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Tony Asghar on blanking Twitter critics, why ‘agent’ tag is wrong and Dundee United’s push for sexy football

Tony Asghar
Tony Asghar is content Dundee United are moving in the right direction

Tony Asghar has learned to steer clear of Twitter — but he is still acutely aware of the discourse.

“I’ve got social media that says ‘Asghar Out’ all of the time,” notes the Dundee United sporting director. “There’s even a hashtag for it!”

Asghar, by his own admission, is a lightning rod for criticism.

Charged by United owner Mark Ogren with overseeing the development of the football club, his suitability and motives have been questioned with some regularity.

He cites being dubbed a dictator and a bully.

However, Asghar is keen to emphasise that his sole focus — 24/7 — is ensuring United field a winning team and continue to progress.

Tony Asghar (right) with United head coach Tam Courts
Tony Asghar (right) with United head coach Tam Courts

“When I first came in, I said I was going to read social media and get on the forums,” Asghar told DUTV. “But I don’t read it any more.

“It was a big learning curve for me.

“For all the good things we have done, I’ve made loads of mistakes. But you never make the same mistake twice.”

Recalling one error of judgement in particular, he reflects: “I shouldn’t have taken a picture of Robbie Neilson with a Corona bottle when lockdown was on. That put us on the front page of the paper.

“As an ex-police officer that’s not very good when the police are calling you up and saying: ‘what are you doing there?’”

Going back to the wider view of the United chief, he continued: “The perception of me is difficult.

Tony Asghar: Dundee United sporting director feels some people have the wrong idea about him

“There was a pre-conceived idea of me when I first came in. The word ‘agent’ was used a lot. People said I was taking money from the club.

“If Mark Ogren really believed that, then he wouldn’t give me the autonomy to make sure the football department was running the way it is.

“Others thought I didn’t have any experience. But if you go to England or any other countries, people will tell you I’ve done more work there than I have in Scotland.

“I don’t like having to justify myself. I want things to be based on my results or how the club has done well but I do, sometimes, take stick.

“I’ve got a son [Adam Asghar, coach] at the club. I’ve got a son and daughter and wife. My wife doesn’t come to the games, which is disappointing.

“We are putting our heart and soul into this and trying to make sure we do things right.”

Dundee United coach Adam Asghar.
Dundee United coach Adam Asghar.

And, much has undoubtedly gone right this term.

While the football has not always been scintillating — a fact Asghar readily accepts — the results are inarguable.

Fourth place is the club’s highest finish since 2013/14 and they will compete in Europe for the first time in a decade next term.

Three-and-a-half years on from Ogren’s takeover, Asghar allows himself some satisfaction at the progress.

“When I came in, I had Brian Grant and Dave Bowman in the room,” he recalled. “There was no heating on in the room.

“They had their jackets zipped fully up with beanie hats on and were absolutely freezing!

“Grant had to go to the launderette to clean strips for the under-16s. There was nothing there.

Brian Grant.

“We had to come in with a sledgehammer and do things differently.

“We have grown a lot and changed a lot of mindsets.”

Along the way, United have fielded 16 academy graduates this season; a pivotal part of the club’s plan to succeed both on the pitch and as a financial entity.

“Nothing fills me with more joy than Archie Meekison scoring against Motherwell last season or Kieran Freeman scoring at Hibs away and running into the fans to celebrate,” he continued.

“Or there’s Jamie Robson at Rangers, where he ran into the fans to celebrate a 1-0 win.

“I was the first out of my seat jumping for joy because these academy boys have come through the ranks and are now scoring goals at Tannadice.

“These moments are special; Declan Glass taking the ball around four players to score against Hibs or Rory MacLeod making his first-team debut at 16.”

Asghar adds: “I genuinely think, as a football club, we are on a fantastic pathway. Sometimes we just have to smell the roses.”

However, such is football, that planning for next season must begin in earnest.

With Benjamin Siegrist departing and visible areas that require strengthening — central midfield, wing and attack — Asghar’s contacts book will be well utilised over the next few weeks.

And he hopes to help Courts ally entertainment with success.

‘More entertaining’ style of football

“Our recruitment is going to have to be stronger,” he said candidly. “We are going to have to look for better quality.

“We know we are going to have to get a style of football that is going to be more entertaining and successful.

“But we also have to look at results. It’s a results business and we are sitting fourth in the league and were hardly out of the top-six all season.

“Our big problem — that Tam and I speak about on a daily basis — is ‘how are we going to make sure we get there and play an attractive style of football?’ We are all on that journey.”

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