This time last year Max Anderson was an unknown name spotted only in the lists of youth team players at Dens Park.
A fixture in the U/20s, the youngster had played for the Colts in the Challenge Cup before a brief substitute appearance in the same competition for the first team last year.
At 19, Anderson came of age for the Dark Blues, his boyhood club.
An assist on his first start showed the potential.
Then came key goals in key games.
Four times the midfielder found the net – and on all four occasions Dundee won.
There was only ever going to be one winner of the Isobel Sneddon trophy, awarded to Dundee’s Young Player of the Year, this season – so how did it happen?
Brora Rangers 0-2 Dundee – October 10, 2020
Summer recruits Charlie Adam, Lee Ashcroft, Danny Mullen and Osman Sow all made their debuts in dark blue in the Highlands.
Former Scotland, Rangers and Liverpool star Adam’s bow for his boyhood club grabbed the headlines, as did Mullen for his winner that day.
However, going about his business quietly but impressively was 19-year-old Anderson.
It was his first start for the club and at no stage did he look over-awed, despite sharing a midfield with his idol.
He said later in the season to the Courier: “I have to pinch myself sometimes. I went down to the Speroni testimonial and I remember watching Charlie Adam on the pitch and never would I have thought I’d be here playing in the same midfield as him.
“On the pitch he gives you a helping hand but some of the passes you see him spraying around you are thinking ‘oof’ and you have to try to stop yourself just standing and watching it.”
There was very little standing around for buzz-bomb Anderson in the Highlands, though.
And he showed his ability on the ball with a swift turn inside the area before cutting the ball back for Mullen to knock in the winner.
Ayr 2-0 Dundee – November 21, 2020
Somerset Park in November was a forgettable evening for almost everybody associated with Dundee.
The darkest day of the season, without doubt.
Manager James McPake wasn’t slow in condemning the display.
None of them excused themselves from the criticism.
They did, though, excuse Anderson. For he was the only shining light on a dark day for the team.
McPake said: “The two positives in the game were Max Anderson, who looked like the most experienced player on the pitch, and (Alex) Jakubiak.”
While McGowan let rip on the team, saying: “Every one of us needs to take a good hard look at ourselves because not one of us deserves to be in that team. Maybe wee Maxy (Anderson), who did well.”
Dundee 3-3 Dunfermline – December 19, 2020
Not everything goes right for a young player in their breakthrough season and the ending to this remarkable contest at Dens Park will have taught the youngster plenty.
The Dark Blues were cruising to an easy victory over the high-flying Pars, leading 3-0 with less than 15 minutes to go.
Defensively, though, they collapsed.
Paul Watson scored from a corner on 78 minutes before Ashcroft gave away a penalty against his old side with eight to go.
In stoppage time Dundee’s wind was taken from their sails as Declan McManus swung in a free-kick to draw 3-3.
Anderson was the man who gave away the foul, showing his inexperience in the tackle late on.
However, mistakes are the learning curve for any player and there’s no doubt he learned from that later in the campaign.
Dundee 2-1 Inverness CT – March 2, 2021
After that error, Anderson wouldn’t start again for over two months, making just three sub appearances in the next eight matches.
However, he was back in the starting XI against Neil McCann’s Inverness and grabbed his chance with both hands.
He had 12 Dundee appearances under his belt by this time but the lucky 13th brought his first-ever senior goal.
“It was totally surreal,” he said in April.
— Dundee Football Club (@DundeeFC) March 3, 2021
“Once I had the first shot I was like: ‘Oh, no, it’s come to me again, just kick it,’ and I couldn’t believe it went in the net!
“I just couldn’t believe it, I went home absolutely buzzing. It would have been brilliant with fans here, I would have loved that.”
Dundee 2-0 Arbroath – March 13, 2021
Less than two weeks later Anderson had doubled his career tally, this time sealing a hard-earned victory over the Red Lichties.
A goal up heading into the closing stages, things looked like they might end nervily for McPake’s men.
Having let leads slip on multiple occasions, a second goal was needed to calm any tension.
Step up Anderson with eight minutes to go.
The midfielder was demonstrating his ability to arrive in the area on cue, a handy knack to have as a box-to-box man.
And it paid off once more. The finish may not have been the prettiest but it sealed three points for his side.
Alloa 0-3 Dundee – March 19, 2021
By this time, Anderson’s goals were becoming a relgular occurrence – every second game at this rate.
The middle match had been a thoroughly dispiriting home defeat to Ayr United in midweek.
And manager McPake revealed he was feeling the strain of his side’s stumbling form as they travelled to Clackmannanshire.
This, though, was the point where Dundee kicked into gear.
Ashcroft was the star, turning in a Man of the Match performance and bagging two goals to set the team on their way to a vital victory.
With 10 minutes remaining, however, the icing went on the cake when Anderson burst into the Alloa box.
He made no mistake with Neil Parry bearing down on him, firing confidently into the far corner.
Ayr 0-3 Dundee – April 6, 2021
Having not scored against Dunfermline, Anderson kept up the pattern of netting every second game.
And this one arguably was the most important of the lot.
The Honest Men had picked up six points from six against the Dark Blues already in the season and this clash was in the balance heading into the final half-hour.
Once more, though, Anderson was in the right place at the right time.
And again it was a fine finish, one that set his side on their way to one of their best victories of the season.
Raith 0-3 Dundee – May 12, 2021
That win was surpassed in the play-offs in Kirkcaldy, however.
Anderson had dropped out of the starting XI by this point as the more experienced Jordan McGhee returned from injury.
He did, though, still have a part to play from the bench and he did that to good effect in the semi-final.
Set free by Adam late on, the substitute showed real composure and awareness to slow down his run and feed the on-rushing Osman Sow for goal No 3.
Anderson’s final match would help Dundee past Raith and into the final.
And there was no doubting who the winner of Dundee’s Young Player of the Year was going to be.