Dundee: Mark McGhee gambles backfires as side face swift return to Championship

“I came here hoping to stay, but I’ve no idea really. We’ve not discussed it. I’d like to stay, but we’ll see.”

Of all the strange remarks made by Mark McGhee in his brief time as Dundee manager, his latest comments – in the wake of Saturday’s defeat by St Mirren – may be just about the most outlandish.

The 64-year-old, who signed a deal until the end of the season when he joined in February, has spoken of starving and freezing himself to get in the right frame of mind and also pledged to “go naked for a week” in a bid to motivate his squad.

He might have been having a bit of fun in a bid to take pressure off struggling players, but his record makes miserable reading as the Dark Blues face an immediate drop back down to the Scottish Championship.

After 12 matches – including 11 league games yielding just five points – McGhee is still searching for his first win.

To stave off automatic relegation, Dundee need to beat Hibernian on Tuesday and win their final game at Livingston and hope that St Johnstone lose both of their remaining league matches (Aberdeen H, Hibs A). They also need to make up a goal difference that is seven worse off.

It’s a task McGhee acknowledges is “nigh impossible”. Relegation will surely be accompanied by the manager’s exit.

Odd appointment fails to pay off

When McGhee replaced James McPake, Dundee were two points above St Johnstone at the bottom and six behind Ross County with a game in hand.

The new manager, whose previous gig was assistant at National League club Stockport, also had a six-game touchline ban to serve from his time at Motherwell in 2017.

There were signs of improvement once that suspension ended in late March, when Dundee ran Rangers close at Dens Park seven days after being swept aside by the same opponents in the Scottish Cup.

McGhee’s side ran out of puff that day as Connor Goldson found a late winner.

Commendable fight was shown to come back twice for a draw with Aberdeen and that spirit was evident again when they recovered a two-goal deficit in the derby with Dundee United at Tannadice.

However, draws were never going to be enough and another share of the spoils at home to St Johnstone after taking an early lead was a hammer blow to hopes of staying up.

Dundee manager Mark McGhee
Mark McGhee is still waiting for his first win as Dundee manager

Two defeats followed, with McGhee describing Saturday’s tame 2-0 reverse at St Mirren as a “step back” after captain Charlie Adam’s gift of an early goal with an inexplicable brain fade.

“We had loads of time to recover,” McGhee said. “That’s more disappointing than the fact that we lost that goal.

“What we have to do is go into the last two games trying to keep our pride, trying to keep our fans understanding that we’re still trying.”

McPake’s departure came after back-to-back wins, which made the timing rather odd, although the plan to bring in McGhee had been cooked up before a surprise success away to Heart of Midlothian and a comfortable cup victory at Peterhead.

The former centre-half led Dundee to promotion last year via the play-offs and had them sitting ninth after 15 games, but a run of nine without a win in the Premiership, including seven defeats, prompted the board to act.

On his arrival, McGhee said Gordon Strachan “was batting for me”, so will this appointment be a big black mark against the club’s technical director?

‘Can’t see Dundee having enough to survive’ – analysis

Former Dundee striker Rory Loy

Dundee could still survive, or at least finish in the play-off, but I just don’t see that they’ve got enough.

They look down and out at 2-0 behind to St Mirren, they were struggling for ideas, they were struggling for creativity, they didn’t really create much at all.

Arithmetically, they can still do it if the set of circumstances was to happen – St Johnstone lose two, Dundee win two and a turn around in goals – but I just can’t see it.

Okay sums up their performance against St Mirren. They did have their chances, but overall St Mirren deserved their win as they were far and away the better team.

Dundee had a lack of imagination and a lack of ideas and, over the piece, the match summed up their season. They had their moments but were not good enough in the end.

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