“I loved the city, loved the fans. It was naivety and the wrong decision at that time to leave.”
Championship-winning defender Dave Rogers says departing Dundee in 1999 for Ayr United was one of his biggest regrets of his career.
The bubbly Scouser arrived at Dens Park ahead of the 1997/98 season and played 40 times as the Dark Blues won promotion back to the big time and lifted the First Division trophy.
He would leave the following year, however, after an injury-hit campaign in the top flight.
And the former centre-back revealed to the Walking Down The Provie Road podcast that the decision to join the Honest Men was a poor one.
Rogers said: “I was offered a new contract by Dundee but I was misinformed and badly advised to go back and sign for Ayr United. I take a lot of blame myself as well.
“But when I look back, it was the biggest mistake because I loved the city, loved the fans. It was naivety and the wrong decision at that time to leave.
“Ayr wanted to make me captain, be their leader and get promoted, like Dundee just got promoted.
“There was talk of a new stadium so there was a three-year contract with this leadership role and ambitions to get up but I was very naïve.
“I listened to the wrong information and in hindsight it turned out to be the wrong decision. I don’t blame anybody, I take responsibility.”
Now head coach at an ambitious American side FC Arizona, Rogers would only play 20 times for Ayr in Division One before a spell on loan at Partick Thistle in Division Two followed.
The former Everton kid would go on to have a successful time in Ireland, winning three league titles with Shelbourne.
But it’s his time at Dens Park as a 21-year-old he looks back on with most fondness.
He said: “You’d be driving and stop at traffic lights and hear a horn go. It would be Dundee fans, showing their tattoos and everything. I love that. That’s passion. Genuine fans.
“It was so rewarding to win the First Division that season and I’ll never forget the following we had at Raith Rovers that day. That’s why Dundee is still in my heart and always will be.
“I look back on it and it was the best decision I made (to join Dundee). What a squad of players and what a club to come and play for.”
Described as a Dundee cult hero in some quarters, Rogers rejects that tag, saying there are more deserving ‘heroes’ for fans at Dens Park.
“I’m a modest guy, I’m no cult hero for Dundee,” he added.
“Bobby Cox was a legend and a hero. I remember when I signed the great man came along to training one day. Bobby came over to shake my hand and it sticks with me.
“He said ‘Scouse! Welcome to the club, mate, great to have you!’ then he added ‘but you’ll never have a left foot as good as mine!’
“To hear that from an actual legend, to make me feel welcome the way he did and the way everyone did, it’ll live with me forever.”
And seeing the fans flock to Stark’s Park on April 11, 1998, where Dundee only needed a point to clinch the First Division title with four games to spare, was one of Rogers’ best recollections in a memorable time at Dens Park.
“We knew we had a squad of players capable of winning the league,” he added.
“We knew the expectations, the fans and the club needed to be back in the Premier League. We knew we had what it took but we never let ourselves get carried away.
“We got to Raith Rovers and only needed a point – I think the celebrations went on for four days after that! It was phenomenal and great memories.
“We saw the support that day and were thinking to ourselves ‘let’s put it to bed, do it today’ after seeing the support behind the goal.
“We got the point and sent everybody back over the Tay Bridge celebrating. It was an unbelievable experience.”
Rogers found the net just once in his time in dark blue but he admits the penalty to win against Airdrie in October proved costly – and not just because he did his hamstring.
“There was a little bit of rivalry between Airdrie and ourselves.
“We got the penalty in the 93rd minute, I slotted it in and went running round the dog track towards all the fans and my hamstring went!
“To kill a bit of time, Cowboy (John McCormack) took me off. Walking past their bench, there was a bit of mouthing and me, being a Scouser, mouthed back at them.
“In the altercation, I tripped over by accident and after the game I naively said Big Doddy (Airdrie boss Alex MacDonald) stuck his leg out and tried to trip me up.
“It was tongue-in-cheek but the next day I’m all over the back of the newspapers! Alex McDonald was brilliant, he accepted my apology.
“It was a lesson learned – keep the mouth shut next time and you won’t be fined four weeks wages!”
Despite a change of manager from McCormack to Jocky Scott, the camaraderie among the players that season drove the club on.
Rogers said: “The team spirit was phenomenal. It’s the best club, the best team spirit and the best squad of players I’ve ever been involved with.
“I’ll never forget when big Rab Douglas signed – I thought we’d signed Ivan Drago from Rocky!
“Rab was a phenomenal goalkeeper, his shot-stopping was amazing and to have a presence like that behind you as a defender is a relief at times.
“You know if you are under the cosh, the big fella was there.
“You had Barry Smith, a great leader, and Brian Irvine at the back, Maddy (Lee Maddison) getting up and down the left and not to forget the Cobra, the mad fella (Dariusz) Adamczuk would catch pigeons up and down the right-hand side.
“Then there was Iain Anderson, a game-changer, Darren Magee in midfield with Jimmy McInally and Eddie Annand. We had a quality squad.”
Now a highly-qualified coach, Rogers has travelled the globe since his playing days ended in 2012, having coached in the Liverpool International Football Academy in Europe, India and South Korea as well as being assistant manager to the Indian national side.
Now in Arizona, the 44-year-old is keen to continue learning his trade and has ambitions to manage back in the UK.
Asked whether that might be at Dundee, Rogers replied: “Never say never! The manager James McPake is doing a great job and I hope the fans get behind him.
“It’s tough times and like what happened with Barry Smith, I know the fans will get behind him.
“One day I do have aspirations of being manager at highest level.
“Would I love to come back to Scotland or the UK as a manager? Absolutely, but only for the right club.”