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CALUM WOODGER: Expectations of Dundee United are high ahead of Kilmarnock clash as boss Micky Mellon’s influence takes hold

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Nearly two months into his reign as Dundee United manager and Micky Mellon’s influence over the club is firmly taking hold.

His initial target will have been to get to grips with first-team matters, something he has done effectively as fifth-placed United head for Kilmarnock this afternoon.

Despite the loss of a handful of key players to injury, including one of just two summer signings, he has a makeshift team doing the business on the pitch.

And they’re all buying into what the former Tranmere Rovers gaffer is trying to do – the kids, the senior pros and the previously cast-aside.

You can see it on the pitch and, with stadiums empty, you can hear one major reason why coming from the touchline, too.

It’s one of few benefits of no fans but, for hacks like I, it’s an intriguing and welcome one to get an idea of how managers communicate with their troops.

Unlike a lot of his contemporaries (cough, David Martindale), Mellon’s instructions are, for the most part, clear and often positive.

His message is evidently getting through, for Mellon’s words aren’t soliloquies but impassioned and encouraging battle cries.

Against Celtic last weekend, despite the defeat, Mellon was not just constantly talking his side through the match but actually coaching them, too.

The first team seems to be responding to his hands-on style.

However, what’s been most impressive is how Mellon has been able to get his claws into every aspect of the Tangerines’ set-up.

His work with the Terrors’ youngsters has been noteworthy.

Speaking to Tannadice academy director Andy Goldie, and taking in the abandoned friendly against Sheffield United on Tuesday, I was able to get an idea myself of how Mellon’s philosophies are permeating through the club.

From the system employed by Brian Grant’s reserve and youth players against the Blades mirroring the top team’s formation and style to the pathway being created for Goldie’s kids – Mellon is introducing consistency and stability at Dundee United.

That clarity and joined-up thinking seems to be benefitting all at the club as people feel seen, heard and valued.

All things considered, United are riding the crest of a wave right now and the sense of expectation is high ahead of today’s Killie clash.

This is when I’d, usually, expect it all to come crashing down but, with what Mellon is implementing at the Tannadice, it feels like nothing can stop them.

Dundee’s return to the training pitch on Monday will be greeted by a huge sigh of relief by all connected to the club.

It’s been nearly six months since normality for the Dark Blues and, although we’re all still a while off the status quo returning, this is a huge step.

The Dee have had to watch on for the past couple of months as United and the rest of the Scottish Premiership got back to having ball at feet.

That would’ve made the wait all the more tough for James McPake’s side, kicking their heels while their colleagues get back to what they do best.

Dundee assistant manager Dave Mackay.

Although, some Championship teams have already been back a week, I feel Dundee have timed their return well.

With just over five weeks until they take on Forfar in the Betfred Cup, the Dark Blues should be
fighting fit for a huge season ahead.

It’s difficult to gauge right now but my gut feeling is Dundee are shaping up well for a title tilt.

The appointment of Dave Mackay as No 2 should provide some much-needed continuity and stability in these turbulent times.

Celtic’s exit from the Champions League is a blow for Scottish football but let’s not take anything away from our other teams.

The Hoops bowing out to Ferencvaros will hurt our coefficient but hats off to Aberdeen and Motherwell for flying the flag with distinction in the Europa League.

Not just winning but winning well made it all the sweeter for the Dons (left) and ’Well.

European football beyond July – who’d have thought it?

It’s bad enough he’s missed the majority of Dundee United’s return to the Premiership, now Lawrence Shankland has been dealt a further blow being declared a doubt for Scotland.

Hopefully our best No 9 makes it.

This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.