Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Memory Lane: Dundee’s Latin Contingent

The period 2000 to 2005 witnessed huge spending at Dundee FC that saw the club return to European football, play some quite outstanding football and arguably, have their most successful period in 40 years. 

Nothing could quite match up to the efforts of Bob Shankly (Bill’s brother) who lead Dundee to the then Division One title in 1961-62 and the semi finals of the European Cup the following season. The Dees then also reached the semi finals of the Fairs Cup later in the decade, losing this time to Leeds United.

So what makes the class of 2000-2005 so memorable? For me, the style of football played, the lunatic manager that was Ivano Bonetti (before the Baldy Legend Jim Duffy) and the list of players involved with the club at the time:

Juan Sara
Jonay Hernandez
Fabian Caballero
Georgi Nemsadze
Temuri Ketsbaia
Julian Speroni
Nacho Novo
..and Claudio Caniggia

For those of you who didn’t realise that he played for Dundee, i'm not making it up - the famous Argentine, Claudio Caniggia did live and play in Dundee. Ketsbaia (from his Newcastle days), Speroni (now credible goalie in the Championship) and Novo (most famous for his time at Rangers) will more likely be remembered/known by fans outside of Scotland so for the purposes of this piece, the focus will be on highlighting the efforts of Messrs Sara, Caballero, Hernandez and Nemsadze to fans who may have forgotten and those who may never have known the joy of these players!

The latter of which, I know, does not share the same Latin American background as the others but played with the style and grace of a Brazilian superstar.

One by One (or Juan by Juan?)

Juan Sara (2000-2003)

Good in the air and a cracking finisher…this Argentine big man was a talented boy with a credible goal scoring record of 28 in 88 for the Dens side. Sara’s career before Dundee was not much to write home about…and his career after Dundee was just about as memorable – except for one successful season at Liechtenstein’s FC Vaduz.

Jonay Hernandez (2002-2005)

A dynamic and talented full-back, Hernandez experienced his only spell of top flight football at Dens Park and like Sara, spent his best years in Dark Blue. At the time he was linked with moves to both the Old Firm. Like Sara, “Chicho’s” career was far from noteworthy prior to his time in Dundee having played for the Real Madrid and Tenerife B teams…..and that’s exactly where he returned – to Spain’s lower echelons after Dens.

Fabian Caballero (2000 – 2005)

This lad was my favourite player in this Dundee team and an absolute joy to watch. Caballero (nicknamed Tyson) scored 21 goals in 121 games for Dundee United which I know is not a huge total. That said, almost all I can remember were absolute beauties including a fair number of strikes against City Rivals Dundee, a stunning left footer against Rangers at Dens and a textbook spin and finish at Parkhead. You’ll not be surprised to hear that before Dundee, Caballero’s career didn’t really take off. A failed period at Arsenal before and a return to Paraguay (via Korea) afterwards meant that his best spell came under Bonetti.

Georgi Nemsadze (2000-2004)

This man has had the honour of playing for four different Tbilisi teams back in his native Georgia (Dinamo, Lokomotiv, Iberia and Shevarendi) and a short but relatively successful spell in Turkey for Trabzonspor and for Grasshoppers in Switzerland. However Nemsadze, like the others, really made his name at Dens making 79 appearances for the Dees, scoring only four goals but owning matches much like his more famous, English-based countryman, Georgi Kinkladze as evidenced by the above clip.

In Summary 

Dundee finished in the top six twice in this period, reached the Scottish Cup Final and played in Europe. A hugely successful period for the club and a pleasure to watch for fans of the team and for neutrals alike - in no small part thanks to the gentlemen above!

However, Dundee’s big spending caught up with them, with debts of £23m (now more than that of Rangers who as we know are in dire straits) seeing the club enter administration and ultimately be relegated from the SPL. Lessons learned……

Or not:

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