Liam Smith probably knows Lawrence Shankland better than most in the Dundee United squad – and he reckons the hitman is “a massive loss”.
Smith and Shankland played together for a season at Ayr United before the pair switched Somerset Park for Tannadice in 2019.
The two seasons that have followed have seen them celebrate Championship promotion together, as Shanks fired home 40 goals in 74 appearances before this week securing a £1m switch to Belgian side Beerschot.
Although he jokes about once again trying to follow the Scotland striker to a new club, right-back Smith is sincere in his assessment of the 26-year-old’s abilities.
Shanks finally shakes Smith
The defender laughed: “I tried to tell them we come as a package but the message never got across to Belgium!
“When I came in at Ayr, he was on fire from the season before and that just continued right the way through to the Championship season here.
“When he was in and around the box, you knew he was always going to take it.
“It’s good to have someone in your team like that and I had the pleasure of having it for a while.
“He’ll be a massive loss.
“For the last two years, it’s been clear to see for everybody the part he’s played in our success in getting up from the Championship.
“Last year we maybe didn’t play to his strengths and utilise him as much as we should’ve. His quality was still there, though.
“When somebody who can get a goal out of nothing leaves then it’s going to leave a mark.
“We’ve got good players in the squad, we showed that on Saturday without him (United’s 1-0 win over Rangers), and I’m sure we’ll be fine and bring in one or two to fill that void.”
McNulty the answer for United?
As the Terrors look for someone to fill Shankland’s shoes, Smith reckons new (old) boy striker Marc McNulty fits the bill.
The 28-year-old, who spent last season on loan with the Tangerines, has sealed a return from Reading for another campaign.
The 25-year-old added: “I think he will suit how we want to play this season.
“We drove up in the car together last season and a lot of the ideas he shared are similar to what the gaffer wants to do.
“I think when you get a loan you want to do really well and, as a striker, that comes with scoring goals.
“He maybe didn’t get the opportunities he wanted.
“He played out of position last term, out on the right, when he sees himself as a No 9, so he’ll maybe get that opportunity now he’s back.”
‘Tough’ Ayr trip
This afternoon sees Smithy return to Ayr as United head south for their Premier Sports Cup last-16 clash.
On the back of last weekend’s marvellous 1-0 Premiership win over Rangers, Smith says they must back it up against the Honest Men as they target a good cup run.
He added: “We saw the importance of a run in the Scottish Cup last season and how much of a lift it gave us and the fans.
“It’s exactly the same in this cup – we want to go as far as we can and that starts today.
“If you look at it in isolation, we want to continue what we did last weekend.
“There’s no point getting a result like that and not backing it up.
“We need to go there and put in a performance to get in the hat for the next round.
“It’s tough down there, I’ve played for and against them and it’s never easy.”