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JIM SPENCE: Ian Harkes was right to take his time and Dundee United fans should be happy with his decision to stay at Tannadice

Ian Harkes will be a Dundee United player next season
Ian Harkes will be a Dundee United player next season

Ian Harkes has miffed a few Dundee United fans by taking his time to sign his just announced one-year extension.

The American midfielder evokes mixed reactions from Arabs some of whom aren’t persuaded of his credentials.

I’m a fan of Harkes.

I like his energy, commitment, and work rate, and he was entitled to weigh up his options carefully.

Some football players are fans of the clubs they play for, most aren’t.

Even those who are though are still working men who have to do the best for themselves and their careers when deciding on what’s on offer to them.

Harkes admitted that the stretched-out negotiations were in part due to the change of managers and anyone who’s worked under various bosses (Jack Ross will be Harkes’ fourth in three-and-a-half years) will understand the concerns.

Will the new man rate me? Will he have someone else lined up to replace me? Will my style of working match his?

These are all completely understandable thoughts in the decision-making process from a professional footballer’s viewpoint.

Harkes was right to wait and assess whether he and his new gaffer would be mutually compatible.

I think for United it’s good news that he reckons they are.


Dundee defender Cammy Kerr was spot on in saying the Dark Blues’ previous training preparation wasn’t professional, and boss Gary Bowyer is also correct in saying their excellent new training base leaves the players without any excuses for future performances.

Tannadice Street used to hum with activity when both sides trained in the city and players and managers were available daily at the grounds.

There was a buzz then and a feeling of connectivity with players regularly seen.

Autographs and chats were able to be had with fans in the vicinity of Dens and Tannadice around dinner time.

However players and coaches scuttling around in cars and minibuses to and from the grounds to various pitches in the city, like itinerant circus performers, was an antiquated way of working in a modern football environment.

United broke the spell first when Craig Levein became manager by relocating their training base permanently to St Andrews.

Now their neighbours have flitted too, albeit just a few miles away to Gardyne Road college campus where United once trained under Jim McLean.

I’m sorry to see the daily link with the two grounds broken but progress in football is a fact of life and both clubs are correct in their approach.

In a competitive football world, top training facilities can be a deal maker or breaker in attracting talent.

Players want access to facilities which are in tune with the demands of modern athletes.

United, and now Dundee, can offer those to potential signings.

Top coaches also want training bases which allow them to prepare for games at the maximum level possible.

When sports scientists, physios, dieticians, and everything else that goes with running a big club are in the same location, along with quality training pitches and gyms, it’s a major factor in keeping players and coaches happy and that’s crucial for success.

EXCLUSIVE: Dundee bring former Carlisle and Bradford midfielder Danny Devine to Dens on trial

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