Dundee United striker Scott McDonald insists the players “know the remit” as dawn breaks on the post-Ray McKinnon era.
He may have only joined the Tangerines in the summer but McDonald is one of the senior statesmen to whom the responsibility has fallen to help caretaker coach Laurie Ellis guide the club through this difficult time.
United head west to play bogey team Dumbarton today in their first match since McKinnon was told that he wasn’t the man the Tannadice board thought could lead them back up to the Premiership.
While McDonald feels they would have gotten it right eventually under their now former gaffer, the veteran Australian has declared there is no time to feel sorry for anyone with so much at stake.
Significantly, he stressed that all the players are fully aware of just how important winning the league is to United.
So the squad travel today with a mixture of regret that McKinnon has lost his job, responsibility for their role in that outcome, determination to get back to winning ways and awareness of what the club is demanding from them this season.
McDonald said: “It’s never a nice day when your manager loses his job and you feel responsible for that.
“On a personal note, obviously you have let a certain individual down.
“You know that Ray brought me to the club.
“In the short space of time I have been here I have really enjoyed my time with Ray and Laurie, albeit results haven’t been what everyone would have liked them to be.
“So the place has been sombre.
“This is a difficult time and it is going to be very testing for every player.
“However, the staff and the experienced players have lifted it.
“We, the players, are all still here to do a job.
“We know the remit – we need to get promoted – and that starts once again by hopefully getting three points at Dumbarton.”
McDonald admitted that, such has been the length and depth of his career, he wasn’t exactly surprised when word started to come out that McKinnon was on his way out the door.
He added: “It’s one of those that, where we are as a football club, I don’t think it can come as a shock considering the way football is in this day and age and what the expectation levels are for this year at this football club.
“Any time you lose one game at United it is a mini crisis and there is pressure on everyone.
“We kind of know that as players and management.
“You are expected to win every game and I like that.
“As much as it puts me in a mood when we don’t win games – and I’m in a horrible mood when I go home to the wife – it is kind of what you live for, for me.
“There is no point losing one, winning one and drawing one and finishing middle of the table or in a relegation scrap.
“I’m here to win the title and that means we need to get it right more times than not and be leading in the league.
“My personal opinion is that I believe we would probably have got it right but things move on, we get a new manager and hopefully that comes as quickly as possible.”
As for his role in guiding the younger ones through an uneasy time, the former Celtic and Motherwell man said: “As senior players we have been through these experiences before and can pass on that experience.
“Whether you like it or not, you do become a little bit numb to it.
“You have to move on and you know the job at hand.
“We are the ones who are fortunate enough to still have a job.
“You have to make the most of that and, first and foremost, that means by hook or by crook getting three points.
“We would like a performance at Dumbarton, too, but I think it’s more important we keep up with the pacesetters and get the win.
“We have 26 games left in this season. We have played 10 games but the performances haven’t been there at times and I think that’s been the frustrating thing for everyone – the players, the staff and the fans.
“Every individual (player) will have their own thoughts on their responsibilities as regards the manager losing his job.
“Unfortunately, though, there is no time for sympathy.
“As players you have to move on quickly and make sure you are doing your job to the best of your ability – for you, your family and for this football club.”