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The life of a back-up keeper: Dundee United’s Deniz Mehmet on a career spent playing the supporting role

Dundee United goalkeeper Deniz Mehmet.
Dundee United goalkeeper Deniz Mehmet.

It’s a way of life he’s grown accustomed to but it doesn’t make the challenges of being a reserve goalkeeper any easier for Dundee United’s Deniz Mehmet.

The English-born Turk has played the role for United with distinction over the years since first joining the club in 2017: and previously for the likes of Falkirk, Queen of the South, Port Vale and in Turkey with Kayserispor.

When he started his football journey down south, at home in London with Arsenal, Charlton and West Ham, and at the illustrious Manchester United youth academy, it’s maybe not how he saw his playing days going.

However, Deniz insists he is happy to be a stand-in for Tangerines No 1 Benjamin Siegrist.

He demonstrated as much at Forfar on Friday night, pitched in at the last minute after the Swiss stopper injured his hand in the warm-up at Station Park.

Deniz kept a clean sheet and Peter Pawlett’s second-half strike was enough to secure Scottish Cup progress and set up a quarter-final at Aberdeen this weekend.

‘I just had to get on with it and go out there and play’

“It was a bit of a surprise, you normally get a little bit more time than that,” Deniz said.

“You usually get told at least a couple of hours before kick-off but it was about half an hour or so before.

“It’s just one of those things – Benji’s hand’s swollen a bit but hopefully he’s all right.

“I just had to get on with it and go out there and play.

Deniz Mehmet (left) took Benjamin Siegrist’s place between the sticks for Dundee United’s Scottish Cup win at Forfar on Friday night. His opposite number was former Tangerines stopper Marc McCallum (right).

“It’s always good to play, to keep a clean sheet and, obviously, going into the next round is what it’s about.

“It maybe wasn’t the prettiest of games at times but it was never going to be.”

Of Pawlett’s winner, he continued: “Pete’s a good player and he’s got himself fit again.

“He works very hard all the time and he’s got that quality about him.

“You saw that on Friday night – his goal was a good strike.”

Being a back-up is not easy for Terrors keeper Deniz

Expanding on his role, often riding the pine, in his two stints at Tannadice, Deniz seems relaxed about his lack of game time.

There’s a feeling it could’ve been oh-so different, however.

Back in the 2017-18 season, under then-boss Csaba Laszlo, Deniz made 13 appearances – his career-high for one campaign.

Unfortunately, he injured himself celebrating Scott McDonald’s equalising goal in their promotion play-off quarter-final win over Dunfermline.

Deniz Mehmet injured himself celebrating a goal in his first spell at United back in 2018.

He remained at Tannadice for the following season to do his rehab but left for a brief spell at Queens during the campaign before returning to United in 2019/20.

Competing for just the one jersey is a tough life, and if he could perform to the standard required in another position, he would do his damnedest.

For Deniz, though, it’s just about enjoying the minutes he does get and seeing where it takes him.

Dundee United goalkeepers Benjamin Siegrist and Deniz Mehmet compete for one starting spot.

“I just go out and try to do the best that I can and enjoy the time I have,” Deniz added.

“It’s not easy being a back-up goalkeeper.

“You get next to nothing game time because, unfortunately, I can’t come on the pitch and play left back or go up front like some boys can do.

“It is what it is but I chose to be a goalie so I can’t complain!

“I didn’t want to run so there you go!”

Killie clash a chance to impress boss Mellon

The 28-year-old former Turkish youth international is one match away from racking up a half century of appearances in a now decade-long professional career.

He’s been United’s cup keeper in both the Betfred and Scottish Cups this term but is in line to make only his third Premiership appearance of the season at Kilmarnock on Wednesday night.

With Siegrist likely to miss out, it means that long-awaited 50th run out is in Deniz’s sights and he hopes to convince manager Micky Mellon to give him more opportunities between the sticks moving forward.

Dundee United boss Micky Mellon congratulates Deniz Mehmet after his penalty shoot-out heroics against St Johnstone in the Betfred Cup earlier this season.

Deniz added: “I was meant to not play at Forfar and play Kilmarnock so I swindled my way to another game!

“My thoughts were always about preparing for Wednesday anyway and Forfar got chucked on me last minute so I’ll be ready.

“Hopefully he (Mellon) keeps me in, we’ll see what happens!

“I’ve just got to go out there on Wednesday night and try to do my best again.

“We need to get through it as a team, work hard all week and just prepare as much as we can game by game.”

Hampden ambitions for the Tangerines

Whether he’ll get the gloves for United’s last-eight clash at Pittodrie on Saturday remains to be seen.

Whether he’s involved for the rest of their cup run or not, Deniz reckons going all the way to a Hampden showpiece is what the Terrors should be aiming for.

“It’s a good ambition for us to have,” he said.

“Obviously, we’re not turning up to get beat, we want to go as far as we can in the cup.

“There’s still some strong sides in the cup now but, like I said, it’s game by game and you get that little bit closer to the final.

“If we manage to get there it’s 11v11 and it’s a final so anything can happen.

“We’ve got Kilmarnock in midweek and need to focus on that but, obviously, that’s going to be in everyone’s sights.

“It’s the quarter finals and hopefully we’re 90 minutes, or a little bit more, away from getting to Hampden.

“It’s all looking a bit more real so we just need to buckle down and see what we can do.”

With his Astroturf preparation complete in Angus last week, second fiddle Deniz will be hoping it’s a case of 50 games not out at Rugby Park.

“We went to Forfar on Tuesday and Wednesday last week just to get used to it and adapt to it a little bit more,” he commented.

“There’s nothing better than actually training on it so I think that was a good decision.

“Long sleeves and tights for Wednesday night definitely!”