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St Johnstone fans will be hoping Dundee United boss Micky Mellon taught Scott Tanser well as a young lad at Lytham

Scott Tanser.
Scott Tanser.

Micky Mellon’s impressive schooling of his Dundee United team has already reaped its rewards with the top six Premiership position the Tannadice club currently finds itself in.

But it his coaching of one of the St Johnstone players that threatens to come back to bite him in Saturday’s Tayside derby.

Mellon was an early influence in the career of Perth full-back Scott Tanser.

The defender, who is set to return to the Saints starting line-up after a knee injury sustained a fortnight ago proved to be less serious than first feared, shared the pitch with one of the United manager’s sons when he was growing up in Lancashire.

And, given the high standards Tanser has regularly hit this season, Mellon was as effective at developing young lads starting out in the game on England’s west coast as he has been with senior pros in Scotland’s east.

“I’ve known Micky from when I was a little boy,” said Tanser. “We are from the same area. I know him very well.

“He was the manager for my junior team, Lytham.

“Me and his son have always been really close and he took our team for a few years.

“He took some sessions and it was nothing more than that. I think it was when he was at Fleetwood.”

Micky Mellon.

Tanser doesn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the style of football Mellon’s sides played in the lower leagues in England but from the three matches Saints have already played against their local rivals this season, he has a good idea of what to expect from United.

“I didn’t really keep up with Micky when he was down south,” he said.

“But, if I go off with what he’s doing at Dundee United, he is maybe a little more defensive-minded than attacking.

“His team likes to sit in and break out. They are a good defensive side.”

That Tanser would be fit to play in this game – or indeed this season – looked improbable when he collapsed in pain at Pittodrie. The former Port Vale man certainly feared the worst.

“When it happened I just felt my knee buckle and it clicked,” he said. “I thought: ‘Oh no, what is going on here’.

“I honestly thought that was it for the season and that was going to be me preparing for next season.

“I watched it back and it looked even worse than I remember.

“Nine times out of 10 that is a serious injury but on this occasion I am going to count myself very lucky that I’m not out for a long period of time.

“I actually watched it back straight away just to see how bad it was and it was a tough one.

Scott Tanser at Pittodrie.

“It was quite hard for myself because at that point I didn’t know the results of what was going to happen.

“It looked really bad and I was thinking the worst but I tried to stay positive, and it was a positive outcome.

“The scan took a day or two to come through so it was just an anxious wait.

“I was just happy to be involved again straight away – I don’t think it was even a week.

“I was very lucky that it was just a bit of bruising and I will just carry on now.

“I’m not one to be injured touch wood so it was a strange feeling thinking: ‘What do I do now?

“I’ve never really had a serious injury so I’m hoping that continues.”

Tanser added: “I missed two games but made a bench appearance at Ross County.

“I would have liked to have got on but I can see why the gaffer didn’t put me on. I think personally it was probably too soon as well.

“I have had a full week of training now and there’s been no reaction from the injury, so I’m all good to go.”

The brief lay-off has at least earned Tanser a new nickname.

“I’m in great company now with Murray Davidson,” he said. “Everyone seems to keep calling me Lazarus – a short term comeback from a long-term injury!”

Tanser, who has been linked with a move back across the border in the summer, has delivered a level of consistency that evaded him in previous seasons at McDiarmid Park.

“When I first came up, I wasn’t a confident player from past experiences,” he said.

“Tommy Wright brought me in and gave me time to develop. As the seasons have gone on, I think I have got stronger.

“This season the gaffer has pushed me forward, giving me more of an attacking role alongside the defensive side of it.”

Danny McNamara in action against Aberdeen.
Danny McNamara.

Saints have lost the threat of Danny McNamara on the right flank so it will have come as a huge relief to manager Callum Davidson that he hasn’t been deprived of Tanser’s contribution on the left for too long. Not that he takes his position in the team for granted, mind you.

“I think me and Danny have been playing well as a pair in the team,” he said.

“But Shaun (Rooney) has done really well when Danny was out. Callum (Booth) has come in and he’s been playing well too.

“We have players who cover positions and we are a great squad. If they continue to play how they have been playing then it is going to be a tough selection.

“It’s always good to have competition. I think maybe if it is just yourself you lose concentration but as a professional that really shouldn’t be the case.

“When you have two players pushing each other you bring the best out of each other and it is only going to benefit the team.”