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Dundee United v Northampton Town - Pre-Season Friendly

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Fan Focus: Dundee United writer David says ex-Sunderland manager Jack Ross is a popular appointment!

Ahead of Sunderland’s third pre-season match, Matty spoke to Dundee United writer, David Reid, to discuss their recruitment of Jack Ross and Steven Fletcher!

Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

RR: After guiding Dundee United to fourth last season, Tam Courts left the club to become manager of Budapest Honvéd. Was it a shock to see him leave for a Hungarian side?

David Reid: First and foremost, Tam Courts enjoyed a successful year in charge at Tannadice but had his critics among the United fanbase as well.

Having said that, Courts always enjoyed a good rapport with the supporters and guided the club to Europe for the first time in over a decade.

Interest intensified towards the end of the season with a couple of English clubs being linked with Tam followed by HNK Rijeka, which didn’t materalise, before he eventually moved to Budapest. Surprise? In the end, no!

RR: The man who replaced him is ex-Sunderland manager Jack Ross. How did that appointment go down among the fanbase?

DR: The appointment of Jack Ross has been popular among the Dundee United supporters, the admin of the social media account was definitely under pressure to deliver in his announcement when Jack was announced, something which the United media team did in a unique way.

The noise so far from the United fans regarding Jack Ross has been nothing but positive. Signings of any magnitude will maintain that and Jack has got off to a good start by signing Dylan Levitt, who was a cult hero at Tannadice last season.

RR: In terms of aspirations for the new season, will the aim be to finish third and challenge for a cup trophy?

DR: Very much so. Jack did well to finish third a few seasons ago with Hibs, but his achilles heel with Hibs supporters was his record in the latter stages of cup competitions. The United fanbase are an enthusiastic bunch who follow their team everywhere they go, a fantastic following is expected at Fleetwood next weekend, for example.

Tony Ashghar (Dundee United sporting director) is big on progression both on and off the park within the club, and people are quick to forget the football club were in the 2nd tier of Scottish football a couple of years ago – something that feels and sounds funny.

Now United are in a position to challenge for cups and compete for European football, that will be the remit given to Jack.

Jack Ross Starts Work at Sunderland
Jack Ross lost the EFL Trophy final on penalties, as well as the playoff final during his first season with Sunderland.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

RR: Your most noticeable signing of the window is another ex-Sunderland name, with 35-year-old Steven Fletcher joining the club. Do you think he will still be able to score goals, having struggled at Stoke last season?

DR: He’s a signing that offers experience but the supporters were mixed in their opinion of the striker when he was announced at Tannadice.

In January, United signed Tony Watt, who got a lot of praise for his overall contribution but only scored a few goals. Having a good number nine in Fletcher will help the team and our other attack-minded players.

RR: Another eye-catching move was the permanent signing of 21-year-old Welsh international Dylan Levitt from Manchester United, after he spent time on loan at Tannadice last season. How far do you think he can go in football?

DR: Very far. He chose United because of the rapport he’d established with the fans last season. He also didn’t want to keep getting loaned out places which is a recurring theme with Man United.

Tannadice is home for now but the opportunities are endless, World Cup for Wales will be a big target for Levitt.

If Sunderland fans aren’t aware, Belinda Carlisle is very popular around Tannadice right now...

RR: Aside from the above-mentioned players, who will Alex Neil’s squad have to keep an eye on?

DR: Ryan Edwards, Charlie Mulgrew and Ross Graham, who all offer something different defensively but form a fantastic relationship. The latter endured a torrential spell under Peter Grant at Dunfermline but Tam gave him encouragement and he scored the opener in a 1-1 draw against Rangers in February.

Edwards and Mulgrew offer experience, plus Edwards has recently been subject to interest from Charlton.

Dundee United v Heart of Midlothian - Cinch Premiership
Ryan Edwards with former boss Tam Courts last season
Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images

RR: In terms of pre-season, where is your squad at in terms of the number of matches played and fitness levels?

DR: Undercooked. They have just spent a week in Marbella where it’s warm weather but played only one behind closed-door game – against Port Vale. [Ed: That game consisted of three spells of 25 minutes, while Dundee United also played a game against Northampton Town before heading to Spain.]

It will be interesting if Levitt plays as he hobbled off in that game on Wednesday. The match against Sunderland will be ideal in many ways for United.

RR: It is more difficult in pre-season, but which 11 players do you believe Ross will select, and what style of play has he brought in?

DR: Carljohan Eriksson (Ross looking to bring in a goalie who will be number 1 though), Kieran Freeman, Ryan Edwards, Charlie Mulgrew, Ross Graham, Ian Harkes, Craig Sibbald, Dylan Levitt, Nicky Clark, Ilmari Niskanen or Tony Watt and Steven Fletcher.

Philosophy will be forward-thinking, high press with organisation.

RR: Finally, what is your prediction for the final score?

DR: 1-1

Dundee United v Northampton Town - Pre-Season Friendly
Jack Ross, who earlier this summer played in John Cooke’s benefit game, manages his first match at Tannadice Park in charge of Dundee United this afternoon.
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images


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