Why it would work
Paul Hartley has put the band back together. Greg Stewart and Kane Hemmings partnered each other at Cowdenbeath in the 2013/14 Scottish Championship season and will now be reunited in the top flight. I know what you’re thinking – why would you want to bring together a former Cowdenbeath partnership? Such rationale severely underestimates how important those pair were in keeping the Blue Brazil in the second tier. Without them it’s possible they would have finished bottom with fewer points than Morton’s miserly 26. They netted 29 of Cowdenbeath’s 50 league goals between them, not including six of the nine scored by Cowden in the successful play-off campaign, and generally made a mediocre group of teammates better with their play.
Despite all this, it’s safe to assume fans would still have been a little negative about this signing in a parallel universe; a world where Stewart didn’t come straight from Cowdenbeath and become Dundee’s best player in a top six finishing season. Because here’s where the Hemmings signing excites the Dundee faithful the most – he was the better of the two during their time at Central Park. Stewart would mostly sit on the bench when Jimmy Nicholl preferred a one-up front formation, and were it not for Hemmings’s injury late in the campaign, thereby increasing Stewart’s responsibility, it’s not a stretch to assume this season’s Premiership player of the year nominee wouldn’t have even hit double figures.
Hemmings gives Dundee what they’ve lacked in attack throughout this season – a striker with pace they can rely on, i.e. not Martin Boyle. David Clarkson did an excellent job when he first came in but eventually other teams realised he could do nothing in behind opposition defences. The disappearance of Phil Roberts and Boyle from the squad meant Clarkson found opposing rearguards increasingly congested areas to operate in.
Hemmings will likely not partner Stewart – his old pal has done the majority of his damage to other teams coming in from the left in Dundee’s 4-2-3-1 – but will instead either spearhead the attack or offer a similarly lethal scoring threat coming in from the other wing. His dynamism, pace and hard work should compliment (don’t call me a) luxury player Gary Harkins. If ‘dad-bod’ Harkins can create, Hemmings will tuck them away.
Some may be concerned about his flame-out at Barnsley, which is understandable considering they play their football in England’s League One. However, there were a number of circumstances which led to his failure. An injury sustained early in the season as he attempted to make the step up from part-time football, coupled with being played out of position in a mediocre side. Largely, Barnsley supporters were positive when it was announced he was leaving and wished him good luck. They respected his work rate, an underrated part of Hemmings’s game, and which is likely what endeared him to Hartley.
Why it might not
A three-year deal to a player who’s scored into double figures only once in his career, and at a lower level as well, is quite the leap of faith. Admittedly, even though he’s 23, the years spent amid the lost souls of Rangers reserve teams while Ally McCoist was manager means there’s not a great sample size. But the length of deal does seem a tad excessive. There are countless examples of players who come into the right club, the right group of teammates, at the right time. Such a scenario could easily apply to Hemmings.
In short, are we sure he’s any good? He’s kind of old fashioned – runs the channels, deadly in the box, good athleticism – but his touch can be questionable at times. Stewart eased into the top flight because, certainly out of the two, he’s a better technical footballer. Hemmings’s touch wasn’t a problem in the Championship. In the top flight, however, he’ll have less time on the ball and it could be a negative factor.
Fans should also be concerned with how his spell at Barnsley has impacted him mentally. Ideally, you want to bring in a striker whose confidence couldn’t be higher, especially when playing at a level he has no previous experience of playing at. Forwards, more than any other position, come out of nowhere to be brilliant, hit a rough patch and are never seen again. It’s a position where confidence is so fragile because it’s only there if the ball is hitting the back of the net.
WRITTEN BY CRAIG FOWLER
To listen to the latest episode click on this link.
If you’d like to contact the podcast the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively find us on Facebook or Twitter.