The chairman’s eye has been taken off the ball at Tannadice as problems continue to mount for the Dundee club.
So it seems that Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson is close to buying out Australian League side Newcastle Jets after nearly a year of negotiations. With Thompson reportedly impressing the A-League with his work on cutting United’s debt during his tenureship.
He may have been saddled with a club saddled with debt after his father passed away and handed him the keys to Tannadice, but since then he has micro managed the club’s affairs for one ultimate goal – getting rid of the debt no matter what.
That has seen two of the club’s top players sold off to Celtic, the side that United were facing in the League Cup Final and the Scottish Cup quarter final in quick succession. United lost two key players for £2 million and while their services were not used by Celtic during those two games due to the duo being cup-tied, Celtic were effectively handed the League Cup Final and the quarter final win thanks to Thompson’s inept management.
How United fans would have loved the businessman to take a leaf out of Hibernian’s book back then. Imagine United had said no to Celtic and kept both players – it could have turned the tide in favour of United. They could have secured the League Cup and would have faced Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup semi final – with another potential cup final on the cards.
But rather than looking at the bigger picture and giving his club’s supporters someone to celebrate for years to come, balancing the books was more important than silverware.
Since then United have sold off Nadir Ciftci, once again to Celtic, for £1.5 million. The player wanted away and with no other club coming in for him, Celtic were always going to be the final destination for the striker.
But why would Thompson sell arguably his three best players to a rival club in the Premiership?
A statement in April 2015, published on the official club website, read: “Supporters can rest assured that the Board is comprised of individuals that are, without exception, Dundee United supporters. They bring with them a wealth of experience in business. At all times, the Board acts to promote the success of Dundee United and will continue to do so.”
I wonder how many United fans looked at that paragraph and questioned what they had been eating and drinking that day – were they hallucinating? If the board were promoting the success of Dundee United when they sold Gary Mackay Steven and Stuart Armstrong to Celtic?
On a side note both players hit the ground running at Celtic and gave Ronny Deila’s side a fresh impetus to push on and secure their fourth title in a row.
Maybe just maybe behind all that PR guff that clubs love to peddle to their fans the real issue lay hidden.
The United board reduced the overall debt of the club – including Thompson family loans – from £5.2 million in February 2014 to £2.6 million while ridding the Club of all bank debt.
Where did the £2 million go from the sale of Mackay Steven and Armstrong? Then there was the sale of Andrew Robertson to Hull City last summer for £2.85 million.
Thompson has certainly cleaned up the books but it has been detrimental to on the field matters. After the sale to Celtic, United won only four out of NINETEEN games!
They lost 12 games and drew three times as they spiraled out of control and out of European qualification.
Straight away the media and the supporters would focus on the players and manager Jackie McNamara – and rightly so for they are the ones who take to the field and who put the team out onto the pitch. And with some questioning McNamara’s position as manager just five games into the season and having only won once – they real villain must surely be Stephen Thompson.
Thompson has taken his eye off the ball at United as he continues to flirt with his new mistress his new toy down under. This ‘personal venture’ of his – as part of a consortium – has taken up huge amounts of his time including last week’s trip to Oz. But at least he made it back in time to see his first love lose once more to Celtic 3-1.
When I say Celtic I meant their second string side as Ronny Deila made NINE changes against a United side which last season would have ripped this Second XI to shreds.
If the current form of the team continues it won’t be long before McNamara will be shown the door and a new victim appointed to take his place.
Thompson reportedly wants to run the Newcastle Jets in a similar way as he has done at United – you can’t help but laugh can you? The A-League are mightily impressed with Thompson’s management, but can the same be said for the United supporters?
To make matters worse for United – three members of the ArabTRUST fans group quit unexpectedly throwing the group into somewhat disarray despite the front put on by ArabTRUST chairman Grant McKenzie. This followed on from the Federation of Dundee United Supporters clubs questioning the suspension of highly-rated youth director Stevie Campbell after a decade of service with the club.
No reason has been given, as yet, for Campbell’s suspension but the rumour mill was in overdrive with claims that McNamara wanted to replace him with Neil McCann. Yes Neil McCann. I don’t need to say anything else on that.
If United are not careful, they could not only see the benefits of all their hard work evaporate overnight, but they could see the fans turning their back on the club in significant numbers.
10,605 fans went to see United lose 3-1 to what was effectively Celtic’s reserve side at the weekend – do you honestly believe that these fans will continue to return if the side become nothing more than bottom six cannon fodder? Another Kilmarnock? Albeit Ross County and Hamilton Accies would be pleased.
Thompson needs to get his head out of the sand and focus his energy on the playing side of United again, otherwise ditch the ‘old toy’ and shack up with your new mistress. Let someone else revitalise Dundee United, one who isn’t swayed by the sun, sea and sand of New South Wales.
There is panic and anger on the terracing and it is growing louder. Silence it one way or another and let the club get back to challenging for European places and cup silverware.