When Paul Paton speaks about Jackie McNamara, the bond he feels with his former Dundee United boss is clear.
McNamara brought Paton with him from Partick Thistle to United in 2013 and the pair enjoyed success together over their first two seasons at Tannadice.
Two top-six finishes and two cup finals were achieved before McNamara was relieved of his duties in September 2015.
United would be relegated at the end of the 2015/16 season with Mixu Paatelainen at the helm and Paton wearing the captain’s armband.
Despite spending most of the season on the sidelines with a knee injury, the midfield man felt partly-responsible for McNamara’s dismissal and the club’s slide into the Championship.
The 34-year-old says he felt “helpless” in both situations, especially with his gaffer, a man he says he owes a lot to.
Paton grateful to McNamara for chance
The Dumbarton man said: “It was hard because I was injured at the time and I felt I was a big player for him who could’ve made a difference on the pitch just with my enthusiasm and dedication.
“I felt helpless when somebody I was so close to got sacked in the manner he did.
“Albeit results weren’t great and it’s easy to say it now, but I do think he could’ve turned it round.
“I owe him a lot and I’ve told him that plenty times.
“Apart from my family he’s the guy that’s had the most impact on my career and my life.
“The fact he took me from being a right-back at Partick Thistle and made me into an international central midfielder is something I’ll always feel I owe him for.”
Paton is pleased to see McNamara back on his feet after a health scare last year as he reflected on their time shared at United.
The former Dunfermline and St Johnstone man felt McNamara got the best out of him and believes his record of developing players speaks volumes for him as a coach.
Paton continued: “I was very upset when I found out about him going through his health scare.
“I’ve been in contact since and he’s a lot better so I wish him the best.
“Just like he did for me, he only wanted the best for me. He’s a good guy.
“If you want to rate Jackie as a coach, you only have to look at the Scotland squad just now.
“He took Stephen O’Donnell from a youth player at Celtic and made him into an international.
“He took Andy Robertson from Queen’s Park and put him straight into the first team when people were saying he should be put back out on loan. He’s now Scotland captain.
“He gave Stuart Armstrong a big chance and now he’s playing at the highest level.
“That’s how I rate Jackie and the success he’s had with young boys – Ryan Gauld and John Souttar he threw them in the team.
“It’s no shock he worked with all these guys who’ve gone on to have big careers.”
Courts could do with making a fast start
Looking at current United boss, Thomas Courts, Paton believes it’s imperative the new gaffer gets off to a good start.
It was an appointment from left-field, promoting Courts from the academy to the manager’s office, but one Paton hopes works out.
With the club established back in the Premiership for the first time since his days in tangerine, he hopes Courts can build on last season’s ninth-placed finish.
Paton added: “It’s good to see the club back to where it belongs.
“I felt as if last year it was important they stabilised, stayed in the league and they did that at a canter.
“I’m hoping they build on that with the new manager now.
“If the hierarchy believe he’s the right man then I’m sure the fans will get behind him.
“It’s a bit of a strange appointment but there’s nothing to say he can’t do a marvellous job.
“Just because he’s not tried and tested doesn’t mean he’s not a great coach or great at finding players or making players better.
“Time will tell but I think he’ll probably be under more scrutiny than most managers that come in at United just because he is untried.
“He’ll need to get off to a good start and get the fans onside.”
If his signings are anything to go by, Paton thinks Courts will do just fine.
The capture of Charlie Mulgrew caught the former Northern Ireland international’s eye, while he also rates transfer target Jake Doyle-Hayes.
“I think he’s already made a great start in bringing Charlie Mulgrew in. What a great addition that is – he’ll be one of the best centre-backs in the league, for sure.
“If he signs Jake Doyle-Hayes from St Mirren as well, that’s another good player.
“I spoke to boys at St Mirren and they rate him very highly so, by the looks of things, his transfer targets are really good.
“If he can get the players in that he wants, there’s nothing to say he can’t have a successful season.”