After the despair of Dundee United’s relegation came anxiety over an uncertain future for the club in the Championship.
Worries over the Tangerines’ well-being have been followed by a sense of cautious optimism, due primarily to the arrival of new manager Ray McKinnon.
He is not a magician who will conjure up success out of nothing but he is a respected, dedicated and talented coach who has looked assured, confident and enthusiastic in the job since his appointment just under two months ago.
Realism has taken over at Tannadice these past eight and a bit weeks, with down-to-earth Dundonian McKinnon even choosing to stay and train at St Andrews rather than embark upon an expensive overseas trip.
Now United fans are about to get their first real glimpse of his “new” Tangerines when they line up against Brechin City in the Forfarshire Cup at Glebe Park tomorrow, which kicks off at 2pm.
The result may not matter in what is a friendly in all but name – that was certainly the case with the youthful side’s 1-1 draw with Forfar on Tuesday – but supporters will still be intrigued to see how United are shaping up less than a week before they start their competitive season with the Betfred Cup group match at Arbroath next Friday night.
In to face Brechin will come most of the new signings: goalkeeper Cammy Bell, midfielder Stewart Murdoch and winger Tope Obadeyi. Lewis Toshney’s broken nose means he will be the one recent arrival to give it a miss.
Trialist defender Stephane Zubar won’t face City but is expected to return north from Bournemouth to play in Tuesday’s closed-door clash with Blackpool at St Andrews.
These two matches were always the ones targeted by McKinnon to show his hand as regards his likely first-team selection.
Also, there was a larger than expected turnout of United fans at Station Park on Tuesday, testament to the high level of interest being shown in how the team are shaping up for their Championship challenge.
With this the first opportunity to see Bell, Murdoch and Obadeyi in tangerine there could be an even bigger support than the 1,200-plus estimated to have made the short trip up the A90 to Forfar.
Meanwhile, the Tannadice men remain keen to land former player Willo Flood despite the midfielder picking up an injury when on Europa League duty for Aberdeen last night.
The Irishman hurt his back when making a challenge with 15 minutes to go of the Dons’ 1-0 loss away to Fola Esch of Luxembourg.
With manager Derek McInnes having already used his three substitutes Flood had to play through the pain barrier as the below-par Pittodrie men crept through 3-2 on aggregate.