Lee Ashcroft was a Championship player for four seasons before Dundee picked him up on a free transfer.
The big defender had been released by Dunfermline, along with almost their entire playing staff, as the financial disaster of the coronavirus pandemic loomed into view.
Having played against Ashcroft in the Premiership and, being a former central defender himself, James McPake admitted he’d been a long-time admirer of the 26-year-old.
With the Pars, the former Kilmarnock man had never looked like getting back to the top flight with just one play-off appearance to show for his endeavours.
However, he was heading to Dens Park to change that.
Next season he will return to the top flight, this time with the Dark Blues at the expense of Killie.
And he is a major part of how Dundee found their route back to the Premiership.
Here’s how the season unfolded for the Dee’s Players’ Player and Fans’ Player of the Year.
Brora Rangers 0-2 Dundee – October 10, 2020
Dudgeon Park was the scene for a major moment in Dundee’s recent history.
The one that almost got away, lifelong Dee Charlie Adam was making his debut after a career that included over 200 Premier League appearances for Blackpool, Liverpool and Stoke, and 26 Scotland caps.
However, also making debuts that day were Danny Mullen, Osman Sow and Ashcroft.
The defender was far from the main attraction for the hardy few locals stealing a watch of the game from the hill behind one of the goals.
He went about business quietly and efficiently, gaining a clean sheet in the process.
Hearts 6-2 Dundee – October 16, 2020
The Championship’s opening day a week later was one to forget for the Dark Blues’ back line.
Shell-shocked at Tynecastle, the Dens men were ripped apart by a rampant Jambos side.
Ashcroft played as the left-side of a back three alongside Jordon Forster in the centre and Jordan McGhee on the right.
At fault in the build-up for the opening goal, Ashcroft wasn’t alone in suffering that night.
However, far better times were to come.
Dundee 3-3 Dunfermline – December 19, 2020
This match proved to be a harsh lesson for the entire Dundee squad and one that would be referenced for the remainder of the season.
Cruising at 3-0 up with a quarter-of-an-hour to go, the Dark Blues somehow contrived to throw two points away.
Paul Watson headed in from a corner with 12 minutes left before Ashcroft bundled his man over in the area.
Soft though it looked, the big defender had to take his share of the blame as Dunfermline somehow came away with a point after looking dead and buried.
Dundee 3-2 Bonnyrigg Rose – January 9, 2021
Ashcroft had shown his ability in the opposition area in pre-season.
But it took him 13 competitive matches to find the net for the first time in dark blue.
A crucial goal it was, too. Lowland League opponents Bonnyrigg had shocked Dundee by taking the lead from the spot.
A stoppage-time Jonathan Afolabi goal spared Dens blushes by taking it to extra-time before the minnows bagged yet another penalty.
This time, though, Dundee were quickly back level as Ashcroft rose highest to meet an Adam corner to make it 2-2.
Osman Sow would eventually see the Dark Blues into the next round.
Alloa 0-3 Dundee – March 19, 2021
The match that made Lee Ashcroft at Dundee.
Manager James McPake admitted he’d been feeling under severe pressure heading into this contest.
However, Ashcroft fancied more goals and there was nothing Alloa could do to stop him.
Early on, he showed his power in the air by meeting a Paul McGowan corner but sending the header wide.
It was a mistake he wouldn’t make again as he bullied the Wasps at both ends of the pitch.
Two McGowan corners were meet twice by the head of Ashcroft and twice the ball ended up in the net.
After scoring his first two league goals for the club, Ashcroft said on the night: “I was raging at the end when Charlie didn’t put the ball in for me because with the confidence up I felt that I could have got a hat-trick!
“But I’m delighted with the two goals and a clean sheet is massive for us.
“I had a chance earlier on in the game and it was probably the easiest of them all.
“It felt good to get one after that and put it right. I was frustrated because I’ve missed a few this season so it was good to get a couple.”
Dundee 3-2 Dunfermline – March 27, 2021
Another night game on the TV and yet another towering performance from the defender.
A sloppy start from the back line had allowed Ashcroft’s former side to dash into a 2-0 lead within 10 minutes.
However, a second-half blitz from corner kicks showed the big defender was coming into his own at Dens Park.
On 54 minutes, he crashed a header goalward only to see it kept out by Owain Fon Williams.
Danny Mullen was on hand to knock the ball over the line.
Two minutes later Ashcroft got his goal. Once more it was McGowan’s corner finding his head and once more he steered the ball home with his head.
Dundee 1-1 Morton – April 10, 2021
Inspiration was needed at Dens Park after the ‘Ton took an unexpected lead late on. Once more Ashcroft was on hand.
This time he showed the instinct of a striker, staying up after a corner had been cleared and latching onto a Sow flick-on.
There was no header this time as Ashcroft crashed a fine finish beyond the Morton goalie to grab what turned out to be a vital point come the end of the season.
Inverness CT 1-1 Dundee – April 20, 2021
Trailing once again late on after being on top, the Dark Blues’ decent form was beginning to stumble.
There was more at stake here, however, after Caley Thistle went in front despite only having nine men after two red cards.
A profitable route to goal was once more corner kicks and, again, it was the head of Ashcroft that did the damage.
Adam sent in the set-piece and Ashcroft leapt above everything to plant a beauty of a header into the net.
Kilmarnock 1-2 Dundee – May 24, 2021
From that game in the Highlands, Dundee didn’t look back. Four wins from five followed to send the Dark Blues to Kilmarnock holding a 2-1 lead.
A place in the Premiership was at stake heading back to his old stomping ground.
In fact, Ashcroft’s final match for the Ayrshire club came in their last appearance in the play-off final.
That time he helped Killie to a 4-0 win over Falkirk.
This time he had no intention of doing Kilmarnock any favours.
After Mullen’s opener, the Killie defence left Dundee’s dangerman all alone in the area.
Lee Ashcroft needed no further invitation as he planted goal No 7 of the season into the net.
And it was only fitting that Dundee’s clear winner of the Andrew De Vries Trophy for the Fans’ Player of the Year, along with the Players’ Player of the Year trophy, was the man who scored the goal that sealed promotion back to the top flight.