On Saturday, there was a pre-season ‘friendly’ between two local rivals, Dundee FC and Dundee United.
Symbolizing an old rivalry that had not taken place in a competitive context for some time, the city was out in force, hoping to see something special.
Dundee have had ups and downs, following years of financial instability. They have enjoyed the boom years of Scottish Cup finals and marquee signings with the likes of World Cup runner-up Claudio Caniggia and talismanic Georgian Temuri Ketsbaia signing up.
They have also wallowed, following two bouts of administration and a record 25-point deduction during their second financial meltdown in seven years. They had been in the division below the Scottish Premier League for longer than many thought they deserved.
Meanwhile United had survived. They were never going to be the force that saw them challenging in Europe and impressing as part of the New Firm, but they have been a top half team. They have won a Cup final and they have played some good football.
Saturday’s derby felt as real as any that had taken place in the Scottish Premier League. It was noisy, it was hotly contested and it was interesting.
Dundee fought hard and tried to force the issue. They played with width and they tried to play quickly. The problem was that they did not have the quality in front of goal as United had. Dundee struggled to get shots on target and finished with no goals, while Jon Daly finished with a hat trick as he tapped in rolled passes and strained a header past Dundee’s veteran goalkeeper, Rab Douglas.
3-0 looked a hefty defeat, and it was, but it was a game that Dundee could have done better with.
Now news has broken today that Dundee are to be Team 12, taking the SPL spot Rangers vacated.
The result has come as the SPL, Scottish Football Association and Scottish Football League have ensured that Rangers are demoted to the Third Division. They ignored the plea of Dunfermline in promoting Dundee, but the move is also one motivated by money.
The SPL are struggling to convince television stations to broadcast Scottish football without the Old Firm. If, then, exciting derbies, like the one held on Saturday, can be scheduled for four times a season, as well as having other teams like Aberdeen facing old foes, it is an easier sell.
The result for Dundee is interesting. They have a history of scrapping hard –shown by their twenty-three games undefeated when they were deducted 25 points –but they now have a squad that was built for the First Division, not the SPL.
Dundee have to rush to find some better players, with no money. They will look for loans all over the place, but they must be prepared for a rough season.
Dundee fans are famous for their gung-ho approach to soccer: they want to see football played well, and they would always sacrifice adventure for stability. They will be delighted to be back at the top table, despite being heavy favorites to come straight back down.
If they do it could spell disaster for a club who already know the sting of financial loss. Such a fate is a long way off just now, though. In the meantime, Dundee and Ross County will prepare for a run in the big show and with many teams weakened, Dundee could do just enough.
Rangers may be gone, but it is at least fresh and exciting to have two new teams.