It may not result in a happy home but Dundee United midfielder Ian Harkes is hoping the Tangerines can get one over Celtic tomorrow, insisting they need three points to keep their top-six hopes alive.
Harkes’ fiancée, Sarah Teegarden, plays for the Hoops and hopes to be back in action soon herself after the Scottish Government gave the women’s game the green light to resume.
Going up against the Premiership champions’ men’s team at Tannadice this weekend, the American seems sheepishly hopeful of Teegarden’s support.
After all, Harkes has been there for her in her darkest hour while missing out on football, not only because of the coronavirus, but also with a serious knee injury.
Split loyalties for fiancée Sarah
“It’s tough for her but I’d like to think she’d support me,” the 25-year-old laughed.
“It’s great having a footballer as a partner, we have a lot of similarities and we can talk through things and support each other through our careers because we know what the other one’s going through.
“It’s been tough for them to be out this long with stop-start action throughout the season so they’re happy to get somewhat of a green light.
“They need to figure out some of the details with testing and things like that but it’s definitely positive ahead.
“Her being out for a long time, she’s coming back from her ACL, just added to the length of how long the pandemic was and trying to get through that rehab.
“She’s very happy to have an end goal and better times ahead.”
‘We’ve seen how teams have got a few results against them this year and turned them over…we’re hoping to do the same’
Focusing on United’s own challenges, Harkes believes they can take heart from the Celts’ last visit to the City of Discovery back in August, when the Tangerines performed well in a 1-0 defeat.
It has not been a vintage season for the Bhoys, sitting some distance behind champions-elect and fierce rivals Rangers at the top of the tree, but Harkes insists they still demand respect.
That said, the Terrors will be going all out for much-needed points.
He added: “We can definitely take the positives from that game and look back to how well we defended and kept our shape, keeping it at 0-0 for as long as we could.
“There were chances in the game as well and I think we were unlucky to lose that one in the end but we’re hoping to make it a tough test again.
“I think we still have to respect this Celtic team because, based on the points on the table, they’re second-best in the country and we know what they can do to teams.
“We’ve also seen how teams have got a few results against them this year and turned them over.
“We’re hoping to do the same.
“It’s definitely going to be a big test.
“For us, we’re looking at it like we’re going to have to go out and win to get those three points because we need six points to try to jump into the top six.
“That’s still our goal and our aim.”
United confident with top six on the line
United are four points behind the Buddies with two games to go before the split and, although he admits last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Kilmarnock was damaging, Harkes believes they can take some confidence from their recent performances.
He continued: “With Kilmarnock we made it a little tougher for ourselves, we’d like to be closer but it’s still somewhat under our control and we hope the other results go our way.
“We know it’s going to be a tough ask.
“We definitely take positives from part of the Kilmarnock game and see how attacking-minded we were.
“We could’ve maybe finished off some of our chances. It was good Adrian (Sporle) scored early, he did well and gave us a big boost.”
Harkes happy for his Argentine amigo Adrian
Harkes and Sporle have become good amigos in their time together at Tannadice, with the Spanish-speaking American helping the Argentine wide man settle in the city.
On the pitch and off the pitch, as his neighbour, the two have a good understanding, with Harkes happy to see Sporle flourishing in recent times.
Sporle has scored twice in his last two starts and hopes to have recovered from a heel injury in time to face Celtic.
Harkes said: “Any chance he gets I think he does well, whether it’s a goal or an assist, and it makes such a big impact in the game.
“We were disappointed for him to go down with injury because I think he provides that spark for us.
“I’ve been happy for him, seeing him do well.
“In the beginning I definitely had to help him a lot but, to be fair to him, his English has got a lot better and he’s pretty close with all the boys on the team now being here for almost two years.
“He’s done well to help himself get integrated into the team and the culture.
“The more he performs like that it’s easier.”