Neilson: Shankland signing would be a ‘great coup’

Dundee United head coach Robbie Neilson believes that signing Lawrence Shankland would prove to be a ‘great coup’ if the ex-Ayr United striker accepts the club’s approach.

23-year-old Shankland scored 34 goals in 41 games last season and is high on the radar of several clubs as he is now a free agent. United will face stiff competition for his signature with clubs in England interested, however Neilson is hopeful he can be persuaded to join the Tangerine’s push for promotion to the Scottish Premiership.

Obviously, Tony (Asghar) spoke the other day about us having made an offer for Lawrence, as I’m pretty sure a few clubs have as well,” he said.

“He is one of the standout players in the Scottish leagues the last couple of seasons.

“So, he is one we are hopeful of getting, but we are still working on a lot of things in the background.

“It would be a great coup for us if we could, but we can’t put our eggs in one basket.”

The United boss felt that the team could, and should, have scored more goals last season, and he sees Shankland as a possible signing that could bolster his options upfront alongside the likes of Osman Sow and Nicky Clark.

“There are a couple of options we’ve got as well,” he said.

“When you look back at last season we should have scored a lot more goals.

“If we did we could have given ourselves a better chance of going up and it is an area that everyone is trying to strengthen.

“Everyone is trying to get that 30-goal-a-season striker and we are doing everything we can to try and get one.”

The attempt to sign Shankland is certainly an ambitious one considering the interest shown in the prolific striker and for Neilson it further underlines the intent of the club owners to bring success to Tannadice.

“The owners, from the day they came in, have backed me and backed the club,” he said.

“They want success, they want to get the team promoted and they are showing that again over this summer period with the targets we are going for.”

Meanwhile, the first team are back in full pre-season training mode, and the United boss is delighted with the way his players have returned fit and ready to go.

“I was pleased to be honest,” he said.

“We played a few weeks longer than everyone else, so the players only had a month off.

“They had two weeks where they just had to rest and then two weeks where they did the programme, and to be fair to the players, to a man, they all stuck to the programme.

“They’ve come in in good condition and it has allowed us to get the balls out on the first day.

“We are still doing a wee bit of conditioning to get them ready for the first game at the weekend.”

United suffered a painful end to their season as they failed to gain promotion in the play-off final. However, Neilson feels that everyone has moved on and are focused on the season to come.

“It is a positive environment now,” he said.

“Nobody has spoken about what happened last season, obviously we had that disappointment, but it is put to bed now.

“It is a case of just focusing on the Betfred Cup games as they come up and then obviously the league is the main thing for us, but we are excited about this season.

“The players are fresh, they are good, we’ve got a couple of fresh faces coming in as well which gives everyone a lift and it is time to go now.”

Dundee United get their pre-season fixtures underway this Saturday with a visit to East Fife. Kick-off is 3pm.

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