Tony Asghar has made it clear he has no intention of quitting Dundee United, insisting calls for his removal as sporting director have only made him more determined to “get the ship steering again”.
A section of disgruntled United fans unveiled a banner reading “Asghar Out” at the club’s last two away matches at Kilmarnock and Hearts.
The ire comes after United failed to sign a striker on deadline day, while allowing Tony Watt to join St Mirren on loan.
It leaves the Tangerines looking light in the final third, albeit Asghar has stated his belief that the squad at Tannadice is “strong”.
Nobody is more unhappy with how we came out of the window than myself”
Vehement critics also point to the ill-fated 10-week reign of Jack Ross, United’s current position at the foot of the Premiership and the failure to attain any compensation for Lewis Neilson’s move to Hearts during a testing eight months for the club.
And Asghar has been a lightning rod for protests, responding: “I would say to the supporters: Vent all you want at me. I’m a big boy. But I want the best for the club and hurt just as much as they do.”
Choosing to address United’s transfer window on United’s club TV, he touched upon Watt’s exit, the failure to sign a striker, “cheap” criticism of head coach Liam Fox and those recent, very visible protests.
“The team is bottom of the league so I understand the frustration,” said Asghar.
“We’ve had some very good performances since the World Cup. We’ve seen that the team is strong and we have a load of very good players. But I do understand that they are venting.
“Fans at this club do have an opportunity to speak up. We have the DUSG (Dundee United Supporters Group) meeting coming up later this month; the AGM later this month; the owner (Mark Ogren) is going to be over.
“There will be time to discuss what their issues are.
“Personally, it’s always disappointing when someone is putting your name on a banner but I do look at that and say: ‘If I’m the problem, then they are keeping it away from anyone else at the club.’ I take that on board and on the chin.
“It gives me a challenge to get things right and get the ship steering again.”
He added: “I will say that there have been a number of fans to contact me and give me support personally but I can’t disagree and say there shouldn’t be some form of venting. Sometimes it doesn’t help the players and gives the opposition an advantage.”
‘Nobody is more unhappy’
United allowed a swathe of players to depart on loan during January, with defender Loick Ayina the club’s only loan signing from Huddersfield Town.
“Nobody is more unhappy with how we came out of the window than myself,” continued Asghar.
“We are a different level of club now, where we are trying to sign targets who are potentially on a financial scale we can’t reach, because of the quality we are trying to bring in. There are other clubs in competitive measures with us for these players.
“Unfortunately, we hit the bar with a few — but that’s the way it goes.
“If you look at any club in Scotland — or the UK — then trying to get a striker in during the window was difficult.
“For me, it’s very disappointing. We never stop, though. We are consistently looking to see who we can bring in.”
That perhaps poses the question: Why allow Tony Watt — a proven deputy to Steven Fletcher — leave?
Asghar hints that the former Celtic and Hearts forward would not have been content with a bit-part role.
“One of the big things was: Why did we let a striker go out (Tony Watt) on loan and didn’t replace him? I’ve heard people say it was a gamble,” continued Asghar.
“The reality is that if a player is here and he isn’t getting game-time, then we have to make a conscious decision for the good of the group. Tony wanted to go and play football and he wasn’t getting that here.
“We had to make a decision near the last day of the window.”
‘Cheap’ Liam Fox criticism
Asghar cited the performances of Ilmari Niskanen and Peter Pawlett — the latter now facing a spell out with a hamstring injury — as evidence of United’s depth, while he believes there are a cluster of young players ready to make their mark.
And he is adamant boss Fox is the right man to lead the Terrors out of trouble, railing against suggestions he was the “easy” appointment after Jack Ross departed last August.
“That is a cheap thing to say and I think the same thing was said when Tam Courts became the manager,” continued Asghar. “People said that was the easy option.
🗣️ An update from our Sporting Director, Tony Asghar.
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) February 7, 2023
“When we’ve built a squad of players in the eyes of the manager who bought them — and we have one of the coaching staff who brought them here, and doesn’t need radical change — I think that’s a smarter move.
“You look at Foxy’s CV and, although he hasn’t managed (in the Premiership) before, he has been on the coaching staff for two top-six finishes at the last two clubs he’s been at; Livingston and Dundee United.
“Supporters can vent at me — this is a big club and we all want the same thing — but we need to stick to the process and have a belief we can get out of the position we are in. We have some very, very good players and very, very good people.”