Julen Etxabeguren faces up to competition for Dundee space after long injury

© David Young
Dundee defender Julen Etxabeguren is back fit and ready for action after seven months out but realises he has a job to displace players like Kerr Waddell and Jack Hendry from the first team.

Julen Etxabeguren may have lost his starting place after a lengthy spell out injured but he has no doubts competition will bring the best out of Dundee’s backline.

The former Real Sociedad defender has spent the last seven months on the sidelines after rupturing his Achilles tendon at the start of March in a 1-0 defeat to Partick.

Etxabeguren, though, is back in training and raring to go for the Dark Blues.

He said: “I’m happy to be back after such a long time. I played a few bounce games with the U/20s and it’s been all right, I feel good.

“The injury is completely forgotten and I’ve not had any reactions or anything.

“I’m fit now but we’ll see. I have plenty of work to do to get fitter and fitter.

“It’s not over — I’m back with the team and playing football but there’s still work to do in terms of rehab for the injury.”

Julen also turned out for Dundee in Friday’s Dave Mackay testimonial match at McDiarmid Park but accepts he’s got a task in front of him to force his way back into the team when competitive action returns.

Julen Etxabeguren ruptured his Achilles tendon back in March.

In his time out there have been plenty of changes at Dens Park with new manager Neil McCann coming in, leaving, and then coming back as well as a fairly-settled defensive backline starting this campaign.

Youngsters Jack Hendry and Kerr Waddell have impressed alongside club captain Darren O’Dea.

Also making his way back from a long-term injury is Josh Meekings, who joined Etxabeguren in central defence for a Development side victory over Ross County last week. Another senior defender, Kosta Gadzhalov also played in that game, showing the strength in depth in that position at Dens.

That competition, though, is something for the club as a whole to embrace for Etxabeguren.

He said: “That’s good for everyone — the more competition you have, the better you have to be.

“If you’re not playing well there’s someone behind you waiting for his opportunity.

“I think that’s great for the whole team and I think everyone will benefit from that.

“Like everyone else, I want to play but there are boys in at the moment playing brilliantly, so I just have to work.”

The job to force his way back into that backline won’t be any easier if youngster Waddell keeps up his performances, no less grabbing goals like the brace he got against Hearts in Dundee’s last run-out.

“I’m so happy for Kerr after his two goals against Hearts,” added Etxabeguren.

“He deserves that because he has been working so hard and is playing really well, I’m so happy for him.

“It’s good to see we have a really young team who are playing well against very good teams in this league.

“I’m enjoying watching the young lads playing that well.

“That’s good for the club and I think they’ll get better.

“I think we’ve done really well this season and deserve to have more points on the board than we have.

“So far we’ve played brilliantly, the team has played really well and it’s been a joy to watch them this season.”

There’s also the potential at Dens to see a half-Basque defence after being joined by fellow-countryman and left-back Jon Aurtenetxe.

“We’ll maybe see that!” added Etxabeguren. “I knew him from playing in youth teams back in the Basque country.

“He has to get used to Scottish football, it’s obviously different to Spanish football. He’ll have to work, train hard and wait for his opportunity. (Kevin) Holtie has been doing a great job with him.

“He’s enjoying life here, he’s loving it. He trains hard, he’s a good player and has to keep it going like that, working hard and wait for his chance.”