Former Dundee goalie Kyle Letheren says he was “devastated” to leave Dens Park just 12 months after winning the club’s Player of the Year award.
The keeper played a pivotal role in the Dark Blues‘ return to the top flight in 2014, earning himself a Wales international call-up, but he knew his days at the club were numbered under Paul Hartley.
Letheren told the Tele: “I was devastated to leave Dundee.
“The manager only brought one player from Alloa and it was a goalkeeper, so I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t be No 1.
“I asked Paul if I was going to play when Scott Bain arrived because, if not, I had teams in England interested. He said I would but then at the start of pre-season I got injured.
“I could have left in January, I think Oldham wanted to sign me but Paul Hartley said he couldn’t get anyone in to replace me.
“It was always just about playing for me and I only played four or five times at the end of the season.
“I can’t complain, Scott Bain was a class keeper and has gone on to do really well. I was thinking I could have been off playing for someone else but I was sitting on the bench every week.
“Scott hurt his hand towards the end and I played a few games but it was disappointing to end with a derby defeat. That wasn’t the way I wanted to finish.
“But I had no bitterness leaving, I had played 50-odd games and loved every minute of it.
“Dundee gave me the opportunity to prove I could be a No 1 and I’ve shown that since. I’m always grateful they gave me the chance to shine.”
An injury to Bain gave Letheren the chance to begin the season in the sticks, making a strong start as the Dark Blues returned to the Premiership.
One day as a Dundee player will certainly live long in the memory for the 32-year-old and that’s when his country came calling in August 2014 shortly before his other half said ‘yes’.
“The Wales call came after we played Celtic at home, we drew 1-1 with James McPake scoring a header,” said Letheren.
“I always remember when I found out – I had been planning for a while to propose to my girlfriend and we were going to Loch Lomond so I had it all worked out.
“My dad knew what I was doing but he kept calling and calling, I was wondering what was going on – he just said to check my email.
“I looked and there was a letter saying I’d been called up to the Wales squad to play Andorra.
“My missus looked at me and asked why I had such a big grin on my face but I didn’t know what to say! Thankfully she said yes so it was certainly a day I’ll never forget.”
A proud Welshman, Letheren was delighted to be able to test himself against some of the best players in the world, coming up against none other than Real Madrid star Gareth Bale in training.
“When I joined up with the squad, I didn’t expect to play,” said the former Dens keeper.
“But it was a great experience training with Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Wayne Hennessey in goal. I just wanted to see what it took. They looked just like normal people, to be honest!
“I got called up again the next time but I did my meniscus and had to pull out. Sometimes injuries hamper you at vital moments and I’ve never got back in since. I’ve not given up hope, though.”
Recently released by Salford City, the Welshman still keeps an eye on results at Dens Park and is backing former team-mate McPake to return the club back to the top flight next season.
He added: “I still keep an eye on results and it’s not nice to see the club in the Championship again, the club should be in the top flight. Looking from afar, they maybe weren’t consistent enough but were heading for the play-offs.
“I’ve no doubt Jazza will put the right squad together to push the club back where it deserves to be.
“Last season was his first in management and he did well. There are plenty of people who only last two or three months but it’s testament to him how well he has done.
“I’m sure he’ll be stronger for it next season.
“I know he had a tremendous work ethic as a player and I’m sure he has that as a manager.”