Former Dundee and United central defender Lee Wilkie reckons the winner of the battle between Graham Dorrans and Calum Butcher will have a massive say in where the derby bragging rights end up tomorrow.
Wilkie, who played in 11 city clashes in his time at Dens Park, was speaking as a guest in the Evening Telegraph’s ‘Twa Teams, One Street’ special derby podcast.
The ex-Scotland defender told of his memories of the crunch match and thinks the midfield battle will go a long way to deciding a possible winner.
He said: “When Dundee signed Dorrans I thought it was a great signing and he is proving that.
“He came in slightly lacking fitness and sharpness, which is natural, but he has got better and it’s no coincidence the team has got better, too.
“They’ve found form and Dorrans has been involved in a lot of goals. His vision is just a level above.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if United boss Robbie Neilson told Butcher to give him close attention.
“Butcher is the type of player who presses with intensity and I think he’ll pick Dorrans out as a threat. I know if I was involved with United, I’d be saying to give him close attention.
“Thinking back to the last derby, Butcher went in hard on somebody early, Jamie Ness I think.
“After that I think Ness was quite edgy on the ball and gave it away a few times – I’m convinced that’s because Butcher rattled him.
“I think somebody like Butcher would look to do something similar with Dorrans in the first five or 10 minutes of the game to stamp his authority on the middle of the park.”
Wilkie had a decent record in his time at Dundee against their fiercest rivals, winning four, drawing four and losing three but never featured for United in the fixture during his time at Tannadice.
He added: “I felt I had a better record than that!
“In my time, Dundee had the better of the derbies, although personally I had a few negatives in them. Obviously, I grew up as a United fan but playing for Dundee I was desperate to beat them – it was the biggest game of our season.
“There is a different feeling to the derby as a player. The whole week leading up to it, you can’t get away from derby talk, in shops people talk to you and everyone is speaking about it, the whole city.
“The build-up is different and then after it one set of fans have the bragging rights. It really takes over the city.
“Because I was a local lad, that made a lot of difference for me and it was harder to get away from it.
“Another big difference is the experience of being an away player but walking down the street to the match.
“It was really strange walking up the street in your kit, just a couple of hundred yards, and there’s obviously people hanging about. They probably had something in their heads all week to shout and it was never usually too positive!”
He added: “I never savoured the derbies as much as I should have because I did my knee the first time in one of them, I did my lip a couple of times and I scored an own goal, too.
“I focused on those moments more because they were quite big periods in my life, especially my knee injury.
“Then the own goal came during a period when I was scoring a few own goals. I was going through a wee bad spell back then and everybody was jumping on the bandwagon – if it came near me then it was an own goal!
“My mates thought my name was ‘Wilkie og’ because that’s how it came out on Sky Sports!”
Lee Wilkie was speaking on the Tele’s ‘Twa Teams, One Street’ podcast.