The pressure of playing in front of expectant supporters is a feeling Dundee United midfielder Ian Harkes is itching to experience again.
Although they may bemoan the occasional poor pass or opportunity spurned from the American, Harkes believes their presence for the visit of champions Rangers today could be a difference-maker.
Having almost 5,000 punters inside Tannadice this afternoon marks the first sizeable home attendance the Terrors will have experienced since a 1-1 Championship draw with Partick Thistle in March last year.
Harkes played in that contest and can’t wait to welcome punters back to stands in the hope they can cheer the Tangerines on to a result against a “fantastic” Gers side.
‘You realise how much fans play a role in the emotions of a game’
“The fans can make a difference for us and with Rangers coming to our place, hopefully they can give us a lift and make it tough on Rangers,” he said.
“We know how good they are, they had a fantastic season last year.
“We have looking forward to getting a bit of normality back to the games because in my first season after coming from the States I really enjoyed the atmosphere.
“Last season was completely different, you realise how much fans play a role in the emotions of a game.
“Does it add to the pressure? It puts a little bit on either side but the fans can get you up for it.
“They will let you know if you are not playing well and put you under pressure to perform. It was strange not having that last year.
“At times the crowd gives you a lift because they have expectations and you have to raise your game to meet them.
“Last season it maybe benefitted some teams and not others.
“From our point of view, we would always want big crowds behind us helping us on.
“The Hampden semi-final is one example, it was tough on the fans they couldn’t go there because it would have been a great experience.”
Tough run ahead for Tangerines adds extra importance to Rangers clash
Tall an order as it may be going up against last term’s undefeated title winners, with the games they have coming up, Harkes believes there’s no better time to starting picking up points than now.
They must first navigate the Light Blues, but United face St Johnstone, Hearts and St Mirren before the first Dundee derby of the season at Tannadice on September 19.
It’s a tricky run of fixtures but something Harkes says the squad are well-prepared for.
The 26-year-old added: “We know we have a really tough run and there are no easy games this season.
“With Hearts and Dundee coming up, it’s a stronger league this season.
“So we know how much getting a result would do for our confidence.
“Rangers didn’t lose a game in the league last season so they have our respect.
“We will have to get after them and see how we can do against them.
“Rangers are a club I always saw as a kid because of the American players who have played there.
“That shows you how big the club is and the challenge facing us.”
Goals target for Harkes
Harkes hopes to use missed opportunities in the season-opening 2-0 defeat at Aberdeen last Sunday as fuel to spur him on today.
The box-to-box midfield man is aiming to add goals to his game but knows that will only come when they start performing better as a unit in their quest to rise up the Premiership table.
He commented: “Personally, I need to add more goals and take my opportunities when they come along.
“There were little moments last Sunday where we could have changed the way the game was going.
“I could have scored towards the end of the first half and given us a lift.
“On both sides of it, it was a bit too easy. We were in between our press and creating chances.
“We need to get more going forward, make more chances for our strikers – and that’s what we have been working on.
“We have spoken about what we need to do against a very good Rangers team.”