Ross Starke may snigger at the question but you get the feeling Dundee United really do believe they can emulate European giants Manchester City.
United’s football operations manager Starke, heavily involved in setting up the club’s partnership with Northern Virginia United, has revealed the Tangerines are keen to explore the possibility of establishing a wider feeder network.
Premier League champions-elect City have a similar system with links to Australia through Melbourne City and the US via New York City, among many other global footballing growth markets.
Although that kind of scale is beyond the club’s resources, Starke insists implementing a ‘mini Man City model’ is something that would pique sporting director Tony Asghar’s interest.
‘There’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be aiming to emulate certain models’
“I’m sure if you ask Tony he’ll say exactly that,” Starke said when asked if United can emulate Man City’s global reach.
“I know we’re joking a bit when we say that but there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be aiming to emulate certain models at that level.
“We should look at how those things are done, maybe not quite to that extent, and looking at what we can take from it to implement here.
“You never know where it’ll take you.”
As for incorporating feeder clubs into the operation at Tannadice, Northern Virginia United may just represent the first step on a long road ahead for the Terrors.
For Starke, the possibility of United spreading their wings and taking their brand of football to the world is a very real one.
He continued: “That’s definitely something the club is looking at and has got to look at because networks are such an important part of any business.
“Any opportunity that we can get to share resources then it’s definitely worth looking at.
“I’m here to learn and get better and help to make Dundee United better. That’s our common goal.
“You see the link-ups the academy have already so I have an overriding sense of excitement and optimism with regards to the whole thing.
“There are opportunities arising all over the place and this is one of a number we have.
“Dundee United’s got a fantastic history, a world-renowned one from the Jim McLean days.
“That is something we need to make sure we keep alive and use as an opportunity to bring Dundee United back to that level of exposure.
“It’s always going to be there as a part of our history. It’ll never go away and people resonate with that.
“They feel an emotional connection to Dundee United.”
Cross-pond collaboration between Welsh and Goldie already under way
Work has already begun in strengthening the bonds between the Terrors and Northern Virginia, owned and manager by former Tangerines hero Brian Welsh.
He and Tannadice academy director Andy Goldie have met virtually to discuss the future of the partnership, with youth as the focus.
Starke is excited by what lies ahead for the two clubs, saying he feels like it is the next step for American Mark Ogren’s ownership.
He added: “First and foremost, the opportunity to do something completely new for us was important.
“It feels like since Mark and Tony have come to the club we’re at the next stage now.
“The club has progressed in such a way that we’re ready to start sharing methodology and business ideas.
“We want to let people know about our culture.
“It gives young players opportunities, too, of course and Brian wants our academy curriculum to now be implemented over at Northern Virginia United.
“Brian has had meetings with our academy director, Andy Goldie, so we’re already starting to share ideas and create that cohesion between the two clubs.
“Northern Virginia United is a newer organisation, starting to work its way up and grow, enhancing its reputation.
“Dundee United is very much the established partner in it. It’s an opportunity for us to let people know what we’re doing.
🤝 We are delighted to partner with Hall of Fame legend Brian Welsh's @nvufc
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) March 23, 2021
“In terms of how it will benefit us, our young players could go over to America and experience the lifestyle and football over there.
“That could bring them development opportunities in a new environment, living away from home for their growth and maturity.
“From a business perspective, it’s brand exposure and any commercial opportunities that may arise from a greater presence in the United States.
“What separates us is the authenticity. This is not just going to be one of your standard partnerships you see clubs do where nothing moves forward.
“We’re really going to push this and emphasise the benefits it can bring both clubs.”
Where next for ‘cosmopolitan’ United?
With American owners, a partner club in the States and nationalities ranging from Argentine to Swiss in their squad, there is an increasingly-global feel down Tannadice way.
What next for the Tangerines? Starke knows as much as you and I, the future is unwritten.
However, what is for certain is United are a club re-energised and opening their doors to the world.
“There’s that cosmopolitan element of it – it’s so exciting and vibrant and liberating,” Starke enthused.
“You look at the first team – we have Adrian (Sporle), Jeando (Fuchs), etc.
“It’s so exciting to have different cultures and people right throughout the club.
“Because of the progression and development of the club over the last two-and-a-half years, particularly with the academy, which is our focus, there are new ideas we want to implement.
“There’s a natural link between the chairman and the United States and we have a couple of Americans here – Ian Harkes and Dillon Powers.
“It’s very much a growth market and, if we can start to gain some exposure overseas, then it’s all about the next step.”