01-10-2017, 06:32 AM
The close season of 2000 was a strange one as we waited the appointment of a new manager at Dens Park.
The previous campaign had seen us finish seventh under Jocky Scott’s guidance in what had been a good season.
We had known since around April that Jocky wouldn’t be in charge but there weren’t any real signs who would replace him.
Then, in July, the surprise announcement came it was Italian brothers Ivano and Dario Bonetti who were going to be responsible for improving the squad that Jocky had built.
Little did we know then the transformation there would be to what was a successful team.
The two brothers came in and immediately it was clear to see Ivano was the more charismatic of the pair.
They brought with them a translator but Ivano’s English was understandable if not great.
Dario, on the other hand, was quite imposing in stature and character. However, once you got to know him, he was a decent guy.
They were only in the club a few days when we were whisked away to an Italian training camp, which was based on the top of a mountain, half-an-hour from civilisation.
It was a new experience for the Scottish boys and three weeks together was challenging even for the more placid players like myself.
The training itself was different, too, with the morning sessions no more than a jog.
It started on day one with a 1km run, building up to doing eight of these come the second week.
The days of being hammered physically were all gone, which was great, but the boys didn’t feel they were doing enough.
The afternoon work was all with the ball and focused mainly on shape, with the players getting to know what was expected of them in formation.
It was repetition which most found monotonous but it did hold us in good stead going into the season and it is something I have used frequently in my managerial roles.
There was an influx of Italians, which was to be expected, as most managers like to bring their own players in, but it did cause a divide.
I’m not sure if it was meant but we had two separate dressing-rooms at our home training base at Caird Park.
The home-grown boys were in one changing-room and the foreign players in the other, with the exception being Georgi Nemsadze, who found himself with us, something I think he preferred.
There wasn’t a problem as we all wanted to play football but the unity and togetherness you get in dressing-rooms just wasn’t apparent.
In saying that, when we went out on the park there was a cohesion that looked as if we had been together for years.
The players Jocky had at his disposal fell by the wayside one by one, until there were only a handful of us training with the first-team squad.
The rest were sent to train with Ray Farningham and Stevie Campbell, who, at one point, had 40 players training with them.
The ones left were the mainstay of the team with the likes of Rab Douglas (for a few months), Gav Rae, Willie Falconer, Steven Tweed, Lee Wilkie and Shaun McSkimming all playing big parts in the forthcoming league campaign.
It was crystal clear at the Bonettis’ first game in charge they would be different.
They turned up at the game and took their place in the dugout in their denim jeans and shirts, which was something that was new to the league.
It was more in tone with playing at Dawson Park but they had their own style and, looking back, probably set the dress code for some managers today.