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4 major challenges awaiting new Dundee United boss as Jack Ross talks continue

The chosen one: Ross
The chosen one: Ross

Dundee United hope to name Jack Ross as successor to Tam Courts in the coming days as advanced talks between the parties progress.

The former Hibernian boss is the club’s preferred candidate for the vacancy and, barring any unforeseen hitches, he will be in place prior to United returning for pre-season training next week.

It is an inviting opportunity for Ross. United are fresh from a fourth-placed finish in the Premiership, will compete in the Europa Conference League and represent arguably the biggest job he could attain in Scotland.

Nevertheless, as a diligent coach, he will be acutely aware of the challenges ahead.

Here, Courier Sport analyses some of the tasks that will be top of his agenda on day one, should Ross land the top job.

Replacing Benjamin Siegrist

As Ross — or whoever ultimately succeeds Courts — peruses his squad list, there is a gaping hole where there used to stand a Swiss Wall.

Benjamin Siegrist is currently pursuing new opportunities after his contract with United expired, with the stopper not short of admirers in Britain and abroad.

Premiership champions Celtic are the latest side to be credited with an interest.

And the Tangerines face an onerous task in replacing the 30-year-old. Of course, reinforcements are also needed in central midfield, wide areas and attack — but a top keeper is essential.

January arrival: Eriksson

Finland international Carljohan Eriksson joined the club from Mjallby in January but is yet to make his first-team debut. Jack Newman, a Scotland youth cap, is likely to be third-choice and could be farmed out on loan.

United will undoubtedly be in the market for a new goalkeeper this summer and, given the number of points Siegrist almost single-handedly accrued over the last four years, it will be a pivotal priority for the new boss.

A change of shape?

Although he latterly fielded a 3-5-2 with Hibernian, much of Ross’ success as a manager has come while utilising a 4-2-3-1.

During his stints with Alloa, St Mirren, Sunderland and Hibs, he sought to deploy pace and trickery on the flanks, a solid base in midfield and a little stardust in the pocket behind a lone striker.

Ross, left, and former United boss Robbie Neilson
Ross, left, and former United boss Robbie Neilson

Allied with the deployment of a back-four, that would represent a major change from how United played for the majority of last season: a solid 3-5-2.

While the football was not always scintillating, it was enough to secure European qualification.

If Ross is to craft a side in his preferred shape, then the work will begin apace; in terms of working to a new tactical template and raiding the transfer market for depth on the flanks.

That will also afford United fluidity if they need to switch between systems as the season progresses.

Assess who can make the step up

The arrival of a new manager provides new opportunities for a swathe of hopefuls — a fresh pair of eyes; a clean slate.

Logan Chalmers is an obvious candidate to stake his claim, having notched five goals and one assist in 18 appearances on loan with Inverness last term. He would also tick a key box in terms of giving United options on the wing.

Opportunity knocks: Chalmers has another two years left on his United deal

Can Kieran Freeman cement the right-back/right wing-back position?

Will Declan Glass feature following his return from a stint at Kilmarnock?

Chris Mochrie, Darren Watson and Mathew Cudjoe are among several highly-rated prospects who have enjoyed a taste of senior action.

Indeed, with 16 academy graduates representing United last season — and others who may feel deserving of more regular action — deciding who can be a key part of the senior squad for next season will be a vital task.

Hit the ground running as Europe looms

All of which must be done is expedient fashion.

United do not have the luxury of the Premier Sports Cup group phase this term. Some managers will admit it, others will not — but that has become a glorified pre-season, such is its position in the calendar.

Ross’ Hibs lost out to Rijeka last season

The Tangerines must find a way to work on fitness, shape, integrate new signings and make sure they are ready to hit the ground running on July 30; the date of the opening Premiership weekend.

Their Europa Conference League third qualifying round first leg tie follows on August 4.

A few pre-season friendlies along the way will help sharpen United up, but it’s a challenging task nonetheless.

Ross has recent experience of that turnaround. He guided Hibs into Europe last term, seeing off Santa Coloma 5-2 on aggregate before crashing out against Rijeka.

The highs and lows of Tam Courts’ 372 days in charge of Dundee United