Dee rookie has split all figured out
On-loan Dundee striker A- Jay is aiming for safety
IT still has its critics but, almost 18 years after it was first introduced, for football fans in Scotland the top-flight split each April has become the norm.
Dundee’s Premiership rookie A-jay Leitch-smith admits, however, the concept of not playing every other side in the league the same number of times over the course of the season has taken a bit of time for him to get his head round.
But the man who’s on loan from Shrewsbury Town for the rest of the campaign does know it makes every game vital.
“When I was down in England, I knew they had a split in the Premiership up here but, to be honest, I didn’t really know how it worked,” he said.
“Once I knew about the interest from Dundee, I found out a bit about what happens.
“It’s something I’m not used to. Down south there have usually been 24 teams in the league I’ve been playing in and you play each other twice, once at home and once away, so it’s simple.
“It’s a strange one for me. You’re telling me we can play some teams three times at home and others three times away — I’m not sure how they would take that down south.
“In the end you have to make the most of it and try to pick up as many points as you possibly can.”
For Dundee, even a winning run between now and the top flight dividing will not be enough to secure a top-half finish.
While that’s disappointing, Leitchsmith appreciates how important it is the Dark Blues are performing well when the final post-split five games come round.
“It’s not long until the split now and we want to gather as many points as we can and see where it takes us,” he added.
“We were aiming for the top six but it’s not on for us now.
“It is disappointing because we know what we can bring on our day and we have proved that in quite a few of our games.
“We’ve not got as many points as we should have, even from the games when we’ve been playing well.”
For the second season running, Dundee are now facing a battle to retain their top-flight place and Leitch-smith knows that means every game from here on in is going to be vital.
Before the split, Dundee face a difficult run of games against top-six outfits Aberdeen, Hearts, Celtic and Rangers.
But Leitch-smith knows any points from those massive games could prove vital.
“Obviously, the last five games, particularly if you are in the bottom half, are big ones.
“You are playing the teams around you in the league, so one or two wins or defeats can push you one way or the other.
“If you lose two games on the bounce you can be dragged back down into the trouble but, if you win a couple, you are pulling away from it.
“For us, though, it’s important we pick up a few points between now and the split so we are in as good a position as possible.
“Then if we go and beat the teams around us we can do ourselves a lot of good.”
Despite the difficult position the Dens Park men find themselves in, the Englishman is liking his first taste of the Scottish game.
“I’ve enjoyed myself up here. I didn’t know what to expect but I’ve enjoyed it.
“It’s quite frantic and it’s maybe a little bit more open at times and, as a striker, that is going to suit me.”
The Dark Blues only have top-six opponents left to face before the split.