment, the Dark Blues had enjoyed a positive campaign under Jocky Scott.
But huge changes lay ahead and former club captain and manager Smith knew he had two options – leave or get with the programme.
He said: “There was probably a mix of anticipation and trepidation among the players, we really just didn’t know what to expect.
“We had a good squad when they came in, we had finished a point off fifth under Jocky Scott but the first day back in pre-season there were a few new faces around.
“I always said that if you think your face doesn’t fit then it’s up to you to make it fit. My plan was to work as hard as I could to be part of the team.
“If they wanted things done a certain way then I was going to do that to the best of my ability then if it doesn’t work out, I’ve done all I can.
“There were big changes to training but going away for three weeks in pre-season to Italy was a big one. Usually you’d only be away for a week but this was a long time.
“They did lay everything that was to happen out in front of you, though. However, there was a strict menu on offer – if you didn’t like it, you’d go hungry.”
Training too was completely different as Dundee adopted a football strategy that had served the Bonetti brothers in their homeland.
As a future coach and boss, Smith says he learned a lot during their time in the City of Discovery, even if some elements of their approach were difficult to get to grips with.
“The way they structured training was completely different as well but different managers all have different views,” he added.
“Training would change time but we’d train every day and there were a few double sessions.
“They relied on doing the same thing rigidly over and over so you knew what you were getting and there was very little change.
“I have to say I learned a lot about working on shape and positional play. Previous managers had done shape but not to the extent the Bonettis worked on it.
“Training could be a bit off-the-cuff sometimes. They were obviously new to coaching themselves and learning as they went.”
There were high-profile disagreements as foreign signings kept Scottish players out of the starting XI.
The Bonetti brothers’ volatile nature also led to fall outs behind the scenes, but Smith focused on working hard in training and reaping the rewards.
“I always treat people as they treat me and the Bonettis treated me very well,” he said.
“I’m not saying they did that with every player – there were definitely a few not treated as well as they should have been.
“I played with players I never expected to line up alongside at Dundee. Georgi Nemsadze was wonderful, Claudio Caniggia was a top talent, but they also needed the Scottish guys like myself, Gav Rae, Steven Tweed and Willie Falconer to make the core of the team.
“I don’t think the foreign guys really understood Scottish football or knew what to expect.
“We all just got our heads down and knuckled down to work. I think the Bonettis appreciated that.
“They were good times and I’m sure the fans wouldn’t change seeing those players in dark blue even with what happened afterwards in administration.”