The last time I visited Somerset Park was in 1999 when Sieb Dijkstra had to save a last-minute penalty to keep us in the Scottish Cup (we won the replay 2-1 at Tannadice). Funnily enough the thing I remember most about that game was the fact that my Dad and I were standing right beside Eddie Thompson, who had recently gone public about wanting to buy United. The club at that time was very much in turmoil. Fast forward nearly 20 years and I will be going to Somerset this Saturday and we find ourselves in a very similar position.
On the pitch Laurie Ellis will take temporary charge and the positive for him and the fans is that this weekend’s fixture feels, at the moment, like one with a lot less pressure given the relief over Laszlo’s sacking and the search for a new manager. The problems though run much deeper than the man in the dugout and we still have real concerns about what is happening in the United boardroom. The people in charge are tasked at finding a suitable head coach to guide us in to the top-flight but their ability to do that needs to be called into question. Currently there is no footballing experience in the hierarchy at Tannadice and when it comes to managerial appointments I personally feel we need a Chief Executive type figure or at least someone we can consult over this huge decision that could define the future of Dundee United.
Talking of that search for a new manager I must admit that I have become a bit weary after the initial excitement last Sunday over Laszlo’s sacking. A change of manager is always fascinating and the football fan in me always finds the whole process really intriguing but it is also quite tiring. Social media and the press regurgitate unsubstantiated rumours at a time like this, with the additional gossip and the dreaded “I’ve heard that…” line that so always makes me roll my eyes. Maybe one or two do have genuine information but the amount of rubbish that engulfs the one or two bits of genuine knowledge result in a mess that I find pretty hard work. I’ve read so far this week that “in the know” fans have had the club linked with or speaking to, amongst others, Duncan Ferguson, John Robertson, Barry Ferguson, Lee Clark, Billy McKinlay, Robbie Neilson, Jim McIntyre, Stewart Petrie, Gary Naysmith and John Hughes. The board must have been busy this week! The problem though is who do you believe? Social media is exhausting at the best of times but with rumour after rumour and opinion poll after opinion poll it is particularly draining at the moment. Also, don’t get me started on our local journalists who believe that an ‘EXCLUSIVE!’ is simply looking at the bookies list of managers and then running with that.
This process, in all probability, will take time and we may have to wait until the Inverness match in a couple of weeks before we see a new face in charge. Even then there is a financial doubt about how much we have to throw at a contract for any potential manager. Our finances and tight budget might be why at the moment there has been a bit of a PR push for Laurie Ellis. Personally I think that Ellis would be too much of a gamble despite him winning his games in charge when he was in a similar position before. When we got rid of Peter Houston a few years ago we were in a position in the Premiership to say “right, let’s go for something a bit different and test the water”. Unfortunately we do not have the freedom to do this. We need promotion and we need quick results. Even if it was a manager who was seen as just a ‘fixer’ for a year or two to get us back to the top-flight and then leave soon after, we need someone who can get short-term results using motivation and tactics, rather than someone who takes time to bring in an ethos and a change of direction. I would love to bring in a visionary and someone with a grand plan but we don’t have the time to implement a strategy like that (especially if it is one that takes time to get going). At the moment give me blood and thunder football if it means winning a few football matches.
Who would I like to take the hot seat? The answer is I don’t know, and to be honest nobody really knows. Managers succeed and fail for a variety of reasons. A manager who does really well at one club may totally bomb at another. What I do know is that former players and onlookers who take this time as a chance to air their own personal grievances are not doing themselves or the club any favours. This week’s top rent-a-quote came from Paul Quinn, a man so forgettable that you would fail to remember many of the games he actually played in (or maybe you chose to forget them due to the performance levels). According to Quinn, United need to get rid of their history and get rid of their grand ambitions because it puts too much pressure on certain players to then perform. Pictures of Jim McLean, the 1994/2010 Scottish Cup winning sides and the UEFA Cup Final are all a bit intimidating apparently. What utter nonsense. This is especially rubbish given it came from a player who contributed less than nothing during his few months at the club.
I’m aware that this is more of a post-Laszlo reflection rather than an actual match preview but it does feel like the football is on the back-burner at the moment. In a strange way this Saturday is a bit of a freebie given the circumstances at the club. We can’t lose sight of the bigger picture but I’ll be travelling to Ayr with a weight lifted off my shoulders and I hope that we take a really good, relaxed and happy support to the game. Frighteningly I’m actually really looking forward to Saturday…
As for our opponents Ayr United we are facing an in-form, high-flying and high scoring side who will relish the chance to get a win over a battered and bruised United squad. If they play the way they have been playing and Lawrence Shankland continues to perform then they have every chance of taking all 3 points on Saturday.
Let’s hope that Laurie Ellis and his players put on a performance to spoil the party.