Here's some of the highlights and lowlights of the 12 months just gone by.........
PLAYER OF 2018
With some many of the 2017/18 squad leaving the club at the end of the season, and others who have spanned the whole calendar year not always featuring regularly in the first team - through injury or simply not being selected - choosing the best overall player is open to debate. Those who played regularly throughout the year - Lee Robinson, Ryan Williamson, Lee Ashcroft, Kallum Higginbotham, James Craigen, James Vincent - have had periods where their form has shaded. So was there a player who was so outstanding for either the January - May period, or July - December, to deserve the award for the whole of 2018? I'd answer no to that question, and for consistency over the whole 12 months, my selection is Lee Robinson. Lee Ashcroft's form dipped for at least 3 months in the autumn/early winter, while others such as Higgy have been in and out of form throughout the year. There was a temptation to select Jackson Longridge based on his performances since joining DAFC in July but ultimately it's Robinson that I feel was our top performer over the year.
Jackson Longridge's piledriver at Alloa is a strong contender but for me, Fraser Aird's run in from left midfield that ended with a curling shot into the far right corner against Brechin in April was the most outstanding Pars goal of 2018.
21st April 2018: deep into injury time, we are 2-1 behind to Inverness, who would move above us into the fourth promotion play-off place with one further League game remaining, should they hold on. Substitute Joe Cardle has a free kick on the Pars' right, which he plays into a crowded box of players. Nicky Clark gets his head to the ball to score a precious equaliser, and bedlam follows.
Obviously, losing the play-off game at Tannadice after playing so well was a huge blow. Added to that particular game are the collective results that the team have had this season - we are capable of much better than seventh place and that has to go down as a big disappointment.
Over the summer period, it was very disappointing to see the departures of key players including Callum Morris, Nicky Clark and Fraser Aird to other clubs in the Championship.
This part of the review cannot end without a mention of Faissal El Bakhtaoui's return to DAFC. A signing that was met by genuine excitement by many (myself included), he has struggled badly, scoring just once in the Championship - and that was a penalty. If his loan deal can be ended early - and it's a big 'if' - he could be set to return to Dundee this month, something I never thought I'd suggest a few months ago.
The midfield trio signed in January transformed our season - from the weakest area of the team to arguably the strongest. James Craigen, James Vincent and Tom Beadling all made a positive impact, although it's a shame that Beadling has missed so much football with injuries - now fully fit, and could be a big player for us in 2019.
Despite the strong claims those 3 players would make, I'm giving this to Jackson Longridge. He has provided an attacking threat from the left back position and has been the standout performer of this season, since signing for the club in the summer. Lee Robinson, my player of 2018, also signed in January but while I have chosen Robinson for the best player spanning the 12 months, in my view it's Longridge who will prove to be our best signing of 2018, moving forward into the new year and (hopefully) seasons to come.
BEST STARTING 11
Every player who played during 2018 is eligible for this ''best of'' Pars team. With a 4-4-2 line-up, here is my best starting 11. Some players naturally miss out as others were marginally better in the same position (no shoe-horning players in, out of position, for the sake of it!). I have selected Tom Beadling despite him playing far less games than other such as James Vincent and James Craigen, as I feel he is a better player and should be included on that basis. Here's the team:
SPECIAL MENTION FOR.......
While the single best moment of the year was the equaliser at Inverness, the weekend away at Borehamwood will live long in the memory. Ironically, the game itself - an Irn Bru Cup tie with no goals, and the Pars winning a penalty shoot-out - was poor, but the weekend was a great couple of days away. I left work (back when I was doing shifts in my previous job) just in time to drive through to East End Park at 9.30pm on the Friday evening, where my son Ben was already on the supporters' bus. We left soon after and had an overnight drive down through England to our destination, just outside Watford, north of London. A great experience for the 48 hours between leaving and returning.