PAUL McGowan has declared Dundee more equipped than ever to prove they belong in the Premiership.
McGowan helped ensure James McPake’s newly-promoted side secure a spirited opening-day draw in Saturday’s curtain-raising fixture with St Mirren when they twice came from behind before surviving the final twenty minutes with just ten men, following Max Anderson’s straight red-card.
McGowan is in his eighth season with the Tayside club who won promotion back to the top tier of Scottish Football at the end of last season, courtesy of defeating Kilmarnock 4-2 on aggregate in the play-off final in late May.
The 33-year-old is well-placed to assess their prospects for this new campaign having witnessed wholesale changes over the years, and there’s no disguising his conviction that Dundee are now a much different beast.
As they prepare next to head for Parkhead to face Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic, midfielder McGowan maintains they’ve every right to embrace their new surroundings.
“Honestly, over the last five or six months there’s just been something brewing among the boys,” stated McGowan.
“I feel the way we’re going out to play, we’re not going to lose a game when we go out there.
“Obviously, we are going to lose games but that’s just the feeling I’ve got just now.
“Even when we go a goal down, it’s no longer the case that the heads go down and the fans get on top of us like it used to be.
“I’ve been in squads when that would happen but not any more.
“There’s a togetherness among this squad. There’s just something about us…
“I’ve been here for eight years and this is up there with the best group we’ve had during that time.
“It’s a totally different team with a different mindset.
“It’s a good place to be at the moment. We want teams to fear coming to Dens and this was about laying down a marker on the first-day.”
Dundee could easily have crumbled. Eamonn Brophy threatened to ruin their return to the big-time by firing Jim Goodwin’s visitors into a fourth minute lead with a sumptuous strike from Curtis Main’s flick-on.
But they are indeed a tougher nut to crack these days, even if it did take an own goal from Saints defender Joe Shaughnessy – who headed into his net on the verge of half-time – to restore parity.
They once more showed resilience when Jamie McGrath put the Paisley side back in front from the penalty spot early in the second-half in somewhat controversial fashion, with Jason Cummings deemed to have clipped Jay Henderson inside the box.
Cummings, though, redeemed himself with his 60th minute equaliser prior to Anderson’s straight red-card for scything down Brophy to deny Saints a counter-attacking opportunity.
McGowan is experienced enough to admit Anderson was only doing what most other professionals would do under such circumstances, and absolved the 20-year-old of any blame for his actions.
“Max has been told to stop the game,” conceded McGowan.
“He could maybe have done it in a more subtle way. But listen, he’s a kid and he’ll learn from that.
“He’s got huge ability and he can go as far as he wants if he keeps his head down and he keeps working hard.
“He’s taken one for the team. They could have gone up the park and scored from that attack.
“So no way is Max Anderson taking any blame. If I were him, I would have done exactly the same thing.
“Overall, we’ll look back on this being such a big point.
“Being down to 10 men with 20 minutes left, we dug deep against a good St Mirren team.”
Meanwhile, Saints goal-scorer Brophy was relieved to have found the net for the first time since November and promptly set his sights on becoming more prolific this season.
“I think my last goal was for Kilmarnock against Ross County a while back,” recalled Brophy who joined Saints on a permament basis from Killie earlier in the summer.
“It’s a good feeling to get that monkey off the back. Hopefully there’s many more to come this season.
“I was always confident. You obviously want to try and get a goal right away and it’s the first game of the season so it’s a good start for me personally.”