Dundee v Celtic: Barry Smith on 'humble' Claudio Caniggia & great days at Dens

Fabian Caballero
Fabian Caballero scores his second goal in Dundee's 2-0 win over Celtic in May 2001
Scottish Premiership: Dundee v Celtic
Venue: Dens Park Date: Sunday, 17 March Kick-off: 12:30 GMT
Coverage: Listen to BBC Radio Scotland and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport Scotland website

There's been more trauma than triumph for Dundee since they last defeated Celtic. Administration twice, 10 different managers, two relegations and a couple of promotions have spanned the 18-year chasm.

It was the final game of the 2000-01 season when Dundee, halfway through the colourful and chaotic two-year reign of Ivano Bonetti, ended the champions' unbeaten domestic record that term with a 2-0 win.

Fabian Caballero's first-half double sealed the points despite Georgia international Zurab Khizanishvili being sent off after 34 minutes. But 18 months later, Dundee went into administration with debts of around £20m.

'Dundee fans wouldn't change it'

Martin O'Neill's Celtic went on to complete a treble, while Dundee amassed a 47-point total that they have only bettered once since in the top flight.

Barry Smith, a Dundee stalwart as player and later manager, played centre-back that afternoon at Celtic Park and says the boom before the bust is an experience he still cherishes.

"Celtic had won the league, but to win at Parkhead was still a really good achievement," he says.

"It was a great time to be at the club because of the names that came in. Further down the line, they paid for it. But if you ask any Dundee fan if they would have changed things, they'd say probably not because of the football they saw.

"They got into the top six and those years gave the fans a lot to be happy about."

Claudio Caniggia was the headline signing that campaign to the Dens Park league of nations, which already included the likes of Georgi Nemsadze and Juan Sara. But the feted Argentine forward didn't come with a big-time attitude.

"Caniggia is the player who stood out," says Smith. "Everyone knew how good a player he was but a lot of folk don't realise how good he was off the park. He was a World Cup runner-up, but you would never have known it - he was a really humble guy. He helped the young ones, which shows what type of guy he was."

'We had two different dressing rooms'

Bonetti's management style ruffled feathers among the home-grown players - with a high-profile run-in with Lee Wilkie in particular. But Smith enjoyed working under the Italian, even though he admits the flurry of foreign signings caused a dressing-room divide.

"Bonetti was fine with me. I was fortunate that I was playing," he says. "There were two different dressing rooms to accommodate the amount of players. It was all the Scottish players in one and all the foreigners in the other, which probably didn't help."

And Smith, who started his career at Celtic and is currently trying to steer Brechin City to safety in League One, believes the contribution of the Scottish players during that era can't be underestimated.

"In terms of ability, Nemsadze was the best," says Smith. "But there was a backbone of Scottish guys - myself, Wilkie, Gavin Rae - who held things together and that allowed the bigger names to express themselves."

Just like 18 years ago, Dundee now face a Celtic side chasing a treble. And beating the champions on Sunday would be a huge upset from a side that sits second bottom with just one Scottish Premiership win at Dens Park all season.

"Jim McIntyre has brought in the right type [in January] to stay up because he's brought players who are winners," adds Smith. "It needed a big turnaround of players to give them a chance."

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