Last week, Dundee boss Tony Docherty earned himself improved terms on what is believed to be a new rolling contract after a successive 12 months in the City of Discovery.

Having served as a No.2 to Kilmarnock and former Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes for a number of years, Docherty was a surprise choice to replace Gary Bowyer at Dens Park following the Scottish Championship title triumph of 2022/23. Docherty had no prior experience of being his own man and was taking over a team that had not only underwhelmed on their way to the second-tier crown, but needed a lot of surgery to it as well. It seemed like a risky move. In fact, it was a risky move, but it all worked out in the end with Dundee finishing in the top six and never looking like relegation candidates after the opening couple of months.

The 53-year-old was able to reverse a couple of trends. Firstly, he was a former career assistant who managed not to be terrible after stepping into the hotseat himself. It's easy to assume that coaches who work under successful managers for a long period of time will continue such lineage, yet they often find there's a huge difference between being the right-hand man and being the person wholly responsible for success of the first team. 

Angelo Alessio is probably the best example of this in Scottish football in recent years. Assistant to Antonio Conte at some of the biggest clubs in the world, he was viewed as an impressive hire for Kilmarnock – but only succeeded in alienating the squad within a week, suffering perhaps the most humiliating loss in the club's history with defeat to Connah's Quay Nomads and getting chased out of town before the turn of the year.

Secondly, Docherty managed to bring competency to a club who've had something of a penchant for making themselves look rather daft. Dundee still managed to achieve this off the field, of course, with their shambles of a pitch, but on the park they knew what they were doing, and not in a boring grind-it-out way like local rivals Dundee United were in their first season back in the top flight following promotion in 2019/20. In contrast, Docherty's Dundee were a fun watch.

A big reason for this was the impressive addition of Owen Beck on loan from Liverpool. Having done very little of note in a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers, it felt more than likely he'd be another EPL loanee youngster who'd struggle to make an impact in the Scottish Premiership due to a lack of quality, experience, toughness or a combination of all three. Instead, he was a rampaging left-back who reminded many onlookers of Andrew Robertson when he first burst on to the scene at Tannadice. 

Even when injury robbed Dundee of Beck's scurrying runs for most of the second half of the season, they were still an entertaining side with guys like Luke McCowan and Lyall Cameron more than handling the step up from the Championship by sparkling in midfield.

Docherty repeated the feat achieved by Paul Hartley in 2014/15 by guiding Dundee into the top six in their first season back in Scottish football's elite, but this was much more impressive. After all, Hartley's top-six season was achieved without Hearts, Hibs and Rangers in the league.

Now attention shifts to the next campaign and whether Docherty can keep the good times rolling. Patience is thin in football and if you're not consistently progressing on the park then fans tend to start grumbling off it. Dundee are in a position where, even if they do find themselves having a solid campaign, they could easily go backwards. Hearts, Kilmarnock and St Mirren have all got strong continuity going into next term, both with regards to their playing squad and management, while there's an expectation that one, if not both, of Aberdeen and Hibs will jump back into the top six.

More so than the managers who finished above him last term, Docherty is going to have to repeat his magic in the transfer window. Utilising the loan market for hungry, young talents last term was a shrewd move, but those short-term leases have resulted in a large exodus of players this summer, while dressing-room leaders like Joe Shaughnessy and Trevor Carson aren't getting any younger.

Docherty could theoretically improve Dundee from last season just by reversing one weakness: their habit of conceding late goals and throwing away points from winning positions. Here are some of the games in which Dundee turned three points into one in 2023/24: 3-2 up on Motherwell in the 97th minute, 2-1 up on Kilmarnock in the 91st minute, 1-0 up on Killie in the 85th minute, and 2-0 up on St Johnstone in the 82nd minute. There there are the games in which they turned three points into zero, most notably: 2-0 up on Hearts in the 57th minute, 2-1 up on Hearts in the 79th minute (these games occurred within 11 days of each other), 2-0 up on Rangers in the 45th minute and, incredibly, 2-0 up at home to Motherwell in the 79th minute.

A little more streetwise they will have to be in the 2024/25 campaign, but even if Dundee do regress a bit next term, Docherty should still have plenty of credit in the bank. After all, this is a club that has yo-yo'd between the top two divisions for a lot of the 21st century. Plus with the long-proposed move to Camperdown nearing its conclusion, it's a good time to prioritise consolidation over reaching for the stars.

And if all else fails, just finish above Dundee United and win more derbies than they do. At Dens, that will keep the fans behind you.