Finding a way to finish in the top six come May next year would be the dream for Dundee United – most fans would just take a few more goals!
Besides the obvious, 2020 has been a strange one for the Tangerines.
Their title-winning campaign slowed at the turn of the year and then came to a juddering halt with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Promotion without the party or real sense of achievement was bewildering, triumphant boss Robbie Neilson departed for Hearts and, although he’s kept them in the top half for most of the campaign so far, new manager Micky Mellon’s team have hardly set the heather alight.
It’s been a tough watch at times for the United support, stuck at home, having to make do with following their team on dodgy streams as fans continue to be locked out of stadiums under Covid-19 rules.
For all they’ve had plenty to shout about, between promotion and establishing themselves in the Premiership, there probably hasn’t been too much cheering going on in Arab households this year.
Largely because, the football is, shall we say, effective but far from easy on the eye.
The Terrors have been stout and resolute at the back, in no small part down to the heroics of goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist – they’ll do well to hold on to the Swiss No 1 in the January window, by the way.
However, for all their defensive solidity, United are one of the lowest-scoring sides in the top flight – in fact there have been matches where they struggled to create any real chances of note at all.
That has to change in 2021 and the Tangerines certainly have the firepower to make it happen.
Nicky Clark has been the other stand out over the course of the year for Mellon’s men but in Lawrence Shankland and Marc McNulty, you feel they have two ready-made goal-scorers who just need one to get them going again.
Yes, they are just a newly-promoted club from the Championship but, like it or not, being Dundee United means something and I hope we see a team playing in a way worthy of the badge next year.
A few more points on the board to edge them towards that magic total of 30 and I think we will.
Mellon is a pragmatic gaffer but, make no mistake, he’d much rather his side picking up points the easy way rather than having to grind out 0-0 draws and sneak games by the odd goal.
He’ll want to unleash the full force of his side on the top tier but, for that to happen, you feel there must be a change.
And there’s no better time to do it than when the winter transfer window opens next month.
For all Siegrist & Co have been solid at the back and there is quality up top, the middle part of the pitch appears to be lacking.
Whoever checks in down Tannadice way, let’s just hope they bring their shooting boots with them!
Although the gap to second spot is only five points, Dundee are miles away from where they need to be in the Championship promotion race heading into 2021.
Dark Blues fans should be entering the new year with hope they can return to the Premiership.
Instead, they lie in seventh with just two wins to their name this term.
Today’s clash at Queen of the South marks the end of the first third of the season and, though there is still time yet, this shortened campaign promised so much more.
A squad full of quality, only strengthened by the arrival of Charlie Adam, a good coach in James McPake, who you felt would only improve in his second year in charge, and the seemingly wide open nature of the Championship all counted in their favour.
In reality, the Dee are cut adrift from title favourites Hearts in top spot and look more like pretenders than the promotion challengers we thought they’d be.
However, despite their late collapse to a 3-3 draw with Dunfermline, Dundee are unbeaten in three and, as stated previously, only five points behind the Pars in second place.
It is not an insurmountable gap, far from it, in fact.
Once again, today’s game at Palmerston represents another opportunity for them to get back in the hunt.
It’s going to be tough but when is it not with Dundee?
Anyone who says football and politics shouldn’t mix is usually acting with an agenda, I’ve found.
David Beckham supporting the London 2012 bid – OK. Marcus Rashford having to use his status to feed the nation’s starving children – ‘focus on football!’
It’s an utterly nonsensical point of view – as this year has proven.
This week’s BBC documentary showed Rashford can be both an exceptional player and person – a true national hero, giving the marginalised and disenfranchised hope and a voice.
In 2021 we can’t forget football is a powerful outlet for social change.