So, after a week of being manager-less Dundee United have appointed their third permanent head coach since arriving in the Championship in 2016/17. That man is 38-year old ex-United player Robbie Neilson. Having been out of management since January this year the former Hearts and MK Dons manager has been charged with guiding United back to the top-flight of Scottish football. Some would suggest that Neilson may have taken on an impossible task but as much as that might seem the case he also has the potential of becoming an instant Tannadice hero if he can perform the equivalent of a footballing miracle. All the best Robbie!
My own personal take on this appointment is that I am pretty happy and of all the names that were linked with the job I think he has the character attributes to bring a level of professionalism and determination to the club, something that has been sorely lacking in recent seasons. United are soft. United are slow. United are NOT (at the moment) mentally tough enough to cope with the demands of this league. We are psychologically weak and have no real leadership. In his time as a player Neilson had that hard edge to his style of play and he comes across as someone who has that same attitude as a manager. His coaching record is relatively strong despite a rough ride at MK Dons where he was sacked after just over 12 months in charge. I tend to ignore English club management when it comes to Scots travelling down south. There is a long list of coaches who have gone to England only to struggle in their notoriously challenging and hectic league systems. Managers like Neil Lennon, Derek McInnes and Craig Levein all found it difficult but have shown since their return to Scotland that they do have all the attributes to succeed. Hopefully Neilson fits into that very same category.
Most fans will look towards Neilson’s time at Hearts to get a picture of how successful he can be with a team who are going through some turbulent times. He did a fantastic job at Tynecastle, although, compared to what he will find at United, he did operate with a slightly different footballing structure. Hearts at the time worked hard to implement a hierarchy of support for their coaching staff and they had Craig Levein as their Director of Football to help with the footballing operations. It is an opinion of mine that we are desperately crying out for something similar at United but the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is as slim as our chances of winning the title. The buck will stop with Neilson and although he will be supported by Neil Alexander, Stevie Crawford (to be confirmed) and Craig Easton he will have to do the legwork in terms of recruitment and infrastructure.
You would assume one casualty of this appointment might be Laurie Ellis. Brought in by Ray McKinnon it might be that he will end up at Falkirk to work with the management team there. Ellis has always come across well and he is a coach who has been the victim of circumstance with both McKinnon and Laszlo. I’m sure most at Tannadice will wish him well if he is to leave.
So, Robbie it is over to you and we all hope that you have what it takes to get us back to where we all want to be. Our defence is weak and we have no competent fullbacks. Going forward we are ponderous and one-dimensional. We do have three or four very good players but even they are playing within themselves at the moment and they need lifted. The whole squad needs dragged up by their boot straps and they need to be given the tools to play beyond their normal levels. We need a team who can replicate the style of play that previous Championship winners have developed. High pressure, high intensity and aggressive football that competes with what we come up against most weeks.
The fans have a big role to play and I dearly hope that we will all support you with everything that we have. Our supporters have been kicked all over the place and are a battered as a result but we still have fantastic fanbase with great potential for really high crowd levels that generate a good atmosphere. Hopefully the fans who bring this atmosphere to games will be in full voice to give you the welcome you need and it will be great if we can take a really big support to Firhill on Saturday and then again for the visit of Inverness in a couple of weeks.
If the fans, the players and the new management all work together then we can give this a real good go and we all know that as bad as it may seem, miracles do sometimes happen in football.