Remember the World Cup? Remember being able to relax and enjoy a few hours of football? Me neither.
We head to Elgin tomorrow for our final fixture in this year’s Betfred Cup. I actually like the new format of the tournament and my annoyance at United treating the trophy like pre-season continues. Thankfully tomorrow will see the end to all of that as we head north to play a bounce game (it is now) against the League Two side. I’m actually really looking forward to the fixture but that is almost exclusively down to the fact that I have never been to Borough Briggs so tomorrow will give me a chance to scratch another Scottish ground off the list. The forecasted thunder and lightning should make it an interesting trip…
With the league campaign now only a week away it is safe to say that this, more than many seasons before it, can be described as an all or nothing campaign. I’m typing this as I watch Aberdeen host Burnley in the Europa League and it is incredible just how different the two clubs are. It has only been three years since we were competing with a club like Aberdeen, beating them in the League Cup semi-final, and now we are world’s apart. I am genuinely worried for the future of Dundee United if we do not get promoted this year and I do not know what direction the club takes if we are to remain in the Championship. That is why we cannot afford to gamble this year.
It looks like Csaba Laszlo will be given at least the early part of the season and if that is the case and he continues to falter then the board cannot afford not to act. Some would argue that the financial implications of changing managers yet again would damage the club but the impact of not getting promoted would be catastrophic. You can understand why fans are so vocal at the moment. Behind the anger, the confusion and the social media debates is the knowledge that this club will face potential oblivion if we do not return to the Premiership for 2019/20.
This week has seen the addition of two new faces (if you include Paul Watson). The former Falkirk defender certainly fills a position that we need to add to but his credentials may suggest he wasn’t our first choice (and the less said about the signing video the better). Also joining us is Yannick Loemba, a winger who holds a Belgian passport and has been playing most recently in Turkey. He is an unknown quantity so may be a risk, especially as he has been given a two-year contract under the new signing policy we now have. Laszlo still has the ability to add to the squad so we can assume, despite “emergency board meeting” social media rumours, that for the time being he is the man in charge and he will be leading us into the league campaign that begins next Saturday against an in-form Dunfermline. The match tomorrow against Elgin will essentially be a fitness exercise for the manager and you would expect him to make a few changes and give players the opportunity to put down a marker for the league. For Laszlo the real business starts next week and in the eyes of many supporters he will not be given much room for error.
Current Injuries and Team News – Other than long term absentees like Fyvie, Mehmet and Toshney it isn’t clear who might be missing tomorrow although it is assumed that Billy King is out. We might finally see Craig Curran in competitive action but it might be too soon for him. Laszlo has this week complained that there is a lot of “tiredness” in his squad and he has admitted that given the results in the Betfred Cup he feels his players are already under quite a bit of pressure to deliver. Some might argue that if he had treated the competition as a competitive set of fixtures then he may have not had so much early strain…
My ideal lineup for tomorrow would be –
GK – Benji Siegrist/Matej Rakovan (Laszlo needs to decide who his number one is)
RB – Sam Wardrop
CB – Paul Watson
CB – Frederic Frans (C)
LB – Callum Booth
RM – Paul McMullan
CM – Sam Stanton
CM – Adam Barton
LM – Fraser Aird
ST – Nicky Clark
ST – James Keatings
Subs – Matej Rakovan/Benji Siegrist (GK), Yannick Loemba, Jamie Robson, Declan Glass, Matty Smith, Craig Curran, Christoph Rabitsch.