It’s been a dramatic week for Dundee United in the wake of confirmation of the club’s cost-cutting measures.
The Tangerines remain in discussions with players and coaches – including boss Micky Mellon – about the possibility of 20% wage reductions.
But Mellon’s side got back to winning ways at the weekend, moving up to fifth in the Premiership with a 2-1 home win over Ross County.
Ian Roache answers some important questions about the state of play at Tannadice.
1 – How did United perform on Saturday?
I entered Tannadice on game day with some trepidation, I have to admit.
Even when you hear the words of defiance coming out of the camp pre-match, including promises morale would be unaffected, you still wonder and worry.
Strip it all back and here we have a set of employees of a business who have signed contracts in good faith. That business has now gone back to them and asked for those same contracts to be renegotiated…in a negative way.
This has not happened due to a dip in performance or indiscipline on the part of any player. Each is an innocent party in this case and not responsible for any financial difficulties United find themselves in.
The drama has occurred above their pay grade.
It is the employer that has made the decision that wages need to be cut to help survive the financial impact of the coronavirus.
Therefore, the Tangerines’ players could have felt sorry for themselves but didn’t.
United weren’t brilliant against County but they were worthy winners.
There was no Lawrence Shankland worldie strike but instead a well-struck penalty from Nicky Clark, who also deflected the second goal in via his chest.
It wasn’t bonnie at times and the Staggies had more possession than they did but at long last United looked threatening when going forward.
Also, after the visitors scored I still thought the home team would hang on.
2 – Did there appear to be a strong team spirit within the camp?
I would give them a seven out of 10 for the display and 10 out of 10 for character.
It is easy to scoff at or dismiss the “great bunch of lads in the dressing room” stuff and you wouldn’t hear a player publicly slate his mates, would you?
Nevertheless, I do think the United players are close and don’t want to let their pals and co-workers down on the park.
I sense there was a real “we’ll-show-them” attitude before kick-off on Saturday, a determination to prove to the world they are professionals who won’t be derailed by the pay cuts.
Fair play to them and I think the fans will have appreciated seeing their guys get a job done under challenging circumstances.
3 – Micky Mellon feels United don’t get the credit for their results because fans and pundits forget they’ve just come up from the Championship – do you agree or disagree?
Hmmm. I would disagree.
I think the supporters and media, on the whole, do appreciate that.
I believe there is a recognition that United are finding their feet and slowly anchoring themselves in the division.
The team hasn’t exactly been on fire on the pitch of late and there was a lack of attacking ambition in, for example, the previous league matches against St Johnstone and Aberdeen. That analysis seemed fair to me.
Listen carefully though – and I’m sure Micky does – you could also hear credit for a couple of decent, hard-earned points in those games.
The manager is maybe just doing his job and trying to engender something of a siege mentality. There was certainly a real, united with a small ‘u’ team effort on Saturday.
4 – Who was the Tangerines’ stand-out player?
The award has to go to Nicky Clark, a player whom many thought might not be in the first team by now.
The arrival of Marc McNulty at the club put a question mark over him but the on-loan Reading man was missing through injury against County. Clark also made it into the side a week earlier at McDiarmid Park when both McNulty and Shankland played.
Clark is ice cool in pressure situations, such as the penalty against County.
It is worth mentioning that he now has seven goals this season – a tidy tally.
He also works well with Shankland, as we saw a few times at the weekend.
Of course, he feared he had been robbed of a second goal but that was corrected, much to his relief. Clark deserved the double and was my man of the match.
5 – How did Jeando Fuchs perform after coming off the bench?
The Cameroon midfielder’s arrival has been long-awaited, to put it mildly.
Indeed, such has been the build-up, I was surprised he didn’t appear on the pitch in a superhero cape, pen a Booker-winning novel, compose a concerto, paint a masterpiece and then announce world peace – all before touching the ball.
The clock ticked to 77 minutes when substitute Fuchs replaced Ian Harkes. County’s goal came four minutes later but he wasn’t involved in its concession.
He was busy and enthusiastic as the Tangerines saw the game out and it was nice to see him strutting his stuff in the middle of the park. United will now be tempted to start him at St Mirren on Friday.
6 – Sporting director Tony Asghar was quizzed about United’s off-field situation on BBC Sportsound before the game – how did he handle it?
Of course, the main thing was not his own performance on the radio but how much information he gave to fans worried about what is going on at Tannadice.
He used the word “prudent” in explaining how the club’s recruitment process has been conducted but there would be a few people – including United supporters – who would challenge that.
Also, the timing of the salary move is open to question when clubs like Hibs and Aberdeen, who went through a similar process, did their cost-cutting in the summer not 13 games into a league campaign.
Fair play to Asghar for speaking, though. He got his message across and, in times like these, the greater the communication to supporters the better.