Dundee United already have two 20-goal-a-season strikers BEFORE Lawrence Shankland arrives

© DC ThomsonNicky Clark in action against East Fife.
Nicky Clark in action against East Fife.

Dundee United’s search for a third striker has reached an impressive conclusion, with in-demand Lawrence Shankland persuaded to sign for the club he tormented.

But even without last year’s top Championship goalscorer on the books, Lee McCulloch believes they already have two 20-plus a season centre-forwards at Tannadice.

The assistant head coach doesn’t want a repeat of the previous campaign when the highest league marksman was in the mid-teens.

And he has backed Osman Sow and Nicky Clark to hit the sort of numbers he believes they are capable of.

“With the ability Osman’s got and the attributes he’s got, he should really be, if injury free, scoring goals and causing defences lots of problems,” said McCulloch.

“Hopefully he can stay injury free and do that and it’s all about managing him in his training.

“He’s more than capable of doing it (getting more than 20 goals) and you’ve got Nicky Clark. If he can stay injury free there’s another 20-plus striker.

“Our goal return last season you could say was arguably lower. Our top scorer was Safranko on 14 or 15 goals. For a team that’s looking for automatic promotion, you need a 20, 25 goal man.

“They are more than capable.”

It’s hard to argue with McCulloch setting the bar high for goals given that United are spoilt for choice up front.

“You have Peter Pawlett who can get forward and get goals,” said the former Kilmarnock boss. “It’s about keeping him fit as well.

“Paul McMullan, especially at the end of the season came on to his game.

“I think he got a wee bit of a confidence boost from his first goal and he went on a wee run after that.

“With the ability he’s got, he can cause anybody in the country a problem.

“We want the team full of confidence and up to speed come the start of the season.”

McCulloch added: “I think McMullan has shown he can score goals and I think it is a confidence thing with Paul.

“He can get a goal, but he can also get past people, get crosses and good deliveries in the box for our strikers.

“Clarky is a natural goalscorer. Nicky scores important goals and that’s what we need. That’s a big compliment to the mentality he’s got. He’s a big-game player.

“He has a decent CV, has played at some big clubs and has been down in England.

“He’s got the experience and is definitely a big-game player which we are going to need because there’s going to be a lot of big games.

“Others coming in can only enhance the team because at a club like this with the expectation levels, there’s got to be competition.”

Shankland is signing number three of the summer and McCulloch believes that the fact that this will be the quietest transfer window at Tannadice for a long time will be a benefit.

“It’s massive,” he said. “Continuity is important for any team, any successful team.

“You need that core and I think there were about 12 or 13 signings in the January window last season and it’s hard to get everybody to gel together.

“Now they’ve had a bit of time. There is a togetherness in the squad, helping each other through the run-in and the difficult days so there is already a team spirit which can only help us going into the league campaign.”

United continue their pre-season programme with a Friday night match against Brechin City and then a trip to Dumbarton the following afternoon.

McCulloch said: “The players didn’t have that long a break so I don’t think it has to be like a normal pre-season where it’s running in the morning, running in the afternoon and it’s all about fitness.

“I don’t think they’ve lost much fitness, but there is no fitness like match fitness.

“They’ve played 45 the other day (against East Fife) and now it’s coming Friday, Saturday and they will get more game time to set us up for a really difficult game at Tynecastle.”