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EXCLUSIVE: Tony Asghar adamant Jack Ross relationship ‘stronger than ever’ as Dundee United sporting director laments ‘vitriolic rumourmongers’

Asghar, left, and Ross. Image: SNS
Asghar, left, and Ross. Image: SNS

Tony Asghar insists the ‘rumourmongers’ who suggested that Jack Ross had walked away from Dundee United this week are ‘detrimental’ to the club.

And the Tangerines’ sporting director is adamant his relationship with Ross is ‘stronger than ever’ following a miserable run of results.

Speculation swirled on social media that the United manager had handed in his resignation on Monday following four successive defeats, with a cumulative scoreline of 15-1.

It was given short shrift by Ross himself, while Asghar today derided the gossip and described a minority of critics as ‘vitriolic’.

Ross remains committed to reviving United’s fortunes

“Looking at some things, like rumours about Jack’s resignation — we live in a world where there is so much negativity,” Asghar told Courier Sport.

“Our relationship has become stronger than ever as a result of this (recent results) and we are looking forward to going on a run that allows us to look at the positives.

“Dundee United fans are fantastic. I speak about the negative connotations of a very small number of people on social media; of rumourmongers.

“I don’t know where some of this stuff that flies around Dundee comes from.

“But I can say that there are thousands of brilliant supporters and they are absolutely entitled to be critical. This is an entertainment and results business. I’ve no problem with that.

“However, there is a small minority in Dundee who have been vitriolic about what we do — and I don’t understand that.

“When you see untrue rumours like Jack wanting to resign, that can be very detrimental, from players to staff; to everyone.”

‘A capable team’

As he unveiled Ross as United boss in June, Asghar described the former Hibs and Sunderland gaffer as a ‘different level’ from the coaches the club had previously hired under his watch.

Now winless in the Premiership and with the onerous visit of Celtic on the horizon, his faith in Ross is unshaken.

Asghar, left, and Ross in June

“We hire a manager and have a plan — nothing has changed in that regard,” continued Asghar.

“We always look at performances — Jack, the coaching staff, myself and the players — and see where we can improve.

“But we are not in any sort of area where we think there are problems.

“Let’s be clear. We know we are not putting in the performances the players are capable of. We saw with the Alkmaar game at home (1-0 win), that we are a capable team with a very capable methodology.”

Asghar added: “It’s a long season. I’ve been in this position when people have questioned other appointments — horrendous results at Tannadice; defeats against part-time clubs — and come through it.

“It’s not nice, but we know how to come through this.”

Asghar: Our recruitment has been good

Asghar, meanwhile, has defended the club’s recruitment over the summer transfer window.

Goalkeeper Mark Birighitti was benched following ropey displays in the 7-0 and 4-1 defeats against AZ Alkmaar and Hearts. Aziz Behich, perhaps understandably, is taking time to get up to speed.

Steven Fletcher has scored one goal — a penalty — and has looked isolated at times, while Craig Sibbald has been in and out of the side.

Asghar spoke to Courier Sport on Thursday

Glenn Middleton, Jamie McGrath, Dylan Levitt and, on Thursday, Sadat Anaku, have also joined the club.

“I think our recruitment has been good,” Asghar continued. “At the time, the fans were happy (with signings) and the board were certainly happy.

“I believe we have done very well in our recruitment. Now it’s a case of gelling, fitting in and getting up to speed, because they came in sporadically and with different levels of fitness.”

Deadline day

With a sporting director, Asghar, and a recruitment coordinator, Sean McGee, United’s player identification is — in their own words — a collaborative process.

However, it is a hierarchical structure that often prompts questions regarding who spearheads recruitment.

Behich, left, and Birighitti are two of United’s eight summer signings

Asked simply whether the summer arrivals were ‘Jack Ross signings’, Asghar continued: “As with any football club, why wouldn’t they be? I don’t think people really understand what the sporting director role is. It goes back to the rumourmongers…

“Every manager who has ever been here has always had final say on the players.

“The manager — any manager — can’t trawl through hours and hours of footage and know every market.

“Players come through a process and we say, ‘here are these players; here’s the data; here’s the work’ and then it’s over to the manager to make decisions. We’ll see how they fit within the team and the culture of what we are trying to do.

“Then the decision is made by the manager to say, ‘we’ll take them’.”

Middleton, signed from Rangers

Asghar added: “Jack, even more than ANY manager who has been here, is not going to come to a club where he doesn’t get the players he wants. If you ask him, I’m sure he’ll be happy with the players he has in the building.”

On the subject of recruitment, and with the closure of the transfer window approaching apace, will United delve into the market again?

“We are happy with the squad,” added Asghar. “You never say never and, as with every transfer window, I’ll be sitting at Tannadice until midnight in the hope that something happens, or that something doesn’t happen!

“You never know what is going to happen but, speaking today, we are content.”