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ERIC NICOLSON: Dundee United have the certainty they craved and quite right too

Micky Mellon and Tony Asghar have got more certainty.
Micky Mellon and Tony Asghar have got more certainty.

Over a long spring and summer of death by a thousand Scottish football club statements, the butchering of acceptable grammar has been quite the grisly spectacle.

For one day, though, the heavy hand on the ‘caps lock’ button of a press officer’s laptop can be forgiven.

If ever a club deserved to drive a coach and horses though the capital letter rulebook to ram home its point, it is Dundee United. A blind eye has been turned.

“Dundee United WILL be an SPFL Premiership club for Season 2020/21 and Dundee United WILL kick off its Premiership season on 1 August with a fixture against St Johnstone at Tannadice.”

Much has – fairly – been made of the injustice Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer suffered by being sent down a division at the conclusion of a curtailed season. And the fluctuations and last day drama at the bottom of leagues played to a finish in England over the last couple of weeks haven’t diluted their argument.

But in the straight Hearts v Dundee United shoot-out that it boiled down to for the 12th place in the 2020/21 Premiership, from the point reconstruction was taken off the table there was only one morally justifiable verdict. And it is the verdict the SFA arbitration panel has arrived at.

Just over three months ago United were declared winners of the Championship and the nearest thing to an official celebration was their sporting director and head coach sharing a socially-distanced beer in a car park.

Since that mid-April high point that same head coach has jumped ship (and taken his coaching team with him) to join the club that launched a court action to thwart their promotion.

Hearts had reached a point where they felt the only way to prevent themselves from dropping down was to stop United from coming up. For a lot of neutrals though, it was the point Ann Budge went too far.

In one corner you had a club which, with a season in the second tier looming,  could afford to pay Robbie Neilson’s severance fee to get him out of Tannadice and make a pitch for a player like Kevin Nisbet who would cost over a quarter-of-a-million pounds.

In the other corner you had a club which was grateful to accept a six-figure investment from a supporters’ foundation, was even more grateful to accept funds raised by fans to cover legal costs and had to tailor its transfer plans in light of all the off-pitch uncertainty.

If the worst-case scenario had come to pass and United had been sent back from whence they came before they even got to kick a ball in the top flight?

That scenario can be added to the book of football ‘what ifs’. But it doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say it would have proved to be an even more concussive blow than the one that sent them into the Championship four years ago.

Now that the sword is no longer hovering, Mark Ogren can get a decent night’s sleep, Micky Mellon’s transfer budget may grow and players and fans can at last start to fully embrace the excitement of a Premiership campaign that is now rapidly approaching without having a nagging doubt in the back of their minds.

Dundee United ARE back. And quite right too.

LONG READ: The evolution of Stuart Armstrong as ex-Dundee United star’s mentor, a Southampton legend and a former coach discuss his extraordinary rise

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