LIKE most managers, Jackie McNamara always wants a little more. During the close season, that usually means another signing and he says he would be delighted if he could land one more target before the transfer window closes, but he insists he won’t lose any sleep if he has to go into the new campaign with the players he already has.
There have already been nine new recruits but he believes they were necessary having seen how the squad struggled in certain areas last term and taking into account the first-team players who departed in the summer.
Many would have balked at the challenge of replacing inspirational figures like former captain Jon Daly, as well as one of the nation’s best youngsters Johnny Russell. Add to that list Willo Flood and Barry Douglas and a substantial chunk of last season’s first-choice team had to be replaced. He has done that carefully, plugging gaps, creating competition and enhancing a team he believes performed under-par in finishing sixth last term.
“The balance in the squad wasn’t there last year and when we lost some players to injury we didn’t have enough back-up in certain areas, particularly in defence and attack. I’m confident we have addressed that and I’m hopeful we can cope if we do get injuries and suspensions this term.”
With very little to distinguish between the teams on a week to week basis, finding a way through the tough times will be key to climbing the league table. “I look at the teams who did well last year and they were either very lucky that they had very few casualties throughout the season so they could field a settled team or they had a squad that was competitive enough for them to bring people in to replace those who were out injured without weakening the team.”
Consistency of selection, consistency in results are both vital, says McNamara, who knows that, with Rangers still trying to climb back up through the leagues and Hearts preoccupied with not tumbling down them, there is an opportunity for teams like Dundee United to be challenged for second place.
“If you are not looking to make the most of that, not looking to be finishing up the top of the table, there wouldn’t be any point in us starting the season. You have to be excited by those kind of opportunities.
“We under-achieved last year and we weren’t good enough at home so the players know we need to improve on that this year and we need to be more consistent. If we can do that then we have the chance to have a very good season.”
How good he thinks it could be is a discussion he will only be having behind closed doors, though. This time last year he addressed his Partick Thistle players and told them that he was aiming to win the league and gain promotion. He may have left for Tannadice before the job was completed but those players did see things through. “We were quite confident in private,” says McNamara. “We just didn’t shout about it publicly. It’s the same here. The players will all know what our targets are but I won’t be shouting this or that from the rooftops.”
Having lost key players, he says it is up to the new signings to make an impact. “The players who left were great servants of the club but we have got David Goodwillie back and we are hoping he can do what he is so good at and if he can then we won’t miss the likes of Johnny Russell. It is the same with the other new lads.”