There is no need to whisper it any more - Dundee are a top six club, and deservedly so. Assuming Aberdeen don’t win the Scottish Cup, hardly my boldest prediction, we sit within touching distance of a first taste of European football, however fleeting, in over 20 years.

We may have tumbled into the top half of the league with some assistance from Motherwell’s Shane Blaney, but tumbled we have nonetheless. And it is a richly deserved reward for a season that has exceeded all but the most optimistic fan expectations.

This time last year, the foot race with a team playing in black and white was for the second tier title rather than a potential Conference League spot; when we made it over the line on that occasion, I’d wager that most readers of this column were gritting their teeth and bracing themselves for a tough slog back in the top tier. There certainly wasn’t an expectation that the manager who dragged us up would be out on his ear before the final pieces of ticker tape in City Square had come back down to earth.

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However, with the benefit of hindsight, it was an inspired call by the club hierarchy to remove Bowyer and trust Derek McInnes’ experienced assistant, Tony Docherty, with a first spin in the managerial hot seat. It was a huge gamble - many assistants attempt the step up and can’t handle the heat, but Docherty has not only survived but thrived in post.

Yes, there have been learning moments and frustrating collapses along the way, but the development of young talents like Lyall Cameron coupled with a shrewd rebuild of a squad that was far from a stellar championship outfit has been second to none. His sly use of the loan market to bridge the gap while the club found its feet should be used as a blueprint by other newly promoted sides, although they’d be lucky to unearth another Owen Beck, who will head back down the road to Liverpool with every prospect of a terrific career ahead of him. Successfully developing young talent from elite English sides will hopefully stand us in good stead for any further business with the Barclays next season.

Of course, Dundee finishing in the top six - did I mention that we’ve done that at the first time of asking? - also provides some certainty on prize money and budgets, meaning Docherty and the club can steal a march on other sides when it comes to recruitment for the next campaign. The prospect of a brief glimpse of European football probably isn’t going to turn the dial or be the deciding factor for many players, but playing for a successful side where youth is given every chance to flourish and the team is encouraged to play fluid, exciting football won’t hurt.

The size of the task ahead of us shouldn’t be masked, though. You’d imagine that Hibs and Aberdeen will splash the cash this summer to try and rectify what each will see as an abject failure of a campaign, and Kilmarnock and St Mirren show few signs of regressing to the mean. Our midfield is well stocked, but reinforcements and permanent acquisitions elsewhere will need to be found, and it will be another busy summer at Dens.

Of course, this smugly optimistic column was decided on the finest of margins on Saturday, and but for that late equaliser in Lanarkshire, I would be trying to convince myself in writing that we could beat Rangers at Dens, McDiarmid or Mars, depending on the latest tantrum from Govan’s finest, to sneak back into the top six.

As things stand, though, this midweek tie feels like a free hit with all the pressure resting squarely on the shoulders of our visitors. As Ross County hilariously showed on Sunday, going at Rangers can reap dividends, particularly now that Butland has been hit with the England keeper curse and looks distinctly human in between the sticks. With a cup semi final to prepare for, too, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Rangers continue to play out their own melodrama and drop some points.

To date, our only contribution to the title race has been in the goal difference columns. Repeatedly surrendering to both Celtic and Rangers hasn’t made a difference to our own league position, but taking something, anything, from one of our final three ties against the big two in Glasgow feels like one of the final objectives to fulfil to be completely satisfied with this season. It may also be critical for our chances of European football, given how few matches remain.

It’s not yet time to look out the passports, but maybe check those expiry dates just in case…