Sacking James McPake was never an option for Dundee owners Tim Keyes and John Nelms despite heavy criticism from fans.
The Dens boss admitted he felt “seriously under pressure” at times over the past season as his Dark Blues stumbled in the Championship.
Promotion looked unlikely after a 6-2 opening-day defeat to Hearts, poor defeats to Ayr and a run of four games without a win at the start of the year.
However, a stirring finish to the campaign saw Dundee lose just one match in 12 league games to achieve promotion at the expense of Kilmarnock in the play-offs.
Now the Dark Blues are preparing for life back in the Premiership and managing director Nelms is delighted to see the club’s commitment to their young manager pay off.
“Tim and I spoke about this when we appointed James,” said Nelms.
“We knew there was going to be a term of development.
“We knew we had to be patient and going into it, that’s what we were going to do.
“We committed to that. It is too easy to just chop and change and go to the next one but I watched James behind the scenes and I knew what he was doing.
“I knew how much it hurt him and how much he was working to get it right.
“We were seeing progress even during the times when we may have drawn a game.
“You saw progress, you saw a team slowly starting to come together.
“We knew we were going to get grief. We knew that James was going to get grief – how does he handle that and how are we going to help him get through that?
“We did get grief – ‘Why are you still sticking with him?’.
“But we don’t now think of that as vindication, that’s our job and that’s what we do.
“Like I said before, with all of the hurdles that were put in our path, not just James but everybody, that’s what made the final whistle last Monday so emotional.”
Dundee saw off Kilmarnock comfortably in the Premiership play-off and now have trips to Rangers, Celtic as well as top-flight derbies for the first time in five years.
Nelms has revealed a change in tack from manager McPake that saw the Dark Blues put their late run together.
After a disappointing 3-1 home defeat to Ayr United at Dens, McPake’s men responded with a 3-0 victory over Alloa.
From there they powered up the Championship table, finished in second place before crowning the season with play-off success.
Nelms said: “James progressed all the way through. You saw it a little bit before last season was curtailed.
“We had the same type of cadence this year where we were trying to find our feet, find a way to play and it actually came down to where he just went, ‘Look, we have to play reality football. We have to win the high balls, the second balls, work for each other and at the end of the day, our qualities will shine through’.
“I think in the last 12 or 13 games and especially through the play-offs, that’s what you saw.
“That’s why we were successful but, yes, James and his staff absolutely progressed over time.
“People don’t like to be patient in football but we were patient with James.
“We saw what he was doing behind the scenes. If he perceived there was a mistake, he would own it, correct it or do what he could to correct it.
“But his work ethic, the way he treats the players, his staff and his single-mindedness to be successful for Dundee Football Club will make James very successful for a long time in this industry.”