DUNDEE United secured their first league win since August on Saturday with a narrow victory against St Mirren but the result was overshadowed by the row over new signing Rudi Skacel’s choice of shirt number.
St Mirren 0 - 1 Dundee Utd
Scorer: Russell 69, pen
Referee: E Norris
Skacel made his United debut in Paisley with his new No 51 jersey on. The Czech winger opted for the digits as a tribute to former club Hearts’ 5-1 win over Edinburgh rivals Hibs in the last season’s Scottish Cup final.
United manager Peter Houston claims he had no idea of the significance of the squad number until it was too late and has apologised to Hibs fans.
“It’s not my style to upset people,” explained Houston. “I said there were a few numbers available and he asked for 51.
“Call me naive but Gary Hooper wears 88 and Victor Wanyama wears 67 and I never thought of 51 being 5-1. Trust me when I say that.
“It’s registered straight away and, once you register it, you can’t go back on it. I apologise to the Hibs fans. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have given him the number. I’m not in the habit of trying to wind people up or noise other clubs up. Hibs are a fantastic club.
“Last night I was at Fir Park [at Motherwell’s game against Hibs] doing TV and there were boys running down the aisles trying to have a go at me. I spoke to a couple of them and they were very reasonable.
“But I wouldn’t have given Rudi the 51 if I’d thought about it clearly. It wasn’t until the next day that someone mentioned it to me.”
Skacel came off the bench for the final 25 minutes on Saturday, with a Johnny Russell penalty in the second half securing the win. Houston added: “We’ve got Rudi until the end of January. I’m sure he’s a player we’d like to keep. He was brilliant in negotiations. He’s on nowhere near the kind of money he was probably on at Hearts.
“All he wants to do is play. Where I’ve got it wrong is letting him pick the 51 without switching on to it.”
Russell had to beat Skacel to the ball to step up for the penalty that ended a run of six SPL games without a win for United.
“I think there was a bit of confusion,” said Russell, who converted after a needless handball by Buddies striker Steven Thompson.
“The boys said to Rudi to hit it and I don’t know if Rudi wanted it or not. I ran after the ball so I was taking it. It’s usually Jon Daly who takes the penalties but he let me take it and I was chuffed to get a goal.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon has urged his players to bounce back from the disappointment of Saturday’s loss by booking their place in the last four of the Scottish Communities League Cup.
Next up for Lennon’s men is a midweek trip to Aberdeen in the quarter-finals of the League Cup tomorrow night and the manager is desperate to progress further in the competition.
He believes the display against United took his side some way towards making amends for their 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Celtic last week and he wants to see them go a step further at Pittodrie.
Lennon said: “The fans showed great forgiveness. They were with us right until the final whistle and they drove us on. We are disappointed, but we have a wonderful opportunity on Tuesday to get back on track.
“It will be nice to get a break from the marathon of the league campaign.
“We go to Aberdeen for a very challenging game against a team who are doing very well.
“But there’s a prize at stake of a place in a semi-final of a big competition, with a lot of glory and big finances for the club. There’s a lot at stake on Tuesday.”