Laurie Ellis looked like a manager, sounded like a manager and set his team out like a manager but he still insists he won’t be applying for the Dundee United job.
The caretaker coach was handed the considerable challenge of stepping into the breach for the trip to Dumbarton on Saturday following the departure of his good friend Ray McKinnon.
He met that challenge head on as he led the team to a fine 2-0 win.
Ellis, of course, would much rather have been standing alongside McKinnon on the sidelines.
However, the decision taken by the Tannadice board to let the gaffer go left him in charge at the YOUR Radio 103FM Stadium.
He didn’t shirk from that responsibility, making no fewer than five changes to the side that lost so expensively to Inverness Caley Thistle the previous weekend.
Into the team came the experienced Tam Scobbie at centre half and young Matty Smith into the midfield. There were deft touches such as the placement of Scott Fraser in the playmaker role behind striker Scott McDonald and Ellis was rewarded with a terrific performance from Fraser.
It was a sure-footed day in the dugout for Ellis and if, as seems certain, he doesn’t apply for the main gig then United may yet decide to keep him on the backroom team.
Asked if he considered asking chairman Stephen Thompson and his board to take over on a permanent basis, Ellis said: “Nah, this is a big, big club and there is a huge amount involved in managing this club.
“This week has been difficult.
“Everyone knows how difficult the week has been and, while I have enjoyed working with the players as I always have done, it has had its challenges.
“However, we have refocused them and made them think about their responsibilities to the club and to each other.
“Home truths are probably not my style but I do believe we had to make them think about their own accountability – indeed, all of our accountability – for what has happened.
“That was done by looking them in the eye and talking about what has been and where they should be at performance-wise as a group.
“I am a young coach and I fully respected the challenge this week and have taken good experience from it.
“But whoever comes in it is a big, big appointment because we know what we want from this season.”
With that elephant in the room apparently set free, Ellis focused on what was a solid United display under extreme pressure.
“It was a good win, good performance and a great three points,” he added.
“That is what the club needed.
“In every game you want to make a good start and get a foothold in it by scoring as early as you can.
“It helped to get the goal when we did and after that we continue to have our foot on the gas and moved the ball about reasonably well.
“We caused them problems and in the second half I think we could probably have scored another couple, if I am being super-critical. You always need space to grow into.
“It was the application, though, mainly for each other not for me or anyone else that produced the performance for the club.”
Indeed, United’s men in black may not have saved the planet but they did restore some pride after a torrid week.
In their first game since McKinnon left the club, the Tangerines – dressed in their change kit of all black – were battling Dumbarton rather than aliens and they thoroughly deserved their victory for a bright, attacking display.
The result saw them stay in fourth spot but, significantly, close the gap on Championship leaders St Mirren, who visit Tannadice this Saturday, to three points.
Sam Stanton got the ball rolling in under two minutes with an excellent strike from inside the D then the same player made it a double with a low shot on 16 minutes.
The visitors dominated the second half as well as the first but couldn’t add to their tally.
The pressure eased with that spectacular early lead, which arrived after just one minute and 14 seconds, to be precise.
It was a smashing move, finished off by Stanton with a curling left-foot shot from 20 yards.
On 15 minutes, a freekick from Fraser caused havoc inside the Dumbarton box and, when it just missed the head of Mark Durnan, there was almost an own goal from Andy Dowie.
That was a let-off for the Sons but the resultant corner led to Stanton’s and United’s second goal of the game.
Fraser was the provider, sending the setpiece straight to Stanton, whose low shot squeezed into the net despite home keeper Scott Gallacher getting a hand on the ball.
The hosts were reduced to 10 men on 63 minutes when Craig Barr was sent packing by ref Charleston but the match was in the bag by then.
The Dumbarton man, who had been booked 10 minutes earlier for a foul on Fraser, dived to try to win penalty and was rightly shown a second yellow then a red.
On 72 minutes, United made a switch, taking off Fraser and replacing him with Keatings and he was given a standing ovation by the away fans. That summed up a satisfying afternoon for the club.
Given the circumstances, this was a solid and professional display from United and a great day’s work from Ellis and his backroom team.