Last Thursday, it was announced in a joint press conference between Peter Houston and Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson that the man who has been in the Tannadice hot-seat since December 2009 will be stepping down at the end of the season.
I’ll be honest; I was relieved to hear that news, not just because it kept my previous Scotzine article relevant, but because I did believe it was for the best.
I can’t claim to know what is in the mind of the gaffer, but considering he had previously said he’d have been happy to sign a new contract at the same rate, his reasons for leaving – not motivated by his own personal contract but rather his concern for the club’s standing in the SPL with further budget cuts looming – just didn’t ring true for me.
Yes, Dundee United have to reduce their costs, but they are not alone in that regard. All SPL clubs – even Celtic – will likely aim to reduce costs over the next few years, and even if United do have to operate with a significantly smaller wage budget, it will still be higher than the likes of Motherwell, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, St. Mirren, Kilmarnock, Ross County and Dundee.
With that in mind, I can’t help but think a manager who is committed to the cause and has enough confidence in his own ability – something that Peter Houston doesn’t seem to lack – could keep Dundee United in the top six or thereabouts for the foreseeable future.
But hey, fair play to both him and Stephen Thompson for ending the speculation early and keeping us all in the loop.
I wish Houston all the best and hope that he can find his next job sooner rather than later.
The question now though is who do we get in to replace him?
Ever since the rumours of Houston’s departure started to circulate, both fans and members of the media alike have been speculating wildly about who might be next into the Tannadice hot-seat.
Naturally, the suggestions have ranged from the predictable choices (Paul Sturrock, Terry Butcher, Jimmy Calderwood et al) to the fantastically daft (Dick Campbell, David Beckham and even the BBC’s own intrepid Arab, Jim Spence).
Right now, the name on most peoples’ lips is Derek McInnes.
I can’t claim to be thrilled about that. It seems as though people have put two and two together to make five.
McInnes has just come out of a job and is known to be keen to get back to work as soon as possible, but when you look at his record as a manager, it’s not exactly inspiring. For a start, he would be coming in to a club where the majority of fans would remember only too well his spectacularly unsuccessful stint as our over-paid and ineffectual captain. He is the poster boy of the big spending, low success Ian McCall era.
If he had been shown to be a highly successful manager in the time since his Tannadice departure, then maybe I’d reconsider, but when you look at his record, it’s clear that he’s not.
Yes, he got St. Johnstone promoted, but while he was in charge they finished in the bottom six twice and in one season were the lowest goal-scorers in the country with a meagre 23 goals in 38 games.
And his idea of a good signing includes both David Robertson and David McCracken, which says it all!
But seriously, the one thing that counts against Derek McInnes most for me is the current St.Johnstone side. Until his departure in 2011, he had been in charge of the McDiarmid Park outfit for almost four years, assisted by his colleague Tony Docherty; a man who has a reputation for being great at working with youngsters.
And yet if you look at their side as it currently stands, there is not one single player who has come through the youth system under McInnes playing regular first team football for them.
Future success for Dundee United is heavily linked to our youth system, and we need a man with a proven track record of giving kids a chance.
Fans criticise Peter Houston for playing favourites and not giving the kids enough time on the pitch, but compared to McInnes, his record is exemplary.
So If Not McInnes, Who?
I can’t claim to know who the best man for the Dundee United job is; to me, that’s Stephen Thompson’s job. This is where he has to prove his worth to the club.
But if you were to ask me to paint a picture of my ideal candidate, I’d say the new manager would fulfill the following criteria.
He Must Work Well With Stephen Thompson
The poor relationship between the manager and chairman has cast a shadow over Tannadice for the past year and a half. I’ve worked in a company before where the decision makers at the top were at odds with each other, and it didn’t make for a happy working environment. A football club might not be quite the same, but it’s still a workplace.
He Must Also Work Well With Stevie Campbell
Dundee United invest a lot of money into its youth system, and the new manager must be willing to give the kids training under Campbell a chance.
He Must Have A Good Scouting Network
I made fun of McInnes signing David Robertson and David McCracken, but it’s a serious point. You can’t just bring in a manager who will sign guys he knows and has played with.
The foundation of Dundee United’s current team was built by a manager who picked quality players from obscurity. The new manager must continue that philosophy and not aim for high cost/poor value signings like Rudi Skacel.
He Must Live In The City
It might seem a small thing, but hiring a manager who lives in the Dundee area is important, not just for keeping an eye on what’s going on with his staff, but for being part of the community.
You get the feeling based on Stephen Thompson’s recent comment on the subject that this may well have been a sticking point in negotiations with the Glasgow-based Houston.
He Doesn’t Have To Have Played For Dundee United
You’ve heard all the names in the frame; Sturrock, McInnes, McKinnon, McIntyre, Billy bloody Dodds, Jim McInally, Maurice Malpas and more. None of them are inspiring, but when it comes to appointing a new manager, some fans and even some Chairmen just can’t see beyond ex-players.
To me, the best man for the job is the one who ticks all the boxes above; having played for the club in the past is neither here nor there. As I say, I don’t know who that man is, but I trust Stephen Thompson to take his time and consider his options carefully. Listening to the fans is important, but it shouldn’t get in the way of him recruiting the best man to manage the most important part of his business. But we can only wait and see…