Dundee United’s new head coach Robbie Neilson met the media for the first time on Tuesday afternoon and after speaking with him it becomes clear why the Dundee United board made him their number one target.
The first thing that strikes you is how composed the ex-Hearts and MK Dons manager is. Everyone instantly must lean in and listen carefully as Neilson certainly doesn’t appear to believe in volume as a means of reinforcing the point he wants to make. It certainly makes you wonder how the quiet, steady composure of the manager will affect a dressing room before a match. One can picture the players sitting silently, focusing on every word the manager has to say.
When it comes to the pressure of the job, of which there is plenty as Dundee United head coach, Neilson genuinely welcomes it. Former player Paul Quinn recently questioned the expectation levels at the club, but Neilson certainly doesn’t share that view. Yes, he understands that pressure is always there, but he would rather have that pressure than not at all.
“I have always been of the thought that there are two things,” he said.
“You can go into a pressure environment and flourish or you can go into an environment that’s got no pressure, no demands, nobody pushing it forward and just float along in life and I would far rather be in a (pressure) environment and I think the players would as well.
“I think that anyone that’s been successful would far rather be in an environment where there is that pressure because what it does is it drives you forward and I think that yes there’s pressure here but it’s a good pressure.”
His style contrasts with his predecessor Csaba László who had a markedly different style of communicating. It is therefore clear that the players will feel an instant change in atmosphere from the new manager because when Neilson talks, you listen. That is not to say that Neilson is without emotion or humour, rather that he has an intensity about him.
— Grant McKenzie (@Grantomac) October 9, 2018
Following the disappointment of his time at MK Dons, Neilson has a point to prove. However, he has waited for the right opportunity to come along. The fact he has waited for the United job should give United fans a great lift. They have a head coach who sees the potential in the club and who has the confidence in the club and himself to take United back up to a level a club the size of United have the potential to compete in.
“I am really pleased,” he said.
“Obviously I came out of MK (Dons) and initially when I came out there was a couple of jobs that came up. I spoke to them, I was tempted to get back right away because they sometimes say ‘you get straight back on and go again’ but I’m glad I didn’t because I don’t think I was ready to go back in again.
“I think you need that wee bit of a period just to assess what you’ve done, reflect on it a wee bit as well.
“So, I thought things might have happened over the summer and yes it would be ideal you get somewhere you can build but it wasn’t to be, but I waited, and I waited.
“When I came back from England there was a couple of jobs that I thought ‘yeah they would be good jobs if they came up’ and thankfully Dundee United was one of them that came up and I’m thankful that I am getting the opportunity to do it because it is a great opportunity, it is a great club.”
I think it is fair to say that this appointment has been hugely welcomed amongst the support. Speaking to Neilson, it is easy to understand why. He is a very convincing person. He looks you in the eye and talks honestly. For Neilson it is all about being able to walk the walk come a Saturday and that comes across in lorry-loads when you listen to him.
Of course, there have been comparisons made to the appointment of Craig Levein at United 12 years ago. His was an appointment which turned the club around and set them off toward a period of European qualification and silverware. Both were former Hearts managers who had enjoyed success before experiencing disappointment in England. Whilst it is easy to fall into the trap of expecting the same story to play out once more, that is not how the real world works. Expectations will be high, however the new man must be given the time, free of comparisons to his old boss and Dundee United predecessor Levein, to take the club forward his way. It may not be smooth sailing all the time, Neilson knows that there may come difficult conversations with chairman Mike Martin. However, there can be no doubt that United have a man capable of delivering.
There was a noticeable sense of positivity within Tannadice at the unveiling of Neilson. It was clearly a happy occasion for many of the smiling staff and there can be no doubt that Neilson has the potential to galvanise the club in a way that could turn things around. This is the club’s fourth permanent manager in just three years of disappointment. Nielson may not be capable of parting the River Tay as Moses parted the Red Sea, but he may just be the man capable of turning the tide in Dundee United’s favour.