Darren O’Dea says he’s seen Dundee fans respond to a “committed XI that give absolutely everything” in recent weeks – now the players want to repay that faith by keeping the club up.
It’s been a dreadful campaign for the Dark Blues with just four league wins to their name, only one of those being at home, and they find themselves mired in a three-way battle to avoid the drop.
Manager Jim McIntyre made wholesale changes to the squad in January and, though the club’s supporters can see an improvement in performances results haven’t followed.
Even in the heartbreaking last-gasp loss to Celtic on Sunday, Dundee fans witnessed their team put in a magnificent rearguard action that came so close to securing a vital point as the season heads towards the final straight.
Bagging points is something O’Dea is determined to put right as the Dens men gear up for a frantic end to the campaign, starting with a crunch clash away to St Mirren on Saturday week.
He said: “In fairness to the fans – and I might be delusional in this – but I’ve felt a shift in atmosphere at Dens where they see a team that is competitive for 90 minutes and don’t submit.
“Listen, we never submitted before, it can happen when you are at the bottom where you lose the intensity of your play.
“We’re not doing that, you can see to the ends of games the atmosphere is still there and the fans know we are pushing.
“That’s really important and they’ve also seen us come from behind and we’ve shown good character.
“We’ve shown flashes of quality in games but in terms of the team being competitive that’s what you need minimum – always, not just some games, but always.
“What the fans will get now is a committed XI that will give you absolutely everything.
“We’ve lacked quality now and again but when fans see a team that’s as committed as they are seeing now they have responded great.
“Hopefully, that stays, they keep seeing a committed team and, with ourselves and them working together, we can get out of trouble.”
Despite the current manager making vast changes to the playing squad – as well as Neil McCann beforehand – O’Dea has been one of few constants at the club in recent years, having signed under Paul Hartley in January 2016.
Along with Paul McGowan and Cammy Kerr, the Irish international knows exactly what it takes to keep Dundee in the Premiership, having avoided the drop after a relegation battle in the last couple of campaigns.
Last season, the Dark Blues won three of their last five matches while, in 2017/18, Neil McCann’s arrival as interim boss started with two wins and a draw from their first post-split matches to keep them up.
The pressure will build with every game and O’Dea has warned his team-mates they’ll have to handle that if the team are to keep their heads above water.
He added: “When I first came here we were flying and just missed out on the top six.
“The league has got a lot stronger during my time here and the last two seasons we’ve been in the situation going into the split under enormous pressure.
“We dealt with that really well – last year we won the first three after the split and the one before when Neil McCann first came in where we got two wins and a draw.
“We’ve dealt with that pressure.
“Some of us are experienced in dealing with that pressure – you don’t want to be but it can happen at a club like Dundee.”