Positivity for Dundee United and the urgent need for Dundee players to find their smiles again – Grant McKenzie gives his view.
Make no mistake, it is still just another early win in the Robbie Neilson era at Dundee United, but come full time at East End Park, there was a tangible feeling in the air, amongst the over 1800 United fans who witnessed their team beat Dunfermline, that this could be the start of something. However, I don’t think you will see anyone getting too far ahead of themselves, least of all Robbie Neilson himself.
The performance was good and solid. It wasn’t the best game in the world but all over the pitch you could see players growing in confidence and growing into their respective roles. Paul McMullan played like a man reborn and Callum Booth grew more and more into things as the game wore on.
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) October 27, 2018
Pavol Safranko is becoming a real fan favourite with the United support and it is obvious just watching highlights of games why. Work rate to put any other professional footballer to shame if they don’t try to at least match how hard he works. He didn’t get a goal, but his influence can’t be underestimated in matches.
His physicality wins possession and you can even see from the embrace that Nicky Clark gave him as Safranko came off in the second half that even those competing for game time in the same position like and respect him. A small thing that says a lot about team spirit that appears to be growing week-in-week-out.
At full time, the positivity was flowing and there was a palpable sense that United may just have struck gold with the appointment of Robbie Neilson. It is still early days, but United fans have shown that they will back the club in big numbers if they feel they have something to buy into.
Dundee need to find their smiles
Over the road things haven’t gotten off to as good a start for Jim McIntyre. Two heavy defeats and the Billy Dodds sideshow have served, in the case of the defeats, to underline the task at hand for the new manager and, in the case of Dodds, to distract attention away from what should have been an opportunity to bring some positivity to Dens after what has been a terrible start.
Despite nine defeats in ten league games so far this season, Dundee are only one solitary point behind 11th placed St Mirren. That should be the focus right now. Dundee just need to get a win or even a couple of draws to potentially haul themselves off the foot of the table.
There is a mini-league at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership and Dundee can win it, but it looks as though there will need to be some big changes made to the squad. It had felt in recent seasons that the squad was being held together rather than improved upon. Don’t misunderstand, there are good players in the squad, good enough players to build a spine to the team, but McIntyre must organise it and he must break the pressure that looks all too present on players faces.
Kallman is physical and looks a useful target man, Kamara is influential and when he plays well others around him get a lift, and in Innis and Boyle they have two loan defenders who should be equipped with the raw skills to defend better than they have. McIntyre has talked about getting back to basics and he is 100% right. He also needs to get the smiles back on the Dundee players faces. With every defeat they know they are letting themselves and the club down and, with the heavy defeats, players have talked about how embarrassed they feel.
There is no sense in wallowing, they must find the fun in football. Easier said than done with Celtic up next at Dens on Wednesday night. I will be in the stands for DSM and I will be looking to see if the Dundee players can embrace the pressure being totally off them, if only for one night.