PAUL HARTLEY, appointed as the new Dundee manager last night, insisted he would not be fazed by the pressure of trying to lead the club back into the top flight.
Dundee have sacked eight managers in the last 13 years, but Hartley - who won back-to-back promotions with Alloa Athletic before resigning last month - feels he is up to the task. His first game in charge could not get much bigger; the former Hearts and Celtic midfielder will welcome title rivals Hamilton Academical to Dens Park on Saturday.
"It doesn't worry me that Dundee are always expected to win the league," Hartley said. "It's something that I'll relish. I've come into a team at the top end of the table and that is more pressure. Yeah, I realise that.
"All the talk at the start of every season is about Dundee being clear favourites to win the title, because they've got the biggest budget and biggest squad. I need to get a winning mentality into this squad - and try to play a certain style of football. We'll have to identify that quickly."
Hartley revealed how he received a message from the man he replaced - John Brown - wishing him success. Brown left the club earlier in the week after presiding over three games without a victory, while Hartley stepped down at Alloa after admitting to frustration with the club's part-time status and his belief that he could not take them further.
"I got a text from John Brown today, wishing me all the best for the job," Hartley revealed. "That was a really nice touch. So I do want to put the conspiracy theories to bed.
"People say there's something in it when I leave Alloa then, two or three weeks later, I walk into a full-time job at Dundee. I left the club of my own accord, nothing else. It was a really nice touch by John to text me. And he did well, despite being under pressure; they're still lying second in the league. It's up to me to get them over that line. You always have sympathy when someone loses their job.
"I'm now employed to get this club to the Premiership. And they want to get there - they're not one of those waiting on Rangers and Hearts to get into the league."
Hartley's new charges sit second top of the SPFL Championship table, behind leaders Falkirk on goal difference. Hamilton form the third of a trio of clubs with realistic title aims, and Hartley admitted he could not wait to get into the dug-out for this weekend's crucial match.
"It's a cracking game to start with," he said. "I see it as a challenge. I'm quite fortunate to have been in the same league as Dundee this season, so I know they've got a good group of players - and they're in a great position. But it's going to be a lot of hard work - and the players have taken a lot of criticism over the past few months. Hopefully we can give them that confidence and belief. They've got a great opportunity to win the league."
Meanwhile, Scot Gardiner, the club's chief executive, insisted that Brown had resigned rather than had been sacked, and that no deal was in place with Hartley before Brown left.
"It was 100% John's decision to leave Dundee," he said. "It was extremely difficult to see John leave because he was very popular.
"I want to put this to bed. It's disrespectful to Paul, to Alloa, to Dundee and to John Brown to suggest this was some massive fit-up. It's quite ridiculous but that's the modern world we live in. It's silly."