IN VIEW of the flak he has attracted since the year got off to a misleadingly upbeat start with a 6-2 victory over rivals Dundee, it is easy to wonder whether Australia is far enough away for Stephen Thompson.
The under-fire Dundee United chairman is in the process of putting together a deal to secure the licence to form a team in the space vacated by A-League club Newcastle Jets, who are currently in administration. He is doing so as the head of a consortium that also features Mike Martin, the well-respected, Edinburgh-based Tannadice director with a long history of working in senior roles within the financial services industry. But the club have moved to make it clear that they are working in personal capacities, seeking to ease fears their ambitions Down Under could lead to a loss of focus.
It is understandable that Dundee United fans are concerned that two such prominent figures in their currently seven-person – this word is used advisedly – board have their minds elsewhere. Not just elsewhere, but on the other side of the world.
Derek Robertson, another director, is due to step down at the end of this season, which means heads are beginning to turn once more towards Justine Mitchell, Thompson’s sister and one of two females in positions of authority at Tannadice – her mother and late owner Eddie Thompson’s wife Cath is honorary president. Justine was hailed as “the future” of the club by her father as long ago as 2007. However, an unimaginably cruel twist hampered these plans when her husband, Ken, was killed in a motorcycle accident just days before the death of Eddie, from cancer.
Stephen stepped in to take the reins with more success than many imagined at the time – those United fans calling for him to sling his hook should be careful what they wish for. But it seems certain the Thompson family are not yet ready to sever their ties with the club, whatever lies on the horizon for the current owner.
Perhaps Justine can within time become what her father once imagined and establish herself as the figurehead at Dundee United, strengthening the feeling that in Scottish football, where Hearts owner Ann Budge and Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster are already blazing trails, the future really is feminine.