McCann: we need Deefiant spirit at Dundee again

Dundee manager Neil McCann speaks to the press at the conference announcing his appointment

Neil McCann believes the Dundee support played a massive part in the success of the “Deefiant” season in which he had a small but significant role.

He’s calling on them to do the same again as he, as interim manager, tries to pull off another great escape.

Back in 2011, the Sky TV pundit played three games as a trialist as old Dens Park team-mate Barry Smith led the Dark Blues to safety in the First Division despite a 25-point penalty for the club falling into administration.

Famously his debut in that second spell with the team where his career began saw him come off the bench to score an injury-time goal that earned an invaluable three points against Raith Rovers.

And he hasn’t forgotten the togetherness of players, staff and fans as they defied the odds to survive in the second tier of Scottish football.

Now, with his side second bottom of the Premiership with just five games of the season to go, he believe that sense of unity can prove just as important.

“If you stop a Dundee fan as they walk down the Cleppy Road and ask how proud did they feel during that Deefiant season and did they feel part of it, they’ll say yes,” the new boss told the Tele.

“I was a small part of it, they were a big part of it and they need to be part of it again. That’s absolutely massive and they need to dig deep to do it because I know how frustrating it is for them to see the team in this position.

“Sometimes when there is backs-to-the-wall stuff, people come out swinging and I think back then a lot of the fans felt hard done by, aggrieved. There was a bit of siege mentality and we need that again because we are in trouble. There is no other way of putting it.”

As Dundee slumped to defeat against Hamilton last Saturday and dropped to second bottom in Paul Hartley’s last game as team boss, a large chunk of the support turned on players and manager.

Neil McCann, playing as a trialist for Dundee in the Deefiant season, scored on his second debut against Raith Rovers
Neil McCann, playing as a trialist for Dundee in the Deefiant season, scored on his second debut against Raith Rovers in 2011

Neil understands the frustrations causing that but also knows how much easier it will be for what are now his players to perform well if that support is behind them.

He also wants the men who are now working under him to stand up and be counted.

“We need the fans’ backing because I’ve seen it first-hand throughout my career and I’ve seen it sitting in the Sky studio that, when fans get on players’ backs, you can actually see them physically shrinking. I don’t want the players to shrink. I want them to get their shoulders back.”

While his appointment will have come as a surprise to the vast majority of Dens Park regulars, having been in that Deefiant season and, at the start of his career, part of the team that reached the 1995 League Cup Final, he is guaranteed their support.

He doesn’t hide how much the memories mean to him.

“All these experiences and memories I’ve had here, you lean on them and you form something that never goes away.

“I had great times with Dundee, getting to that final. It was bitter sweet because I ruptured my thigh a couple of days before and ended up playing. I let myself down and the team.

“But I had great times here, almost forging a career here.

“Second time round that was Roy of the Rovers stuff.

“I probably didn’t believe that could happen.

“I was just coming up here to lend a hand as an old guy.

“Hopefully, now I’m here to create some new memories.”