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Tam Courts’ first 100 days in charge: 4 talking points as Dundee United boss starts to silence doubters

Tam Courts led his side to a win over Rangers in August
Tam Courts led his side to a win over Rangers in August

Micky Mellon co-wrote a book entitled The First 100 Days which he released during a ten-month spell in charge of Dundee United last year.

His successor, Tam Courts, has just surpassed that milestone after taking over the  Tannadice hotseat in June.

By his own admission, Courts’ promotion from the Dundee United academy to first team head coach caused a ‘furore.’

But far from cracking under pressure, Courts has calmly set about ticking off his Dundee United doubters one-by-one.

You can’t argue with his results.

Wins over champions Rangers, double cup-holders St Johnstone and derby rivals Dundee were followed up with an outstanding draw at Celtic Park on Sunday.

That game sparked an outpouring of social media love towards Courts, in stark contrast to the ‘furore’ on the day he was appointed.

Here, Courier Sport looks at four factors that have helped him silence the doubters:

Tam Courts: Brave management

Tam Courts is being brave in his Dundee United team selection

Time is never your friend as a manager, no matter what level you operate at.

That’s why Courts could have been forgiven for being a little bit cautious in his approach and reverting to tried and trusted players in big games.

Instead, Courts has been single-minded in both team selection and his tactics.

His handling of prodigious talent Kerr Smith is a case in point.

Tam Courts is showing faith in Kerr Smith by picking him for Dundee United

Kerr is just 16 but Courts has just made him the youngest Dundee United player to ever feature in a derby.

He has also thrown him into the cauldron of Celtic Park.

But Courts wasn’t just brave in his team selection on Sunday, he also took a calculated risk with his tactics.

Sticking with an ambitious 4-3-3 formation, Courts asked his front three of Peter Pawlett, Ilmari Niskanen and Nicky Clark to play a high pressing game.

That could have left United cruelly exposed at the back.

But it instead put the breaks on Celtic’s wing-backs and forced a series of defensive errors.

Bravery is one of the four identity pillars of success that Dundee United’s squad strive to achieve.

And it’s something Courts is showing in abundance.

‘International class’ signings

Dundee United haven’t made wholesale changes under Tam Courts.

And there is a strong argument to be made for the purchase of another striker in the January transfer window after just four goals in seven games.

But they have been very deliberate and strategic in their signing approach, overseen by sporting director Tony Asghar.

Tam Courts and Dundee United sporting director Tony Asghar

Charlie Mulgrew was intentionally United’s first signing as Courts sought to get the right blend of youth and experience.

Mulgrew has won seven major honours at Celtic, collected 44 Scotland caps and has a wealth of experience from English football.

But at 35, some questioned whether or not he’d have the legs to cope with the demands of top-flight Scottish football.

How wrong were they?

Mulgrew has kept himself supremely fit and shown composure on and off the ball to forge an unshakable defensive partnership with Ryan Edwards.

Dylan Levitt is just 20 but the Manchester United youngster already has ten caps for Wales.

In recent weeks, it has been clear to see why.

He displayed his full array of passing at Celtic Park on Sunday, with Peter Pawlett in awe of Levitt’s talents.

New keeper Trevor Carson was recalled to the Northern Ireland side to face Estonia after a series of impressive displays as understudy to Benjamin Siegrist.

Six times capped Finland star Ismari Niskanen has yet to fully take off.

But his assist for Ian Harkes’ equaliser against Celtic will give him confidence.

Tam Courts believes in freedom of expression

One of the biggest criticisms of Mellon’s ten-month spell at Dundee United was his reluctance to play an open, expansive game.

This was a point Courts addressed in his appointment interview with David Tanner on Dundee United TV.

“The fans here are used to quality, attacking play over the years,” said Courts. “That’s, hopefully, something I can deliver.”

It seems strange to suggest United are playing fast free-flowing football when you consider they have only scored four league goals this year.

But that’s exactly what they are doing.

Pawlett is in the form of his life, having been given a license to roam.

And marauding midfielder Jeando Fuchs is delighting fans with his every touch and tackle.

United are a joy to watch and the only thing missing, so far, is a goal scoring hero.

Tam Courts talks a good game and is PR-savvy

To be a top manager you have to be able to handle the external pressure from fans and the media.

But instead of hiding from perceived flaws cited by his critics, Courts meets them head on.

Minutes after the Dundee derby win, Courts squared up to the fact that he wasn’t everybody’s first choice for the job.

“When I first got the job, there was a furore,” said Courts. “You couldn’t ignore that.

“It was a real test of my own mentality and my own belief in myself.”

He is also acutely aware that for supporters to buy into his vision for Dundee United, then he has to invest in them.

Courts recently signed up as a member of the Dundee United Supporters’ Foundation.

Tam Courts is investing in the Dundee United Supporters’ Foundation.

He did not seek to publicise his move but was open about his reasons for doing so when questioned on it.

In interviews, he continually talks up the capabilities of his players and his team.

His positive approach off the park is evident on it, in a team that plays without fear.

Things won’t always go smoothly for Courts.

There will, unquestionably, be a bad run of form at some point. He has seen that with defeats to Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibernian.

But he has done enough in his first 100 days to buy time to put his United revolution into place.

Tam Courts hails derby win as he takes giant step towards silencing his Dundee United doubters