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Sacked on the way to training: The inside story of Jack Ross’ Dundee United dismissal

Sacked on Tuesday: Ross
Sacked on Tuesday: Ross

Dundee United are searching for their fifth permanent manager in 26 months.

Since Robbie Neilson departed for Hearts in June 2020, the Tangerines have seen Micky Mellon, Tam Courts and, now, Jack Ross come and go.

Even by the transient nature of life in the Tannadice dugout, Ross’ tenure has been startlingly brief – and astonishingly eventful.

Seven competitive matches, 10 weeks in the job; three goals scored, 25 conceded.

Scotland’s very own ‘Damned United’.

Brief reign: Ex-Dundee United boss Jack Ross was sacked.

Sunday’s humiliatingly passive 9-0 defeat against Celtic — following on from a 7-0 reverse in Alkmaar — was the final straw as Ross’ reign came to an abrupt end.

Here, Courier Sport lifts the lid on the decisive 48 hours.

Mark Ogren’s rude awakening

Ross did not address the assembled media until more than an hour after the final whistle against Celtic; very unusual for him.

Host broadcaster Sky Sports had gone off air by the time Ross emerged to pick through the carcass of a dire display — all the while, expressing his determination to remain in the post and “fix” the swathe of apparent issues.

He did, however, pointedly note: “I can understand them (United hierarchy) not being happy, I have no issues with that. What the last few weeks have given us as a football club is miles short.”

It was a prescient remark.

The ultimate decision-maker at united, US-based Mark Ogren.

It was just before 8am in Minnesota when Celtic’s evisceration of United finally ceased; enough to put club owner Mark Ogren right off his breakfast.

He was swiftly in contact with his lieutenants on the ground in Scotland.

Courier Sport understands those initial discussions angled towards the belief that Ross should leave club.

At that point — reeling from the concession of 23 goals in four matches — there appeared to be only one outcome.

Emergency meeting

It was quite the U-turn.

Speaking exclusively to Courier Sport last week, sporting director Tony Asghar gave his whole-hearted backing to Ross, claiming that recent travails had made their bond “stronger than ever”.

He stated: “We are not in any sort of area where we think there are problems.

“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.”

It must be noted that a 9-0 defeat rather changes the context.

But despite Sunday’s sense of inevitability, counter-arguments were considered by United chiefs on Monday.

The situation was said to be “fluid” as fans demanded action and pundits piled on.

Ogren remotely chaired an emergency meeting that included Asghar and newly-appointed chief executive Luigi Capuano late on Monday afternoon.

By close of play, no definitive decision had been made — but most informed sources remained braced for Ross’ departure before the Livingston fixture. His position was considered untenable by a majority of the board.

Jack Ross sacked on the way to training

Remarkably, amid swirling clouds of uncertainty, it is understood that Ross set off from his home in the north-east of England on Tuesday morning to report for work as usual; training plan in place ahead of United’s trip to Livi.

Glenn Middleton curled home a spectacular winner against AZ Alkmaar.

During that journey, he was informed that he was being dismissed.

The fact this is a sacking — rather than ‘mutual consent’ — is notable.

It will make a material difference to how much this ill-fated stint costs the Tannadice outfit.

Such matters are ironed out by lawyers and neither Ross nor his former employers will make the final sum public.

Nevertheless, the ex-Hibernian, St Mirren and Sunderland manager will walk away with a substantial settlement.

On a pro-rata basis, this will be considered a costly mis-step — albeit not many onlookers were pillorying the appointment back in June. Nor after the 1-0 win over AZ Alkmaar on August 4.

The speed of this collapse has been head-spinning.

Liam Fox will take the United team against Livingston after Jack Ross was sacked.

Ross remained in constant contact with his now ex-assistant head coach Liam Fox throughout Monday and into Tuesday and, even following his exit, they discussed the upcoming challenge against Livi.

Despite Fox stepping into Ross’ shoes — temporarily, at least — their relationship, which long predates their time working together in Tayside, remains strong.

The question is: will the change in the dugout have the desired effect?