Realistically this isn’t going to be much of an actual match preview. The game tomorrow doesn’t mean anything other than it gives fans a chance to get to see some new signings (and avoid the England game) so this post will be more of an update on how things are progressing at Tannadice this summer. With the World Cup taking up much of people’s attention it has been a quiet 10 days or so at United with much of the work being done in early to mid-June. A host of new signings and some staffing changes has resulted in what is becoming a costly yearly rebuild. Things do seem a little different this time around and there has been more focus on offering new signings longer deals with bigger bonuses if we achieve promotion. We’ve also recruited some younger staff (with the exception of Werner Burger) so it seems like a fresher Dundee United. Ultimately the only measure of success will be results on the pitch and it is now less than two weeks until we see Laszlo’s new look side in competitive action for the first time.
Before we see any ‘real’ football we have our obligatory pre-season friendlies but up until now we have only arranged one official fixture, tomorrow night against Brechin City. Undoubtedly we will have a few other closed-door games lined up but it is a very light schedule leading up to the Betfred Cup that begins on the 14th of July.
As for specific updates it is probably best to split things into three categories….
The Manager and Staff
My personal belief is still that Csaba Laszlo should have been sacked after the Livingston defeat. I felt that after a positive start he lost direction and the team looked incredibly disjointed and unmotivated. Whether Laszlo can turn it all around remains to be seen but he has the genuine backing of Mike Martin so he will likely be here for a while yet.
One thing we have done this summer is revamp the backroom staff at the club. The return of both Craig Easton and Scott Robertson to Tannadice gives the youth development at the club fresh blood whilst the arrival of long-term friend of Laszlo’s, Werner Burger gives him more support in the dressing room. Recruitment has also been overhauled with Paul Sturrock and Dave Bowman being confirmed as the ‘new’ scouts for the club. One really interesting staffing change has been the appointment of Neil Alexander as Goalkeeping Coach. Many, myself included, would see Alexander as still a very capable goalkeeper who could have potentially been our first choice but he has announced his retirement from the playing side of things to join United.
The jury is still out on Laszlo and regardless of the changes behind him it will be the man in charge who will ultimately be held responsible for the season ahead.
With the bulk of new signings now at the club the current first team squad looks like this…
Benjamin Siegrist (2020)
Matej Rakovan (2020)
Deniz Mehmet (Jan 2019)
Josh Donaldson (2020)
Stewart Murdoch (2019)
Tam Scobbie (2019)
Lewis Toshney (2019)
William Edjenguele (2019)
Jamie Robson (2020)
Callum Booth (2020)
Sam Wardrop (2020)
Frederic Frans (2020)
Paul McMullan (2019)
Billy King (2019)
Sam Stanton (2020)
Scott Allardice (2019)
Fraser Fyvie (2020)
Matty Smith (2020)
Fraser Aird (2020)
Christoph Rabitsch (2020)
Craig Curran (2021)
Nicky Clark (2020)
James Keatings (2019)
Is this enough? No. Do we need to move some players on? Absolutely. What happens next? Anyone’s guess.
Laszlo has said that we are 90% of the way there and Mike Martin has said he wants a squad of 22 that includes four youth graduates. Looking at the numbers we are pretty much there already but for me we still lack a target man, at least one central defender and another option in the creative midfield department. Our defence in particular still looks light given the difficulties we’ve had with Edjenguele, Scobbie and Toshney. Much also depends on what system Laszlo wants us to play this year. We seem to be stuck in a 4231 contract that will last until the end of time and this has been one of our many weaknesses in recent seasons. The Championship is not rocket science and I would love to see a system with more than one striker (we simply do not score enough goals).
As always with new signings it is best to give them some time to settle in so my judgement will be reserved until we know more about what Laszlo plans to do with the team and who he sees as his first choice players. It is however important to say that at least United do seem to be recruiting with much more of a structure in place compared to recent seasons. Longer deals, higher bonuses and players in positions we need is at least something resembling a plan (even if it is pretty basic stuff).
You can’t really talk about United without trying to comment on what is going on at board level. Firstly, Steven Thompson remains majority shareholder and there is no clear indication as to when this might end. Despite rumour after rumour we know nothing about any potential investment or takeover so until Thompson is removed from the shareholdings it is difficult for us to move on and get closure. His replacement (even if it is just in title) has at least tried to make sweeping changes at the club and despite being on the board for several years he has shown some genuine intent on trying to shift United in a more positive direction. A clean break is still needed at Tannadice and in the longer term that would probably mean the removal of Mike Martin and it definitely needs the selling of the Thompson shares. When that actually happens is anyone’s guess.
The Brechin game is ultimately meaningless but I will head along tomorrow night with the usual pre-season optimism that seems to appear in July every year. What we cannot predict is this Championship season. More than many that have come before it we cannot really see who might be clear favourites for the league title. At least 5 of the clubs in the divsion will want to win the league and another 3 will be aiaming for playoff spots. Probably only Alloa and Ayr will realistically see themselves as big outsiders, the rest will fancy a shot at promotion.