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Dundee should be welcomed to the top flight . . . the task is now to stay there

PROMOTON-winning weekends are no time for sober analysis.

Paul Hartley celebrates after Dundee secure their promotion. Picture: SNS
Paul Hartley celebrates after Dundee secure their promotion. Picture: SNS

For all the words which poured out of the intoxicated blue half of Dundee over the weekend, though, the most perceptive came from Scott Gardiner. Dundee's chief executive acknowledged the immediate truth: when a club secures a place in the top flight it must instantly consider how to stay there.

At the PFA Scotland annual awards dinner three years ago Kevin Bridges's turn as guest speaker included a cruel ad-lib when he was distracted by the noise from a boisterous table. When he was told which club's players were responsible he said: "Ah, the Galacticos of Dunfermline! Is that you celebrating your relegation from the SPL in 12 months?"

The room was in stitches at the gag, with the Dunfermline boys happily laughing along, but Bridges turned out to be spot on: a year later they were relegated In the SPL/SPFL era a promoted club has gone straight back down in four out of 14 complete seasons (that could become five out of 15 if Partick Thistle go down this month).

Dundee do not need any history lessons on this bittersweet topic. They were last promoted in 2012 and last relegated in 2013. That is the point Gardiner was making.

"We don't have any ridiculous ambitions but we don't see why we can't be a very good, very well run competitive football club with a good fan base," he said. "We are very solvent but we want to take the business forward by going into the Premiership and sticking there.

"If you can achieve that then it changes a lot of things like commercial opportunities and the type of player you can bring in. If players think you are a yo-yo team they won't commit to you."

That is the challenge for Gardiner, Paul Hartley and the rest of the club's management in the coming monts. Kilmarnock, currently under such a grave threat, have been in the top flight for more than two decades. There is no reason why that could not have been Dundee, if they had been run without the boardroom anarchy evident far too often at Dens Park over the years.

That wonderfully unchanging old ground was a handsome sight as it was stuffed with close to 11,000 home fans for the result which took them up. That crowd was unusually big, of course, but in terms of attendances Dundee literally will bring more to the top flight than most.

Add up their home gates this season and they are bigger than those of St Johnstone, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, St Mirren, Ross County or Kilmarnock.

The return of the Dundee-Dundee United fixture will give the league a meaningful city derby. The version in Edinburgh has gone and Celtic-Partick Thistle is too much of a mismatch to have wider significance or interest. The Premiership must be a meritocracy but in the absence of Hearts and Rangers there is no question that it cries out for the spectacle and theatre of as many well-supported clubs as it can get. For that, and for proving themselves the best team in the Championship, Dundee's return should be enthusiastically applauded.

And another thing

Two points spring to mind about the revelation that the Rangers players earned no bonus for winning League 1.

Firstly, no-one need have a begging bowl out for them. One of the factors - but only one of many - in the club's ongoing financial chaos has been the eye-wateringly excessive amount of money paid to senior players signed for the routine business of winning the poorest two divisions of the senior structure.

To have had them on those wages, plus a bonus for winning the league, would have been another insult to the club's supporters.

But giving fat bonuses to directors and the chief executive, Graham Wallace, while players are on huge basic salaries and no bonus for winning a league, is further confirmation of how far Rangers are divorced from industry norms.

Last year their deeply unpopular finance director, Brian Stockbridge, got a 100% bonus because Ally McCoist's squad won the old Division Two, a feat which had nothing to do with him. A year later the players are on no bonus for reaching an almost identical target while Wallace stands to gain if some undisclosed goals are reached.

When Rangers eventually bring some sort of order to their affairs there must be a swift end to full-salary bonuses for their executives and the imposition of a sensible wage structure for the playing staff and routine, bonus-driven incentives for them to do well.

Right now, Rangers' priorities are staggeringly distorted.

And Finally . . .

Hibs' recent freefall has obscured the state Kilmarnock are in.

The highest number of defeats, the most goals conceded, the poorest goal difference in the division: Kilmarnock would be bottom of the table if it were not for the 15-point deduction imposed on Hearts, who gave them a fearful going over yesterday and would themselves be eighth if it were not for that SPFL sanction. It is now nine defeats in 13 league games.

Kilmarnock have been in the top flight for 21 years. When Michael Johnston steps down as chairman at the end of the season, his last act may be to see them drop out of it.

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