Dundee United’s John Rankin looking to put one over former team-mate Ben Williams
JOHN Rankin has shared many a laugh with his former Manchester United youth team-mate Ben Williams but in the wind-up stakes the Dundee United man hopes he will be the one with a smile on his face when the final whistle sounds this afternoon.
A positive recommendation from the Tannadice midfielder helped his former club Hibs lure their new goalkeeper Williams in the summer but while the pair are looking forward to renewing acquaintances, Rankin would still love to spoil his pal’s competitive debut.
“I played with Ben in the youth team. That’s a long time ago now, mind you. About 14 years ago,” he recalled. “He’s great company. I’ve a lot of good memories. We’ve had a good laugh together. We went to Marbella together but I’m teetotal, though, so it was a good laugh waking up in the morning with me being able to tell him: ‘Ben, do you know you did this last night?’ It was enjoyable and I’m looking forward to seeing him. I’ve kind of calmed down since I came here but I’ll definitely be winding Ben up a bit ahead of the game.”
United are one of the favourites to finish the SPL second behind Celtic but have been slow starters in recent years. On Thursday night, though, they gave an encouraging display against Dynamo Moscow, finishing 2-2 in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier.
“I feel we have the balance in the squad and belief. We started the season last year a bit naïve and we didn’t really know one another. But the way we finished the season last year gives us confidence and there’s not really anyone having to gel. We’ve brought in three players which I don’t think is as much a turnover as last season. Barry Douglas, for example, was in the squad last year but unfortunate not to play a lot of the time and he showed his qualities the other night. Hopefully we can get off to a flyer [today] and then take the game to [the Russians] on Thursday.
“I don’t think [Dynamo Moscow] gave us the respect they should have,” added the midfielder. “That probably inspired us a wee bit. We thought to ourselves: Why have they not shown us the respect we are due? But they might look at it now and see how we can perform. We were a massive threat in attack. I thought we played some great stuff.”
Despite producing a sharp team performance in their first competitive match of the new term, luck was not on United’s side as their guests grabbed a late, late equaliser. Rankin, though, is confident they can overcome that deficit, but first they aim to set down a domestic marker in their SPL opener against Hibs. “I thought it was an unfortunate goal to concede because it comes off Richie [Ryan]’s backside and flies into the top corner. It’s almost the same scenario [as the Europa League qualifiers] last year when a worldy [world-class goal] from 30 yards was such a knock to us. But we’ve worked hard, we look sharp and are full of confidence. It was disappointing to concede late on but it does give us confidence going into the new season.”
Which should be enough to worry Hibs. And having been on holiday with the Hibs keeper and witnessed enough of his morning-after blushes, Rankin would love to be in a position to send a cheeky wee text again tomorrow morning, reminding Williams of something he might prefer to forget.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
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