A disappointing defeat to Hearts on the opening weekend of Championship action wasn’t how Dundee wanted to start the season – but a return for Shaun Byrne has helped steady the ship.
The star man in the Dee’s 1-0 win over Morton at the weekend, Byrne was named in the SPFL’s Team of the Week as Dundee bounced back from their 6-2 defeat to Hearts on day one.
A humble player with team success very much on his mind, the central midfielder is well aware of the impacts on and off the park Covid-19 is having on his club. But minutes in dark blue have his full focus, looking to defy the odds.
“It’s been well-documented that Hearts are big favourites for the league,” Byrne told NTOF. “Their squad is really impressive but we never did ourselves justice the way we played and it was disappointing. But there’s a long way to go.
“Getting a good start is massive with the league being cut down on games. We never really went on good runs last year. We need to try and build into four or five wins in succession. It’s a real tough league and anyone can beat anyone. So we need to make sure we are ready.
“It was a learning curve last year so hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and put it right this season. I came to Dundee to play every week and I need to back myself to play no matter who’s in my position. I want to play every minute.
“There’s plenty of clubs struggling with the pandemic. We’ve had to take sacrifices and I’m sure there are other clubs doing that as well. It’s just the way it is in football just now.
“Even in the Premiership they are testing twice a week and games are still getting called off. As players you’ve got to try and prepare as best as possible. Hopefully things go back to normality soon.”
Whilst showing good form at the weekend, Byrne’s place within James McPake’s midfield is by no means guaranteed. There’s a blend of youth and experience, notable members of the engine room being ex-Premier League players Graham Dorrans and Charlie Adam.
The latter arrived as the club’s big summer recruit and Byrne’s been wowed by Adam early on: “They are two really quality midfielders. We can learn from them and I’m sure they will be a massive factor in us doing well this season.
“For me personally to learn from these guys who have played at the highest level in football is good and hopefully it works out really well for us.
“You don’t play in the Premier League and for Scotland if you are a bad player. You can even see that in training, his left foot is a wand and technically Charlie is different class. It’s good to be playing alongside someone like that and hopefully he’s a massive player for us.”
Dens without fans
As the Championship season continues without fans, Byrne admits it’s hard to take. Other industries, whilst also in need of attendees, have in some areas of the UK been allowed to partially return.
Covid cases are rising rapidly and the distant future is likely when we can expect to see fans in grounds like they were last season. But in the meantime, Byrne suggests some social distancing at Dens Park.
“There’s no lying about it, I find it very weird,” explained the midfielder. “I was on the bench at Hearts and they were playing crowd noise from behind us. But it’s not the same and it never will be without fans. You watch the games on the TV and it’s probably better with the crowd noise.
“But there’s nothing we can do and we just have to adapt. I think it helps the away team a wee bit more as the home team don’t have the fans backing them. It is a lot different but we do as best as we can.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Brechin or Celtic, clubs need the fans back in. I’m sure they are all dying to get back and watch their team. There is a lot of help that is going to be needed if this goes on much longer.
“You look at some of the bigger stadiums – there’s room to space fans out. It’s disappointing that 1,000 fans can’t come to Dens Park on a Saturday when you see some of the other stuff going on.
“But we know there’s a lot of Dundee fans watching through streams so even though there’s nobody at stadiums, there’s still plenty of people watching us. We’ve got to make them proud.”