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EXCLUSIVE: Ryan Edwards on silencing Dundee United doubters, European ‘giants’ and catching Hearts

Satisfaction: Edwards
Satisfaction: Edwards

Ryan Edwards is dreaming of crossing swords with a European ‘giant’ after silencing the doubters with Dundee United.

The Tannadice captain was acutely aware of the criticism aimed at sporting director Tony Asghar and rookie boss Tam Courts following the latter’s appointment last summer.

Amid plenty of onlookers predicting a relegation scrap for the Terrors, Edwards acknowledges that the situation could have got ‘messy’.

Instead, Courts led United to fourth place — their highest Premiership finish since 2013/14 — and the club will compete in the Europa Conference League next term.

The likes of Braga, Sparta Prague, Anderlecht and Partizan Belgrade are among a plethora of big guns who could lie in wait for the Tangerines.

Early pressure: Ogren, left, and Courts

“As the draw gets closer, and we see the teams who we could be facing, it will all come into my mind then,” Edwards told Courier Sport.

“Who would I like to play? Just whoever the biggest teams are! You want to go and play at the biggest arenas. It’s all good experience.

“The key thing for us is: go and enjoy it. We’ve earned that.

“It’s a massive thing for this club to compete [in Europe] and I hope we get a giant at some point.

There were a lot of eyebrows raised when the appointment [of Courts] was made; a lot of question marks around the news. So it’s a nice achievement for the manager and staff — Foxy [Liam Fox, assistant], Adam [Asghar, coach] and Tony [Asghar].

And the owner [Mark Ogren] too, because they had the belief in the manager. If it hadn’t paid off early doors then it could have been a messy one from the fans’ reaction.”

Among ‘favourites to go down’

While United were the best of the rest behind Celtic, Rangers and a fine Hearts side, the likes of Aberdeen and Hibs were condemned to bottom-six football following miserable campaigns.

Given many expected the Terrors to be the side toiling at the wrong end, Edwards can take some satisfaction from belying the naysayers.

Ryan Edwards won players’ player of the year at the United annual awards

“Look at the clubs who didn’t make the top six,” continued Edwards. “There are massive clubs there, with bigger budgets than us.

“No-one fancied us as the start of the season.

“We were the favourites to go down with a lot of bookmakers and I’d be interested to know what they think, now that the season is over and we’re sitting fourth!”

Harassing Hearts

Edwards, crowned players’ player of the year at United’s annual awards, can enjoy a richly-merited close-season break.

However, there will be scarce time to relax and regroup for the Tannadice powerbrokers.

United must replace star goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist, rebuild central midfield and add attacking impetus during the upcoming summer transfer window.

Dundee United’s fourth place finish sent fans to delirium in Dingwall

And Edwards is hopeful the draw of continental competition will help the club’s recruitment drive as they seek to close the gap on losing Scottish Cup finalists Hearts.

“Hearts have set a standard for every other team with ambitions to challenge at the top end of the table,” added Edwards.

“They’ve set the standard for us, Aberdeen and Hibs — all the big clubs who want to cement third place.

“We’ve got Europe and fourth place. That’s a big attraction for players and a big advantage for the manager and Tony when they are trying to attract better players.

“That is all we want: to keep getting better and keep moving forward.”

Ryan Edwards was speaking exclusively to the Courier Talking Football podcast. For the full interview, listen and subscribe here.

Tony Asghar declares Dundee United backing ‘stronger than ever’ as season ticket sales near 5,000-mark

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