The route they have taken might have been a little more circuitous than many at Dens Park had anticipated, but it is not one many at the club will feel inclined to grumble about given the destination.
Yesterday the SPL voted to tipex over 'Club 12' on their fixture list and scrawl Dundee's name in its place; Rangers newco now all but confirmed as a competitor in the Irn-Bru Third Division for next season despite concerns top-flight clubs were beginning to become unnerved about the idea.
It was beginning to seem as though they would never get back. They very nearly didn't. Having been relegated in 2005, the Dens Park side had regenerated each season only to be frustrated in their attempts to win the first-division title. With Rangers on the ropes in March, Dundee took the decision to punt £5000 in a gamble that a place in the SPL might be freed up and they could graciously accept an invitation to fill the void. The deadline to apply was March 31 and Dundee entrusted striker Graham Bayne to file their application with Hampden that day. He completed his mission just 35 minutes before the window shut, although given their striker is not renowned for his pace, it is perhaps little wonder the club's board were left nervously glancing at their watches.
The can be satisfied that they timed it right after the SPL made their decision yesterday, though. "We got the application in at 4.25pm just before the SPL closed their doors. If we hadn't got it in I really don't know what would have happened," said Scot Gardiner, the Dundee chief executive. "Dunfermline and Falkirk were also after the Club 12 position. It might turn out to be the best £5000 we've ever spent. Various people within the club were saying it was going to cost this amount of money. And it specifically said that it was just to do with being the candidate club with regards to the Rangers scenario and being champions.
"It's the news we were hoping for although it's not the way we were hoping to feature in the SPL. We wanted to go up as champions but since the situation unravelled with Rangers we wanted to make sure it was us taking the Club 12 position. Now we can hopefully just concentrate on football from now on and get ready for the new SPL season."
That will involve parting with more cash. The last time Dundee were strutting around top-flight venues their squad glittered with names such as Claudio Caniggia, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Temuri Ketsbaia. And Craig Burley. Dundee have not been shy in making signings this summer but they will feel compelled to add further names to their squad list if they prolong their stay in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Gardiner asserted that he had been working on both a "Plan A and B" with regards to signings, claiming he could not commit to certain targets as "we couldn't risk signing anyone for the SPL if we weren't going to get in there". That point seems a little incongruous given that the club presumably had targets lined up on the basis they would be of the requisite quality to achieve promotion through the traditional method.
Still, Barry Smith has a figure in mind about how he will need to strengthen his squad."We need at least six new players. But if we're able to bring in more then that would be great," said the Dundee manager. "It's gone on for so long but now we've got a short period of time to try and make signings. We are a wee bit behind in that respect but we will work hard to make things happen. We've got to work as quickly as possible but in saying that we won't rush out and buy the first six who become available."
There is a human element, of course. The stellar names of Ravanelli and Caniggia – and Burley – all departed when Dundee fell into administration. It was a similar story two years ago, when a raft of players were cut adrift during further financial difficulties. Stephen O'Donnell was one of those who came through that second period of administration, so the sudden return to the top flight is not a gift the midfielder is willing to squander.
"The days when we were deducted 25 points by the SFL and were facing relegation to the second division seem far away now," said O'Donnell. "It just shows you that things can turn so quickly in this game because this is a million miles from what it was back then. That was a horrible time for the club so it's now obviously nice to get a good time. We have to now do our bit and try to stay there when the season gets underway."
The decision has provoked some rancour in Fife, though. Dunfermline also had designs on becoming Club 12 and will now consider their legal stand point following their decision. Given the proximity of the season, it is likely their consternation will manifest itself only a request for financial compensation given a summer of uncertainty.
"We still feel we should have stayed in the SPL, but we are not surprised after hearing about [SFA chief executive Stewart] Regan's emails," said John Yorkston, the Dunfermline chairman. "It looks like certain parties got together to make decisions about Dunfermline that they should not have made and we will be taking that up with our lawyers.
"It might be that, instead of an appeal, we will seek compensation or go down another route. Had this been May or June we would have probably taken a different view. We will come up with a decision after the board has met."
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