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It's not Caley, it's Caledonian! And don't you forget it laddie... (Lisbon Lions Challenge)


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Press Conference. The Caledonian Stadium, Inverness. 7th June 2008

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>The gathered press settled as the new chairman stood up, took a drink of water, and cleared his throat.

"It's been a sad time for my family and this football club. My brother's death came as quite a shock to us all, and we would like to thank everyone for their messages of condolences and kind wishes. I'm sure he was happy to have seen the football club he brought together into the Scottish League rise to become one of the top three or four sides in the country, and I know he really enjoyed last season's successes. For that I, personally, would like to offer my thanks to manager Colin Jordan."

"However, there comes a time when change is needed, and I feel it is my job to bring about this change. The name of this club is Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Caledonian Thistle. That's about as Scottish as you can get. Many of the players who have come to this club, and this city, probably don't even understand that. I want that to change. Success is one thing, but I want to see success that the average man on the streets of Inverness can associate with. It's time for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with it's most Scottish of names, to lead the way in a new revolution. We are going to bring Scottish football back to the Scottish people."

"This team will be challenging for the League title, and for European recognition, with an all Scottish side. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. No questions please."<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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Press Conference. The Caledonian Stadium, Inverness. 7th June 2008

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>The gathered press settled as the new chairman stood up, took a drink of water, and cleared his throat.

"It's been a sad time for my family and this football club. My brother's death came as quite a shock to us all, and we would like to thank everyone for their messages of condolences and kind wishes. I'm sure he was happy to have seen the football club he brought together into the Scottish League rise to become one of the top three or four sides in the country, and I know he really enjoyed last season's successes. For that I, personally, would like to offer my thanks to manager Colin Jordan."

"However, there comes a time when change is needed, and I feel it is my job to bring about this change. The name of this club is Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Caledonian Thistle. That's about as Scottish as you can get. Many of the players who have come to this club, and this city, probably don't even understand that. I want that to change. Success is one thing, but I want to see success that the average man on the streets of Inverness can associate with. It's time for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, with it's most Scottish of names, to lead the way in a new revolution. We are going to bring Scottish football back to the Scottish people."

"This team will be challenging for the League title, and for European recognition, with an all Scottish side. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. No questions please."<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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A few notes:

This game is played on CM 01/02, on the save game from my other Inverness Caledonian Thistle story. If you don't want to know what happens between the current date of that story and June 2008, then don't read this!

Leagues in play are Scotland and England only.

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Northern Star, 8th June 2008

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Caley Calamity

Inverness Caledonian Thistle supporters will be in shock after revelations last night at a press conference held by their new Chairman. In comments already labelled as "borderline racist" and "xenophobic" by some observers, the Chairman claime that he was "going to bring Scottish football back to the Scottish people".

No further information was given at the press conference, but this paper has learned from sources close to the club that this attitude almost certainly means that the highly successful Caley Thistle squad of last season will be broken up and replaced by Scottish players. This will all have to be arranged extremely quickly, as the season kicks off in less than two months.

Manager Colin Jordan, whose job itself must be under threat given his English background, was not available for comment. He'll certainly have his work cut out in the next few weeks.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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"Too right!", Jordan said to himself as he threw the paper on the desk in front of him. He had received his instructions from the Chairman, and there could be no doubt or misinterpretation. On the desk in front of him were two piles of cards, one large, one small, and a large glass of single malt. There were some good things about Scotland at least! The smaller pile of cards were the players the club was allowed to keep, or rather those that would be allowed to play in competetive matches from now on. Jordan fanned them out. Even in his slightly inebriated state he could only count six.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Kevin Miller The first choice goalkeeper at the club for the last 4 and a half seasons, currently away at the European Championships in Cardiff with the International side, and probably completely unaward of the trouble at home. 26 year old, with 215 appearances. It wasn't all bad then.

Malky Mackay 36 year old centre half who didn't play at all last season and only 10 times the season before. Rumoured to be retiring. 162 appearances for the club.

Ross Tokely 29 year old defensive midfielder who hasn't been a regular choice for six years, but has been at the club for his entire career. 173 appearances over those nine seasons, and his tenth could be the most interesting yet.

James White 27 year old right sided defender in his seventh season at the club. Has had four seasons as a regular pick, but has never been first choice. Probably will be now, at least for some time. 120 appearances.

John Rankin 24 year old left sided midfielder who has been the club since 2001 when he was Jordan's second signing. A regular now for 3 years. 188 appearances.

Russel Duncan 29 year old striker, the other original member of the Caley Thistle squad. Four times supporters player of the year. 248 appearances and 115 goals is an outstanding record in itself. Hasn't been a regualr pick for a couple of seasons. Is now.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

The other pile - 26 cards in this one - that was far too painful. Some of the players had been at the club nearly as long as he had. Some were officially Scottish by naturalisation, but had played for other international teams so would no longer figure in the clubs plans. They all had two choices. Stay at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and don't play first team football again, as least as long as the current Chairman was in charge, or move on. Jordan knew what most would choose, and who could blame them?

Sighing, he picked up the first card from the bigger pile in one hand, picked up the phone in the other, and started dialling.

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21st July 2008

Dear Diary,

It's not bloody fair! We were doing so well. 2nd in the league and Quarter Finals of the Champions League, and now all those players have had to go. All the wheeling and dealing that had got me that far, down the drain in five minutes. It's been a constant stream of departures ever since that fateful day in early June, and without the £14 million we'd accrued through wheeling and dealing we would have been really stuffed. Clubs all over Europe have been coming to us with derisory offers, knowing that we more or less have to accept them. I'm sure some of them have been laughing! And on the other hand, the transfer price of Scottish internationals has gone through the roof!

Still, we've managed a certain amount of wheeling and dealing, even though it's meant Jim [Calder, Assistant Manager], Eddie [May, coach] and Tommy [söderberg. coach] cancelling our summer holidays and spending an absolute fortune on phone calls. Leaving the club were:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

9th June Daniel Westlin FC København £2.7m

10th June Giorgos Lambropoulos Dag & Red £925k

12th June Christian Gyan Samsunspor £3m

12th June Baha Celtic Exchange

14th June Manolis Drosos Bordeaux £3.8m

14th June Pawel Brozek Nantes £4.5m

16th June Phil Rogers Bristol City Exchange

16th June Sérgio Espírito Santo Benfica £3.5m

17th June Gaetano D'Agostino Blackburn Exchange

1st July Mohammed Sylla Anderlecht £2.4m

8th July Darren Ward Motherwell £2.2m

13th July Richard Hinds Motherwell £2.8m

</pre>

More details about those players we've managed to bring in tomorrow, I'm too emotionally tired to write any more.

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22nd July 2008

Dear Diary,

Ah yes, the players we've brought in! These arrived at a similar rate to those going out. We needed top quality Scottish players in every position, and we had no choice but to pay over-inflated prices. The players coming in:

9th June:

Grant Brebner 30 year old Attacking Midfielder, signed from Motherwell for £1.3m. He's been in the Premier League since 1999 with 'Well and prior to that Hibs. Obviously every player I signed at this stage was a first teamer, but now I'm not so sure.

Kenny Miller 28 year old Forward who I can now say is the fastest thing on two legs in Scotland. Has 19 caps and 6 goals in the last four seasons. It took a rather large £3.5m to prise him away from Fulham, where he hadn't really bedded in. Has two seasons with Rangers under his belt, and is another ex Hibs player.

11th June:

John Fisher 24 year old Central Defender, capped at Under 21 level, and with a possible international future ahead of him. Paying £2.1m was the easiest part of the deal. Persuading him to leave a Liverpool side he had just broken into was another matter entirely.

12th June:

Michael Stewart 27 year old uncapped Defensive Midfielder who cost a small fortune from Celtic. The final figure was never revealed to me, and it was complex because of a player exchange being involved. Probably about £5m though. Out of the Old Trafford stud, returning to top flight football via Arbroath.

15th June:

Stephen Pearson 25 year old Attacking Midfielder who returns to Scotland after spending most of the season at Wolves. Another from the Motherwell stable. Wolves begrudgingly accepted £3.1m, the same fee they had paid!

16th June:

Steve Mitchell 24 year old Striker. Plying an occasional trade in a Bristol City side in the top flight of English football after a move from East Stirling, Steve returned to Scotland for £1.6m plus a player.

17th June:

Scott McLean 21 year old Attacking Midfielder with the added benefit of being able to play right across the park. Originally a Partick Thistle player, Scott had made it as far south as Blackburn. £1m, plus a decent like-for-like player, persuaded Rovers to let him return.

Darren Fletcher 24 year old Midfielder, capped at Under 21 level. It took £4m and a £10k per week contract to get this one to leave Manchester United. Hopefully it'll turn out to be the right move for him.

19th June:

Steven McLean 25 year old Striker. Signed for £975k from Ayt, mainly because I thought the money was probably running out. Actually looks to be one of the best signings after pre-season.

22nd June:

Philip McGuire 28 year old Central Defender. Nearly £4.9m from nearest rivals Aberdeen, and demanded another £10k contract. Capped three times (twice last season) for his country though.

23rd June:

John Kennedy 24 year old Central Defender, also from Aberdeen. What they're going to do for defenders next season I don't know! Only £1.3m for the Under 21 capped player who came through the ranks at Celtic.

5th July:

Robert Malcolm 27 year old Utility Defender. By far the highest payed player at the club, on £17k per week. Cost £3.5m from Middlesborough, and took a £6k pay cut to help us out. Probably the best defender in Scotland at the moment, although he hasn't won an international cap since 2004. 13 caps in all, he will play at left back initially.

8th July:

Craig Easton 29 year old right sided Midfielder with 12 international caps. Signed from Derby for a bargain £475k. A real eye-opener in pre-season.

16th July:

Richard Montgomery 26 year old left sided Defender. £600k from Arbroath for a covering defender. Not a lot more than that to say really.

17th July:

David McEwan 26 year old Goalkeeper signed on a free transfer after being released by Blackburn. Originally a Livingston player. Everybody has to have one!

And that's it. 20 players to take us, well, who knows where? Now we had to see how they would play together. The answer? Quite well really. 4-0 at Victoria Park against Ross County (2 goals for Steven McLean, 1 for Easton and 1 for Stewart) and an identical result against St. Johnstone (2 this time for Kenny Miller, 1 for Scott McLean and another for Easton) was all better than I expected. The league starts next week.

Ed note: Squad listings are going to be interesting here: Two K Millers and Two S McLeans at the moment icon_redface.gif

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10th August 2008

Dear Diary,

Not a bad start to the season. Ayr looked pretty hopeless when they came to the Caledonian, and the only surprise was that we only beat them 1-0. Kenny Miller got the first goal of a new era, and the fans went home happy. But then, in the two weeks before our next match, we got just what we didn't want. First, Scott McLean strained his calf, and then Steve Mitchell sprained his wrist. On the face of it, McLean's is the worst (but more of that later), and we're effectively down to one left sided midfielder for the rest of the month.

I did manage to make another signing, though. Manchester United released 20 year old Andrew McLean (Another McLean!) at the end of July, and by the 2nd of August he was a Caledonian Thistle player. He's one for the future, but in a squad of 21 we might not have that liberty.

The second game eventually came round, Dundee the visitors at the Caledonian. We got off to a similar start, with Darren Fletcher getting the opener this time. It looked all on as though we were going to get an identical result. Until Dundee got an equaliser in the third minute of stoppage time. Most annoying. Still, most of the players haven't had much of a pre season, what with having to move lock, stock and barrel to Inverness, so obviously it'll take a while to get them up to full match fitness.

Steve Mitchell strained his wrist again during the match, so I had the physio check him out. he found nothing odd in the fact the same injury had recurred, but discover an underlying groin injury. Anyone less professional would have had to comment on the likelihood of a link here, but we kept a straight face and packed him off to see the specialist. He'll need an operation and some intense physio, meaning we probably won't see him for a month either.

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31st August 2008

Well, after five matches we're third in the league, which can't be all that bad. We've also dropped lucky with what looks like a nice group in the Champions League, and a home draw in the League Cup. But that's all jumping the gun really. Our first away match took us to Rugby park, to face bottom side Kilmarnock. This game saw us making one hell of a start, shooting to 3-0 up in fifteen minutes. One in the first minute for Steven McLean, then two in two minuted for McLean again and Fletcher certainly queitened the home crowd! We let them back into the game when we should have killed it off. Goals in the 27th and 67th minute made for a nervous few minutes until Kenny Miller made certain the result and Fletcher scored a 5th in the last minute. 5-2, a most pleasurable introduction to travelling with an all Scottish team.

Four of my players were named in the (fairly obviously) Scotland squad later in the evening, although the four chosen surprised many, me included. Both keepers Miller and McEwan were chosen, along with Robert Malcolm and Philip McGuire. The trip, to Romania, would be a tricky one.

Dennis Melander was another old school Caley Thistle player departing, for Kilmarnock. We banked a cheque for £2m pounds from that sale along with the £1.8m from UEFA for getting to the group stage of the Champions League. As I said, the draw there was favourable, with our Group E rivals set to be AIK, NK Dinamo of Croatia and Borussia Dortmund. In a day of draws, we were paired with Dunfermline in the League Cup.

There was a sellout at the Caledonian (although one person didn't turn up according to the official figures) for Livingston's visit. Steve McLean continued his good form, scoring in the 36th minute to put us 1-0 up, but again we succumbed to a sucker punch, the equaliser coming a little earlier this time, but three minutes wasn't enough for us to reply.

Four days later we got back to winning ways at Arbroath's Gayfield Park. An unusual 3rd vs 4th pairing, but it's early in the season yet. Goals from Fletcher and Brebner in either half sealed a win and 3rd place after 5 games.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Celtic 5 13 +9

Hearts 5 12 +4

Inverness 5 11 +6

Rangers 5 10 +4

Arbroath 5 9 +1

Hibs 5 7 +1

</pre>

I registered all 21 of our Scottish players for the Champions League. Efforts to bring any more in before that particular deadline failed. Meanwhile McEwan picked up his first cap and Malcolm his 14th, both as substitutes, in the Romania game. They won't have enjoyed it though. Scotland had 3 sent off as they lost 6-0 in their first World Cup qualifying game. It's a long way back from there!

Some good news to end the month - Steven McLean is rewarded for making the step up to Premier League level with the Player of the Month award. Hopefully the first of many! See, told you it wasn't bad!

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30th September 2008

Dear Diary,

It's been a bloody tiring month. Trips to Sweden and Croatia, our first League defeat, our second league defeat, and thankfully a decent result to end the month. Playing two games a week is really taking the toll on the small squad though. Clive Clarke has left us. £350k was a really ludicrous offer, but we had to accept for his sake as much as the club. Hopefully I'll be reinvesting that soon. I need more players. They need to be as good as the ones I have.

We had an absolute 'mare at Tynecastle. Jermaine Pennant ran rings round us, and he scored one of their goals as they went 2-0 up in the first half. Kenny Miller was on target before half time, but Pennant added another after the break. The final score was 4-1 and there were some words spoken after the game. Stewart was picked out as the single worst offender, but really every player from 1 to 11 was bad. And on top of this we had to go to Stockholm.

The trip to Sweden was one I want to forget quickly. Stewart was in the middle of it again, but this time I honestly believe it wasn't his fault. The referee saw fit to send him off for tugging one of the opposition players shirt early in the game. It was still 0-0 at that point, and we weren't playing badly. It finished 2-0. You just can't cope with a player less in top European competition.

It was a long, miserable journey home. And we had Celtic to entertain on Sunday.

Playing the league leaders, with us having tired legs, I was expecting a thumping. We set out to defend, and did it quite well, but John Hartson snuck one in with twenty minutes to go and that was that. It dropped us to fifth, not exactly the sort of league position I've been used to in previous seasons.

Our luck changed big time against Borussia Dortmund, the favourites for our Champions League group. We really struggled again to get a fit eleven players together, and I really feared the worst, but Phil McGuire got up from a corner to put us in front. Yegor Titov equalised, but Ross Tokely (told you we were desparate) put us back in front ten before the break. For the entire of the second half it looked like we would hold out at 2-1. That was until Nicolas Anelka finally converted one of his chances in the 90th minute to equalise. Dropped heads? Us? Never! Three minutes into stoppage time, John Rankin banged in his first goal of the season. Well needed European points.

But it was back to the long hard graft of the league for the first of our games against rivals Aberdeen. A game of two halves, if ever the cliché suited. The Pittodrie faithful were loud and proud after their side battered us in the first half. We went in 2-0 down at the break, and looked a beaten side. To be honest it was all down to a dodgy tactical decision. I'd decided that Paul MacDonald, a player I tried to sign, was one to keep an eye on, and basically the other Dons crept behind our backs when we weren't watching. My blushes were saved by two maiden goals late in the second half from Easton and Pearson, the equaliser coming in the final minute of normal time again. The new chairman still wasn't that impressed though.

The Scotland squad for the next two qualifiers was announced after the match. Only McGuire and Miller were called up this time.

The trip to Croatia was a long one, and the hotel in Zagreb wasn't one of the best in Europe. After the home side had taken the lead in the first ten minutes things looked gloomy, but Stewart levelled on the quarter hour mark, showing the good side of his game for those who had been doubting him already. Kev Miller kept us in it from that point on, and when Pearson chipped home in the 4th minute of stoppage time, I feared for our safety in getting away from the stadium. God Bless Stephen Pearson! That goal might just be worth his £3.1m transfer fee.

We ended the month, a long hard month of seven games, with a trip to Firs Park. In between times we found out that if we beat Dunfermline in the league cup, our reward is a home tie against one of the old firm sides. We're not really up to beating them yet, so that's another competition we won't be winning. Motherwell were another side outdone by us after taking a first half lead. This time it was a Steve McLean double with quarter of an hour to go, taking the striker to five for the season, which did for them. At least we gave them time to come back this time, but they couldn't make it. 2-1 the final score, and we end the month in 5th.

Phew!

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31st October 2008

Dear Diary,

Someone once said that a week is a long time in football. They were certainly right! And that means that a month is an absolute age. This month started badly, deteriorated, and then endedon a high. It all started off with a knock on the door on the first...

Two players whom I expected better from, James White and Kevin Miller, were at the door, and they weren't happy. Apparently they had got it into their heads from somewhere that we should be doing better in the league. I agreed, until I found out that actually they thought we should be top! Come off it! We've never consistently been higher placed than both Old Firm clubs! Besides, if they're unimpressed they should perhaps look at their own performances, or maybe talk to the Chairman. Still, in the interest of peace and harmony, I didn't go off on one at them, I just asked them for their commitment to help me take the club forward.

Miller didn't get that chance, as I dropped him from the squad to face Dunfermline. To be honest, I would probably have dropped White as well had their been a suitable replacement. However, as expected, we beat them. The scoreline only said 1-0, with Fletcher getting the goal, but we throroughly outplayed them for the entire game. Celtic just pipped Rangers in a penalty shootout, so we face them in the next round.

Scotland beat Armenia 3-1 with Phil McGuire on the bench, and then win 1-0 in Georgia, where McGuire picks up his 4th cap. That improves their chances of at least making the playoffs.

Words of unrest have by this time spread round the dressing room, though. A third long-termer, Russel Duncan, shows his displeasure, and is joined by John Kennedy and Scott McLean. I ask Kennedy if he would like to help us out by playing out of position (I reckon he could make it as a striker or attacking midfielder) but he isn't interested. Maybe they all have a point? Certainly, losign 2-1 at Dens Park to next to bottom Dundee isn't particularly convincing. John Rankin got the only goal just before half time, sandwiched by two Dundee goals. For the first time in five seasons, we were at risk of dropping out of the top 6.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Celtic 10 25 +13

Rangers 10 22 +12

Hibs 10 19 + 8

Hearts 10 19 + 6

Arbroath 10 16 + 1

ICT 10 15 + 2

Motherwell 10 14 - 2

Aberdeen 10 11 - 3

</pre>

Time for more reinforcements. 8 times capped defender Lee Wilkie joins from Wolves for half a million. A bargain, as far as I can tell, for the 28 year old who simply hasn't fitted in the Black Country, despite being a success in Manchester, Coventry and Derby. Lee was inelligible for the Croatian side's visit as our attention turned back to the Champions League. A pity, as I feel we could have done with him. We lost 2-0. Two goals for Mihael Mikic, the second in the last minute, in a game which saw our Midfield crumble under the continental pressure. The fans were not a happy bunch after that particular performance!

We completed the paperwork on José María Montero's transfer to Betis, although transfer window regulations mean he won't actually leave until December. He's happy about it though, and although I'm reluctant to sell one of the best players in the country, the £4.5m will come in useful.

The Spanish striker was far from our minds as we battened down the hatches, expecting a battering from Rangers. It never came though, and we went 1-0 up through McGuire. Nothing in response from Rangers. Ten minutes later, 2-0 up, Pearson with the effort. Still nothing. Kenny Miller added a third in the second half for one of our best results of our Premier League history, never mind just this season, leaving the only sour note a facial injury to Phil McGuire which will keep him out for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, the result pleased everyone. Pearson in particular was brilliant, as was Wilkie on his debut from the bench.

We carried the good form into the must-win home tie against group leaders AIK. We had to wait until the second half, but eventually the scoreline was the same. James White took out some of his frustration with his first goal of the season, with Fletcher and Brebner adding goals at regular intervals. A point in Dortmund will see us through, although if Dinamo and AIK draw we may not even need that. We even manage to grasp our 5th place back to end the month, as we pip Arbroath in what was admittedly a tight 3-2 victory. Man of the Match for Kenny Miller, as he knocks two in the game, his 5th and 6th of the season. Rankin got the other as we went 2-0 up, but Malcolm contributed to the Arbroath comeback with an own goal. Winner from Miller a minute later was utter class, though.

With nothing to complaing about in the results, attention turns for some reason to McGuire. Two separate stories in the last week of the month suggest he shouldn't be in the team, or even that he shouldn't be at the club! I give both journalists a piece of my mind, and admittedly they are good enough to print my views, which gains me a bit of respect from the fans and Chairman. Almost unnoticed in the furore is the arrival of Peter Marshall from Hibs. £2.7m was rather pricey for the 20 year old attacking player, but I feel he'll come good either this season or next. Anyhow, the fee is mitigated by the departure of Chris Barker to Aberdeen for £1.5m.

Month end sees Miller, Wilkie, McGuire and Stewart called up to the Scottish squad, and Marshall called up to the Under 21s. It also sees the arrival of the Manager of the Month award at the Caledonian. Who would have thought that a couple of weeks ago?

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30th November 2008

Dear Diary,

A month of some progress, but not much in the league. The players are still ****ed off with the fact we're not up at the top of the table, but the Chairman seems happy enough at the moment. I've also been spending more of our cash reserves, but I'll get to that in due course. First of all we had some problems to deal with at the start of the month. Training injuries meant we would lose two Millers for a week, Kenny with bruised ribs and Kevin with a strained neck. So when we went to bottom side Ayr, Mitchell got a rare start. Kevin Miller had to sit on the bench, though, as we had no other goalkeeping option. Ayr took the lead, which was a rather worrying development, but the first of the season for Mitchell two minutes later was followed rapidly by a goal for McLean. Mitchell left the pitch with a foot injury to add to our problems, it'll keep him out of action for three weeks, but that allowed young Peter Marshall to make his debut. It was one of a series of excellent crosses from Marshall which set Steve McLean up for our third five minutes from the end.

We sent a weakened team to Dortmund, and looked for the draw without shame. Hardly surprising really when you consider the striking options we had available! We held out for 44 minutes of the first half, before Rosicky put the Germans in front. There was no way back for us, because we couldn't get the final ball right despite a valiant collective effort. The official news from the other game was a long time coming, but cheers from our small band of travelling fans let us know that things had gone our way. It had been 2-2 since the 68th minute, and neither side had been able to get a third goal, meaning they both went out in one of the tightest Champions League groups of all time.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Dortmund 6 9 +3

ICT 6 9 0

Dinamo 6 8 0

AIK 6 8 -3

</pre>

That was worth a cool £1.2m, and a place in one of the toughest groups alongside PSV, Liverpool and Bayern.

With the Champions League cleared up for now, we warily awaited the visit of Hearts, second placed in the league and high on the memory of the thrashing they gave us last time we met. Another striker bit the dust during the game, as Russell Duncan faced a three week break with a strained knee. But that allowed Marshall onto the pitch again, and he stuck the only goal of the game away ten minutes after half time. Not only can he cross, he can score! The result dragged us up to fourth.

The players were allowed to enjoy the rare luxury of a full week off, whilst I turned my attention to trying to bring some signings in. Two players are - very expensively - persuaded to sign up to the mission, but only one arrives before the end of the week. £3m plus a promise of up to another £4m depending on a combination of league games and international appearances, persuades Fulham to part with 25 year old Jamie McCunnie. 18 caps with his country, and SPL experience with Dundee Utd and Motherwell, Jamie is the best right back eligible to play for Scotland.

McCunnie makes his debut as we travel to top of the table Celtic. Despite our best defensive efforts, the Old Firm side still got an early goal. they never look safe though. We battle well, especially in midfield, and Pearson's 5th of the season after half time tops off his performance and earns him the Man of the Match award. It also secures the point.

To complement McCunnie, left back Stephen Crainey arrives from Leicester. 27 years old and with 24 Scottish caps, he's going to have to do a great deal to justify his record breaking £6m transfer fee. He'll have to wait a while for his debut as well. First up we had to face PSV at the Caledonian. It was a tight game in front of a capacity crowd at the Caledonian, and 0-0 was probably a fair result. To be honest, though, if we wanted to progress like last season we had to win that game.

With that game out of the way, we concentrate on the league for the rest of the month. Kilmarnock succumb 2-1 after taking the lead at the Caledonian. Goals from Marshall and Mitchell in the second half save face, but we stay 5th. Four days later we raced into a 4-0 lead at Livington in the first 25 minutes. Mitchell, Pearson and two from Steve McLean made it look comfortable, but the home side got a quick one back, and two more in the second half, which left us hanging on at 4-3 for the last ten minutes. Which just left a trip to Rangers, with 4th place finally at stake. What a game that was!

We went to Ibrox with the firm belief that we could beat an out of sorts Old Firm side who were only just above us in the table. By ten minutes in we were three goals down, and all thought of victory was banished. Steve McLean got his tenth of the season after quarter of an hour to give us hope, but that goal was cancelled out 5 minutes later by young Englishman Richard Preston. Rankin got our secon only to see Preston restore the 3 goal cushion again on the half hour mark. 7 goals in half an hour, and if that had carried on who knows what the result would have been? That didn't happen, though. In fact there was only one more goal in the match with Stewart making it 5-3 on the hour mark. Goalfest! The board were "disappointed" with the performance, but it seems increasingly like the Chairman roles that statement out every time we fail to beat the Old Firm.

A second award winning month, then, for me. December will be another mammoth month, with at least 8 games. It never seems to stop!

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  • 3 weeks later...

31st December 2008

Dear Diary,

Happy New Year! May it bring us all everything we want. What I want right now is a quiet month, because December has been another crazy one. We opened the month with the experience of a lifetime, playing if front of 62 and a half thousand fans in the Olympic Stadium, Munich. Up against players like Mendieta, van Nistelrooy, Roque Santa Cruz and Gattuso we had no choice, really, but to defend. We frustrated them well throughout the first half, but just when it looked as though the fans would start getting on their backs, Roque Santa Cruz nipped in and headed them in front. Bravely, we kept at them, and kept them out. 1-0 is not a result to be ashamed of in those circumstances, but it doesn't help our qualification efforts.

With that round of matches concluded, the Champions League packed it's bags and headed off on holiday until February, leaving us to concentrate on domestic matters. Back to back results against Liverpool would seem to be our only real chance of further progression. The draw for the League Cup Semi Final, meanwhile, pairs us against Hibs if by some miracle we can knock Celtic out.

The first league game of the month saw Motherwell visit to try and steal our 5th place. We got off to a flyer when Kenny Miller fired us in front inside five minutes, but the lead was short lived. James McFadden equalised, and the rest of the half went by in stalemate. Miller removed himself from the action fairly promptly at the start of the second half. In fact, he did better than that. The calf strain meant he would miss the rest of the month. Great stuff. Meanwhile, Steve McLean saw fit to put us back in front, but an immediate equaliser from Steven McGarry dented our confidence again. When the very same player put another away with five minutes to go, we looked done for, but Steve Mitchell was on hand to ensure we rescued a point and positions remained unchanged.

Mitchell was on hand to do the damage again in the League Cup rendezvous with Celtic. His goal was the only one separating the sides, in possibly the most defence oriented cup tie ever. Hibs in the Semi it is then :-) Not content with seeing off the hooped side of Glasgow, we tore into the might of local rivals Aberdeen in what was unusally a game between 5th and 8th. Two sides who had spent most of the last five seasons in the top 4 places, reduced to fighting for scraps. Anyway, three second half goals did the damage, two for Steve McLean and one for Fletcher. Somewhere in the middle of all that, Steve Mitchell twisted his ankle. Another striker bites the dust for a month. For some reason this didn't impress various journalists, who decided amongst themselves that it was time to stick the knife into David McEwan. Our relatively new, and incidentally internationally capped, goalkeeper apparently doesn't cut the mustard. The bank manager wasn't impressed either. McLean's 20th League game costs us £375k.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Hibs 20 45 +19

Rangers 21 43 +19

Celtic 21 40 +18

ICT 20 38 +13

Hearts 21 36 +10

M'well 21 32 +2

</pre>

Not content with their witch hunt against McEwan, the very same journalists piped up in midweek against McGuire. Now I have to admit, they have more of a case here. McGuire certainly hasn't lived up to his reputation so far, but you've got to give the lad time to settle. Still, sod them, what do they know about football?

The grand opening of the transfer window saw the local taxi company making a killing. Byron Bubb went to Lincoln, and José María Montero to Real Betis. Not a bad swap for £5.6m. I would spend a fair chunk of it before the month was out. On the pitch, the first game of a double-header against league leaders Hibs ended 1-0 in our favour, moving us up to 3rd for the time being. We had to rely on Peter Marshall coming off the bench to score the inner though. The second game is only three days later, but we have another new signing in Under 21 forward Calum McHattie, signed from Aberdeen for £1.7m to show off. Crainey missed the game with a thigh strain. It finished 0-0, which was rather disappointing considering they had a player sent off after only 9 minutes. That didn't impress the chairman.

I don't let Christmas shopping get in the way of sniffing out the best in Scottish talent. In fact, whilst everyone else was carrying out last minute preparations, two days before the festive celebrations, I was busy concluding the signing of 37 times capped Jim Paterson from Watford. £1.5m sees the left side of my defence and midfield strengthened in one go. Meanwhile, we approach defensive crisis point as Lee Wilkie injures his shoulder, presumably putting up the Christmas tree.

Boxing Day was a joy to behold, though. Sure, Dundee were next to bottom, but the way we took them apart with four second half goals was something else. Two in three minutes for Steve McLean took him to 15 for the season, whilst Malcolm got his first and Rankin also reached a landmark with his 5th two minutes from the end. Captain Michael Stewart took man of the match, although Jim Paterson did limp out of the game with a two week thigh strain sentence. All we had to do to end the month, and 2008, on a high was beat Arbroath down at Gayfield Park...

Which we didn't. In complete contrast to the Dundee game, we were utterly shambolic. A goal inside quarter of an hour put us on the back foot, and they had two others disallowed before finishing the game with two in the last ten minutes, including one from Caley Thistle reject Paul Shields. To complete the contrast, Stewart picked up a yellow card which will cost him a suspension for the first match of the new year. And Fletcher damaged his knee ligament, so he'll miss three weeks.

As I said. A hectic month, and in some ways I'm glad to have it behind me. I think we're going to face even more challenges in 2009, though! Oh, and Montgomery sprained his neck celebrating too much at the New Year's Eve party. Typical bloody Scotsman!

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everyone's doing it now...

31st January 2009

Dear Diary,

Phew! Just got back from Aberdeen, where we've had quite literally a battle. We're still in the cup, though, as the game ended 1-1. Not only in goals, but in red cards, as Fletcher and Gordon Stewart were both dismissed for a bit of fisticuffs just after Steve McLean fired us ahead. Paul MacDonald hit an unstoppable freekick to send us to a replay.

Other than that, it's been quite a quiet month. January always is, the winter break has a lot to answer for. Most of the lads were in a drunken stupor for the first week and a half of the year, only sobering up to hear the news of that FA Cup third round draw. Our first actual action didn't come around until the 17th, when Celtic knocked on the door and asked if we'd like to actually do something to earn our money. We sent them packing when Stephen Crainey scored his first for the club direct from a free kick on the hour mark. Baha, who spent an inordinately short amount of time here as a player, had a goal disallowed in the first half. Not content with having to hang on to a 1-0 lead, Ross Tokely (who was only on the pitch because of Stewart's suspension) got hiimself sent off six minutes after the goal. We hung on marvellously.

And from there we went to Kilmarnock and had a much tougher game. Things didn't really go to plan from the start, as Phil McGuire was stretchered off after ten minutes. He's búggered his achilles tendon and will be out until March. Maybe the press will get off his back for a bit now! Crainey showed that he wasn't a one kick wonder with another freekick, but that was soon equalised by Shields. Simon Lynch put Killie ahead just after half time, but two minutes later Robert Malcolm headed a corner in. It looked like a draw from there, with neither team able to kill the game off, but thanks to the Killie keeper bringing down Pearson and getting sent off, McLean was able to slot home a penalty and we coasted in against the ten men.

We started the month 4th, we finished the month 4th. The difference now is that only one point separates us from the two Old Firm clubs in 2nd and 4rd, whilst there is a 9 point gap back to Hearts in 5th. Hibs are starting to open up a gap at the top though. Off now to prepare for the replay with Aberdeen. I think we'll move all the breakables out of the stadium...

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28th February 2009

The replay went well! It was all decided by a penalty inside the first fifteen minutes. Darren Young barged Pearson in the back, and once again Steve McLean kept his nerve to put away the spot kick. It was all that was needed, as yet again the match threatened to turn nasty, with a couple of yellow cards for each side. The game as a spectacle wasn't much to observe, but it got us through, eventually.

We man aged to fit one league game in, in a month that was otherwise all about the cups. Off we trooped to Tynecastle on the 7th, looking tired after the midweek replay. Hearts took advantage, and went one up in the first half, and it took a triple substitution on the hour mark to change things around. John Rankin made a bid for regular football with the equaliser just five minutes after coming on, the ball coming from another substitute, Marshall, and then Steve McLean won us the match ten minutes later. It was an important win, emphasising once again the gap between 4th and 5th in the table.

Back to back must win midweek fixtures in the Champions League against Liverpool were also on the cards. At home, we were disappointing in the first one. I tried to get us to soke up the Scouse pressure and hit them on the break, but it didn't work as we succumbed to a Heskey header ten before half time. They shut up shop and we never got back into it, which left me with egg on my face and looking forward to a roasting from the Chairman. So in the away tie, with qualification almost out the window, I decided to throw caution to the wind and the full force of my attack at the Kop. It worked, at least briefly. Steve Mitchell, starting his first game for quite some time, scored as early as the 3rd minute, and repeated the task just after half time. Unfortunately, Labinot Harbuzi spoiled things by equalising between the two goals, and then Scott Young equalised after the second. At no time were we in front for more than 7 minutes! Of course, Heskey was on hand to add Liverpool's third, and comdemn us to another Champions League defeat.

And we weren't done with cup disappointment yet, not by a long way. Another draw at Kilmarnock was in order, Mitchell opening (again) for us and Burgess equalising for them ten minutes later. Michael Stewart picked up a yellow card which meant he would miss our next cup game...

...which was the League Cup Semi against Hibs. Despite some more bad press aimed in the direction of Stephen Crainey, the full back remained in the squad with my full support. Somerset Park, Ayr was the chosen location, looking fine after numerous upgrades, and a healthy 33752 crowd was present. They weren't about to witness a particularly good game. Despite the fact that we absolute battered the green and whites from Edinburgh, we got nothing out of the game. A single goal from Víctor Manuel Pérez was enough to take Hibs through to the final, and to send us cowering back home...

...where Kilmarnock were again waiting for us. Once again, the press was acting as the opposition's 12th man, getting on the back of Lee Wilkie this time. I pinned the article up on the dressing room wall before the game, but it didn't have the effect I was expecting. We crumbled in front of Killie's attack, a first half goal from Cosgrove looking like it had done the damage. We chased the game to the best of our (currently limited) abilities, but our hopes were dashed with a last minute Simon Lynch goal.

Out of three cups in one month, the press on the backs of a good number of my players (they had another go at Crainey after the last Killie game). It's not looking good is it? Time to concentrate on the league as they say.

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31st March 2009

Dear Diary,

There was little point in travelling to Eindhoven, but we went anyway. In a way I'm glad we did, even though we got thoroughly thumped, because it enabled me and a few of the players to see how low we had got. Although we went out to win, our attacking force didn't exactly do much, and we were comfortably beaten 3-0. We discussed a few ideas on the way back from The Netherlands, but there wasn't really time to put many of them into practice. Hence we lost 2-0 at Aberdeen as well. This did not please the Chairman, as you might imagine. He was seen disappearing away from Pittodrie muttering my name under his breath, and I'm sure it wasn't anything nice he was saying. What probably made it worse was that two Scottish strikers, Gordon Stewart and Derek Young, got the goals. Despite Kennedy, McGuire and McHattie all coming over from the dark side, they still seem to be able to produce home grown quality.

Still, we got four players called up to the Scotland squad. Kevin Miller, Wilkie, McCunnie and Crainey all get the call for the matches against Bulgaria and Romania. Peter Marshall will join up with the Under 21 squad, in search of his first cap. Once again, the press are on our case. It seems the plight of the "all Scottish club" is of utmost interest to them, especially when they detect a hint of a bad performance or two. This time it's Robert Malcolm's turn. At least they're spreading it around a little! Sure Malc's had some bad games, but I wasn't going to tell them that!

Anyway, finally we had some time to put some ideas into practice on the training field, and hopefully put some things right. Some changes were made, the squad shuffled a little, and when Bayern came to town we were very unlucky to lose by a single Santa Cruz goal. I wasn't unhappy with the performance, and I hinted at such in the press conference, stopping short of daring the press to find any single player at fault. My optimism was justified when we beat Livingston 2-1 three days later. Kenny Miller celebrated his return to the starting lineup with two goals in the first fifteen minutes, and although we got a little sloppy towards the end and gave a goal away, things definitely looked better. Lee Wilkie was arguably the player most at fault for almost letting Livi back into the game, and unbelievably this was enough for the media hounds to write their piece condemning our defender. Sometimes it makes you sick.

No-one could possibly have found anything to complain about as we demolished 10th place Ayr 3-0. At last, Calum McHattie goto on the scoresheet, and he enjoyed it so much he did it twice. Rankin got the first of the three, and we went into the 10 day International break feeling confident and a hell of a lot happier!

McCunnie wins his 19th cap in unhappy circumstances against Bulgaria. He starts on the bench, and the team are already 1-0 down by the time he comes on. It finishes 3-0. His 20th cap, 4 days later against Romania, is a happier occasion. A second half substitute once again, he helps his country hold out for a 1-0 win. But back in Inverness the quiet period makes work for idle hands. Out of nowhere, the knives are out in the media for Stephen Pearson. I was being honest when I said I couldn't see what the lad had done wrong, and that our recent results spoke for themselves. This was written up under the headline "Jordan defends inept player - again". Apparently, this was too much for the Chairman, and he "had words". The words I've been hearing don't bode well for my future...

Hopefully things were improved at the end of the month when we beat Rangers 2-1 to go third. Pearson sat this one out, with my apologies, and we took the lead when Steve McLean rattled home his 20th of the season in the 2nd minute. Fletcher's goal gave us breathing space and even Kiegan Parker's effort 5 minutes after half time didn't stop our flow. The third win on the trot was enough to give me the Manager of the Month award. One in the eye for all the doubters!

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10th May 2009

Dear Diary,

Not a good month, I'm afraid...

We really should have beaten Motherwell, who were seventh in the league, on All Fools day. It was our game in hand, and could have seen us move up level with Celtic at the top. Stewart got us on the road to victory just before half time, but it looked set to be another day when look wouldn't go our way when the the ball went in off Steven McGarry's knee ten minutes into the second half. It was the striker's 50th Motherwell goal, and whilst he celebrated we suffered. We stayed third, with our chances of catching Celtic dealt a severe blow.

After that disappointment, we would proably have taken a 0-0 draw at Easter Road in the 2nd vs 3rd game. However, when Hibs' Matt Fletcher was harshly sent off only ten minutes in, I wanted more. We threw the kitchen sink, and most of the other household fittings at the Hibs defence, but couldn't beat them. Yet again we had missed out on the chance to go 2nd, and this time the Chairman let me know his feelings. The league split now, into two groups, and up at the top we were still in with a shout of any of the top four places.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Celtic 33 69 +35

Hibs 33 66 +29

ICT 33 65 +21

Rangers 33 63 +15

Hearts 33 54 +9

Arbr'th 33 46 -3</pre>

Get the difficult games out of the way first, I suppose. Certainly the draw wasn't kind to us. Celtic first at the Caledonian, and then Hibs at Easter Road again. It goes to show how far this club has come, though, that fans will demonstrate and the chairman will be disappointed with a 0-0 home draw with Celtic. Personally, I would probably have demonstrated, but not at anything about our club or my management. I would have demonstrated against the fact that this was probably the most boring game in history, as both sides struggled to create anything, and notched up only 7 shots at goal between them in the 90 minutes. We held an open air press conference after the game, which seemed to calm the baying hounds of the crowd a little. Indeed, the Chairman actually took me to one side and told me he thought I'd handled the situation well. Things couldn't be that bad, then.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Celtic 34 70 +35

Hibs 34 66 +28

Rangers 34 66 +26

ICT 34 66 +21

Hearts 34 57 +11

Arbroath 34 46 -5</pre>

Our second trip of the month to Easter Road was even more disappointing than our first. We were going along quite well, albeit not creating much, when Steven Thompson and Scott Wilson notched two in eight minutes midway through the second half, to more or less end our chances of catching Celtic and really píss the Chairman off. I thought I was going to have to clear my desk there and then, but our next two games were against Hearts and Arbroath, the strugglers of the group, and maybe we could still salvage 2nd place.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Celtic 35 73 +37

Hibs 35 69 +30

Rangers 35 69 +27

ICT 35 66 +19

Hearts 35 57 +9

Arbroath 35 56 -6</pre>

Things are at least going right for some people at Caley. Peter Marshall wins his first Under 21 cap, and scores to boot, as the side squash Ireland 5-0. The journalists don't want to talk to me about that, though. They want to know why I persist in playing Phil McGuire. To be honest, I've had enough. I'm not going to defend the players any more. I fend off the hounds with a simple "no comment".

We get off to the worst possible start when Hearts come to The Caledonian in a game that is must win for more than one reason. Ulrik Laursen scores after only six minutes, and already the crowd are getting on our backs. Steve McLean gets us back level with a penalty just before half time after Kenny Miller was flattened. We could breath again. The second half progressed wariyl, until we were hit by two goals in eight minutes at an almost identical time as the Hibs match. Neil Clement and Andy Kirk did the damage this time, each one a nail in the coffin.

Celtic are crowned champions, and that spells the end for me. I knew the Chairman wouldn't put up with anything less than a trophy after I'd spent so much, and my gamble failed. I've already cleared my desk before he comes and tells me my time is up.

Ironically, in my absence, Caley beat Arbroath 3-2 with only one of the non-Scottish players, Jonathon Fortune, involved. Soon after they appoint Sam Allardyce from Wolves as their new manager and in the final game of the season lose 5-1 with Matt Christensen and Joren Nuyts recalled to the side.

So, I'm looking for another job. I'm not going to let the Chairman have the last word, though. If I do find another Scottish club to take me on, then I'm going to beat him at his own game...

2008/9 Inverness Caledonian Thistle Stats:

League

Played 38 Won 20 Drawn 9 Lost 9 Goals For 66 Goals Against 52 Points 69. 4th Place

UEFA Champions League

Played 12 Won 3 Drawn 1 Lost 8 Goals For 10 Goals Against 17. Phase 1 Group E Winners, Phase 2 Group C 4th.

Scottish FA Cup

Fourth Round

Scottish League Cup

Semi Finalists.

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31st July 2007

Dear Diary,

Well, my masterplan may have to wait a while. After a long summer holiday (thank goodness for the Copa America on TV!), and with Scottish jobs as rare as Rocking Horse ****, I decided to look slightly further afield for a job. So I ended up at this ****hole Rotherham, who are a Second Division side at the moment. They've flirted with the First Division, but never finished higher than 21st. The Board, run by a bloke called Andy Ward, seem a decent bunch and don't expect miracles this year. Good job really, because I've missed preseason, the League starts in just over a fortnight, and although there is a little money for transfers, there's not enough to make a big difference in such a short time.

We'll just have to see how it goes.

Author's note:Obviously, we're outside the bounds of Scottish Football here, so updates will be sparse until a Scottish job comes up.

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13th November 2009

Dear Diary,

It's four months since I last wrote anything here, so I thought it was time I updated. It's certainly been a different experience, managing a club in the industrial wastelands of South Yorkshire. Three sides of the ground here are surrounded by the scrapyards of C.F. Booth Ltd, a company once owned by the same man who ran the club. On the pitch, though, the squad was small and what became clear quite quickly was that, even though the wage bill was down around the £70k p/w mark, the gate money coming in wouldn't even cover that. There were obviously two things to do: Increase the fan base, or lower the wage bill. The first would take too long for my liking, so it had to be the second.

The team had a strong nucleus: Bags of goalkeeping experience with Carlo Nash (35) and Maik Taylor (37). Decent raw talent in defence with Robin French (24) in his fifth season at the club, Ryan Ross (21) in his second, and experience left back Danny Higginbotham (30) starting his 6th Millers campaign. It was midfield where it all looked like happening, though. Playmaker Richie Wellens (29) was key to the squad, and was the best player last year. He would be supported in midfield by new signings Niam Uka (28), a Yugoslav signed from Darlington and José Quitongo (34), a player I knew well from his Celtic and Motherwell days. Also around was something of an enigma in Siyabonga Nomvete (31). The experienced Zulu South African, with over thirty caps and twelve goals for his country was starting his fourth season at the club, but claiming a wage of £16,500 p/w I got the feeling he wasn't going to be around for long. Scoring the goals, hopefully, would be Jamie Forrester (35), a journeyman forward who seemed to have settled. This would be his third season at Millmoor. And there was a familiar face as well - Paul Bradshaw (30), whom I had let go from Inverness five years ago. In all that time, he had only played nine times for his new club. I knew what he was capable of, and hopefully he would get more opportunity under my reign here.

First task, though was to see what the loan markets would throw up. The Chairman had told me that he would, eventually, release some funds for transfers, but not until the club was on an even financial footing. With all the bargain free transfers taken already, loaning players was my only chance. Fortunately, my reputation helped me along the way, and I soon had deals to bring Jeff Whitley (30) from Manchester City for four months and Mick Bennett (23) from Arsenal for the season. A lot of pressure would be on the young striker's shoulders. He needed to supply that bit of skill up front to allow the lesser players to take their opportunities.

The season started quite well:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">15/8 Grimsby 0 Rotherham 2 (Whitley 38, Barr 57) 6th

22/8 Rotherham 1 Sheff Utd 0 (Nomvete 65) 2nd

25/8 Rushden 0 Rotherham 1 (Quitongo 3) League Cup 1st Round

29/8 Burnley 0 Rotherham 2 (Wellens 62, Uka 90) 1st</pre>

Four games, four wins, no goals conceded and top of the league. Sufficiently good to bring me my first English Manager of the Month award. I also managed to knock £10k off the wage bill by selling Alisdair Graham to Portsmouth for £200k and Carlo Nash to Halifax for £50k. I had talks with Nomvete, letting him know that if a reasonable offer came in for him, he could move on, and he was remarkably civil about the whole thing. He wanted to stay at Rotherham, and was willing to take a £4,000 pay cut to help make that happen. For the time being at least.

On we went:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">31/8 Rotherham 2 Norwich 0 (Bennett 54, Nomvete 70) 1st

5/9 Wimbledon 0 Rotherham 2 (Forrester 44pen, Wellens 55) 1st</pre>

Things just seemed to get better and better, but there was a sour note at the end of the Dons game. Maik Taylor limped off, and the prognosis was that he would miss 3 weeks. With two players already loaned in, and no unattached keepers willing to come to Millmoor for peanuts at the drop of a hat, we went into the next game with Trainee Kevin Laws between the sticks. Although I later found out that one of the executives at the club had tracked down Mart Poom and was discussing a deal.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">12/9 Rotherham 1 Huddersfield 3 (McDonald (24), I Morris (41), Bennett 45, A Morris (71pen) 3rd</pre>

Things started moving rather quickly all of a sudden. Barnsley signed Jeff Whitley, leaving me with a big hole in midfield, but also an open loan slot, so in came Paul Gallacher (30) from Reading for a month, straight into the side for the Chesterfield game:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">16/9 Chesterfield 1 Rotherham 4 (Forrester 4, Wellens 41 66, Barr 73, Cimerotic (76)) 2nd</pre>

And in came Mart Poom (37), complete with his 132 Estonian caps, on a rather expensive month-by-month contract. The squad was looking a bit more stable again.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">19/9 Rotherham 1 Cambridge Utd 0 (Nomvete 76) 2nd

23/9 Bolton 1 Rotherham 2 (Wellens 28 Hogg (56) Bradshaw 81) League Cup 2nd Round

26/9 Rotherham 0 Plymouth 1 (Luz (12pen)) 2nd</pre>

Richie Wellens was rewarded for a great month with the Player of the Month award. My home grown left sided midfielder, Ashley Barr (22), had been forced into a move to replace Whitley in the holding role, so Quitongo was looking a bit exposed out on the flanks. Looking to provide a bit more depth and experience, I agreed a deal with Martin Grainger (37) to come to Millmoor on a rather optimistic three year deal, and extend his 628 club appearances a little further.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">3/10 Exeter 2 Rotherham 0 (Fox (33) Lohse (51)) 2nd

10/10 Rotherham 5 Shrewbury 0 (Bennett 11, Barr 22, Grainger 27, Forrester 60, Wellens 79) 1st

17/10 QPR 0 Rotherham 1 (Quitongo 74) 1st</pre>

Four red cards in the last four matches, including two in the 1-0 win at QPR, meant that suspensions were starting to bite, and the small squad was stretched even further. Therefore Alex Neil (31) was persuaded to join after being released by neighbours Doncaster. If anything, this would ease the departure of Nomvete from the club, as the two players were quite similar. It was nice to get one over on Jeff Whitley's new side:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">20/10 Rotherham 2 Barnsley 0 (Forrester 3, French 17) 1st

24/10 Crystal Palace 0 Rotherham 1 (French 68) 1st

28/10 Oldham 2 Rotherham 1 (Forrester 45, Harrison (56), Harris (86)) League Cup 3rd Round

31/10 Crewe 4 Rotherham 1 (Lynch (28pen), Forrester 37, Wallwork 51, Revell 63, Fletcher 69) 2nd</pre>

Although selling him made my defence look exceptionally bare, especially with French serving a seven match ban, an offer of £190k from Dagenham and Redbridge for Adam Tann (27) couldn't really be turned down, especially as he was another player earning over £4,000 per week.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">7/11 Rotherham 1 Halifax 2 (Carr (17), Brown (72), Uka 90) 3rd</pre>

It was disappointing to lose my last game in South Yorkshire, but the sacking of Peter Taylor by Southampton at the beginning of the month had caught my attention. Struggling near the bottom of the first division, but with lots of cash to spend, I couldn't really ignore the challenge. So here I am, and I must say it's a lot nicer than Millmoor!

Rotherham United Stats

League: Division Two

Played 16 Won 11 Drawn 0 Lost 5 Goals For 26 Goals Against 13 Points 33

League Cup: Third Round

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13th May 2010

Dear Diary,

The St. Mary's stadium, and Southampton in general, was like a breath of fresh air. The club was struggling down in 18th place when I arrived, but with just one look at the squad I could tell that there was no way they should be there. The Chairman, Rupert Lowe, sat me down in his office for our first meeting and told me that he wanted to consolidate, and gain a respectable league place. He also chipped in to say that there would be £12m plus to spend if I needed it. How different from Millmoor could it get? The temptation to get stuck in was great, and I really enjoyed my time. To such an extent that I even forgot about my goal on a couple of occasions.

Of course, the wage bill was steep. At nearly a quarter of a million per week, long term lack of success was not a commercially viable option. A good chunk of this could be attributed to the wages of Aussie superstar forward Scott McDonald (26), who didn't immediately impress me, certainly not £31k p/w material anyway. Then there was club talisman Wayne Bridge (29) earning a cool £25k p/w. Wayne had been at Southampton for as long as anyone can remember, and most people think he's cooked the books somewhere along the lines if he thinks he's not 30 yet. Defender Jerel Ifil (27) is the other £20k p/w plus earner at the club. Other than that, there are several decent First Division quality players on the books. Keeper Nuno Marques (29) is a Portugese B team cap, midfield is filled by ex Liverpool lad John Welsh (26), the born again Kevin Street (32) and Brian Howard (26), supported by the evergreen Steve Housham (33) and willing backup Chris Carruthers (25). Up at the front, there is no big name striker, although Kevin Davies (32) holds onto the dream, and Neil Anderson (22) may be worth a second glance. Depth certainly exists in the reserves, although whether that depth is a strength remains to be seen.

An easy job to be happy in, if things go well:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">14/11 Leicester 2 Southampton 3 (Warner (14), Carruthers 52, Anderson 64, Dunne (79), Carruthers 86) 16th</pre>

A good enough start, then, thanks to the unexpected source of the first, and winning goals. All that money in the bank was making me nervous, though, and I couldn't resist reaquainting myself with some old friends. A double swoop on the Caledonian Stadium ensued, bringing striker Mawete Júnior (£2.3m) and Aussie midfielder Matthew Christensen (£2.5m) in.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">21/11 Southampton 1 Stoke 3 (Anderson 20, Gardner (28), Dunwell (58), O'Callaghan (90)) 17th</pre>

Careless, and still lightweight up front. Time to raid another old club, bringing Mick Bennett away from his Rotherham loan spell for £1.8m.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">25/11 Southampton 4 Derby 1 (Christensen 9, Tipton (20), Anderson 23, 44, McDonald 84) 14th

28/11 WBA 0 Southampton 0 16th</pre>

Neil Anderson surprisingly took the Division One player of the month award, whilst I cleared out some of the clearly unneeded players to free up some shirt pegs in the dressing room. Kevin Murray went to West Brom for £500k, whilst Kevin Davies reluctantly went to Dagenham and Redbridge for £150k.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">5/12 Southampton 5 Bolton 2 (Murray (33), Anderson 45, Mawete Júnior 71, Foxe (72), Mawete Júnior 90, Street 90+, Carruthers 90+pen) 12th</pre>

Three goals in the last minute was probably taking the píss a bit, but hey icon_smile.gif. Off went another unwanted midfielder, André Boucand to Birmingham for £725k.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">12/12 Nottm Forest 1 Southampton 3 (Archibald (20), Mawete Júnior 22, 45, Street 59) 12th</pre>

With my team beginning to take shape, and with the side reaching the top half of the table for the first time, more and more second string players realised they probably didn't have a future at the club. The latest to leave was Scott Collier, heading north to Darlington for £375k.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">19/12 Southampton 4 Carlisle 0 (Street 24, 45, Mawete Júnior 56 Housham 81) 10th

26/12 Southampton 2 Peterborough 2 (Anderson 5, 18pen, McAdam (27), Mahon (35)) 12th

28/12 Colchester 2 Southampton 2 (Broomes 27, Mills (60), Gray 63, Mustapha 72) 12th</pre>

Three wins and two draws in December brought me the Manager of the Month award for the first time in this division. Neil Anderson really was turning out to be the surprise package of the squad, having now notched 6 goals since I arrived.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">2/1 Southampton 2 Middlesborough 2 (Carruthers 30, Foster (43), Anderson 62, Selnæs (64)) 11th</pre>

The first game of 2010 brought our third consecutive 2-2 draw, and also saw John Davidson departing for West Brom to join up with his former team mate. £375k was again the fee.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">5/1 Everton 1 Southampton 3 (Anderson 14, 63, Rooney (78), Bennett 81) 9th

9/1 Southampton 1 Leeds 2 (Keane (13), Viduka (23), Strand 81) FA Cup 3rd Round</pre>

With injuries and suspensions biting, our defence was starting to look a bit thin on experienced cover. Time, then, for another Caledonian raid, and the arrival of Lee Wilkie for £1m. He was about to have some debut:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">16/1 Southampton 5 Bradford 1 (Naylor (18), Anderson 19, Wilkie 29, Anderson 45, 67, Neal 87) 9th

23/1 Dag & Red 1 Southampton 2 (McDonald 11, Campbell (52), Broomes 90) 9th

6/2 Southampton 3 Stockport 3 (Street 16, Normann (30), Bennett 38, Anderson 45, Wilbrahim (74), (90+)) 8th

13/2 Charlton 1 Southampton 2 (Bennett 9, McDonald 32, Webber (46)) 9th

20/2 Southampton 2 Notts County 1 (Miller (40), McDonald 47, Bennett 86) 7th

23/2 Port Vale 3 Southampton 1 (Carruthers 10, Riihilahti (36), Armstrong (55), Whiteman (90)) 8th

27/2 Southampton 3 Macclesfield 1 (Street 12, Bennett 21, Williams (60), Andrews 90) 6th</pre>

One defeat in five meant I was almost automatic choice for the Manager of the Month award, with Bennett's four goals securing him the Player's equivalent as Southampton sneaked into a playoff place for the first time. To keep the strike force on their toes, and because of injuries to both Anderson and Mawete Júnior, I paid out £2m to bring in Simon Lynch from Kilmarnock. He was to prove money well spent as well, although it took him a little longer:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">6/3 Southampton 0 Birmingham 0 6th

10/3 Sunderland 3 Southampton 4 (Lynch 6, Oster (8), Howard 23, Bennett 26pen, Rowan (35), Donnelly (61), Carruthers 68) 5th.

13/3 Portsmouth 1 Southampton 2 (Burchill (18), Lynch 24, McDonald 72) 4th

16/3 Derby 0 Southampton 5 (Street 14, Lynch 30, Street 50, Wallwork 63og, Carruthers 75) 3rd

31/3 Southampton 4 Leicester 0 (Lynch 20, Christensen 23, 60 Bosschaart 76og) 3rd

3/4 Stoke 1 Southampton 1 (Howard 5, Mendonça (74)) 2nd</pre>

After 4 remarkable (for one reason or another) wins, it took a draw with the league leaders to move us into 2nd place. This happily coincided with Kevin Street's selection in the Division One select XI. Another fine achievement. We probably peaked too soon, though:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">10/4 Southampton 0 Manchester City 3 (Johnson (34), (40) Grahn (72)) 4th

16/4 Wrexham 1 Southampton 1 (Lynch 29, Lowndes (51)) 3rd

19/4 Southampton 3 Nottm Forest 0 (Street 13, Zhelev 30og, Bridge 48) 3rd

24/4 Bolton 2 Southampton 1 (Bennett 36pen, Mofid (51), Murray (75)) 5th

1/5 Southampton 2 WBA 1 (George (50), Howard 74, Anderson 87) 5th

9/5 Carlisle 2 Southampton 1 (Wright (5), Bridge 26, Lucas (65)) 6th</pre>

The playoff place was aptly secured by Neil Anderson's 87th minute goal against West Brom, but by then my eyes had returned north of the border. The chain of events had started the previous month, when Port Vale sacked Brian Horton. This wasn't of immediate interest, but my eye was drawn when Mick Halsall chose to leave Dundee for the Potteries club. My application was in before I had even checked the league table, and here I am, feet under the table at Dens Park, and ready to give the old challenge another run for it's money!

Nice to see Rotherham United finishing champions of Division 2 as well.

Southampton Stats

League: Division One

Played 30 Won 17 Drawn 8 Lost 5 Goals For 71 Goals Against 41 Points 59

FA Cup: Third Round

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26th December 2010 Part One.

Dear Diary,

Dundee, the first six months.

Boxing Day. An ideal day to spend with the family. Yes and no. Spending time with the family is all well and good, but after a day and a half, everyone needs their space. So I thought I'd use the time to catch up here.

The first thing I had to do at Dens Park was to find out if the Chairman was willing to go along with my ideas. The first meeting between us sorted that out straight away. I sat down at the other side of the desk, staring at the small, engraved nameplate. "Mr Jimmy Marr, Chairman" it said. There was no footballing memorabilia on the desk, and it looked as though the office was only rarely used.

"Laddie," he said to me, "I want you to get us promotion this season."

It took a lot of effort not to let my bottom jaw drop to the floor. After all, it was the second week in May. Dundee had already won Division One by 7 points, and the Chairman didn't even seem to know? This was going to be easier than I thought...

Looking at the squad, though, this was going to be more difficult. I couldn't field an all Scottish side at the moment, and it would be a slow process bringing players in. There was no £15m transfer fund here. So I was going to have to approach things a different way. The first task was to keep the wage bill down, so that I could maximise the available money for transfers. There was probably going to be times in the forthcoming season when I would need to bring a player in to fulfill a specific role, and I might need to spend on both fee and wages at that point. With this in mind, I started looking to let players go. Some had already arranged moves, mostly before the club won promotion, and there was nothing I could do about that. However, with the future in mind, I tried to keep as many Scots at the club as possible:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">OUT:

Nick Evans (26) Welsh (Morton - £160k)

Gary McDonald (28) Scottish (Ross County - £500k)

Ross Dawson (21) English (Shrewsbury - £50k)

Craig McEwan (33) Scottish (Brighton - Free)

Michel Breuer (30) Dutch (Dunfermline - Free)

Kevin McDonald (29) Scottish (Shrewsbury - Free)

Craig Bingham (31) Scottish (Dunfermline - Free)

Vincent Sullivan (28) Irish (Huddersfield - Free)

Arkadiusz Onyszko (36) Polish (Hibs - Free)

Stephen Craigan (34) Northern Irish (Dunfermline - Free)

Hugo Saraiva (28) Portugese (Stalybridge - £140k)

Neil Ferrie (28) Scottish (Queen's Park - Free)

Chris Cahill (25) Australian (Scunthorpe - £110k)</pre>

A few lads headed out on loan for the season. Their future at the club will depend on their loan performances.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre"> Andy Jeffrey (19) English (Berwick - Season Loan)

Andrew Rae (19) Scottish (Forfar - Season Loan)

Ian Hutchison (19) Scottish (East Fife - Season Loan)</pre>

Coming in were a diverse bunch of players from around the Scottish league:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">IN:

Jamie Campbell (29) GK (Livingston - £12k)

Jim McKenzie (22) D LC (Ayr - £65k)

Sean McAuley (30) DM C (Stranraer - Free)

Chris Griffiths D RLC (Free)

Andrew Stevenson S C (Hibs - Free)

Neil Alexander GK (Celtic - £325k)

Stephen Whalen AM C (Livingston - £275k)</pre>

and a few on loan to provide, hopefully, that bit of quality and experience:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Martin Bavidge (Portsmouth - 4 month loan)

Scott Baillie (Manchester City - 4 month loan)

Steve Caldwell (Oldham - 4 month loan)

Darren Mackie (Bristol City - 4 month loan)</pre>

So this is how the squad looked before the season kicked off:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Keepers:

Scots

1. Neil Alexander (32)

13. Jamie Campbell (29)

Nots

33. Andy Jeffrey (19) loan to Berwick

Defenders:

Scots

2. Mark Wilson (28)

3. Jim McKenzie (22)

4. Stephen McCann (25)

16. Ian Hutchison (19) loan to East Fife

18. Scott Webster (18)

21. Colin Drew (31) loan to Dumbarton

22. Scott Baillie (22) loan from Manchester City

23. Steve Caldwell (29) loan from Oldham

Nots

14. Chris Griffiths (23) English

James Goodwin (28) Irish

Midfielders:

Scots

8. John Dempster (27)

12. Peter Hegarty (22)

15. Sean McAuley (30)

17. Andrew Rae (19) loan to Forfar

19. Martin Bavidge (30) loan from Portsmouth

24. Darren Mackie (28) loan from Bristol City

25. Stephen Whalen (30)

Nots

6. Luke Guttridge (28) English

7. Massimo Ciotti (29) Italian

11. José Luis Villanueva (28) Chilean

20. Juanjo (33) Spanish

Attackers:

Scots

9. Andy Walker (24)

10. Gordon Williamson (24)

18. Andrew Stevenson (24)

Scott Webster (18)

Stuart Miller (23)

Nots

39. Fabián Caballero (32) Paraguayan</pre>

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26th December 2010 Part Two

Dear Diary,

Well, the season kicked off, whether we were ready for it or not.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">31/7 Dundee 0 Hearts 1 (Kirk (88)) 11th</pre>

Unfortunate, to say the least. Guttridge had looked good in midfield, a shame he wouldn't have a long term future at the club. Transfer dealings continued, as they often do at this stage of the season. 28 year old midfielder Daniel Alexander (Berwick Rangers - £14k) signed, with young striker Scott Webster heading out to East Fife for the season.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">7/8 Hibs 3 Dundee 1 (Stevenson 3, MacDonald (34), Baha (61), Mejía (72)) 11th

13/8 Dundee 1 Rangers 1 (Robinson (12), Stevenson 45) 9th

17/8 Dundee 4 Cowdenbeath 0 (D.Alexander 3, Stevenson 8, Walker 41, Bavidge 76) League Cup 2nd Round

21/8 Ayr 1 Dundee 1 (Ferguson (4), Stevenson 40) 10th

28/8 Dundee 2 Aberdeen 3 (Young (14), Villanueva 17, Stewart (28), Shields (63), Dempster 90) 12th</pre>

The predictable difficult start, with only the surprise Dens Park draw against Rangers worthy of note. At least we were still in the League Cup, getting through the second round smoothly enough. The newly extended Dens Park (capacity 13135) was seeing more Dundee fans through the turnstiles than ever before, but everywhere I looked former players of mine were conspiring against us. Hibs, for example, had Onyszko, Suat Usta and Baha in their line up.

The team clearly needed a little something else to help it on it's way. So I placed a few calls, and managed to persuade a handful of Scotland's finest youth to come to this part of the homeland for the rest of the season. In no particular order:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">John McKenzie (21), Striker, Capped at Under 21, from Blackburn Rovers

Chris Taylor (21), Left sided Midfielder, from Everton

Steven Thomson (19), Left sided Defender, from Middlesbrough

Steven Craig (22), Central Defender, from Everton

Steven Ferguson (20), Right sided Defender, from Fulham</pre>

The changes didn't come in time for my return to the Caledonian Stadium, but things were about to get better...

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">11/9 Inverness CT 1 Dundee 0 (Rubio (1)) 12th

19/9 Dundee 1 Motherwell 0 (Walker 90) 10th

22/9 Hamilton 0 Dundee 4 (John McKenzie 5, Dempster 67, 72, John McKenzie 75) League Cup 3rd Round

25/9 Kilmarnock 0 Dundee 3 (McCann 12, Walker 71, Hegarty 90) 7th

2/10 Celtic 0 Dundee 2 (Stevenson 38, 68) 8th</pre>

The improvement started with a last minute winner against Motherwell, and their captain Darren Ward, and after further success in the League Cup, continued with a thrashing of Kilmarnock, which Craig Easton could do nothing about. But the undoubted highlight was the win at Celtic Park. A magnificent performance against a side who, it must be said, looked badly out of form. Andrew Stevenson's goals made the difference, the ex Hibs striker already making a big impact in the team.

Signing a permanent deal at Dens Park in early October, having been released by Everton after nine seasons at Goodison Park, was defensive midfielder Chris Watson. The 28 year old played as a trialist in the cup match against Hamilton, and impressed sufficiently to earn himself a contract. Looking to the future, this will allow Luke Guttridge to be replaced. With that in mind, he went straight into the squad for our next game...

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">16/10 Dunfermline 1 Dundee 1 (Rusk (12), Stevenson 39) 8th

19/10 Dundee 4 Arbroath 0 (Stevenson 17, Dempster 45, Walker 60, Dempster 90) 7th</pre>

John Dempster led the attack well in what was our best League performance so far against Arbroath. Here was a player who was really grasping his opportunity in the first team, having gone a good 3 years without really making a name for himself. However his contract was set to become unprotected in December, and I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to keep him with our self enforced wage structure.

More money was made available in the short term by the departure of Luke Guttridge to Brighton for a cool £1m. Given that I had already found his Scottish replacement, the cash was a bonus. I'm not convinces it was what the fans wanted to hear ahead of our next trip to Glasgow.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">23/10 Rangers 1 Dundee 0 (Nicholas (12)) 7th</pre>

23 year old Stuart Miller headed off to Forfar on 4 month loan, with both of us hopeful that he would gain some first team experience. Meanwhile, the rest of us tried to get back to winning ways...

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">30/10 Dundee 3 Hibs 2 (Walker 16, Stevenson 31, Mejía (39), Baha (63), Ciotti 79) 7th

7/11 Hearts 0 Dundee 0 7th

13/11 Dundee 2 Ayr 0 (Walker 1, Dempster 83) 7th</pre>

The victory over Ayr marked Martin Bavidge's final game for Dundee, for this season at least. He has been dependable, without doing anything outstanding, just as I remember him at Caley ten years ago. He's still on the transfer list at Portsmouth, as they look to avoid a First Division relegation battle, but I think £200k is asking a bit much. Besides, we'd never afford his wages.

Another foreigner leaves Dens Park, Juanjo signing for East Stirling in a deal which sees 27 year old right back Graeme Campbell come in the other direction. Also arriving, and also 27, is winger Ewing Crawford, for £70k from Albion Rovers.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">20/11 Motherwell 1 Dundee 1 (Villanueva 34, Foley (76)) 7th</pre>

The slightly disappointing draw at Motherwell brought down the curtain on the loan careers of Caldwell, Mackie and Baillie. Baillie had been the only regular performer, with Caldwell acting as backup for our already solid back two most of the time, and Mackie being a major disappointment in the seven games he played.

Yet another non-scot left as well, as I slashed £8k from the wage bill and brought £75k by allowing Caballero to go to Sheffield United. The club was now officially making a profit based on gate receipts vs wage bill! With Baillie out of the action, though, my main concern was how the defence would adjust. As it happens, I needn't have been so worried.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">27/11 Dundee 5 Kilmarnock 0 (Wilson 3, Alexander 10, Villanueva 23, Wilson 43, 50pen) 5th

1/12 Hibs 1 Dundee 0 (Baha (64)) League Cup QF

4/12 Dundee 1 ICT 0 (Walker 7) 5th

11/12 Arbroath 0 Dundee 0 5th

18/12 Dundee 2 Rangers 1 (van der Vaart (11), Ciotti 17, McKenzie 60) 5th

21/12 Dundee 2 Celtic 2 (Andrade (13), Thomson 40, Crouch (50), Thomson 88) 5th

26/12 Dundee 1 Dunfermline 0 (Stevenson 72) 5th</pre>

The 5-0 against Kilmarnock, including a hattrick from Martin Wilson - his first goals of the season, really finished off November on a high. For the first time we moved into the top half of the table, albeit an artificial placement given the games in hand of sides below us. Elation was followed by depression, as we suffered cup defeat for the first time at the hands of Hibs and, particularly for me, Baha. The rest of December was set to go well, as we put one over on Caley, Rangers and Dunfermline, and ran Arbroath and Celtic close. The Arbroath match was one of particular note, with a player from either side seeing red in the 9th minute for completely unrelated incidents.

So here we are, 5th on merit, arguably two players short of my Scots only squad, and paying out a measly £31,500 per week in wages! Who would have believed it?

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29th May 2011 Part One.

Dear Diary,

Well, that's the season of rebuilding over, now we can start with making things work how I want them to. But lets consider things in the right order...

Christmas saw the departure of two more Dundee players. Andy Jeffrey went permanently to Bournemouth for £30k, whilst Colin Drew went on a short term loan to Raith Rovers. The rest of us travelled to Aberdeen to blow the festive cobwebs away.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">29/12 Aberdeen 2 Dundee 3 (Stevenson 16,20, Harrison (49), Shields (76), Crawford 81) 5th</pre>

Ewing Crawford's first goal for the club clinched another amazing victory, and sealed me the Manager of the Month award for December. Chris Watson was also awarded the Player of the Month award, as the month ended well for Dundee.

The third round draw of the Scottish Cup paired us with Division Two Queen's Park. A straightforward enough tie on paper, but first we had to deal with high flying Hibs.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">4/1 Hibs 1 Dundee 0 (Óscar (60)) 5th</pre>

Steven Craig's initial loan failed, but negotiations led to his return for a second 4 month period. Daniel Ogunmade also joined us from Middlesbrough for 4 months. The 26 year old left sided forward would give us a little extra depth on that side. Plus, his contract is up in the summer, so if he turns out OK he'll go onto the shortlist.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">22/1 Dundee 1 Motherwell 1 (Elliott (60), Dempster 61) 6th

29/1 Dundee 1 Queens Park 0 (Williamson 18) FA Cup 3rd Round

2/2 Ayr 1 Dundee 0 (Fisken (47)) 6th

5/2 Dundee 1 Hearts 3 (Pennant (19), Villanueva 39, Pennant (60), MacDonald (69)) 6th

12/2 ICT 1 Dundee 2 (Stevenson 45, Fletcher (67), Stevenson 90pen) 6th

19/2 Dundee 2 Rangers 0 (McCann 11, Stevenson 65 - 15th of season) FA Cup 4th Round

26/2 Dundee 4 Arbroath 1 (Crawford 4, Walker 42, Rollo (61), Walker 80pen, Villanueva 83) 5th</pre>

A handful of shaky results, but we recovered to get back to 5th place by the end of February. Beating Caley Thistle on their own patch with a last minute penalty was really a moment to remember, whilst the demolition of Arbroath was another to rank amongst our best performances of the season. A mainly reserve side did it's job against Queen's Park, including a first goal of the season for Gordon Williamson. It was a full strength side that saw off Rangers in the 4th round though. This result went a long way towards showing just how much the force of Scottish football was changing.

February's performances were enough to get me another Manager of the Month award. Our numbers were increased when Stuart Miller returned from his loan spell at Forfar, but he immediately started kicking up a fuss about not getting in the first team. He'll not last long around here if he does that sort of thing.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">5/3 Kilmarnock 0 Dundee 1 (Stevenson 17) 5th</pre>

With the transfer deadline looming, it was time to secure a few signings to see us through to the end of the seaseon. Steven Craig was agreeable to a permanent move, although we shouldn't really have spoken to him without talking to Everton first. Fortunately, they were willing to do business, and £450k changed hands.

He joined us (without really ever going away) just in time for the start of an epic encounter with Aberdeen...

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">12/3 Aberdeen 0 Dundee 0 FA Cup 5th Round</pre>

We managed another signing before the replay. Another promising youngster, who didn't fit into Rangers' long term plans. Stuart Henderson is 20 and can play on the right side of defence or midfield. He'll get to see things first hand from the bench.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">16/3 Dundee 2 Aberdeen 2 (Villanueva 19, Walker 33, Adalsteinsson (36),(39)) Dundee win 4-2 on penalties. FA Cup 5th Round replay

19/3 Dundee 2 Aberdeen 1 (Craig 18, Evans (30), Ciotti 61) 4th</pre>

An exciting week! First we hang on in the through the second half and extra time in the cup replay, when we really should have finished the game off. Neil Alexander came to the rescue, saving Craig Harrison's penalty, whilst Stevenson, Walker, Watson and Craig all kept their nerve to score theirs. The only way we could top that was to beat them again the following Saturday, which we did! Better than that, Steven Craig score the opener and then got sent off two minutes later, and we still won. We move up to 4th, albeit temporarily.

And yes, this meant another Manager of the Month award for me. It also meant a Young Player of the Month award for Steven Thomson. If only Middlesbrough would entertain the notion of selling him.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">2/4 Dunfermline 1 Dundee 0 (Duff (22)) 4th

9/4 Hearts 0 Dundee 2 (Dempster 32, Stevenson 37) FA Cup Semi Final at Easter Road.

11/4 Celtic 1 Dundee 2 (Walker 11, Heed (27), Hegarty 67) 4th</pre>

Things just got better and better! A fairly straightforward Semi Final victory over league leaders Hearts meant that Dundee were through to the Scottish Cup final for the first time since they won it in 2001/02. Our opponents would be Hibs. Tricky. However, even more elation was to follow as we beat Celtic on their own patch to guarantee 4th place as the league split for the final round of matches.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Scottish Premier Division after 33 matches

1. Hearts 69 +24

2. Hibs 68 +25

3. ICT 59 +13

4. Celtic 58 +13

5. Dundee 56 +18

6. Rangers 54 +12</pre>

Our fixture list for the final five games made it clear what we had to do. With things so tight, our target had to be third place. Of course that would have been beyond the club's wildest dreams at the start of the season, but having got this far there was no way were going to sit back and think "job done". Therefore, the first match against Celtic, and the fourth up at the Caledonian Stadium would be the important ones. In between those we faced the Edinburgh pair, whilst the last match at Rangers would, fingers crossed, be unimportant.

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29th May 2011 Part Two.

Dear Diary,

Now where was I? Oh yes. Celtic up first, looking for revenge for the previous game, and looking to deny us 4th place and keep up their own Champions League qualification chances, should the fail to progress past their current Quarter Final slot this year. 21 year old Portugese international Pedro Andrade effectively cost them that chance by headbutting Chris Watson 13 minutes in. We went on to walk all over the ten men, including a rare goal for Peter Hegarty and a first for the club for Kevin Gaughan

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">16/4 Dundee 5 Celtic 0 (Stevenson 27, Walker 32, 55, Hegarty 78, Gaughan 85)

Scottish Premier Division after 34 matches

1. Hearts 72 +25

2. Hibs 69 +25

3. Dundee 59 +23

4. ICT 59 +12

5. Celtic 58 +8

6. Rangers 55 +12</pre>

Up to third, and the game against Caley Thistle looks even more massive now. But first, we had to go to Easter Road and defend like mad against a Hibs side looking for the title.

The scouting report I got expected Baha to come back and haunt me yet again, but it was his South Korean strike partner Seol who cast our defensive game plan asunder with an early goal. To get an equaliser so quickly was unbelievable, and as for going on to win it, well, it was more than I could possibly have hoped for.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">23/4 Hibs 1 Dundee 2 (Seol (9), Walker 13, Stevenson 51)

Scottish Premier Division after 35 matches

1. Hearts 72 +24

2. Hibs 69 +24

3. Dundee 62 +24

4. Celtic 61 +9

5. ICT 60 +12

6. Rangers 56 +12</pre>

A win for Celtic over league leaders Hearts boosted the Hibs fans' hopes, but dented ours, as it meant that the unexpected win hadn't really helped us that much. And we had to face Hearts next...

We weren't to be so lucky this time. A flurry of goals in the middle of the first half completed the scoring, and although we came from a goal down once, we couldn't do it twice. Mark Wilson's sending off in the 85th minute was to lead to a £16k fine from the FA as well - we have the worst disciplinary record in the league!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">30/4 Dundee 1 Hearts 2 (Duff (18), Stevenson 23, Kirk (29))

Scottish Premier Division after 36 matches

1. Hearts 75 +25

2. Hibs 69 +22

3. ICT 63 +14

4. Dundee 62 +23

5. Celtic 61 +8

6. Rangers 59 +13</pre>

Caley Thistle's 2-0 win over Hibs really put the cat amongst the pigeons, but the biggest problem was waiting just around the corner. I'm not sure whether it's league rules, or just a cóck up on somebody's part in the backroom, but all our season long loans expired on the 4th of May. Sure, this meant Scott Webster returned, but it also meant we would be without the services of Chris Taylor, Daniel Ogunmade, John McKenzie, Steven Ferguson and most importantly of all Steven Thomson for the last two games.

So with the odds stacked against us, and a rearranged squad, we headed up to the Caledonian. The first half of the game painted a very uninspiring picture. The only real threat was coming from Caley full back Jim Paterson, who was certainly playing at a far higher standard than I remembered. During half time we rearranged duties to sort out that particular problem, brought of Andy Walker and threw on Gordon Williamson for a rare league appearance. Was that the inspiration, or was it the arrival of young Hegarty alongside him on 65 minutes? Either way the two combined and Williamson claimed his first league goal of the season!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">7/5 ICT 0 Dundee 1 (Williamson 66)

Scottish Premier Division after 37 matches

1. Hearts 78 +26 (champions)

2. Hibs 72 +25

3. Dundee 65 +24

4. ICT 63 +13

5. Celtic 61 +5

6. Rangers 59 +12</pre>

Once again the Caley board showed their impatience, giving manager Sam Allardyce the dreaded vote of confidence. And all we needed now was a draw against Rangers.

We needed a draw. In fact at the end of the day, Caley only got a draw so we really didn't even need that. It was a good job really, as we went through the entire 90 minutes without even getting a shot at goal, and only winning one corner. I've rarely seen such a one sided game end 0-0, and Neil Alexander really deserved his man of the match award.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">14/5 Rangers 0 Dundee 0

Scottish Premier Division, final standings

1. Hearts 78 +25

2. Hibs 75 +26

3. Dundee 66 +24

4. ICT 64 +13

5. Celtic 62 +5

6. Rangers 60 +12</pre>

And that was that! Champions League qualification! Now there was just the Cup Final to worry about. Andrew Rae and Ian Hutchison returned to the fold after their loan excursions, and the announcement of the Premier Division team of the year includes Neil Alexander's name. Our super keeper was set to play a big part in the cup final as well...

The final itself was, like many, a tight and uninspiring affair. It was 0-0 at half time, and looked as though it was going to carry on that way. That is until Neil Alexander picked the worst possible moment to make a very bad decision. Korean defender Seol came crashing down to earth as Alexander caught his heels, and the referee pointed at the spot. Worse, he received the red card. Paul MacDonald scored the spot kick and that was that.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">28/5 Dundee 0 Hibs 1 (MacDonald (73pen)) FA Cup Final</pre>

Perhaps that was one game too far with our weakened squad. It shows how much we'll need to improve next year, for a start! The final event of the season was the Awards Dinner, where Andy Walker picked up the player of the year award and the Chairman's representative announced that the stadium would be expanded by 3500 seats over the summer...

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29th July 2011

Dear Diary,

The season starts tomorrow, and it's been another busy summer at Dens Park, which looks absolutely resplendant with it's new extended capacity of 16635. The Chairman is proud that we now have the biggest stadium in Dundee, whilst I'm pleased that there will be a few extra quid coming in. Speaking of money, the draw for the all important 3rd Qualifying Round of the Champions League has paired us with either a long trip Reykjavik to face KR (Knattspytnufélag Reykjavík to give them their full title), or an equally long trip to Apolonia in Albania to play Apolonia Fier. A win over the two legs will net us another £1.8m, but in the mean time we still have to be careful with the pennies.

Once again, there's been a fair turn over of playing staff. Seven in and three out, at a slight profit, but a slightly higher wage bill. It's still, amazingly, below £40k though! The following have departed for other opportunities:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">James Goodwin (Ipswich - £300k rising to £400k)

Chris Griffiths (FC Haka - £80k)

José Luis Villanueva (Hearts - £1.3m)</pre>

Whilst arriving at Dens Park:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Joe Webster (24) DM C (Aston Villa - £550k) 5 year deal, £3,500 per week.

Martin Lauchlan (30) AM/F RL (Oldham - Bosman) 2 year deal, £3,500 per week.

Chris Kerr (32) D/DM L (Hearts - Bosman) 2 year deal, £1,000 per week.

Daniel Ogunmade (26) F LC (Free Transfer - released by Middlesbrough) 5 year deal, £975 per week.

Richard Waddell (30) AM L (Notts County - £850k) 3 year deal, £3,100 per week.

Colin Sinclair (21) S C (Free Transfer - released by Watford) 1 year deal, £170 per week

Mark Young (21) M C (Stockport - Season Loan) </pre>

Although, rather irritatingly, having signed a new two year contract, Chris Kerr decides enough is enough and announces that he will retire at the end of the season icon_rolleyes.gif

Preseason went well. Ten goals from seven different scorers across the three games, and everyone looks fresh and ready to go.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Friendlies:

Dundee 2 Falkirk 0 - Walker, Henderson

Dundee 5 Partick Thistle 0 - Lauchlan, Stevenson (2), Watson, Whalen (Pen)

Dundee 3 Albion Rovers 1 - Hegarty, Walker, Whalen. Kevin Stewart for Rovers.</pre>

And so, for posterity, to the squad:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">The Dundee "Lions" Squad 2011/2012</pre><pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

Goalkeepers:

1. Neil Alexander (33) 2nd season, 38 appearances

13. Jamie Campbell (30) 2nd season, 10 appearances

Defenders:

2. Mark Wilson (29) Capped at Under 21 level. 5th season, 140 appearances, 7 goals

3. Jim McKenzie (23) 2nd season, 6 appearances

4. Stephen McCann (26) 4th season, 103 appearacnes, 8 goals

5. Kevin Gaughan (33) 3rd season, 40 appearances, 1 goal

6. Steven Craig (23) 2nd season, 10 appearances

15. Chris Kerr (32) 1st season

20. Graeme Campbell (28) 2nd season, 1 appearance

23. Stuart Henderson (20) 2nd season, 10 appearances

xx. Scott Webster (19) 3rd season, 2 appearances

xx. Colin Drew (32) 5th season, 22 appearances

xx. Ian Hutchison (20) 3rd season

xx. Kevin Johnston (16) 1st season

Midfielders:

7. Ewing Crawford (27) 2nd season, 21 appearances, 2 goals

8. John Dempster (28) 6th season, 53 appearances, 8 goals

11. Martin Lauchlan (30) Capped at B Team level. 1st season

12. Peter Hegarty (23) Capped at Under 21 level. 6th season, 144 appearances, 17 goals

14. Richard Waddell (30) 1st season

16. Chris Watson (29) 2nd season, 36 appearances

17. Daniel Alexander (28) 2nd season, 11 appearances, 2 goals

19. Stephen Whalen (31) 2nd season, 14 appearances

22. Joe Webster (24) Capped at Under 21 level. 1st season

25. Mark Young (21) On loan from Stockport

xx. Alex Rae (20) 3rd season, 4 appearances

xx. Sean McAuley (31) 2nd season

Forwards:

9. Andy Walker (25) 9th season, 156 appearances, 37 goals

10. Gordon Williamson (25) 4th season, 62 appearances, 26 goals

18. Andrew Stevenson (25) 2nd season, 44 apperances, 20 goals

21. Daniel Ogunmade (26) Capped at Under 21 level. 2nd season, 8 appearances

24. Stuart Miller (24) 6th season, 27 appearances, 3 goals

xx. Colin Sinclair (21) Capped at Under 21 level. 1st season</pre>

Fingers crossed, prayers said, here we go...

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26th August 2012

Dear Diary,

The Scottish league is pretty much the same as it's always been. The first five seasons of the decade saw Celtic beat Rangers to the top spot season after season. 2005/06 saw Celtic slip up, finishing 5th, and Rangers took advantage with Aberdeen filling the runners up spot. The following season returned to the normal pattern, as did two of the next three. The only change being Celtic's 2nd slipup in 2008, when Rangers won the title and I led Caley Thistle to 2nd. Then out of the blue last season, the two Edinburgh clubs took the top two spots, the first time since 1985 that an Old Firm club hasn't won the league, and the first time since 1965 that one of them hasn't been in the top two. I'm hoping Dundee can go one better than last season, and break into the top two. Plus, there's the Champions League adventure to get involved with. It's not been a bad start so far...

Pre-season injuries hampered my selections for the league opener at Arbroath, mainly in defence where Mark Wilson and Chris Kerr were missing. The starting eleven was therefore Campbell, Henderson, McCann, Gaughan, Craig, Webster, Waddell, Dempster, Lauchlan, Stevenson and Walker. Going a goal down was a shock, but when the home side's keeper was sent off and a penalty awarded late in the first half things looked brighter. The job was completed late in the second.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">30/7 Arbroath 1 Dundee 2 (Pearson (23), Stevenson 41pen, Hegarty 85) 3rd</pre>

The annual merry go round of loan players was soon underway, with Stuart Miller heading off to Clydebank for 4 months and being replaced by 20 year old forward Kenny Kelly from Fulham. It's only a year since the London side signed the player from Morton, and he hasn't really settled yet. The first home match against Dunfermline was a success as well.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">6/8 Dundee 2 Dunfermline 1 (Dempster 27, Duff (29), Lauchlan 55) 2nd</pre>

Martin Lauchlan really ran the game. Good to see some of our hard earned money going to a good use!

We were made to feel very welcome in the compact Frostaskjól stadium in Reykjavik. The hosts were used to getting to this stage of the Champions League, but hadn't yet progressed beyond it this century, whilst many of my players hadn't even tasted European football. Plus, with loan players not eligible to participate (another strange rule I hadn't noticed), the squad was a bit thinner than usual. In the end, a draw was probably a fair result, keeping things interesting for the second leg, whilst the away goals were a bonus, making things a bit more in our favour.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">10/8 KR 2 Dundee 2 (Helgi Hreidarsson (19), Dempster 24, 40, Haraldsson (66)) Champions League, 3rd qualifying round, 1st leg</pre>

Three days later, the lads went to Celtic Park and got a draw, a result which despite the opposition's lack of form recently is still damned good.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">13/8 Celtic 1 Dundee 1 (Crouch (6), Stevenson 63) 3rd</pre>

More ins and outs. Out went Scott Webster again, this time to Alloa for the season, whilst in came Martyn Corrigan. Joining us on his 34th birthday, Martyn is probably approaching the end of his career, but he has bags of experience and has real quality, not only in defence but possibly in midfield as well. He signed a rather optimistic 3 year deal, on a bargain basement £950 per week.

Corrigan made a solid debut as we went to Motherwell and put them to the sword with goals again from our star striking pair. Steven Craig picked up the man of the match award, in a game which saw all four of our defenders pick up yellow cards. Not exactly improving on our discipliary record. More importantly, we went to the top of the table!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">20/8 Motherwell 0 Dundee 2 (Walker 36, Stevenson 51) 1st</pre>

Stuart Henderson was celebrating our good fortune extra hard over the weekend, as he had his own bit of luck to celebrate - his first call up to the Under 21 side. I was too busy to celebrate too much, though. I had another freebie to snatch up. 25 year old midfielder Martin Gallacher agreed to join the Dundee revolution, having been released by Wolves. Another bargain at £975 per week! He wouldn't be allowed to feature in our European adventure, providing we could do the business against KR...

An early goal from Lauchlan, though, eased our path to the Group Stage, although an equaliser midway through the half threatened to sticky the wicket. Up stepped Stevenson to put the matter beyond doubt, though.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">24/8 Dundee 2 KR 1 (Lauchlan 14, Helgi Hreidarsson (26), Stevenson 45) Agg: 4-3</pre>

We're through to the Group Stage! So it was suits and ties on, and off to Geneva for the draw. Realistically, whoever comes out of the hat, we don't stand a chance. As it is, we at least get to cut down on the travelling. Liverpool, Lyon and Schalke 04 join us in Group G, and it all kicks off next month! I can't wait!

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10th September 2011

Dear Diary,

With the UEFA Champions League cheque for £1.8m safely banked, we went back to concentrating on the league. Livingston were the visitors, but they couldn't really ause us many problems, and Andrew Stevenson picked himself another two goals up to take him to 6 for the season, whilst Gallacher opened his account with the third.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">27/8 Dundee 3 Livingston 1 (Stevenson 7 - 5 for the season, Still (27pen), Stevenson 32, Gallacher 88) 1st</pre>

After a couple of weeks break - we had to make the most of it, with the Champions League looming it would be the last we would get for a while - it was a different story against Hearts. It was the first time we had come up against Villanueva, who was joined in the Champions' squad by Kenny Miller. Two players who knew my tactics inside out then. Great. It was probably not a surprise to lose the game given those circumstances.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">10/9 Dundee 0 Hearts 2 (Kenny Miller (40), Morgan (84)) 3rd</pre>

But, at least we were comfortably placed in the league.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL (After 6 games)

1. Hearts 15 +13

2. ICT 14 +6

3. Dundee 13 +4

4. Rangers 11 +4

5. Hibs 10 +3

6. Celtic 10 0</pre>

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Cheers Brian icon_smile.gif

22nd October 2011

Dear Diary,

Would you believe we've played 9 games since I last updated? Our Champions League future hangs in the balance, but importantly we've managed to keep our league form together. We've also had a pretty remarkable result in the League Cup, and spent some money! It all started when the Germans came to town...

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">14/9 Dundee 1 Schalke 04 1 (Jörg Wichmann (36), Wilson 84)</pre>

A draw against Schalke looked a reasonable result on paper. We had Neil Alexander to thank for keeping us in the game when we could have conceded two or three, and Martin Wilson's first of the season got us the point. Liverpool beat Lyon 3-1 in France.

Martin Gallacher continued the excellent start to his Dundee career with a goal and the man of the match award against Aberdeen, but it was Richard Waddell's first Dundee goal that sealed the three points, and took us temporarily back to the top of the table.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">17/9 Dundee 2 Aberdeen 1 (Gallacher 47, Adalsteinsson (63), Waddell 71) 1st</pre>

The weekend's other games dropped us back to 2nd, though.

The trip to Anfield was definitely an experience, but it was one which we were completely incapable of dealing with. They played us off the park if I'm honest, and we'll have to try and do better when we meet them again in front of our own fans.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">20/9 Liverpool 3 Dundee 0 (Heskey (7), Gerrard (16), Marshall (62))</pre>

Schalke beat Lyon 1-0 in Germany, leaving us 3rd. If we're to have the slighest chance of progressing, we need heavy wins home and away against the French side.

From Liverpool on Wednesday to Inverness on Sunday, and the tiredness showed as we hung on for a 0-0 draw at my former club. Surprisingly, despite being a 21 goal hero during my reign, Steve McLean only gets a place on the bench. He comes on with half an hour to go and causes us some problems. Seems he still has what it takes. Definitely something worth looking into.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">24/9 ICT 0 Dundee 0 3rd</pre>

Our third place is once again only temporary, as other results later in the weekend drop us another place to fourth.

A rare start, and similarly rare goal for Gordon Williamson made him the man of the match as we completed the first half of our essential double against Lyon.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">27/9 Dundee 1 Lyon 0 (Williamson 40)</pre>

Schalke 04 and Liverpool draw 1-1 in Germany, and we're still in with a chance! I get the feeling that the away game will be more difficult, though.

Stevenson and Walker form their effective partnership again, and get a goal each, as we beat Hibs at Dens Park to go back to the top of the table.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">1/10 Dundee 2 Hibs 0 (Stevenson 45, Walker 89) 1st</pre>

Yet again, other weekend results drop us to 2nd.

.

So to the League Cup. where we had been drawn against Rangers. Our squad wasn't in the best shape and I expected a bit of a mauling. Quite a surprise, then, when Jim McKenzie scored a 20 yard freekick midway through the first half - his first for the club. Surely Rangers would come back? Andy Walker meant sure they didn't with a magnificent captain's performance, adding two further goals to make the result comvincing.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">5/10 Dundee 3 Rangers 0 (McKenzie 21 - 1st for club, Walker 45, 70) League Cup 3rd Round.</pre>

How the 7000 or so Dundee fans cheered at that particular result!

The club reached, to me at least, a significant milestone during the 10 day rest period following the Cup victory. Massimo Ciotti was finally offloaded to Arbroath for a massively cut price £210k, meaning the squad was now entirely made up of Scottish players. More to the point, we continue to make money on a week in, week out basis as our wage bill is now down as low as £30,000 per week. Well, that's the case temporarily at least. It's not long before I raise that mark a little with the introduction of Steve McLean to the side, for a fee of £850k. Hopefully he can show some of the same form he rewarded me with when I took him to the Caledonian Stadium. Compared to the majority of our squad, he doesn't come cheap. He takes a pay cut from his Caley Thistle days, though, signing a three year deal worth £2400 per week. He goes straight into the side for the trip to Ibrox, where Rangers will be looking for revenge.

We don't get an iota of change out of the Old Firm side on their own patch, illustrating that the league continues to be far more important to the top teams than the League cup. The game is dominated by young, and sadly English, striker Richard Preston, although it's his strike partner, and one time potential Caley star Joren Nuyts who bags the man of the match award. The pair are unstoppable!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">15/10 Rangers 2 Dundee 0 (Preston (5), (76)) 4th</pre>

We travelled to France for the crunch Champions League match a little disheartened by our drop in league form, and this probably affected us a little. Twice we went behind, but twice we equalised, but it took a single second half goal to búgger up our chances of qualification

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">19/10 Lyon 3 Dundee 2 (Patrice Gomis (2), Walker 12, Christophe Diawara (25), Stevenson 28, Frédéric Gomes (63))</pre>

Liverpool beat Schalke 04 1-0 at home, leaving us third. Mathematically, we can still qualify, but for that to happen we must beat Schalke and then get a better result against Liverpool than the German side get against Lyon.

We returned home determined to do better against Arbroath. Trouble is, Arbroath (and Massimo Ciotti) were determined to do well against us, and when they went 1-0 up inside 10 minutes it looked like trouble. We came back well, though, including first goals and the man of the match for McLean. It was enough to send us shooting back to first in the table, and with a game in hand as well!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">22/10 Dundee 5 Arbroath 2 (Pearson (9), McLean 15 - 1st for club, Watson 16, Quinn (33), McLean 35, Gallacher 49, Hegarty 65) 1st</pre>

Easily our best performance of the season, and the table sure makes nice reading...

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 12 games (except where shown)

1. Dundee 23 +8 (from 11 games)

2. ICT 23 +8

3. Celtic 23 +6

4. Hearts 22 +14 (from 11 games)

5. Rangers 21 +5

6. Hibs 19 +3 (from 11 games)</pre>

Now, if only we can get that miracle in the Champions League in Germany.

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3rd December 2011

Dear Diary,

Another month has passed, starting in Germany and ending in Italy. We've had games in four different competitions, and experienced more ups and downs than a Scotsman's kilt in a gale. As I said last time, it all started with that miracle we needed in Gelsenkirchen, but that wasn't to be when Schalke got two first half goals. They were never going to be unprofessional enough to let us back in, so the battle for qualification turned to the battle for third place.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">25/10 Schalke 04 2 Dundee 0 (Sebastian Kehl (6), Andreas Hinkel (22))</pre>

Fortunately, Liverpool beat Lyon 1-0 at home. We remain third in the table, and it's all about the last match. We need to get an equal result against Liverpool as that which Lyon get against Schalke.

Having failed pretty much to get into the side at all this season, we decide to let Stephn Whalen go. Surprisingly, we get good money for the 31 year old, with Second Division Bury willing to pay £375k for him. The crossover between October and November sees us battling our way to two draws against other sides in the top six. they were both the sort of games you need to be winning if you're going to dominate the league, but realistically we're never going to do that. I'm just glad we could show enough spirit to come back from behind, even if the two points means we've slipped to 4th.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">29/10 Hearts 1 Dundee 1 (Morgan (9), McLean 65) 2nd

6/11 Dundee 2 Celtic 2 (Andrade (7), Gallacher 14, Johansson (57), Stevenson 67) 4th</pre>

Colin Drew for his first loan spell of the season, adding Kilmarnock to the list of clubs he has helped out, as those of us eligible prepare for perhaps the biggest fixture at Dens Park this century. Not only are the visitors one of the biggest clubs in the United Kingdom, but the game will also decide whether we have any future in Europe this season. Sure, Liverpool have already qualified, so they probably weren't as up for it as they might otherwise have been, but it was still a massive occasion for us.

So you can imagine the noise when, after 40 minutes of open play, Peter Hegarty headed a corner past the diving Liverpool keeper to put us 1-0 up. There was plenty of buzz around the ground at half time, and a noticeable sense of deflation quarter of an hour after the restart when Steven Gerrard got the visitors back level. The roof was raised two minutes later, though, when a up stepped the Dempster to fire home after a goalmouth scramble. The last 25 minutes was a cocophony of noise, as we bravely hung on for the result.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">9/11 Dundee 2 Liverpool 1 (Hegarty 40, Gerrard (64), Dempster 66)</pre>

Having got the victory, the other match was unimportant. So it was incidental that Schalke had come back from one down to beat Lyon 2-1 in France. We finished 3rd, and subsequently drew Roma in the UEFA Cup 3rd Round.

That clearly took a lot out of us though, as from the following Saturday on we went on a potentially disasterous run, losing three games in a row to the sides in 10th, 11th and 12th in the league. The details are so painful, I really don't want to think about it!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">12/11 Dunfermline 2 Dundee 0 (Dunn (10), Simmons (69)) 4th

16/11 Dundee 1 Ayr 2 (Ferguson (61), McLean 81, McDonald (90)) 4th

19/11 Livingston 2 Dundee 1 (Danielsson (17), Cosgrove (58), Waddell 68) 5th</pre>

The chairman, or his representatives at least, start to show signs of their concern after that particular set of results. It leaves us within a couple of points of dropping out of that all important top half of the table.

The battle to get first team football for our second string players in a league which has no real reserve set up continues. Gordon Williamson departs to Clydebank for the maximum allowed four month spell, whilst on the same day young Andrew Rae goes to East Fife until the end of the season. We have to try to get our season back on track, but Roma are not the opposition most likely to facilitate that.

Although, I thought we played well against the Italians. We battled with them all the way, and looked set to make it effectively a single knockout game back in Rome as the time ticked away and the score remained nil-nil. You can't account for the skill of players such as Ronaldinho, though, and it was he who snuck in in the last minute to grab the away goal and the advantage that brings.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">24/11 Dundee 0 Roma 1 (Ronaldinho (90)) UEFA Cup 3rd Rnd 1st Leg</pre>

Another match without a win then. This was starting to become habit forming. We appeared to have kicked the habit after going two up in just over half an hour against Rangers, and then playing on cruise control for the next fourty minutes. Then Brian Flynn brought on Kiegan Parker, and that all went títs up as well.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">27/11 Dundee 2 Rangers 4 (Stevenson 27, Waddell 32, Green (70), Parker (72), Vaschuk (82), Parker (84)) 6th</pre>

Stuart Miller returned from his latest loan spell to a club verging on depression. Our bad run had extended so far that the bookies weren't giving us a chance in the League Cup Quarter Final tie with Hibs, even though we had home advantage. It's a good job the bookies know jack ****

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">30/11 Dundee 3 Hibs 0 (Hegarty 45, Walker 61, Waddell 80) League Cup Qtr Final</pre>

To celebrate we went on an attacking rampage against Motherwell. Interestingly, Motherwell also opted to go on an attacking rampage against us. The result? One of the most entertaining, and at the same time nerve wracking games in the SPL this season.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">3/12 Dundee 6 Motherwell 4 (Stevenson 15, Kelly 25, McGarry (31), Gaughan 38, McFadden (45),

Kelly (52), Bresciano (65), Wood (67), McLean 75 - 5th of season, Kelly 78) 5th</pre>

Fabulous, and with Stuart Miller departing back to Dumbarton, we've moved (at least temporarily) back up to 5th!

Out: Stuart Miller (Dumbarton - 1 month loan)

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 18 games (except where shown)

1. Hearts 35 +18 (from 17 games)

2. Rangers 34 +11

3. ICT 31 +10 (from 17 games)

4. Celtic 30 +9 (from 17 games)

5. Dundee 28 +4

6. M'well 27 +7

7. Hibs 27 +4 (from 16 games)</pre>

Now, I've got a table booked at one of the most exclusive restaurants in Rome, so I must go.

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15th January 2012

Dear Diary,

We're bang in the middle of another ten day International Football break, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to catch up here. It's been a hectic month again, but you wouldn't really expect anything less would you?

Playing in the Olimpico Stadium was always going to be a different experience, but I hadn't really anticipated just how different. Walking out to the dugout in front of very nearly 80000 fans was a totally surreal experience. We had to get over it, though, and get down to the task at hand. Conceding a penalty 7 minutes in probably wasn't the way to go about winning this particular game. Andy Walker silenced the crowd less than ten minutes later though, and set up an interesting scenario. One more goal and the tie would be ours! We didn't have long to contemplate this, though, as veteran Italian international and Roma captain Francesco Totti made it 2-1 soon after. Their experience and quality saw the rest of the game out, and Dundee's first European adventure as far as I was concerned was over.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">8/12 Roma 2 Dundee 1 (Carbone (7pen), Walker 16, Totti (25)) UEFA Cup 3rd Rnd 2nd Leg</pre>

We got back to Dens Park to a warm reception from our fans, most of whom had been able to watch our Italian performance thanks to Sky's new UEFA Cup interactive coverage. Also waiting for us was Colin Drew, back from Kilmarnock, but realistically only here to wash his clothes and spend the weekend Christmas shopping, before heading off to Alloa for his second loan spell of the season. We give him a lift part of the way, as we're back to league action at Easter Road, where we're back to form in the nick of time. Peter Hegarty's 5th goal of the season is essential to give us a win and defend our 5th place from the Hibbies.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">11/12 Hibs 1 Dundee 2 (Watson 16, Grant (47), Hegarty 62 - 5th of the season) 5th</pre>

One of our scouts notifies us that Middlesbrough have accepted a loan offer for Steven Thomson. Quick as a flash I'm back in there with my own bid. Having enjoyed his time here last season, he joins up without hesitation, and we have him on a 6th month loan. Chris Kerr gets a rest, as Thomson goes straight into the side as Caley Thistle come to town.

Martin Lauchlan hasn't exactly been rattling the goals in since his arrival, but his third of the season is an important one, as once more we turn over my old side in the traditional tight encounter. Three days later we ensure a relaxing Christmas by easing past Ayr with McLean getting back on the scoresheet in style.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">17/12 Dundee 1 ICT 0 (Lauchlan 61) 5th

20/12 Ayr 1 Dundee 3 (McLean 9, Bradford (15), McLean 52, Wilson 56) 5th</pre>

We don't recover from the Christmas merriment particularly well, and credit to Arbroath for doing a professional job on us at Gayfield Park. Once more we've proved that getting above 5th is going to be a struggle this season.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">26/12 Arbroath 2 Dundee 0 (Warzycha (25), Hall (55)) 5th</pre>

Because of the Boxing Day game, you don't really get to relax as a football manager until the 27th, but my relaxation is disturbed by a rumour that some English sides are sniffing around Steven Thomson. It turns out to be true, as both Charlton and Blackburn have thrown in bids. I wasn't willing to pay the £1m that the player was valued at last time I enquired, but having the player in Dundee already gave me a slight advantage. One quick phone call to him, and it's clear that the bids aren't anywhere near a million, and that 'Boro are seriously considering them. Another call to the chairman and we have a £250k bid on the table. By New Year's Eve Steven Thomson is a full time Dundee player, agreeing to a 5 year, £525 per week deal.

It's one in and one out again at Dens Park, though. East Stirling obviously watched the comings and goings of Colin Drew quite well, which must have kept at least one of their scouts on his toes, and they are now willing to cough up £50k for the player. It's only fair to let him go after sending him all over the country!

We celebrated a belated New Year with a good, but nervy 1-0 win over Hearts. Typically, the goal came very early on, and the still slightly hungover Scotsmen on both sides gradually faded out of the game.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">3/1 Dundee 1 Hearts 0 (Stevenson 2) 5th</pre>

Stuart Miller had his loan spell at Dumbarton extended for a second month, but we couldn't extend our 2012 winning run to two games. Aberdeen did a job on us, and once again we failed to move above 5th when the opportunity presented itself.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">11/1 Aberdeen 2 Dundee 0 (Skerla (39), Gordon Stewart (66)) 5th</pre>

Still, there are worse positions we could be in, and we're still in both domestic cup competitions.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL.After 24 games

1. Celtic 47 +18

2. ICT 47 +17

3. Rangers 47 +14

4. Hearts 43 +16

5. Dundee 40 +5

6. Hibs 39 +6

Gap of 8 points to rest.</pre>

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4th March 2012

Dear Diary,

Cup progress and League stability to report this time. All in all it was a good period for Dundee, but we still lack that vital bit of consistency to progress any higher up the table at the moment.

It wasn't lack of consistency, or even quality, that cost us a point (or more) at Celtic Park though. Shocking refereeing led to a late penalty just after lanky Peter Crouch had brought the league leaders level. We were doing well in the game until McCann was sent off just after the hour mark!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">21/1 Celtic 2 Dundee 1 (Kelly 52, Crouch (79), Boateg (82pen)) 5th</pre>

What followed thought was pretty stunning. In two home games against bottom club Dunfermline, we scored nine goals, dumping them out of the Scottish Cup and compounding their relegation worries. The goals were well shared around, and certainly did a lot to boost my confidence. Hopefully the whole side will take something away from it! Chris Greenacre proved a pain in the butt, though.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">28/1 Dundee 4 Dunfermline 2 (Walker 16, Gallacher 26, Stevenson 27, Walker 39, Greenacre (43), Dunn (77)) Scottish Cup 4rd Round

1/2 Dundee 5 Dunfermline 2 (Gallacher 11, McLean 29, Greenacre (35), Wilson 63pen, Greenacre (69pen), Lauchlan 84, Young 90) 5th</pre>

Martin Lauchlan scored in back to back games to notch his 5th of the season, with Kenny Kelly also reaching that mark as we dispensed with Livingston in slightly less convincing fashion.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">4/2 Dundee 2 Livingston 1 (Lauchlan 8 - 5th of the season, McCracken (25), Kelly 65 - 5th of the season) 4th</pre>

Again that stepped us up to 4th. Could we hold on to it this time? It was in the balance, especially with Ibrox the next destination.

Stuart Miller came home to roost for what I expect to be the last time this season. A better spell away this time, with three in three for the side at the bottom of Third Division.

So. Rangers. A chance to really push forward and possibly get inside the top three. Could we do it? Could we bóllocks. That annoying (and Scottish) striker Kiegan Parker got under my skin again, and single handedly walked his side to victory.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">11/2 Rangers 2 Dundee 0 (Parker (21), (74pen)) 5th</pre>

Still, in some people's eyes we had a more important game coming up anyway. A League Cup Semi Final against Arbroath, with the chance to get to another final. In the end we probably shouldn't have worried, as it was a breeze. Three second half goals did the damage and booked our passage to Hampden.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">15/2 Arbroath 1 Dundee 4 (Hegarty 13, Hall (22), Stevenson 51, Gallacher 53, 84) League Cup Semi Final</pre>

If that was a breeze, Stranraer was a stiff wind. I gave some of the regulars a rest, and let the others fight for a place in the team. The result was near perfection. First goals for Joe Webster and rookie striker Colin Sinclair were probably the highlights, whilst if I had to pick a lowlight it woulld be the way we eased off in the second half. A win is a win in the cup though.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">18/2 Dundee 5 Stranraer 1 (Webster 11 - 1st for club, Walker 21 - 10th of season, Waddell 43 - 5th of season, 45, Andrews (55),

Sinclair 74 - 1st of career) Scottish Cup 4th round.</pre>

An excellent win over Aberdeen, and a solid draw against an in form Motherwell side meant that after 30 games we were in, can you guess? 5th place!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">25/2 Dundee 3 Aberdeen 0 (Stevenson 20, Lauchlan 30, McLean 49) 5th

3/3 Motherwell 0 Dundee 0 5th</pre>

Seven points above that all important 7th place, though, with only three games left to the split. Looking like another season with the big boys!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 30 games:

1. ICT 59 +24

2. Rangers 57 +15

3. Celtic 55 +24

4. Hearts 53 +18

5. Dundee 50 +9

6. Hibs 47 +6

7. M'Well 43 +9

Gap of 10 points to rest</pre>

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10th April 2012

Dear Diary,

We had to wait quite a while to confirm our placve in the Champions group, as this month was dominated by the cups. Motherwell at home in the 5th round of the Scottish cup was a decent draw, given the alternatives, and we had the dream start when Steve McLean scored his tenth of the season in the third minute. From there we probably should have cruised, but Chris Watson decided to make it difficult, getting into an altercation with Gavin McCann for which he was punished with a red card. We held on well, until Martin Wood got the equaliser. The second half, although not exactly a backs to the wall job, certainly required a little more emphasis on defence.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">10/3 Dundee 1 Motherwell 1 (McLean 3 - 10th of season, Wood (42)) Watson sent off in 11th minute. Scottish Cup 5th Round</pre>

With the replay scheduled for four days later, there wasn't really much time to prepare. Proceedings were interupted, though, when completely out of the blue, Neil Alexander received a call up to the Scotland squad. It was made perfectly clear that he would only be there for back up, but for a player just celebrating his 34th birthday, and a career spanning 13 seasons, it's a cause for celebration.

The goals came in the other order at Fir Park, as Motherwell opoend the scoring this time around, and it was left to Kenny Kelly to equalise just after the break. The rest of the second half went by nervously, as did extra time, and so it came down to a penalty shootout. Lauchlan, Agathe and Walker all scored, but our Scotland squad member rose to the occasion with an excellent save from the Motherwell goal scorer Steven McGarry. The next four penalties, Waddell and Wilson for Dundee, were scored meaning Andrew Stevenson only needed to score to see us through. Step up Stephen Bywater to make an important save. So it was down to key striker Martin Wood vs Alexander to take us to sudden death. The 29 year old lost his cool, and blasted it over the bar to see us through to another semi-final!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">14/3 Motherwell 1 Dundee 1 (McGarry (22), Kelly 46) Dundee win 4-3 on pens. Scottish Cup 5th Round replay</pre>

Follow that! Well, as it would turn out we would have to! Off to Hampden park again for the League Cup final. A quiet first half, a Waddell goal just before the hour mark, and an equaliser for Celtic with twenty minutes to go. Backs to the wall defending, a nervy extra time period and there we were again. Consecutive penalty shootouts. To be honest, getting that far with the tiredness in the players' legs was quite an achievement. Celtic won the tóss this time, and Lucas Neill gave them the advantage with the first kick. Steve McLean made no mistake, hitting the back of the net as he has with regularity whenever he has played for me. But up stepped Neil Alexander again, this time against his old club, to save the kick from young Spaniard Gorka Valbuena. We were on our way now! Wilson scored, again, and everything was looking rosey in the garden. But with no Lauchlan and no Walker on the field, it was down to Kelly to take the fourth. His nerve went, and he blasted over the bar. All of a sudden, it was down to Hegarty to keep us in the shootout. And it was now that Swedish keeper Seb Lindgren decided to pull off the best save of the lot. Hegarty's head dropped - the youngster had been playing well all season and couldn't be faulted for his spot kick. Two cup finals, two defeats.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">18/3 Dundee 1 Celtic 1 (Waddell 58, Johansson (71)) Celtic win 4-3 on pens. League Cup Final</pre>

Disappointment for fans and players alike. I was lucky that they're so well behind me that there was no adverse reaction, meaning the players could concentrate on their game. Gordon Williamson returned from loan having scored 6 in 14 for Clydebank, and goes straight into a leg-weary side to face Hibs. His effect was immediate - regular football having refound his scoring touch. The two goals for us in the first half hour couldn't be matched by Hibs, and we guaranteed our top six position.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">21/3 Dundee 2 Hibs 1 (Williamson 6, Lauchlan 30, Heed (35)) 5th</pre>

After a ten day break to get our breath back, we suffered our worse result against my old side since I came to Dens Park. No excuses, we just weren't in the game on this particular occasion.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">31/3 ICT 2 Dundee 0 (Forssell (53), Malcolm (71)) 5th</pre>

Recent cup experiences pointed towards a tight encounter with Aberdeen in the Semi Final. Strangely, the game was once again played at the poor quality, 15773 capacity Gayfield Park rather than a more suitable location. This was to be no scrappy struggle, though. We pushed through to the final with no worries at all.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">7/4 Aberdeen 0 Dundee 4 (McLean 21, Gallacher 37, Williamson 64, McLean 90) Scottish Cup Semi Final</pre>

About the only down side with playing the semi final is the fact that you have to play your 33rd league game on the following Monday, more often than not. So Ayr came to Dens Park knowing they would face a slightly weaker side. They went back west wondering what on earth had happened. Notable were Ewing Crawford's first two goals of the season, as he tried to prove that he had been neglected so far this season.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">9/4 Dundee 4 Ayr 0 (McLean 11, Crawford 23 - 1st of the season, 30, Waddell 89) 5th</pre>

Realisticly, we're probably too far behind the top four to do any damage. How things would have been different with some or all of those nine points from that disasterous November run!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 33 Games

1. ICT 65 +24

2. Celtic 62 +30

3. Hearts 62 +24

4. Rangers 61 +17

5. Dundee 56 +12

6. Hibs 53 +9</pre>

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29th May 2012

Dear Diary,

We didn't have to wait long to find out our task in the Championship group. We would start with a home meetup with Hearts, followed by Rangers away. If we didn't get results in those two, we could forget third and it would more likely than not be a game against Hibs at Dens Park for 5th place. Only if we took maximum points in these matches would the final games at Inverness and Celtic be relevant for anything other than pride. Whilst I was contemplating the possibilities and probabilities, Neil Alexander was contemplating another Scotland callup.

Well, it started well enough, as Peter Hegarty put us into the lead against the Jambos in just the second minute. We couldn't get a second, though, despite our midfield domination. Hearts weren't offering any pressure, not even getting a shot on goal in the first half, so you can guess what happened, can't you? That's right, they scored in the second half with their only shot of the game. Not only that, but it was Kenny Miller who scored. Not too much damage done, though, as all three games ended as draws.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">14/4 Dundee 1 Hearts 1 (Hegarty 2, Kenny Miller (77)) 5th</pre>

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 34 Games

1. ICT 66 +24

2. Celtic 63 +30

3. Hearts 63 +24

4. Rangers 62 +17

5. Dundee 57 +12

6. Hibs 54 +9</pre>

Off to Ibrox, where a Richie Preston goal won the Glaswegians the first half, and a rocking-horse-**** rare volley from Gaughan appeared to have won us the second half and a point. That is until a sickening decision from the referee awarded the home side a penalty with only two minutes to go. Kiegan Parker converted, and our season was over.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">21/4 Rangers 2 Dundee 1 (Preston (15), Gaughan 59, Parker (88pen)) 5th</pre>

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 35 Games

1. ICT 67 +24

2. Rangers 65 +18

3. Celtic 64 +30

4. Hearts 64 +24

5. Dundee 57 +11

6. Hibs 55 +9</pre>

The only thing left to play for, then, was 5th place. Chance for us to say a thankyou to the supporters? Hibs were in town, and what's more they were down to ten men after just eight minutes. Ideal. McLean and Stevenson peppered Connolly's goal, but couldn't find the breakthrough. On the other hand, Seol and Baha, Hibs' single name strikeforce, couldn't get a sniff of the ball. Until the hour mark, when they won a freekick. Seol beat Alexander to the ball and Hibs had gone ahead. Credit to thenm, as they held out for the last half hour to grab themselves the most outrageous victory ever. Oh, and 5th place as well.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">28/4 Dundee 0 Hibs 1 (Seol (59)) 6th</pre>

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 36 Games

1. Celtic 67 +32

2. Hearts 67 +25

3. ICT 67 +23

4. Rangers 65 +16

5. Hibs 58 +10

6. Dundee 57 +10</pre>

We got our 5th place back, though, continuing our habit of turning over Caley Thistle on their own patch. Another tight game as well!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">5/5 ICT 0 Dundee 1 (Lauchlan 61) 5th</pre>

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 37 Games

1. Celtic 70 +35

2. Rangers 68 +19

3. ICT 67 +22

4. Hearts 67 +22

5. Dundee 60 +11

6. Hibs 58 +7</pre>

So, the Championship went down to the last day of the season, and we would have a fair say in it. Our final game was at Celtic Park, and the Hoops were in prime position. It's quite painful to watch a side lift the trophy after beating you, but we had to do it after losing another even, scrappy game. Celtic's Darren Purse scored the winner from a corner, and neither side really looked like adding to the scoreline. The only saving grace was Hibs' loss, meaning we kept 5th place and a guaranteed UEFA Cup spot.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">12/5 Celtic 1 Dundee 0 (Purse (31)) 5th</pre>

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. Final Standings

1. Celtic 73 +36

2. Rangers 71 +20

3. Hearts 70 +23

4. ICT 67 +21

5. Dundee 60 +10

6. Hibs 58 +6</pre>

There was still the Cup final to come...

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---

30th May 2012

Dear Diary,

We packed our bags for Hampden - again - as Andrew Rae unpacked on his return from East Fife. At least we were getting familiar with the dressing rooms at the national stadium! Before the game I was presented with a most unexpected Runner Up award for Manager of the Year, and Steve Thomson picked up his young player of the month trophy for May. Then it was on to the action: A tale of not one, not two, but three penalties in which the star, for all the wrong reasons, is referee Graham Lay.

An early injury to Chris Watson forced a change in our game plan, with Henderson having to move into the midfield position. He would be the first to admit that it isn't his strongest position. The reorganisation from that scenario contributed to us conceding the first goal - the only one not scored from the penalty spot! It came from Peter Marshall, a player I took to Caley Thistle, and who is at last performing to the level I thought him capable of. Shame he had to do it in this game! From there, the game ambled on towards half time, until with five minutes left, Gallacher went down under Robert Malcolm's challenge. The ref gave a penalty, much to the (probably justified) dismay of the Caley players. Steve McLean made no mistake to level the scores.

Not all was rosey in the referee's eyes, though. He thought he'd made a mistake, and it was clear he wanted to make up for it. Two minutes later, at the other end, Forssell tried to round Alexander and the two came together. Just the excuse Mr Lay needed. He pointed at the spot and also showed our keeper the red card. Second substitution, then, and Jamie Campbell's first job is to pick the ball out of the net from Robert Malcolm's spot kick.

We had half time to calm things down, including "heated" protestations both from myself and Sam Allardyce directed at the officals' changing rooms. A slow start to the half, as Caley looked to defend and we tried to break them down. By the hour mark I had to make an attacking change, so on went Kelly, only for Henderson to limp off five minutes later. Down to nine men, then, and there was no way we were going to get anything especially playing against twelve! This viewpoint was emphasised when Mr Lay awarded another penalty for pushing in the area. Malcolm did the job again, and it was all over. Further humiliation was to follow, though, as we were forced to play stoppage time with just eight men, with Martyn Corrigan limping out of play. No further goals, though, as even the opposition must have felt sorry for us.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">26/5 Dundee 1 ICT 3 (Marshall (15), McLean 40pen, Malcolm (42pen), (78pen)) Scottish Cup Final</pre>

A third cup final defeat in as many attempts. Dundee fans would have to wait at least another year to see their players lift a major trophy. Opinion was that they continued to be satisfied with the resurgence of their side, though. For me, however, it was a major disappointment, not least because of who had beaten us. To add insult to that injury, Neil Alexander's ban is later rescinded.

The season came to a close with the awards dinner. Martin Gallacher deservedly picked up player of the year, whilst the representative of the board gave an extensive speech, during which he confirmed our UEFA Cup qualification for the next season, applauded the fans for setting a new record average attendance of 12839, announced a redevelopment programme for the club's training facility. He also made a passing comment which may just be set to make my job more difficulty. The club expects our recent European qualification to be maintained in the coming season.

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27th July 2012

Dear Diary,

So to another season. It's safe to say that this summer has been quieter than last, which is a shame really. With over £10m in the bank I was thinking of bringing in one or two quality players both to lift the fans' spirits and to help the squad push that little bit further onwards. In the end, even though we weren't short of agents coming forward and touting their players' services, I just couldn't find anyone who I thought had the right blend of skill, fight and commitment to the cause that I wanted. If you can't find it ready made, you have to make it yourself. So it was to Rangers I turned for the only two signings of the summer.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">In: John Rae M L 19 (Rangers - £275k) 5 years, £750 p/w

Tommy Davidson 20 (Rangers - £250k) 5 years, £550 p/w</pre>

Both players have promise. Davidson, in particular, may break into the first team quite early. Now we have to train them in the Dundee way.

As is the case every summer, there are leavers as well as arrivers. Those whom have either decided to move on, or are simply out of contract. Four are going, but I can't really see circumstances where any of them will be missed.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Out: Daniel Alexander (Moroka Swallows (RSA)- £230k rising to £325k)

Graeme Campbell (Stenhousemuir - £100k)

Kevin Gaughan (Free)

Scott Webster (Stevenage - £80k)</pre>

Alexander and Campbell, of course, were my signings. Both have turned a profit, however! Gaughan, at 34, left a perfectly good rolling contract by his own choice. I don't expect he'll find another club to be honest.

Pre season was a quiet affair, in accordance with the rest of the summer. McLean and Stevenson were the first to find their shooting form, as we beat Dumbarton and Dunfermline and drew with Clyde. Davidson confirmed my hopes in that he is indeed a solid centre half already.

And so, once more, to the squad:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">The Dundee "Lions" Squad 2012/2013

Goalkeepers:

1. Neil Alexander (34) 3rd season, 86 appearances. (Called up but never capped)

13. Jamie Campbell (31) 3rd season, 21 appearances

Defenders:

2. Mark Wilson (30) Capped at Under 21 level. 6th season, 194 appearances, 10 goals

3. Jim McKenzie (24) 3rd season, 26 appearances

4. Stephen McCann (27) 5th season, 133 appearacnes, 8 goals

5. Steven Craig (24) 3rd season, 46 appearances

15. Chris Kerr (33) 2nd season, 22 appearances

20. Tommy Davidson (20) 1st season

22. Steven Thomson (21) Capped at Under 21 level. 3rd season, 25 appearances, 2 goals

23. Stuart Henderson (21) Capped at Under 21 level. 3rd season, 36 appearances

27. Martyn Corrigan (34) 2nd season, 40 appearances

xx. Ian Hutchison (20) 4th season

xx. Kevin Johnston (16) 2nd season

Midfielders:

6. Chris Watson (30) 3rd season, 69 appearances, 2 goals

7. Ewing Crawford (28) 3rd season, 37 appearances, 4 goals

8. John Dempster (29) 7th season, 68 appearances, 12 goals

11. Martin Lauchlan (31) Capped at B Team level. 2nd season, 48 appearances, 8 goals

12. Peter Hegarty (24) Capped at Under 21 level. 7th season, 191 appearances, 24 goals

14. Richard Waddell (31) 2nd season, 36 appearances, 8 goals

16. Joe Webster (25) Capped at Under 21 level. 2nd season, 25 appearances, 1 goal

17. John Rae (19) 1st season

19. Alex Rae (21) 4th season, 4 appearances

25. Martin Gallacher (26) Capped at Under 21 level. 2nd season, 40 appearances, 9 goals

xx. Sean McAuley (31) 2nd season

Forwards:

9. Andy Walker (26) 10th season, 196 appearances, 47 goals

10. Gordon Williamson (26) 5th season, 73 appearances, 29 goals

18. Andrew Stevenson (26) 3rd season, 94 apperances, 35 goals

21. Daniel Ogunmade (27) Capped at Under 21 level. 3rd season, 21 appearances

24. Steven McLean (29) 2nd season, 33 appearances, 14 goals

26. Colin Sinclair (22) Capped at Under 21 level. 2nd season, 4 appearances, 1 goal

xx. Stuart Miller (25) 7th season, 27 appearances, 3 goals</pre>

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8th September 2012

Dear Diary,

And we're off to a flyer...

Six games gone, thirteen out of a possible eighteen points on the board. A bit of wheeler-dealing along the way, and things look rosier than ever. It couldn't have started in a better way than a defeat of Caley Thistle at home, with the Dempster clinching the points in the very last minute.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">28/7 Dundee 2 ICT 1 (McLean 64, Rudden (73), Dempster 90) 3rd</pre>

Our good relationship with Fulham continued, as they agreed to let £2m rated 24 year old winger Alex Holmes join on a four month loan. He went straight into the side for our second game at Motherwell, and scored his first goal for the club just before half time as we repeated the 2-1 scoreline.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">4/8 Motherwell 1 Dundee 2 (Wood (14), Holmes 43, Hegarty 46) 1st</pre>

Out on loan to Forfar for the season went Andrew Rae, a decision I was in two minds about as the 21 year old had impressed in pre-season and wasn't far away from breaking into the first team. Hopefully he realises this and will try extra hard to impress at Forfar. I can always call him back, after all.

We dropped our first points of the season at home to Aberdeen when Roy Lynch scored the only goal of the second half to clinch a draw for the side from the Granite City. Holmes was on the score sheet again, showing fantastic form, and Martin Gallacher proved just why Rae hasn't got near the first team yet.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">11/8 Dundee 2 Aberdeen 2 (Burns (26), Holmes 37, Gallacher 45, Lynch (54)) 1st</pre>

Two triallists came to the club in mid August, both midfielders, from diametrically opposite ends of the age scale. Stuart Campbell is 34 and Thomas Nicol 21. A couple of friendlies were hurriedly arranged for blank midweek periods during the month, the first being against Queens Park at Dens Park, which rather boringly ended 0-0.

Our grip on the lead of the division lapsed briefly at Celtic Park, when a James Panayi penalty midway through the second half cost us the game. Steven Craig had committed the foul, but couldn't really blamed for the antics of the diver Andrade.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">18/8 Celtic 1 Dundee 0 (Panayi (58pen)) 3rd</pre>

Third place became 4th by Saturday night, and 5th by Wednesday evening. But there was heartening news, with Thomson and Henderson receiving callups to the Under 21 squad. Also called up, but to less exciting places, were Stuart Miller (departing for Southend for £190k) and Gordon Williamson (off to Clydebank on the maximum allowed fourth month loan). Our second triallists friendly was at least a little more eventful, with East Fife running out 1-0 losers to a goal by Tom Nicol.

Colin Sinclair got his pass out of Dundee, a four month loan spell south of the border at Berwick, as the team returned to winning ways at Arbroath, and we rose back up the table to 3rd.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">25/8 Arbroath 0 Dundee 1 (McLean 28) 3rd</pre>

Both triallists had done enough to earn contracts, Campbell a short term deal to the end of the season at £1100p/w, and Nicol a 4 year deal on £375p/w. Meanwhile, we had a couple of weeks without games. Chance, then, to watch Steve Thomson play a (very) small part in the Under 21's 5-0 hammering of Denmark. The following day, the entire of the Scottish nation bar one gasped in shock as their number one keeper Scott Irvine was stretchered off in the Big Boys match between the two sides. The one person was, of course, Neil Alexander, whose callup papers were faxed to the club half an hour later.

Thomson managed a whole twenty minutes as the babbies scored one goal less to romp past Slovakia, whilst Alexander went a step closer to an international cap with a seat on the bench. The syrup of figs in Hibs' John Cononolly's water bottle didn't seem to have any effect, though, except to cause the Scots to lose 1-0, doing nothing for their pretty minimal qualification chances.

Then it was off to already struggling, and apparently condemned to relegation and financial ruin (if you believe the tabloids) Falkirk, where it took us until the 87th minute, and three substitutions, to make a breakthrough.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">8/9 Falkirk 0 Dundee 1 (Lauchlan 87) 1st</pre>

Took us back top though, so I can't complain really.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 6 Games

1. Dundee 13 +3

2. Celtic 12 +3

3. M'well 11 +4

4. Hibs 10 +2

5. Rangers 10 +2

6. ICT 8 +3

7. Hearts 8 +2

8. Ayr 8 -2</pre>

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22nd October 2012

Dear Diary,

One in, one out since I last wrote. A bit of a defensive crisis meant some money needed to be spent. We're still firing on all cylinders as well!

Bosnian outfit Brotnjo Citluk were our first round UEFA Cup opponents, in a game which we did enough without doing really well. It could have been tighter - McLean's early goal appeared to be all we were going to get, but he added a second in the last minute to put daylight between us.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">13/9 Dundee 2 Brotnjo Citluk (Bosnia-Herzegovina) 0 (McLean 11,90) UEFA Cup 1st Round 1st Leg</pre>

Another late, late goal by McLean ensured we took all three points against Hibs, maintaining our stance at the top of the table, just three days later.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">16/9 Dundee 2 Hibs 1 (Gallacher 2, Zonneveld (43), McLean - 5th of season 89) 1st</pre>

Back to back League Cup and league home ties against Livingston were both successful by single goal margins, with Chris Kerr scoring his first goal in six years to clinch us a place in the next round. McLean was on target again early in the league encounter, but a second half equaliser meant that Lauchlan was once again called upon to make the decisive play.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">19/9 Dundee 1 Livingston 0 (Kerr - 1st for club 17) League Cup 3rd Round

22/9 Dundee 2 Livingston 1 (McLean 15pen, Danielsson (69), Lauchlan 73) 1st</pre>

Neil Alexander, Steven Thomson and Stuart Henderson received call-up papers from their respective national levels once again, whilst Ian Hutchison was receiving papers of a different variety, mainly his P45 as he moved to Partick Thistle for £40k.

The trek to the small town of Citluk, in the mostly reconstructed Bosnia Herzegovina, was long and tiring. The last thing the lads wanted to do when we got there was play a game of footy. The SFA had decreed, however, that it was safest for us to ship in, play, and ship out, and who were we to argue? Our weariness showed, with out two goal advantage only lasting fourty minutes or so. Fortunately, Andrew Stevenson was sharp enough when he came off the bench to put the winner away inside the last ten minutes

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">27/9 Brotnjo Citluk 2 Dundee 1 (Bajramovic (13), Prusina (42), Stevenson 83) Agg: 2-3. UEFA Cup 1st Round 2nd Leg</pre>

There may only have been 8000 in the stadium, but they made their feelings known as we were hustled away afterwards. The Bosnian streets did not appear to be a friendly place to be at night, and I was glad we decided to come straight home.

A new arrival was waiting for us at Dens Park. Norwich City had agreed to a £95k deal, enabling 25 year old Kevin Gardiner to return to the country of his birth. The loss of Gaughan had left numbers a bit tight, and with the usual fixture pile up, an extra defender could make all the difference, even though he couldn't play in Europe. Gardiner agreed a 5 year deal on £950p/w.

Gardiner didn't make the trip to Ayr, but the famous Dundee partnership of Walker and Stevenson did return, and to some effect. Goals from each in the first half were enough to break the resolve of the Somerset Park side, and keep us at the top of the table as we headed for the international break.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">30/9 Ayr 0 Dundee 2 (Walker 32, Stevenson 45) 1st</pre>

No action for the Under 21s, but Alexander sat on the bench for the two full side matches. He could only look on as France won 2-1 on Saturday, and the identical victory over Cyprus wasn't much to celebrate, even though it pulled Scotland off the bottom of the qualifying group.

There wasn't much to shout about at Dens Park, as league battle resumed. Both sets of fans had to endure a game of dire finishing, with sixteen shots off target between the two sides, and only three on targets. A point was enough to keep Dundee top of the table, though.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">13/10 Dundee 0 Hearts 0 1st</pre>

Big transfer news was that Stilian Petrov completed his tour of Scottish football by re-signing for Celtic for £2.2m. The 33 year old started his career with the Glasgow club, where he won four league titles, before moving to Motherwell for £3.4m in December 2006. He Moved on to Rangers for £7.75m two years later, then to Hibs for £5.75m in the 2011 close season.

Our opponents in the 2nd round of the UEFA cup were Greek giants Panathanaikos. Once again, though, we proved a match for a bigger team, without really dominating. Perhaps most surprising for me was the sight of David McEwan, ex Caley Thistle, lining up in the visitor's goal. He had a lot to do with the fact that we would take just a single goal lead to Athens in November.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">18/10 Dundee 1 Panathanaikos 0 (Watson 44) UEFA Cup 2nd Round 1st Leg</pre>

And back in the league, we gave ourselves a 4 point breathing space at the top, thanks again to a last minute winner at Pittodrie.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">21/10 Aberdeen 1 Dundee 2 (Walker 31, Knox (36), Wilson 89) 1st</pre>

It's a pretty sight, isn't it!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 12 Games (except where shown)

1. Dundee 26 +8 (from 11 games)

2. Rangers 22 +8 (from 11 games)

3. Hibs 21 +5

4. Celtic 20 +4 (from 11 games)

5. Hearts 19 +7 (from 11 games)

6. M'well 18 +2

7. ICT 17 +7</pre>

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2nd December 2012

Dear Diary,

I F**KING HATE NOVEMBER!

Last year, the 11th month of the year cost us our chance at the tope three. This year, well, it's too early to say what the damage might be, but it wasn't nice.

October was there to be finished off first though. Top against sixth was never going to be a problem, and two second half goals killed off the visitors.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">27/10 Dundee 3 Motherwell 1 (Holmes 27, Hinds (33), Crawford 48, McLean 57) 1st</pre>

Stuart Henderson and Steven Thomson were called up once again to train with the Under 21 squad. Both would be on the bench as we continued on our own international adventures, with a trip to Athens to defend our single goal lead.

We shouldn't have worried about only having a slender advantage from the first leg. The Greeks were surprisingly unmotivated, and with goals in each half we made it look all too simple.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">1/11 Panathanaikos 0 Dundee 2 (McLean 39, Crawford 78) Agg: 3-1. UEFA Cup 2nd Round 2nd Leg</pre>

And that's where November really kicked in. Only one point in three games, and that should have been three really. McLean made it to ten for the season, and Andy Walker celebrated his 50th Dundee goal, but there was nothing else to celebrate as our lead gradually evaporated.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">4/11 Hibs 2 Dundee 1 (Waddell 15, Heed (68), Walker (83)) 1st</pre>

10/11 Dundee 1 Celtic 2 (Walker 33 - 50th goal for Dundee, Crouch (54), Boateg (56)) 1st

17/11 ICT 4 Dundee 4 (Gallacher 5, McLean 21, Parker (25), Marshall (29), (50), McLean 80 - 10th of season, Gallacher 82, Rankin (88)) 2nd[/code]

Maybe the UEFA Cup would give us a respite? The Czech Republic was a new country for us, and the provincial town of Olomouc was miles from anywhere I had ever headr of before. Still, we got a good away win in what was probably one of the easiest draws of the round. Should make the return leg fairly straightforward at least. And at least November will be over by then!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">22/11 SK Sigma Olomouc (CZE) 0 Dundee 2 (Stevenson 66, Gallacher 76 - 5th of season) UEFA Cup 3rd Round</pre>

Back to the league then, and possibly our worst performance of the season so far. A home defeat to bottom of the league side Falkirk was utterly, utterly pathetic to say the least.And it dropped us to 4th

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">25/11 Dundee 0 Falkirk 1 (Bayne (20)) 4th</pre>

The reserves, or at least a team including some of the players who hadn't appeared recently, just about did us proud in the Quarter Final of the league cup, although St. Mirren had to put themselves out of their own misery with an own goal in first half stoppage time. How on earth can we play so badly and still be in all the cup competitions?

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">28/11 Dundee 1 St. Mirren 0 (McDermott 45og) League Cup QF</pre>

So there we were, celebrating the end of the demon month of November, when Alex Holmes came to remind us that, actually, his loan spell is up and he's off back to Fulham. So, no win in 4 in the league, and without one of our best players. How would we fair at Livingston?

A win. Just. Although we did everything possible to make it difficult.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">1/12 Livingston 2 Dundee 3 (Walker 7, McLean 15,32, Cosgrove (81), Christie (88)) 4th</pre>

A lot better than it could have been...

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 18 Games (except where shown)

1. Celtic 36 +12 (from 17 games)

2. Rangers 34 +10 (from 17 games)

3. Hibs 33 +9

4. Dundee 33 +8 (from 17 games)

5. M'well 28 +3

6. ICT 26 +8

7. Hearts 25 +6 (from 17 games)</pre>

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I'm not even playing Caley anymore. Keep up! icon_rolleyes.gificon_wink.gif

---

2nd January 2013

Dear Diary,

With November out of the way, December is traditionally a time to rebuild and regroup. It usually sees a bit of money spent, and this year was no different. First arrival was Alex Holmes. Hard negotiation with Fulham meant we sealed the deal for a million, just half their original asking price. Not only that, but at £3100 per week he is taking something approaching an 80% pay cut. We're glad to have him on board for the next 4 and a half years.

Holmes is not available for our current European encounters, but that doesn't stop us doubling the aggregate scoreline at Dens Park against Sigma Olomouc.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">6/12 Dundee 2 SK Sigma Olomouc (CZE) 0 (Watson 3, Walker 15) agg: 4-0 UEFA Cup 3rd Round</pre>

Our latest signing is soon paying back his transfer fee, though, doing the business to claim all three points in the first of a double header against Rangers. The win took us briefly to third, but the return fixture at Ibrox wasn't as successful, for either Holmes who was booked and substituted, or us as a whole.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">9/12 Dundee 1 Rangers 0 (Holmes 22) 3rd

12/12 Rangers 2 Dundee 1 (Green (16), Hegarty 20, Green (51)) 4th</pre>

Just to prove we were only good enough for 4th, we lost at home to Aberdeen. More due to the fact that Ryan Esson had a stormer in the Don's goal than any poor play on our part.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">15/12 Dundee 0 Aberdeen 1 (Stewart (44)) 4th</pre>

Arbroath were no match for us, especially man of the match Holmes who ran the game from start to finish.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">19/12 Dundee 3 Arbroath 0 (Holmes 3, Hegary 68, Stevenson 90) 4th</pre>

Gordon Williamson returned to Dens Park the day after that excellent victory, and as is tradition, went straight into the first team for Ayr's visit. I shouldn't have bothered. Really.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">22/12 Dundee 0 Ayr 2 (Gill (34), Jack (71)) 4th</pre>

Colin Sinclair came home as well, in time for some last minute shopping, but there was no way he was going to get a run out in the first team. It was back to McLean and Stevenson for the trip to Tynecastle. We came a very close second in a topsy-turvey game which at the end of the season will probably be remembered more for injuries to Chris Kerr and Martin Gallacher than the fact that Scotland's best striker Gary O'Connor nicked the game in the last minute. Happy sodding Christmas.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">26/12 Hearts 3 Dundee 2 (Hegarty 21, Young (39), Kenny Miller (72), Sérgio 83og, O'Connor (90)) 4th</pre>

The January sales started early. I needed a replacement for Chris Watson, who had decided moving on from Dundee was the best option, especially if he wanted to earn any money. His replacement to be was Arbroath's Jim McGowan, a 21 year old who cost £425k, but only wanted £900 per week. He will be with us for at least the next 4 and a half years.

With Auld Lang Syne ringing in our years, we headed to Motherwell for the New Year's Day game. They obviously had celebrated with more restraint than us, but what can you expect when we have an entirely Scottish squad? 3-0 was a fair result, with few of our players looking up for it at all.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">1/1 Motherwell 3 Dundee 0 (McGarry (29), Murray (62), McGarry (75)) 4th</pre>

Fourth, still, as we head into the winter break. Reasonable, I suppose, but we really need to break back into that top three.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 24 Games

1. Rangers 48 +16

2. Hibs 47 +15

3. Celtic 46 +14

4. Dundee 39 +4

5. Hearts 37 +6

6. M'well 35 +5</pre>

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4th March 2013

Dear Diary,

After a nice two and a half week break, I was itching to get us back into action. Unfortunately, so was Caley Thistle's Mickael Forssell. A draw cost us a plce, but it could have been worse if Andy Walker hadn't snatched a late equaliser

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">19/1 Dundee 2 ICT 2 (Hegarty 22, Forssell (26), (58), Walker 85) 5th</pre>

Whilst Sam Allardyce was in town, there was opportunity to do business. For once, Caley were in a worse position in the league than us, and I wanted to take advantage of the situation. Steve Mitchell was my target, and I got my man for just £875k. That's almost half the price I paid for him out of Caley's budget! Plus he agreed to sit nicely within our wage structure at £1100 per week for the next two and a half years.

Mitchell would get his first run out with some of the other lesser used players, including Nicol and McGowan, in our 3rd Round Scottish Cup encounter with Stenhousemuir. McGowan got his first goal for the club, and looked very impressive. The rest of the team did just about enough to ensure that one goal was enough.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">26/1 Dundee 1 Stenhousemuir 0 (McGowan 20) Scottish Cup 3rd Round</pre>

Three league games in three days tested our squad depth to the limit, and four points was the sort of return that was going to keep us oscillating around fourth of fifth place. Steve Mitchell got his first Dundee goal, but it was the only one against rock bottom Falkirk, whilst Celtic did us by a single goal again.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">2/2 Dundee 1 Hibs 1 (McLean 68, MacDonald (76)) 5th

6/2 Falkirk 0 Dundee 1 (Mitchell 55) 4th

9/2 Celtic 1 Dundee 0 (Zonneveld (37)) 4th</pre>

Another League Cup Semi Final, this time at Tynecastle so at least there was a crowd! Caley, again, were the opposition, and once more we booked our place in the Final. Yet again it took a late goal that decided it, this time from second half substitute Lauchlan.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">13/2 ICT 1 Dundee 2 (Mitchell 13, Davis (45), Lauchlan 88) League Cup SF</pre>

Straight from there, we were into more cup action. 2nd Division Stranraer must have cursed their luck when drawn against us in the Scottish Cup, but they were about to reap the rewards. It was another opportunity for me to try a few players out, including veteran 35 year old Martyn Corrigan in the advanced midfield position for the first time. He had a great game, dominating from the start and getting his first goal within the first five minutes, but a single defensive lapse ten minutes later allowed Darren Sarli in to equalise. Poor finishing prevented us from scoring a second, and meant the embarrassment of a replay four days later.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">16/2 Stranraer 1 Dundee 1 (Corrigan 3 - 1st goal for club, Sarli (15)) Scottish Cup 4th Round</pre>

More or less the same team ran out for the repaly. It was only right that they should suffer the embarrassment themselves. This time we dominated even more, and when Alex Holmes put us in front with twenty minutes to go I was sure we had them beat. But no, Sarli was there again, and we had no reply. Extra time came and went and it was down to five individuals to put the ball in the net from 9 yards.

Dempster was first up, and he scored with comfort, so when Jamie Campbell saved Stranraer's first attempt, things looked good once again. Alex Holmes saw his spot kick saved, and the usually reliable Wilson slotted his wide, and we were dumped out of the cup - one of the biggest giant killings of the season.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">20/2 Dundee 1 Stranraer 1 (Holmes 67, Sarli (81)) Stranraer win 4-3 on penalties</pre>

The way to bounce back. The only way to bounce back, was with a win. Fortunately, Arbroath were amenable to the idea, but worryingly we only managed a single goal again.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">23/2 Arbroath 0 Dundee 1 (Gallacher 39) 4th</pre>

After the long winter break, UEFA cup action returned, and thanks to a Mark Wilson header, we came away from Nantes with a vital single away goal as well. We did lose Steve Thomson midway through the first half, though. The physio simply shook his head, and with Kerr already out with an injury my first job when we're back in Scotland is to find a new left back.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">28/2 Nantes 0 Dundee 1 (Wilson 17) UEFA Cup 4th Round 1st leg</pre>

Remarkably, and ideal candidate was not only identified, but persuaded to come on a short term loan, in the three days leading up to our next league fixture. He came with an unfortunate name, though: Mark Dick. Dick, 27, a Portsmouth player his entire 10 year career, would be spending a little while north of the border.

Having only just met his teammates, Dick put in a hell of a perfomance as we cruised past Livingston by a relatively comfortable two goal margin. It was a special day, too, for Andrew Stevenson, who notched his first goals since September.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">3/3 Dundee 2 Livingston 0 (Stevenson 52pen - 5th of season, 68) 4th</pre>

So, with three games to the split, we are already safely in the top half. We need to push on, however, and try to close the eternal gap to 3rd.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 30 games

1. Celtic 59 +18

2. Hibs 58 +19

3. Rangers 57 +15

4. Dundee 50 +7

5. M'well 47 +10

6. ICT 44 +10

4 points back to 7th</pre>

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11th April 2013

Dear Diary,

What a month! Eight games, only three of them in the league. We've covered some miles as well in the process.

Alex Holmes' goal just inside the first half hour put us on course to complete the job against Nantes, and although they got their away goal back with twenty minutes or so to go, we still made it to full time relatively comfortably. Steven Craig had to be helped off the field shortly after the equaliser, with what turned out to be a strain on the same groin muscle he tore last season. Rather than take any risks, we dispatched him straight off to the specialist. We've had to more or less write him out of our plans for the rest of the season.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">7/3 Dundee 1 Nantes 1 (Holmes 27, Neaga (72)) Agg: 2-1. UEFA Cup 4th Round 2nd leg</pre>

No league match at the weekend, due to the Scottish Cup which of course we're not involved in, so not a lot to do except to prepare for our next European adventure. History suggested that Spartak Moscow would be tougher opposition. But what does history know?

What History will recall, maybe, is a first (and much deserved) under 21 call up for Tommy Davidson. Well, OK, it's probably small news within the bigger picture, but it meant a lot to him, and if I'm honest it meant quite a bit to me, as I spotted his talent.

So, cutting the drivel, Spartak Moscow came to town, and were surprisingly poor. Our first experience of the UEFA Cup Quarter Final was a good one, generally speaking. Two goals for us, including a 5th of the season for Alex Holmes, were only spoiled by a quick fire response from the Russians. The away goal might come back to haunt us, especially on the back of a long trip to cold Moscow, but I have faith in my players, and we've got nothing to lose.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">14/3 Dundee 2 Spartak Moscow 1 (Walker 40, Holmes 65 - 5th of season, Kokiashvili (66)) UEFA Cup Quarter Final 1st leg</pre>

We could take our mind off Europe for a while - whilst we concentrated on the League Cup Final! Some relaxation there! 49977 filled Hampden Park with a sea of blue, with the Dundee fans almost indiscernable from the opposition, Rangers'. Finals don't go well for us, so I really hadn't got our hopes up, but as the first half progressed, it looked as though we were actually getting somewhere. Rangers had to make an early enforces substitution, and they never really recovered, despite Joren Nuyts showing he was still one of the best strikers in Scotland. The best was saved until the last action of the half, when Richie Waddell's cross was headed home by the rampant Alex Holmes, the referee's whistle for half time almost drowned out by the twenty thousand plus celebrating Dundee fans.

But, of course, getting to half time is only doing half the job. Some calm words had to be said in the dressing room, as we tried to come up with a plan to make sure the Old Firm didn't creep their way back in. We didn't plan on Andy Walker getting an early injury, but on came Mitchell and the lads did me proud. Nuyts his a shot over the bar in the 68th minute, and Stuart Shaw forced a save out of Alexander with three minutes to go, but neither was a clear chance, and I was still relatively relaxed when the final whistle went, to signal Dundee's first major silverware for twelve years.!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">17/3 Rangers 0 Dundee 1 (Holmes 45) League Cup Final</pre>

We didn't get long to celebrate, though. We had to be in Moscow by Thursday, just four days later! There was a quick party back in Dundee, and everyone had the Monday off, but Tuesday saw a quick light training session before heading off with our woolly jumpers in tow.

After just eight minutes in the Luzhniki we were in trouble. Sergey Gurchenkov put the Ruskies ahead, and their away goal was looking very valuable indeed. Goals in both halves from Steve Mitchell sealed the deal, though. Semi Final here we come!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">21/3 Spartak Moscow 1 Dundee 2 (Gurchenkov (8), Mitchell 21,54) Agg: 2-4. UEFA Cup Quarter Final 2nd leg</pre>

Back home to the luxury of a week off. A week in which we made Mark Dick a permanent signing for the bargain price of £210k. He signed a five year deal at £1000 per week, and I'm sure we'll offer him a great deal of first team action in the future.

Steve Mitchell scored again as we returned to League action, our first game in that particular competition for 27 days! His 5th of the season, and 3rd in two games, kept us safely in fourth spot for now.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">30/3 Dundee 1 Hearts 0 (Mitchell 18 - 5th of the season) 4th</pre>

The semis of the UEFA cup brought Spanish opposition to Dens Park for the first time this century. Fancied Spanish opposition at that. Deportivo la Coruna have great pedigree in European competition and are the obvious favourites. It was vital, therefore, that we were disciplined at home.

Disciplined we were, expecially in defence, with Tommy Davidson having an outstanding game. Whatever Tommy let through, Neil Alexander was on hand to keep out, and McLean's headed goal quite early on was a real bonus.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">4/4 Dundee 1 Deportivo de la Coruña 0 (McLean 18) UEFA Cup Semi Final 1st Leg</pre>

To celebrate we went to Ayr, and went a little bit mad, scoring three goals in a game for the first time since December. McLean reached the 15 goal mark for the second time under my leadership, and we improved our grip on 4th place a little more.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">8/4 Ayr 1 Dundee 3 (Gallacher 25, Mitchell 37, McLean 52 - 15th of season, Derek Watson (71)) 4th</pre>

As we headed into the last game before the split in the league, Tommy Davidson once again received Under 21 call up papers. It's only a matter of time now until he gets capped.

Rangers got their revenge for the League Cup final in the league game that could have see us move level on points for third place. A single goal did the damage in a match where they only had two shots at goal. Keeper Stephen Bywater did his job excellently both before and after the Rangers winner to keep his side in the game.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">11/4 Rangers 1 Dundee 0 (Shaw (55)) 4th</pre>

And the table at the split sees us 4th, and if I'm honest, unlikely to move up or down.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 33 games

1. Hibs 67 +23

2. Celtic 64 +19

3. Rangers 62 +16

4. Dundee 56 +9

5. ICT 49 +11

6. M'well 47 +7</pre>

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11th May 2013

Dear Diary,

There was still an outside chance we could make it to both third place in the league, and of course we had a slender lead in the UEFA Cup Semi Final after the first leg. So why did it feel like the final part of the season was going to be an anti-climax? Even the fixture computer had the ironic sense to load all our chances on the first game. Rangers, at Ibrox, for the second time in three days, would be followed by home games against Caley Thistle and Hibs. If we still actually had anything to play for, we would have to win at Celtic Park before facing outsiders Motherwell at home.

It was all largely irrelevant, though. The 2-0 beating that Rangers handed out to us put 9 points between the teams, and effectively ended our league season.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">13/4 Rangers 2 Dundee 0 (Shaw (29), Nuyts (74)) 4th</pre>

Over 34000 Spaniards filled the Riazor stadium, fully expecting their side to comfortably turn round the one goal defeat suffered in a place most of them had never heard of. The party was already in full swing, as Deportivo looked forward to the inevitable UEFA Cup final. Something of a siesta was, therefore, in evidence when Steve Mitchell picked up McLean's through ball and planted it squarely beyond Franco. An away goal, and all of a sudden real hope for us! An equaliser came from the inevitable pressure, but three minutes later Steve McLean did his thing and got us a totally unexpected second goal. Massive.

Second half saw Chris Kerr depart with a knock, closely followed by Steve McLean who had unexplicably pushed a member of the opposition over and earned himself a red card. Shades of Gazza in whichever England international it was, as McLean realised he would miss the final, should we actually hold on. As it was, the ten men did well, although a 62nd minute goal brough Deportivo back within one goal. The final whistle signified a repeat of last season's third round tie - against Roma. This time over one leg, and with a lot more to play for!

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">18/4 Deportivo de la Coruña 2 Dundee 2 (Mitchell 22, Rojas (38), McLean 41, Sola (62)) Agg: 2-3. UEFA Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg</pre>

At last! Something to look forward to! All I wanted to do now was get the remaining league matches out of the way with minimum of trouble. Everyone was fired up, though, so it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise when we went through the next for games unbeaten, earning me a Manager of the Month award for April in the process

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">20/4 Dundee 1 ICT 0 (Mitchell 90) 4th

27/4 Dundee 2 Hibs 1 (MacDonald (11), Mitchell 67, Waddell 81) 4th

4/5 Celtic 0 Dundee 0 4th

11/5 Dundee 3 Motherwell 0 (McLean 14, Holmes 31, Watson 45) 4th</pre>

In the end, we only missed out on third place by one point! So close, yet so far away.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. Final Standings

1. Hibs 75 +24

2. Celtic 73 +23

3. Rangers 67 +15

4, Dundee 66 +12

5. ICT 51 +7

6. M'well 51 +4</pre>

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20th May 2013

Dear Diary,

Copenhagen in May. Romantic. But we weren't there for the romance. 40000 fans, with Italians and Scots well represented, filled the Parken stadium. Alexander, Henderson, Kerr, Wilson, Davidson, Gallacher, Holmes, Watson, Waddell, Stevenson and Billy Mitchell ran out in their special edition Dundee home shirts. National anthems and the UEFA hand shaking, all the hallmarks of a classic final. The match, or the first half at least, was not a classic though. I suppose we were slightly second best, and I was glad to get us into the dressing room at 0-0. The second half, though, was the best of my career.

Almost.

Martin Gallacher's pass found Alex Holmes free in the penalty area, and just before the hour mark of the UEFA Cup Final we were ahead. Roma hit the bar five minutes later, and Alexander had to make a series of saves. Roma just couldn't get the ball past the veteran Scot though. Time ticked down. The fourth official indicated three minutes of stoppage time. Each minute seemed like an age. Deep in the last minute of the planned three, Garcia López beat Kerr and drifted a cross in from the right. Alexander came and punched, but the ball fell to Ronaldinho, who broke the hearts Dundee players, fans and manager alike.

Extra time passed far too quickly, the only point of note was an injury to goalscorer Alex Holmes in the 120th minute. Changes required, then, to the lineup for our most important penalty shootout ever.

Penalties wasn't something we had even considered. The absence of Holmes and McLean meant a different lineup anyway, but I was looking for players with bottle. Stevenson stepped up to take the first for us, and scored with no problem. Alexander couldn't stop Davide Carbone's spot kick, and the tension went up a notch. Neither Lauchlan nor Antonio Cassano (in his last game for Roma before a £16.75m move to Inter) made mistakes. In the same way, Wilson and heartbreaker Ronaldinho despatched near perfect penalties. A mistake now from either side would probably be very costly.

Gallacher, one of the pivotal players of the season, kept his nerve, as did Ezequiel González. Last chance saloon for everyone then. Our fifth nominated penalty taker was Richard Waddell. My heart sank as I watched him walk up from the centre circle. you could see the dread written on his face, and in those few moments my entire squad flashed before my eyes. Who else could I have persuaded to do this job? I stared down at my shoes, and the inevitable cheer from the wrong section of the crowd told me that Waddell had missed - it didn't matter how, but the relatively calm attitude of Lorenzo Spada made me realise that he hadn't made a save.

Mario Romeo slotted the final penalty away, and what had been so close became so far away. Our first appearance in the final had ended in much the same way as our first appearance in any other final. Nothing.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">15/5 Dundee 1 Roma 1 (Holmes 58, Ronaldinho (90)) Roma win 5-4 on penalties. UEFA Cup Final</pre>

We made our way dejectedly back to Dundee, but our hearts were lifted by the time the awards dinner came around, as we reviewed what had to be classed as a successful season. There were plenty of awards to give out as well. Tommy Davidson should have received his player of the month award for May, but he was away training with the Under 21 side again. Steve McLean picked up his cap for SPL team of the year, as well as the shield for fans player of the year, and surprisingly, I got the Manager of the Year award. Our average attendance of 12946 was also a club record. Bonus.

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26th July 2013

Dear Diary,

A few weeks off and we were all ready to build ourselves up for another season. Yet again, attracting players was a problem. Actually, more a case of finding the right players was a problem. Money, of course, still wasn't a problem. Yet again the club turned a profit last season, so there's well over £10m in the bank. An extra million came in from players moving on in the summer. The main problem was to find a new backup keeper - and even that proved tricky.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">In: James McLean GK 21 (Man City - Season Loan) - Moved on to Livingston on a permanent deal before the season started

Daniel Williamson D/DM RC 21 (Fulham - Season Loan)

Gary King GK 19 (ICT - £375k) 5 years, £925p/w</pre>

See? Not exactly world beaters...

There was some resistance within the club to the summer leavers. Chris Watson was a popular (and good) midfielder, but at 31 his best years were gone, and £750k couldn't be laughed at. Jamie Campbell wouldn't sign a new contract, so some money was better than none.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">Out: Ewing Crawford (Ayr - free)

Jamie Campbell (Ayr - £250k)

Chris Watson (Hearts - £750k)

Stuart Campbell (Retirement)

Sean McAuley (Retirement)

Chris Kerr (Retirement)</pre>

Mitchell, Ogunmade and Walker all got on the scoresheet in preseason, with a Dundee derby that ended 2-0 in our favour followed by a 1-0 win over St. Mirren and a 0-0 with Queen's Park. The Edinburgh contingent of the league try to destabalise us with big money bids of £1.8m and £2.2m for Steven Thomson. Selling him would have been a step too far for the fans, and even though he's not happy about it, he stays.

£2.2m for Steven Thomson

So, the (much smaller) squad for this season's assault is:

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">The Dundee "Lions" Squad 2013/2014

Goalkeepers:

1. Neil Alexander (35) 4th season, 140 appearances. (Called up but never capped)

13. Gary King (19) 1st season

Defenders:

2. Mark Wilson (31) Capped at Under 21 level. 7th season, 234 appearances, 12 goals

3. Jim McKenzie (25) 4th season, 31 appearances, 1 goal

4. Stephen McCann (28) 6th season, 152 appearacnes, 8 goals

5. Steven Craig (25) 4th season, 67 appearances

15. David McCall (19) On Loan from Fulham

20. Tommy Davidson (21) 2nd season, 32 appearances

22. Steven Thomson (22) Capped at Under 21 level. 4th season, 57 appearances, 2 goals

23. Stuart Henderson (22) Capped at Under 21 level. 4th season, 78 appearances

25. Daniel Williamson (21) On Loan from Fulham

27. Martyn Corrigan (35) 3rd season, 81 appearances, 1 goal

30. Kevin Johnston (18) 3rd season

31. Kevin Gardiner (26) 2nd season, 14 appearances

34. Mark Dick (27) Capped at Under 21 level. 2nd season, 4 appearances

Midfielders:

6. Martin Gallacher (27) Capped at Under 21 level. 3rd season, 82 appearances, 16 goals

7. Alex Holmes (25) Capped at Under 21 level. 2nd season, 44 appearances, 11 goals

8. John Dempster (30) 8th season, 89 appearances, 13 goals

11. Martin Lauchlan (32) Capped at B Team level. 3rd season, 84 appearances, 11 goals

12. Peter Hegarty (25) Capped at Under 21 level. 8th season, 226 appearances, 29 goals

14. Richard Waddell (32) 3rd season, 61 appearances, 10 goals

16. Joe Webster (26) Capped at Under 21 level. 3rd season, 44 appearances, 1 goal

17. John Rae (20) 2nd season, 3 appearances

19. Andrew Rae (22) 5th season, 4 appearances

28. Thomas Nicol (22) 2nd season, 5 appearances

32. Jim McGowan (22) 2nd season, 4 appearances, 1 goal

Forwards:

9. Andy Walker (27) 11th season, 236 appearances, 54 goals

10. Gordon Williamson (27) 6th season, 75 appearances, 29 goals

18. Andrew Stevenson (27) 4th season, 129 appearances, 41 goals

21. Daniel Ogunmade (28) Capped at Under 21 level. 4th season, 24 appearances

24. Steven McLean (30) 3rd season, 83 appearances, 31 goals

26. Colin Sinclair (23) Capped at Under 21 level. 3rd season, 4 appearances, 1 goal

29. Billy Mitchell (18) 2nd season, 11 appearances

33. Steve Mitchell (29) 2nd season, 18 appearances, 9 goals</pre>

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10th September 2013

Dear Diary,

What promised so much, delivered so little. At least to start with.

Two defeats in the first two games rocked Dens Park and left us bottom of the league. Questions were being asked about why I hadn't spent in the summer, was the squad too shallow. There were even rumblings that my position would be in jeopary if things didn't pick up.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">27/7 Motherwell 2 Dundee 1 (Walker 55, Ucar (68), Reeve (79)) 11th

3/8 Dundee 0 ICT 2 (Marshall (17), Forssell (27)) 12th</pre>

The addition of 17 year old Colin Clark, a 17 year old centre back from the youth academy, was hardly going to quell the fury. Therefore, the game at Ayr suddenly looked a little intimidating. The first 15 minutes were nail-biting, until Josh Dyche got himself sent off for trying to take McLean out of the game. The breakthrough came straight away, but Ayr got straight back level and we were meant to suffer for the rest of the half. The goals flowed, though, in the second and we shot half way up the table on the back of our first win.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">10/8 Ayr 1 Dundee 4 (Holmes 18, Jack (20), Holmes 50, Weatherston 80og, Corrigan 89) 6th</pre>

And into the top four with a similar second half demolition of Arbroath, assisted by my old Rotherham friend Ashley Barr.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">17/8 Dundee 3 Arbroath 0 (Mitchell 55, Holmes 68, Barr 78og) 4th</pre>

A surprise callup to the Scotland squad came midweek for Mark Wilson. The 31 year old defensive rock hadn't seen a sniff of international action since being capped for the Under 21s ten years ago, when incidentally he played for our rivals across town. Tommy Davidson and Gary King would train with the Under 21 squad this time around.

A first half double strike seals us a third win on the trot, and in the space of a month things have completely turned around. Now it's talk of Europe and improving on last season's finish! Fickle? Football fans? Says who?

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">24/8 Dunfermline 0 Dundee 2 (Gallacher 10, McLean 36) 3rd</pre>

In the stakes for most unfortunate teenager of the year, 15 year old Kevin Cook graduates from the academy, only for us to find out that he was born south of the border and has no Scottish ancestry. He had real potential as well, and it's such a shame to dash his hopes. We sit down, with his parents, and explain the situation, telling him we'll do everything possible to find him another club. To be honest, if anyone sees him play and needs a right wingback, it shouldn't take long.

Gordon Williamson's career as a Dundee player is finally over. The striker who has played more games for Clydebank than for Dundee in my time here moves south of the border to Huddersfield for £500k, making way for Lee MacDonald to join from Hearts. £975k buys us a 22 year old striker, capped at under 21 level, and with an SPL goals tally in double figures. He signs on for 5 years at £1700 per week.

MacDonald moves straight into Williamson's vacated number 10 shirt, but doesn't feature immediately as we play his former club, Hearts. It's a ding dong battle with a penalty each in the first half, and two surprising goals for Corrigan cancelled out by two annoying ones for captain Dean Morgan in the second.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">7/9 Dundee 3 Hearts 3 (McLean 31pen, O'Connor (45pen), Corrigan 48, Morgan (53), Corrigan 62, Morgan (80)) 4th</pre>

The table starts to take shape 6 games in, and the main talking point in the media is the apparent fall from grace of Celtic. We're comfortably enough placed, in what is looking like it might be a season of inconsitency all around.

<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">SPL. After 6 games (except where shown)

1. ICT 13 +6

2. Rangers 12 +6

3. M'well 12 +2

4. Dundee 10 +5

5. Hearts 8 +3 (from 5 games)

6. Livi' 8 -1 (from 5 games)

7. Ab'deen 8 -2

8. Celtic 7 -1

9. Hibs 6 -2</pre>

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