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United chairman faces his biggest test

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Jim Spence | 17:42 UK time, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Dundee Utd chairman Stephen Thompson faces the biggest test of his brief chairman's reign so far at Tannadice as he begins the search for a new manager, after caretaker boss Peter Houston ruled himself out of the running for the job vacated by Craig Levein.

Thompson has made a good job of filling the shoes of his late father Eddie, who had his share of managerial disappointments, but now he faces his toughest task to date.

Get it right and he'll be a hero; get it wrong and he'll get it in the neck.

United are thought to have a list of eight candidates which will be whittled down to a shortlist of five names in the coming days.

Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson at Tannadice

United want a man who has an overview of the entire club, including the new long-term youth development plans put in place by Levein prior to his departure to the Scotland job.

In the future, United, who are as cash strapped as most other SPL clubs, will need to nurture talent through their youth ranks, and the new man will be expected to pay more than lip service to that philosophy.

However, the first and primary duty of any new manager is to win first-team games, and that is what will exercise Thompson's mind in this crucial appointment.

St Johnstone boss Derek McInnes has many admirers in the game and the compensation levels to lure him to Tannadice might not be as hefty as some imagine.

After a fine playing career, his managerial start has been a sound one. Promotion with St Johnstone, who are currently holding their own in the SPL despite one of the smallest budgets in the league, is testimony to his progress in a short time.

A move for former Hibs boss John Collins would also be a statement of intent by the United chairman, and those who think that Collins would haughtily sniff at the job might be surprised.

He demanded much of Hibs, though, in terms of board ambition and United would need to satisfy him on that score.

Former United player Michael O'Neill has done sterling work at a lower level with Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers and, despite lacking experience of the the SPL, appears to have a bright future in management.

A move for him would be a gamble, but could also unearth a managerial diamond.

Another outside bet could be a pairing of former United men Billy McKinlay and Jim McInally.

Badger, as he was fondly known to United fans has prospered as a coach at Fulham in the Premiership under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, while McInally has worked wonders with East Stirlingshire, transforming them from Scotland's worst team to promotion contenders in Division Three.

Both could dig and scrap as players, and if United have a current weakness it is a lack of someone to grab the game by the scruff of the neck on the park. Such a pairing would not tolerate a lack of bite in their team.

John McGlynn of Raith Rovers, though, is still the candidate who ticks most boxes. He's done a great job at Stark's Park on a shoestring budget, works like a demon at the game and is seldom away from the ground.

He has worked well with assiatant manager Peter Houston in the past, and would immediatley be up to speed on the playing staff at Tannadice. McGlynn looks like a very strong contender.

It's a difficult call for the United chairman, a balancing act between finding experience and know-how and ambition and drive to propel the club forward.

The right appointment will see him labelled a hero, the wrong one will give him his first true taste of the fans' ire.

Who would be a club chairman, particularly when your family have thrown more than half their personal wealth away on the club?

But tough choices go with the territory and in the next few days the United supremo will find that out if he hadn't guessed it already.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ive heard quite a few rumours that the appointment has already been made in principle.

    It would appear to be McInnes

  • Comment number 2.

    John Collins in fact

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Jimmy Calderwood, officially.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think United have already made the mistake of going down the old player route a few too many times. All of those listed have potential but we should not forget that Levein had already done it at Hearts before he came to United.
    Unfortunately United have too many constraints to give a young manager time to develop, that was the problem with a few of the previous managers, remember both McCall and Chishom are doing great jobs in the first division today.
    I would hope that we go for someone who has a track record at this level. I would certainly be more hopeful of John Collins being the real thing than any of the others. As you said who would want to be a football chairman!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Jim Spence is someone who lives and breathes in a small town mentality. As someone who recalls the Jim McLean inspired days, his content smacks of trying to build up something which is nothing. United are a sham, losing cash (check their account) while appearing to be vibrant. The best laugh is that a few weeks ago they were singing "we're going to win the league" after beating Celtic. Get a life Arabs. Second best is about right for you guys.

  • Comment number 7.

    "his content smacks of trying to build up something which is nothing. United are a sham, losing cash (check their account) while appearing to be vibrant."

    DUFC like any other team in the SPL & otherwise face difficult financial challenges a £700k hole in the budget owing to the Setanta deal notwithstanding. The debt is there but it is being managed. The previoius manager operated on a shoestring as will the new one.

    The team is going through the very difficult of appointing a new manager following Levein's departure making it all the more difficult.

    Part of this process is looking at the possible candidates & assessing them.

    How this process makes the team a sham & the content of this article irrelevant is a mystery to me.

    It's true Spencey is an Arab but so what. We're a proud bunch & will support whomever the board appoint.

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree with previous correspondence relating to United having already made the mistake of going down the old player route a too many times, Derek McInnes - Michael O'Neill - Billy McKinlay and Jim McInally thats not what we need at United - yes all good within there own capability but we need strong leadership, respect and most of all experience, Arabs have suffered over the years with the poor choice of Manager - lets not create another disaster like we saw with the last Player to manage us remember the Brewster Management team !!!. I hope Stephen Thompson looks long and hard at the options he has available and maybe at this stage John Collins wouldn't be a bad bet, he did turn Hibs around and they were playing good football.

  • Comment number 9.

    take fergie ! PLEASE !

  • Comment number 10.

    Well no-one is disputing that United are not a wealth club, they need to be run on a shoestring as has been said. But I cannot agree with the comment that they are a sham.

    They need to balance their expenditure like all the SPL clubs and that has to be part of the job of the manager. This was certainly one of Levein's top qualities. Hence the next manager needs to be a bit of the same.

    Finally the fact that this is a talking point for Jim Spence and the rest of us seems perfectly reasonable to me. I am sorry for Andrew that he does not think this is a suitably important subject, but why then did he bother posting!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Makes no odds what fans think want or dont, the Board will decide based on financial constraints and us Arabs must support whoever they decide.

    Just PLEASE no former players/managers. 99 times out of 100 it doesnt work at our club.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes Levein will be a hard act to follow, United haven't won since he left.
    I hope United and Thompson get his replacement right first time. The youth aspect of the club will become more and more important.
    We need to have well organised clubs ready to challenge for the top spots in Scottish Football, especially now as Rangers are having financial difficulties and Celtic are in a managerial transition.

    It will be good to see both Dundee teams in the Premier division together. Now we need to get Arbroath to get their act together

  • Comment number 13.

    While I do think that Levein was a good manager, I also think he wasn't the fantastice manager that everybody thinks he is.

    Dundee Utd didn't win anything, he faired worse than Jimmy Calderwood who was hounded out of Aberdeen, he lost 3-0 at home to Rangers and he jumped at the first chance of a bigger job ('although he had a lot of soul searching').

    Just because he wears specs doesn't make him a connoisseur.

  • Comment number 14.

    Levein had a very average record at Utd. He has been bounced into the Scotland job by the press for some strange reason. I don't think he will be sucessful.

    I also think he underachieved at Tannadice. Last season they should have got into Europe. For my Money Calderwood achieved much more in difficult circumstances at Aberdeen.

    He would be a good choice for Utd. However Steven Thompson was one of the main supporters of Setanta, so his decision making is no that good.

    Also his handling of the abandoned game v Rangers was abysmal.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    Being a DFC fan I could not care less. What did CL actually achieve at Utd? Are they a great side? No Did they win anything under CL? No

  • Comment number 17.

    Give Stephen Thompson a break. Like I've said before you have to make do with what you have and what you have is a former C.E. of a moderately successful chain of convenience stores.

    Not to doubt his business accumen and boardroom experience in this environment, but comercial awareness in a service/supply based organisation is hardly the ideal preparation for the role of Chairman at DUFC. Senior management experience in a large international corporate would be more like it.

    I don't doubt that the SFA were in breech of civil obligations when they prised your manager away. ST's failure to capitalise on this showed his inexperience when he settled matters so quickly, and didn't push for greater compensation. Now he is faced with negotiating a compensation agreement that is more than the well publicesed £250k received for Levein.

    He's doing his best but why he bothers, I don't know. I don't think he's the sort that takes advice. Football Chairmen rarely do, but at least he nails his colours to the mast. So what you see is what you get.

    No wonder you lot are knowns as the Arabs. Always divided and ready to slit each other's throats.

    Take an example from your own Chairman an get behind him. The rest of us are relying on you lot to match up to the old firm and try and kick-start the game again.


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