Scottish Championship 2019/20 Preview – Dundee United

Disclaimer – This is a season preview not necessarily written for United fans (I write plenty about us most weeks). This is more of a quick guide for any onlookers as to how we might get this season. I hope United fans enjoy reading this but much of what I am about to write has been talked about A LOT by United supporters so there isn’t anything new or exciting here…

I am writing this shortly after writing the Dundee season preview and it is only natural for me to take the two as a package deal given the season ahead.

Looking back, last season was a disaster. I use the word ‘disaster’ in the very literal sense because although we almost got promoted, we didn’t. That failure sees us spend yet another season in the Scottish Championship. United do talking very well and we do spending money very well but we haven’t yet managed to do the promotion thing very well. One more go will surely be the one to finally tip the balance?

The 2018/19 campaign started horribly and we despatched of Csaba Laszlo as part of our yearly feature that we like to call “Dundee United’s October and November Managerial Search”. It was the right move but months too late. We did secure the services of Robbie Neilson as a result of Laszlo’s sacking but despite a positive early start and a lot of good talking (the thing we do well) we have found ourselves stuttering yet again. Pressure will be on Neilson from the word go to get things right this season.

Off the park things are looking great at Tannadice and years of uncertainty are now at an end thanks to Mark Ogren and his team. United have made huge improvements to ticketing, merchandise, catering and hospitality. Lots of time and money has been spent of improving the club but ultimately the result on the park every week is the true measure of any football club. The positivity behind the scenes is great but it is the ’90’ that sticks with supporters.

Transfers In – Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Lawrence Shankland (Ayr United), Liam Smith (Ayr United), Adrian Sporle (Canfield), Adam King (Swansea City), Deniz Mehmet (Queen of the South)

Transfers Out – Mati Zata (Dumbarton), Declan Glass (Cove Rangers, loan), Ross Laidlaw (Hibs, end of loan), Pavol Safranko (Aalborg, end of loan), Charlie Seaman (Bournemouth, end of loan), Morgaro Gomis (Falkirk), Stewart Murdoch (East Fife), Adam Barton (Wrexham), Luc Bollan (Aberdeen), Rachid Bouhenna (ACS Sepsi Osk), Aidan Nesbitt (Greenock Morton), Christoph Rabitsch (Lendorf), Archie Thomas (Cowdenbeath),  Lewis Toshney (Falkirk), Callum Booth, William Edjenguele, Fraser Fyvie, Billy King, Gavin Ritchie, Tam Scobbie.

Transfer Window Success? – As far as arrivals go this has been one of the quietest summers in recent history. Many have left but only a few have arrived which can be seen as a positive and a negative. I tend to side on the positive simply because of the unhealthy relationship we seemed to have over the annual 12+ departures and 12+ arrivals. It was not sustainable. What United do still lack is one or two final pieces to the puzzle but the talk is of at least one more signing, possibly within the next 24 hours.

The big statement of intent has been the arrival of Lawrence Shankland and he really has been the ‘marquee’ signing of the summer. It was a surprise to many, myself included, that Shankland decided to come to Tannadice but already he has shown his worth, putting in some impressive displays in pre-season. No pressure Lawrence…


The Manager – This is a difficult one because I would guess that the vast majority of United fans really want Robbie Neilson to succeed. As a former United player and someone who is the very definition of a “footballing man” it is natural for supporters to have a connection with someone who always wore his heart on his sleeve whilst on the pitch. He is a passionate and driven individual but does this affection of Neilson the person translate into support of Neilson the manager? Increasingly I’m not so sure it does.

Neilson is guilty of a “not lose in the process of trying to win” philosophy and this sees his teams hang on to leads and sometimes control games in a laboured and structured way. If it works then there is maybe nothing wrong with this approach but it doesn’t work as often as Neilson would like (plus as a fan it can be incredibly dull to watch).


The Hope – Pretty straightforward, to finally get promoted.

As I mentioned in the Dundee post this season also has a bit of double pressure with the city rivalry dominating the headspace of most fans. Each and every week I will be thinking “can we win” but I don’t mind admitting that some of my thoughts will also drift towards Dundee and their result. Then there will be the derby fixtures…

The big hope for United fans is to see the positivity off the park transferred to the pitch. It is a good time to follow United in terms of being able to relax about the ownership and the moves made at boardroom level but the real goal will always be to perform on the park. I am aware that this post maybe isn’t as positive or carefree as the other previews but that is just me allowing myself to slip into ‘caution’ mode, something that has been drilled into me in recent years.

As the season approaches I am very excited, as always, to get things going. I can’t wait to get back to my seat every other week and travel across the country to see my team. Unfortunately the last few years have conditioned me to always be a bit anxious about what might happen over the next 8 or 9 months.  

Look Out For – The obvious answer here is Lawrence Shankland. If United can provide service to the prolific striker it could mean the difference between success and failure. Getting the service to him is the key…

One other player that could be a bit of a secret weapon for United is the teenager Scott Banks. The young playmaker spent last year with Clyde and was highly rated by their fans. It wasn’t known if he would come back and immediately push for a first team place but since the beginning of pre-season he has been regularly involved. Rumours of interest from Southampton will hopefully die down and it would be great to see a genuine talent breakthrough at Tannadice for the first time in a few years. 


 Transfer and club information correct as of 30th July 2019