The sight of Lawrence Shankland still wearing tangerine will give Dundee United the perfect Premiership boost.
That is the view of the Scotland striker’s Tannadice teammate Liam Smith, who is relishing the prospect of walking out alongside Shankland when newly-promoted United kick off the 2020-21 season at home to St Johnstone.
Everything has been geared towards that August 1 curtain-raiser against the Perth men and Micky Mellon’s team will continue their pre-season build-up against Rangers at Murray Park today.
Smith, who has featured in the club’s previous friendlies against Motherwell and Livingston, is confident the Championship champions will be ready for Saints when they visit.
Having their prize asset still on the payroll, of course, will help.
Smith, who was also a colleague of Shankland’s at Ayr United, said: “It is a huge boost for us that we are starting the season with Lawrence still here.
“I am sure the rumours about him sill rumble on but we will be kicking off the season with him leading our line.
“That is a massive positive for us players and I would imagine the fans too.
“It actually gives everybody at the club confidence.
“Indeed, keeping the bulk of the squad together will help us compete in the Premiership.
“It gives us continuity and bodes well for what lies ahead.
“You look at other teams that have done well over the years in the top flight and they have kept a tight group together.
“They don’t chop and change every season.
“The bulk of our squad is there,” added Smith.
“I am sure the manager will assess what is there and look at areas where he feels we need to add one or two.
“In due course that will happen but I don’t think it’s an issue at the moment.”
Smith has, like every other United player, had to deal with the strangest of summers thanks to Covid-19.
There has been the lack of a title party on the pitch, lockdown, the legal bid by Hearts and Partick Thistle that has threatened that hard-earned promotion and, last but not least, the arrival of a new manager.
Smith said: “Yeah, I think ‘unusual’ is a good word to describe it.
“You have been unable to go about your daily life, never mind play football.
“I am sure it has been a struggle for everyone and I’m no different but there is light at the end of the tunnel now.
“We are delighted to be back preparing for the season and we have all managed to stay fit over the summer despite the restrictions.
“Now we are back together as a group and it’s great.
“It has been nice to just be among the other players because this has been a tough time not only physically but mentally as well.
“Being away from your mates can take its toll so it is terrific to be back.
“We have progressed quite quickly into the pre-season build-up as a squad and that’s been excellent to see.”
Like the rest of the United players, he was surprised when boss Robbie Neilson left to go to Hearts.
However, Smith thinks the turnaround that saw Micky Mellon take over has not adversely affected the players.
He said: “It was unexpected when Robbie left because usually you hear things leading up to something like that.
“This, though, was very sudden. We didn’t see it coming.
“What happened, I suppose, was that we all had to get over that news quickly.
“We got on with our jobs in training and then the new gaffer arrived.
“The great thing is that I don’t think the whole thing detracted from our preparations.
“It didn’t impact on the players in any way, really.
“We were coming in every day for pre-season and just getting on with it.
“It didn’t seem to be too different from what we would have expected had the previous manager still been here.”
Smith also feels that Mellon’s arrival can benefit every member of the squad.
He added: “I think the new manager being here will work for everybody.
“The guys who played most of last season will be out to maintain their place in the starting team, while the boys who maybe didn’t get too many opportunities will see it as a clean slate.
“They will all be putting down markers.
“I think you can already see that. The intensity is there in training and we all want to impress the manager.
“So you have all of us, perhaps for different reasons, desperate to do well for the new coach and that can only be a good thing for United.
“The manager is extremely enthusiastic and has been great.
“You can see that although he has been in England for a while he is a proud Scot and knows football up here.
“He has obviously never managed in the league but I know he has taken a keen interest in what has gone on in the Scottish game.
“I actually don’t think the fact that he hasn’t been a manager up here will be a problem whatsoever.”
Smith and his mates have benefited from the use of Dundee North End’s pitch for their pre-season training.
The generous gesture from the junior club was marked with a visit to North End Park from Smith and teammate Jamie Robson to officially thank the Dokens.
The tie-up is likely to lead to a closer relationship between the two sides.
North End gaffer Tony McAulay said: “We got a call saying United were looking for somewhere for pre-season and we were delighted to help.
“It has worked out great for them and it will do for us as well because we see the relationship between the clubs growing even stronger now.”