Pun writers, rejoice! This blogger who really didn’t want to write about Malky Mackay, rejoice!
After two manager-less weeks (and a fortnight of the bookies laughing all the way to the bank), United finally have their man. And, after two weeks of ‘blog anxiety’, I don’t have to struggle my way through 1500 words on why I didn’t want the other MM at the helm.
Micky Mellon – Welcome to Tannadice!
Our choice is a man from Paisley, with 500+ games in management. He has spent his entire footballing career in England but now returns to Scotland after becoming the club’s new manager and he is charged with leading us as we return to the Premiership after some long, long seasons in the Championship. Compensation package agreed and two year contract signed, he now only has a short period of time to get things in place before our league opener. Hopefully it is enough time to assess the squad, implement his style and (along with Tony Asghar) identify some new signings. We now know that we host St.Johnstone on the first day of the season (amazingly only three and a bit weeks away).
The golden question with any new manager – Is he the right man? Before we even try and answer that, here are some supplementary questions – Can he keep us in the Premiership this coming season? Can he build us a team that competes in the top-flight for the next few years? Can he have us pushing at the upper end of the table whilst hopefully challenging for domestic cups? Well, as with every signing or appointment, nobody really knows and only time will tell. I do however want to give you my personal opinion on his arrival (this is my blog after all). Of course, others will have different views and many will disagree with what I write below, but I do hope that regardless of opinion we can all get behind our new manager as he begins life at Dundee United.
To be honest, and it is pretty pleasing to see, the consensus on social media seems to be more positive than negative. After some initial concerns the really encouraging thing over the last 72 hours or so has been the number of fans giving some positive comments and thoughts regarding the new manager. It seems as though most are on board with this and the appointment of Mellon has forced supporters to do a bit of research, digging and a few have taken the time to converse with Tranmere Rovers fans.
Me? Well I have definitely been reading up and scanning articles ahead of this announcement and I must say that I’m pretty pleased and optimistic with all of this. Yes he is maybe a manager who up until last week many of us hadn’t really known about (unless you are a fan of the English lower leagues or you a footballing anorak), but the more I have read and the more I have heard, the more I feel positive and very intrigued about Mellon and his style of management.
Supporters can be a tough bunch to satisfy (many would say impossible). You will never sign a player or appoint a manager who will please absolutely everyone on their arrival. However, it is the case that although we as fans have the most to win or lose – it is our club after all – we are not the ones signing the cheques and making the decisions. Tony Asghar has been backed by the Ogrens and he has chosen Mellon as the main man. It is now up to Asghar and his team to show us that this was the right call. Some investment in the playing squad and some positive club news will help initially, but ultimately it will be results on the pitch and the systems implement by Mellon that will be the true test.
One possible ‘negative’ mentioned on social media this last week or so has been the unknown factor of such an appointment. Given that Mellon wasn’t part of the initial collection of familiar names circulated by bookmakers and journalists he became a candidate that some may have been hesitant about simply due to not knowing anything about him. He also has no professional experience in Scotland. So hesitation is understandable. We fans don’t like the unknown, especially when it involves such a monumental decision about the club we love. An appointment of someone who isn’t a ‘name’ might be seen as a negative but at the moment I want to see it as a plus point.
I’ve always felt very ‘meh’ and forever bored with the usual suspects that seem to permanently exist on the lists that do the rounds when any Scottish club is looking for a new head coach (sometimes I picture them all driving around the country in a small minibus together, all looking for jobs). Managers that seem to have been on the circuit for years always get mentioned but I believe it is a good thing Mellon doesn’t belong to the Scottish managerial merry-go-round minibus. He hasn’t been a permanent fixture as a pundit or a rent-a-quote in the newspapers, he is an unknown and as a result is a fresh prospect (which pleasingly already really annoys certain pundits). The new manager also arrives with no baggage from a previous Scottish team and Mellon has no obvious connection to the mainstream ex-players and journalists who always seem so desperate to advocate their mates. Even yesterday, when it became obvious who United were after, we had the usual out of work managers/part-time pundits/minibus drivers on the radio, backing other the out of work managers/part-time pundits/minibus drivers to be considered for the United job (it is nice to have some pals I suppose). It’s lazy and very predictable to see this same script play out every time a team is looking to appoint someone. So for United to cast the net a little bit further is something that I am pretty pleased about.
Mellon is a manager who actually has a very solid record once you start to look at it in detail. He arrives holding a decent win ratio with a few different teams and he has lots of experience, albeit all of it in the English league system. Importantly, Mellon is also someone who appears to be very well liked amongst fans of the teams he has been at (which is very rare in football).
Most notably in his career he holds a very strong affiliation with Tranmere Rovers. Over 150 appearances as a player and 200 odd games as manager means that he is held in high regard by the people of Birkenhead. As a United fan it has been positive to see how strongly the Tranmere Rovers supporters feel about the departure and the work he has done. Of course, I don’t want to take pleasure in another team losing their manager, and I wish Tranmere Rovers all the best, but it is quite ‘nice’ to see a set of fans being upset, rather than nonplussed about losing their manager. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph it is rare to see such universal praise and I think it has caught us by surprise a little bit. It is not often we are in the position of poaching a well-liked manager. All of this adds to the positivity I have about this appointment.
Some might point to this season and the relegation to League Two but Rovers fans seem to largely admonish Mellon of responsibility for that and you need to look at his back-to-back promotions with the Prenton Park side as the standout mark on his CV.
What interests me most about our new manager is the general vibe from former players and staff who all talk very positively of a person who appears to be a fantastic man manager and someone who demands very high standards from his players whilst maintaining a personable and nurturing approach. Of course, when interviewed for newspapers and podcasts these players and colleagues are not going to speak negatively in public but the praise seems genuine and importantly for me, the praise is very grounded in the fundamentals I want in a manager. The talk is not of some revolutionary tactical genius with earth shattering ideas but of a man who has very strong psychological attributes, real passion for football, a will to win and a high work ethic.
The impression I get is that we have someone who demands the absolute best from those around him and that he will be brutally honest when things are not working. Sign me up for that method of management and approach. He also, from articles I’ve read, seems to see football as a job that holds a certain responsibility for the local community and the supporters. This is an attribute I always highly respect in any player, coach or manager. It is also something very important to Dundee United, our amazing Community Trust and our fanbase.
Mellon’s management style is something I think we need after winning promotion. After a few years of high end expectations to secure a title and win every week we will suddenly become underdogs next season and United will need a toughness within the squad and a determination to get through a campaign that will put a different type of pressure on the club and the players as individuals. As a newly promoted team, we will be a target for others and it is something we need to approach in the right manner. It seems like Mellon is someone who thrives in this kind of underdog, ‘everyone is out to get us’, environment.
Before this post ends, the other side note in all of this was the rumoured departure of Lee McCulloch and Gordon Forrest to Hearts. It had been reported that the pair, who have started pre-season with the players despite this uncertainty, were to leave and join Robbie Neilson but it now seems as though, in the short-term at least, they will remain at Tannadice to work alongside Mellon. Personally I am happy with this and I like the fact that we have kept some continuity in the coaching staff rather than have a complete rebuild. Over time Mellon might want to add his own staff and yes it is maybe the normal process to bring in new coaches when a manager joins but I always got the impression, certainly when we appointed Forrest in particular, that Asghar and the club want to have coaches who exist in their jobs separately from the manager. This policy means we can build a team that can remain relatively stable if an individual leaves. It will hopefully help the new manager to settle quickly if he can rely on two coaches who have been with the club and the current squad for a good period of time.
Update – Various media reports as of 8/7 are now suggesting that both McCulloch and Forrest are to leave. I will write a separate blog post if this does happen and when we bring in new staff.
Finally, as our world remains a very strange place, within it we have Scottish football continuing to be a quagmire of in-fighting and confusion. Hopefully the on-going disputes, none of which are our fault, can be finalised shortly and everyone can properly push forward. Unfortunately as I was putting finishing touches to this post – United, Cove and Raith all released statements regarding the huge legal costs involved in the initial court case, and now arbitration, between Hearts/Partick Thistle and the SPFL. I really do not want to spend any time writing about his whole mess but it is a sorry, sorry state of affairs and one that needs to be finished as soon as possible.
Of course, even if things do happen soon, and we all move on it is true that we are still no closer to knowing when we can sit in our seats and experience a proper matchday again. Regardless, this appointment does at least allow us to get a manager in place for this next chapter in the club’s history.
I know that every single United fan will be wishing Micky Mellon all the very best at Tannadice and he will have the full backing of the support. It would be brilliant for all of us to be there to witness his first game, but it looks likely that we will have to support him from the comfort of our homes to begin with. At some point I am sure that we will give him a fantastic reception and a proper welcome, at Tannadice, whenever that might be.
In the meantime…
Micky Mellon’s Tangerine Army? Sounds good to me.