Where do Dundee go from here?
It’d be an understatement to say things haven’t gone well for the Dark Blues this season.
They’ve had players missing left, right and centre and, along with that, points have gone missing, too.
Five points from five games isn’t anywhere near the level a club like Dundee can afford to be at in the Championship.
And they can’t afford the levels of performance coming from the players.
I know where a lot of Dees would like the club to go right now – into the market for a new manager.
However, that’s not likely to happen for a long while yet.
We all know that John Nelms and Tim Keyes don’t rush into decisions like sacking a manager.
It’s to their credit that they’ll give coaches time to do their job and the opportunity to make things right again.
Unfortunately that’s not worked out so well in recent years with a steady descent from a top-six Premiership club to a bottom-half Championship one, as it stands.
I sincerely hope that James McPake makes the most of the opportunity he’ll be given to start moving the club in the right direction again.
I think the squad he has built is a good one with plenty of quality in it.
They haven’t shown that yet, however.
It’s up to the manager to get them playing.
This is where he earns his stripes as a manager.
The chips are down now, the pressure is on and it’s a time for results or things will have to change.
I’m not expecting anything apart from a Hibs win on Saturday, though.
Jack Ross’ side is the one team – apart from Rangers – who you wouldn’t want to face with a leaky defence right now.
They’ve scored 14 goals in their last four home matches.
That’s including the four they got against Dundee a couple of weeks back as well as two each against the Old Firm.
What the Dark Blues can’t afford is to show the kind of meek defending that’s proved so costly to them this campaign.
Their last trip to Easter Road was a case in point.
It seems like there will be a number of players back available for McPake this weekend.
In their brief appearances at Somerset Park, defender Liam Fontaine and striker Alex Jakubiak looked like they’ll really add something to the team.
Fontaine might just bring the sort of calm and nous to the backline that’s been missing this season, like Christophe Berra last term.
And I was impressed with Jakubiak up top, fast, sharp and direct.
When he’s up to speed, he’ll be an asset this season.
Get players back and with fitness up, things will start to look a bit better for the Dark Blues, I have no doubt. They’ve not had much luck this season with absences.
McPake certainly needs something from his players this weekend. He’s not likely to get a win but a battling performance will do.
It’s now or never.
Dundee United might not be playing the kind of scintilating football that’ll get fans off their sofas right now.
But I’m sure Arabs are getting plenty of entertainment from watching what’s happening with their oldest rivals across the road.
After years stuck in the Championship, the Tangerines are sitting pretty in the Premiership.
Fifth place in the table and unbeaten in seven in all competitions, it’s been a very tidy start to life in the top flight for Micky Mellon.
The quality of the attacking football might not be there but there’s plenty of teams out there who would kill for a defensive record like United’s right now (looking across to Dens Park again…).
Just two goals conceded in those seven matches and in both of those games the Tangerines took all three points.
I’m delighted to see Nicky Clark flying in the Premiership.
He’s had to work his way right up the divisions and deserves everything coming his way right now.
After a break this weekend it’s another big one next time out and I wouldn’t put it past Clark to move into double figures for goals with another against Livingston.
Livi have been struggling lately and another three points would push United well clear of any trouble.
Looking at the fixtures to come afterwards – Rangers, Hibs, Motherwell, Killie, Celtic – adding to the points tally would be timed nicely.
The fuss over the Scotland U/21 Covid-19 outbreak seems completely over the top to me.
It sounds like the SFA did everything they could within current guidelines to protect players.
But there’s a pandemic going on – there’s no way to completely shield people from the virus in situations like that.
I get that managers like Derek McInnes and Stephen Robinson are angry that they’ve got players missing but there’s a bigger picture here.
Three players have tested positive for a virus that has killed millions this year.
Health comes first, not football.