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Who is Tam Courts? Bookies’ favourite for Dundee United role has managerial experience, playing career behind him and passion for youth development

Tam Courts in his playing days at East Fife.
Tam Courts in his playing days at East Fife.

Tam Courts is the bookies’ favourite to take over as Dundee United head coach.

Back in February 2020, prior to the world being turned upside down by Covid-19, Courts spoke to the media to introduce himself as the United academy’s head of tactical performance.

When I say ‘the media’, I mean solely this writer, with no other regional or national publications covering the press event.

Dundee United: Nine players self-isolating as coronavirus crisis deepens ahead of Livingston and Rangers games

He subsequently stepped into the dugout as a stand-in when Micky Mellon and his assistant Stevie Frail were briefly forced into self-isolation last season.

Fast forward to this week and he’s the centre of attention at Tannadice, with the bookies making him favourite to take the top job.

But just who is Thomas “Tam” Courts?

Typical but not traditional

In many ways, Courts’ life in football is fairly typical for a Scottish coach.

His playing career began at Livingston, where Courts cut his teeth as a young centre-half.

Although West Lothian is where he started out professionally, Courts found success throughout his career at home in Fife in the lower leagues and junior football.

Tam Courts’ career began at Livingston.

The Kirkcaldy-born 39-year-old enjoyed a fruitful loan spell at Cowdenbeath, two stints with Hill of Beath Hawthorn, a season at East Fife and was with Kelty Hearts on three separate occasions.

Two were as a player but there were also five years as player-manager of the Lowland League champions from 2013-18, taking the club from languishing in the juniors to the cusp of league football.

With rumours he was hoping to take on a managerial role in the SPFL, Courts resigned, ending an 11-year association with the club, to be replaced by Rangers legend Barry Ferguson.

Tam Courts in action for Cowdenbeath

In the 12 months that followed, he interviewed at Sheffield United, West Ham and an opportunity in Holland at NAC Breda was considered too.

To the surprise of some, he took up a role at Andy Goldie’s United academy at the start of 2020 and began to prove his upbringing in the game was anything but traditional.

In his own words

From taking age group football with kids as young as nine to instructing the United top team last season, it’s quite the change for Courts.

However, this is a seasoned coach.

He is composed, confident and intelligent – very much the modern type, with a vision about how the game should be played.

A Uefa A-Licence coach, Tam Courts’ role at Tannadice has been geared towards shaping modern footballers and potential stars of the future for by helping them understand the tactical side of the game.

That’s something he has taken great pride in.

Dundee United’s Thomas Courts opens up on dramatic ‘promotion’ as entire first-team coaching staff self-isolate after positive Covid-19 tests

Speaking upon his appointment at Tannadice, he said: “I think within the academy set-up what we’re trying to do is give them a technical and tactical framework that can allow (young players) to maximise their potential.

“It’s actually also about surviving and thriving domestically and playing within Scotland.

“We’re taking them down to the elite level in England and overseas in Europe for games and learning.

“We want to design a game model that allows them to go into different environment and feel they have the skillsets to actually fulfil their potential.

“It’s a club on an upward trajectory again and they’ve got a phenomenal reputation historically for developing young players.

“There’s a blueprint and something ingrained within the club.

“If you look at the profile of the type of player this club tends to produce there’s a creative flair but we want to help by giving them as much information as possible.”

What do others say about him?

One man who has always believed in Courts’ abilities is academy chief Goldie.

Tam Courts (back left) is a part of Andy Goldie’s (back, third from right) Dundee United academy staff.

Speaking at the time of Courts’ appointment, Goldie said: “We made a conscious decision that we didn’t just want your typical football people, we wanted people with different skillsets, backgrounds and experiences.

“The majority had worked in education, have come through university with degrees as well and that helps them understand the pathway the players are going through.

“They understand how kids learn and interact with people as well. We put all these things together without even thinking about the football initially.

“I think, if you’ve got that, you’ve got a solid foundation you can build upon.”

How many points can Dundee United pick up from six formidable festive fixtures as advent spells busy calendar for Micky Mellon’s men?