Kyle Letheren says his time at Dundee was the best two years of his career as he played a pivotal role in getting the Dark Blues back in the big time.
The Welsh goalie was signed by John Brown in the summer of 2013.
A year and 19 league clean sheets – a post-war club record – later and Letheren had been named Player of the Year as the Championship title was lifted at Dens Park.
Not to mention a save in the final minutes of the 2-1 win over Dumbarton that clinched promotion.
“My two years at Dundee is my fondest time in football,” Letheren told the Tele.
“Dundee gave me the chance to become an established No 1, something I am forever grateful for. And my first season couldn’t have panned out any better either.
“John Brown brought me in and there was no mincing of words from him. What you see is what you get and I loved that about him. He was all or nothing as a manager – like he was as a player.
“We started at Queen of the South away and we got battered down there. I remember there were about 1,500 Dundee fans there and it was the first time I realised how big the club was. I was thinking ‘Jesus, if they bring this to games in the Championship, it’s some size of club’.
“Eventually form picked up and we went on a good run. We were always trailing Hamilton and Falkirk, though, and I’m not sure the manager had the best rapport with the fans.
Two defeats on the bounce in January, the second a 2-0 defeat at title rivals Falkirk, saw Brown depart the club – something Letheren admits feeling guilty about.
“I probably cost him his job!” the former Plymouth and Salford City man said.
“It was Falkirk away and both teams at the top of the table. There was a short back-pass I think and I came out and brought down Rory Loy and got sent off, we ended up losing 2-0.
“We were third after that but only three points off the top.
“It was sad to see John Brown go because we knew in the dressing-room we had the experience that Hamilton and Falkirk lacked and when it came down to the nitty gritty, we’d do it.
“Paul Hartley came in and had that new manager effect – I think we only conceded nine goals in about 14 games.”
Plenty of that was down to hard work done off the pitch says Letheren.
“He didn’t think we were fit enough and effectively did a pre-season in the middle of the season. Not many of the boys enjoyed that.
“The new fitness coach Tam Ritchie loved his running – fortunately I was a goalkeeper and didn’t have to do much!
“The proof was in the pudding, though, and it worked. We didn’t breeze it right enough.
“I thought when we lost 1-0 to Morton, we’d blown it. But we beat Alloa 3-0 in the second-last game and Accies lost at Dumbarton. It was back in our hands.
“A win would do it.
“We knew Dumbarton would be coming to spoil our party like they had Hamilton and would be bang up for it.
“If we drew, Hamilton would need to win by eight goals.
“We went 2-0 up early on and that was a blessing because it just calmed everybody down. But then it got pretty nervous at the end.
“I remember Craig Beattie came on and Beats was marking somebody at a corner saying ‘Hamilton are winning 8-2’ and I was like ‘shut up Beats, what are you on about?’ He was a wind-up merchant at the best of times.
“Then I picked the ball up for a goal kick and a fan told me it was 8-2 to Hamilton. I was thinking ‘wow, this is going to be close’.
“Then Dumbarton got a penalty and scored. I picked the ball out the net and somebody shouted ‘9-2’ – it was going down to the wire.
“Next thing it’s 10-2 at Hamilton, so if we concede they’ve won the league.
“Dumbarton were all over us at times and the last five, 10 minutes are just a blur – bodies getting thrown in front of the ball and it was a relief when the whistle blew.”
There was plenty of competition for the Player of the Year trophy that season with top scorer Peter MacDonald tipped for it alongside future internationals Martin Boyle and Declan Gallagher.
With rivals like that, Letheren says he thought there was no chance they were going to give it to the goalkeeper.
“I didn’t expect it, nobody gave me a heads up or anything so obviously I wasn’t prepared to make a speech!
“I was so nervous, I hate speaking in public like that and I stood up and forgot to thank loads of people – I think I thanked John Brown but forgot Paul Hartley!
“That probably didn’t go down well.
“It was great to win that. I had a great rapport with the fans and I loved my time up at Dundee.
“It really stood me in good stead for the rest of my career.”