Football: Stainrod adds steel to expectations: David McKinney talks to Dundee's determined manager about his desire for success

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THE supporters of Dundee have been wandering the football wilderness for almost a generation. Over the past 20 years they have clutched at the promise of a better future through a succession of managers but with the recent arrival of Simon Stainrod their prayers at last might have been answered.

A veteran of 10 clubs through a colourful playing career, Stainrod admits to having been something of a Messiah at Queen's Park Rangers but rejects the mantle which the Dundee followers are only too eager to bestow upon him, following their team's 4-3 win over Rangers last Saturday.

History has shown that one good result against Rangers or Celtic in itself does not herald the dawn of a bright new age.

The Dundee fans' desire for success, however, is understandable having been fuelled by years of mediocrity endured in the shadows of nearby Tannadice, home of their city rivals, United. While their neighbours were winning major trophies and respect throughout Europe the Dark Blues have done little more than tread water in the midstream of Scottish football.

Dundee's successes are confined to sepia photographs and the memories of men who can recall, a generation ago, the likes of Alan Gilzean, Ian Ure, Alex Hamilton and, before them, Billy Steel and Doug Cowie.

It is almost 30 years to the day since Dundee, then Scottish League champions, humbled Cologne 8-1 at Dens Park in an unforgettable European Cup tie in which Gilzean, one of their most famous sons, scored three times. And it is almost 20 years since their last major trophy, the League Cup.

But if the distant past can be recounted with ease, not so the last decade with its succession of disappointments and false starts as the team flattered then fell. Stainrod's biggest challenge will be to lead the club back to their past.

Stainrod has a steely personality and burning ambition under a beguilingly calm exterior. But, as Ian McCall discovered, you cross him at your peril. The skilful midfielder was freed for a breach of discipline on a pre-season trip by a manager who takes an eccentric approach to new arrivals.

'I have a small test for new players. I don't give them any directions but tell them to meet me at a certain place at a certain time. Those who want to play for me badly enough have always turned up and they are all still here.'

There is little chance of Stainrod himself losing his way in the game. He readily admits to an ambition to manage England to World Cup success.

'Being the best at whatever I do motivates me. I couldn't care less about being second best.

'My team is not going to rush cavalier fashion through the division but people settle for too little these days. If we cannot do any better than stay up this year I'll be happy but I think we can finish well up the League.'

Stainrod's influence and contacts have lured such notable names of the past to compete with the Dens Park ghosts: Graham Rix, formerly of Arsenal, Everton's Kevin Ratcliffe and Ian Gilzean from Spurs - forever endeared to the home support because of his father's abilities.

For Stainrod, ignorance is bliss when it comes to attitudes regarding the Old Firm of Rangers and Celtic, giving him a healthy attitude to playing against them.

'Too many teams are beaten before they start against Celtic and Rangers and the best they hope for is they can sneak a draw. To me that shows a total lack of ambition.

'I've got confidence in the players I've brought here and I'm going to ask as many questions of them as I can. We can become a great team again and in fact I believe Dundee could become the new soccer hotbed of Scotland.

'The best thing for Scottish football would be if all the clubs in the top division went out to win the game when they played against the Old Firm.'

Stainrod has shown enough imagination and flair as a manager to suggest that his time at Dens Park will not come close to the 20 years Jim McLean has spent down the road at Tannadice. But the supporters of the club he calls a sleeping giant will be hoping he can give them a few memories to live on before he leaves.

(Photograph omitted)

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