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Last updateFri, 19 Sep 2014 8pm

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Brent Sancho on Dens roller coaster

So, wave a fiver if you’re a Chelsea fan, buy a French phrase book if you support Arsenal and Prozac could be useful if your heart is with Leeds.

And, if you are a Dundee die-hard, pinch yourself—twice.

At the Dens Park stadium, it has been all edge of the seat stuff for the Scottish Premier League mid-table side since ex-manager Ivan Bonetti introduced Argentine star Claudio Caniggia to the “Dark Blues”.

Those were thrilling days but, sadly, not meant to last at a relatively small club like Dundee—the capacity of Dens Park is just under 10,000.

Soon enough, Glasgow Rangers had poached Caniggia, who grew weary of life in a fish bowl, while Bonetti left under more acrimonious circumstances and his £1 million lawsuit still looms over the club.

Yet, barely two years on, and the Dundee mob are already back on their feet as their boys stepped on to the European stage for the first time in 29 years.

And there was much to celebrate too last Thursday as Dundee sauntered into the UEFA Cup First Round with a comprehensive 4-0 whipping of Albanian outfit, KS Vllaznia.

In some compartment of the Dens roller coaster—obscure on the night—was versatile Trinidad and Tobago international defender Brent Sancho who was kept in reserve by manager Jim Duffy.

Controversial Italian lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano hogged the headlines this summer when he was theatrically appointed as club director and promised to become Dundee’s own Roman Abramovich.

Supporters still wait anxiously for the £26 million he promised to invest in the club.

At least the Dens Park can see immediate returns from their “Soca Warrior”.

They quite appreciated the entrée from Duffy when he gave the 26-year-old defender his home debut and first full appearance on August 17 in a 2-0 loss to Dunfermline.

Dundee lost 2-0 but Sancho so impressed Dens Park in his position at right full back that the supporters formally adjudged him the “Man of the Match”.

As Dundee braced for their biggest game in nigh three decades, the dreadlocked defender, who also got a late cameo in Dundee’s UEFA Cup first leg 2-0 qualifying win as a holding midfielder, was making all the right noises.

“Obviously I want to play and do well,” Sancho told the Daily Express, on the eve of the match. “But I am happy even if I don’t play because it’s about being a team player.”

His long face after the final whistle, though, spoke volumes. No player enjoys life on the sidelines.

It can literally be quite a cold place as well, as Sancho discovered.

For a Caribbean player, who has not fully acclimatised, it can be a difficult proposition to keep your mind on the game when the temperature drops below 10 degrees celcius.

On the field, though, Duffy’s men were enjoying themselves while Sancho’s replacement, 22-year-old Scotsman David Mackay, barely put a foot wrong.

Composed on the ball and threatening going forward, Mackay fits neatly into Duffy’s philosophy which is pass, pass and then pass some more.

Not surprisingly at the time, he was involved in Dundee’s opening goal which aome just two minutes after the kick off.

It was Mackay’s move up the right flank and reverse pass that created the space for Dundee’s Argentine playmaker Beto Caranza whose measured throughball was neatly despatched by speedy Spanish striker Nacho Novo. Nocho’s pace was a threat throughout although Vllaznia dropped deeper to neutralise his ability on the break.

The gridlock lasted until the timely introduction of another Argentine, striker Juan Sara, who replaced the injured Caranza before the halftime interval.

Duffy, in an effort to please his new composition of outfield players, changed from 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 system and it paid immediate dividends.

Sara’s first touch sent the ball beyond Vllaznia goalkeeper Armir Grima after a left side cross and the Dens Park was singing again.

“Que Sera Sara… Whatever will be, will be!”

Three minutes after the break, Scottish international midfielder Gavin Rae made it 3-0 from a terrific volley which ricocheted in off the underside of the crossbar and Novo rounded off the scoring in the 87th with another clever finish.

There was a standing ovation for the Dark Blues at the final whistle by the appreciative Dundee faithful who had been in good cheer throughout.

Every attacking pass, substitution—even those made by Vllaznia—and shimmy was cheered as if it was decisive.

Likewise, the game was played in a good spirit and the bald headed Italian referee—not Pierluigi Collina but, rather, Carlo Bertalini—never once reached into his pocket.

Sancho was desperate to play a part.

But Duffy insisted that his patience would be rewarded.

“He has done very well so far,” said Duffy, “but I believe the players who were already here deserve to continue. It is up to Brent when he gets a regular chance.”

Still, Duffy, who is arguably the SPL’s most respected manager after Neil Lennon and Alex McLeish, paid tribute to his new signing and explained why he decided to take more than a souvenir back from his winter break in Trinidad earlier this year.

“I believe that he has very good physical attributes,” said Duffy, who also rated Dundee United striker Jason Scotland and was rumoured to be interested in CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh wing back Cyd Gray as well.

“He is strong, quick, skilful and technically good which is important because we try to play good football here.

“Most importantly, he has a very good personality which I think would help him to fit in here.

“He has a really good attitude and works very hard.”

Duffy spoke in glowing terms of Scotland’s first T&T import, Jerren Nixon, who lined up with hometown rivals, Dundee United.

He also had the pleasure of working with Anthony Rougier at Hibernian who he rated an outstanding talent although he was mystified about the player’s use at international level.

“I could never understand why (Rougier) was played in defence for Trinidad,” he said, “because the Tony I knew couldn’t head or tackle to save himself… He was definitely a flair player but very inconsistent.”

Duffy explained that although Nixon and Rougier had short careers in Scotland, they—along with Russell Latapy, Marvin Andrews and Collin Samuel—helped pave the way for future imports due to their talent, pace and attitude.

“Football is now played at a high tempo and players with pace will always have an advantage,” he said, using Samuel and Scotland as examples.

“Also, the attitude of the former players were excellent as they played with a smile and fitted in easily which would make managers more comfortable to bring in Trinidad and Tobago players.

“Managers will now feel more comfortable that these players will settle once they bring them here.”

Duffy was as good as his word and Sancho, who also had stints with Finnish team Mypa 47 and United States A’ League outfit Portland Timbers, got another chance to showcase himself on Sunday as Dundee held hosts Kilmarnock in SPL action.

He would hope to cement his place in time for their UEFA Cup first leg tie against Italian outfit, Perugia.

On the street, his ethnicity and dreadlocks make him the club’s most recognisable player and there is attention from both sexes and all age groups.

Dundee is the fourth biggest city in Scotland, with a population of 160,000, built at the edge of the Firth of Tay and even has its own airport.

There is no sign of the fast-paced London lifestyle yet there is a quiet dignity to the way they go about their business. A giant poster on entrance invites visitors to “Discover Dundee”. The Dark Blues have two years with which to discover Sancho.

The sooner, the better.