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Ian Harkes is feeling ready for rigours of Scottish game

Dundee United's Ian Harkes.
Dundee United's Ian Harkes.

His first five months in Scottish football were a crash course in learning about the game here and climaxed with a painful end to last season.

However, Ian Harkes believes they have set him up nicely for his first full campaign as a Dundee United player.

The 24-year-old American joined up with the Tangerines from Wayne Rooney’s DC United in January and went on to feature 20 times between then and the end of May.

The big disappointment during that period came when United lost the promotion play-off final at St Mirren but he believes the overall experience can prove invaluable as his team aim to get it right this time round.

“Coming in during January I was just excited to get with the club and I was keen to get going,” he said.

“We pushed to get up and, obviously, we were not delighted with the way the play-off final ended but we had a good run and we pushed hard, so now we want to get going again.

“Now I know what the league is about and I know where I stand in the team. I am just going to push hard to be involved and to help us get out of this league and to where we want to be.”

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Dundee United’s Ian Harkes.

With the majority of the other players brought in by Robbie Neilson this year also arriving in January, Harkes believes, as a squad, United are a settled unit that’s well placed to achieve their target of automatic promotion.

The knowledge he now has of the Championship, however, tells him it’s a league in which nothing can be taken for granted but he’s relishing the prospect of Saturday’s Tannadice opener against Inverness Caley Thistle.

“It will be good to get the league started now. Obviously pre-season is a great time to get fit but I think everyone is itching to get the league started and get after it. We have one goal in mind this year and that is to go straight up.

“August is going to be a tough month with some hard games right away but we know everyone is competitive in this league and we know we have to get up and running right away and win some games.

“We know what the league is about and we have a lot of experienced players who have played in it, down south and the Premiership in Scotland.

“Everyone knows it’s going to be competitive and tough but we feel we are ready.”

The preparations were completed with a trip down south last weekend that saw United face English outfit Shrewsbury.

After injury delayed his start to pre-season, for Harkes it was the perfect opportunity to get his fitness up to the level needed for this weekend.

“A week or so before pre-season training started I was training on my own and I just had a bit of a glute problem,” he explained.

“I missed a few days in the first week but then I got back in with the squad and got my fitness back to where it needed to be. It wasn’t anything major but it was a bit frustrating when it happened.

“Now I’m feeling good. All I’ve got to do is keep adding game fitness and that was why Saturday was ideal.

“They had some big players and it was a tough physical test and that was good to finish off the build up.

“I think it was a decent run out for a lot of the guys that haven’t got enough minutes in the pre-season, myself included.

“We started the game well and it was a good level and real competition between the two teams. It was perfect preparation before this weekend.

“We are just excited because we have strong squad and everyone is fighting for minutes. We’ve been training well and it was a good test and a chance for guys to keep pushing for places.”

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This article originally appeared on the Evening Telegraph website. For more information, read about our new combined website.

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