SPL preview: Dundee United
Ex-Ross County star Michael Gardyne is ready to play key role for home town club, writes Moira Gordon.
MICHAEL Gardyne isn’t used to losing. Dundee United’s summer signing from Ross County was an integral part of a Dingwall squad which negotiated 35 of last term’s 36 league games without defeat. It won the club promotion to the SPL and the striker a move to Tannadice.
Now he is back in his home town of Dundee, and with United tipped as one of the main contenders for second place in the absence of Rangers, he knows another good unbeaten run would help.
First, the club have to improve on the sluggish starts which hampered them in the past couple of campaigns. On both occasions they managed only stuttering bursts from the blocks and it left manager Peter Houston on the brink of the sack last October. But, just as they were the season before when they finished strongly in the league and cup, fortunes were again reversed last year as they turned defeats and draws into victories in the second half of the campaign.
“I think the boys have said that themselves,” said Gardyne. “They know that if they had started the season the way they finished then they would have finished a lot higher and maybe even ahead of Motherwell, so that’s the aim, to start better and get off to a good start.
“We have talked about that and we know it is important. Every club wants to finish as high up the league and, obviously, with no Rangers in the league this season, the incentives are massive, with everyone wanting that extra Champions League qualifying place.
“For the past few seasons United have been in Europe and that is obviously the aim again and if we could switch the Europa League for Champions League then that would be the goal.”
The club have lost regulars such as Paul Dixon, Danny Swanson and Garry Kenneth but while Houston admits he would have preferred to add another one or two to bolster his defence, he is likely to be curtailed by spending constraints, though in the likes of Gardyne he has galvanised his attack. A target of the Tannadice manager for over a year, both are happy to finally be working together, with Houston admitting that the former Celtic starlet has exceeded early expectations and features firmly in his plans as the season gets underway.
“All the new players seem to be gelling well with the guys who were here last season and we are positive about the new season,” says 26-year-old Gardyne. “Pre-season has been going well but you can never really tell how that will translate when the competitive games start but I would like to think we are looking quite good. It’s nice to impress the manager, that’s what you want to do, especially coming in to a new team. I have been working hard in training and trying to impress.”
Having failed to make the breakthrough at Celtic, he has had a circuitous route to top flight football, including a couple of spells at Ross County and a period at Greenock Morton. But he has always believed in his own ability and says that the ghosts of opportunities lost were laid to rest in the Highland side’s semi-final defeat of Celtic a couple of seasons ago, leaving him free to concentrate on his new employers.
“I really don’t feel I have anything to prove but I’m grateful that Peter Houston has given me the chance to play SPL football so I would like to do well for him and everyone here at Dundee united.”
And it also gives him a chance to impress his in-laws. “My wife is a Dundee girl as well and her family is Dundee United so signing here was a good way to keep in with them.”
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