John Rankin: Banned Ciftci still has part to play

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NADIR Ciftci may be suspended but John Rankin believes the striker can still play a vital part as the Dundee United players seek to put a smile on their faces before tomorrow’s League Cup final with Celtic.

United have reached back-to-back finals for the first time since the Jim McLean era but Rankin wants to ensure there is no return of a hoodoo following last season’s defeat to St Johnstone in the Scottish Cup final.

Ciftci is a dressing room joker at Tannadice. Picture: SNS

Ciftci is a dressing room joker at Tannadice. Picture: SNS

The United midfielder has a theory why his side slipped to such a limp 2-0 defeat on that occasion – they were too serious.

“I keep going back to it, we never enjoyed ourselves,” Rankin stressed. “Even in the dressing-room we were uptight. Nadir is suspended but he is one of the main jokers in the dressing-room.

“Hopefully, he will be there to entertain us with his socks on the wrong feet and his boxer shorts on inside out because he hasn’t cleaned them. That sort of stuff relaxes you. It might do the trick but we need a bit of relaxation in the dressing-room.

“It was a quiet determination in the dressing room before St Johnstone rather than the usual upbeat atmosphere,” he continued. “We need a joke, or a fart or something just to get the boys to relax.

“I’m joking now but on Sunday I will be one of the serious ones. But we do need to have that camaraderie.

“The biggest thing is we need to enjoy ourselves this year,” he continued. “We never enjoyed ourselves last year. If you look back at the final, if you look at the DVD, you won’t see a United player playing with a smile on their face. There wasn’t one that day. We need to go into the game with a relaxed feeling and a determination that we are going to enjoy ourselves. Rankin didn’t believe the tag of favourites weighed heavily on them at Celtic Park in May. In any case, he pointed out, hadn’t St Johnstone beaten them in three out of four league encounters? But it remains a sore point, he conceded. He is still annoyed that the “real Dundee United” didn’t turn up that day.

“Why were there no smiles?” he wondered. “I don’t think it was expectation. I think it was more a fear of going and winning a trophy. People talk about expectation but we handled the expectation of the league season and the semi-final when going to Ibrox and playing Rangers in a hostile atmosphere.

“I think we played with a fear that we weren’t going to achieve something. We need to play with a smile and be relaxed and who knows what can happen?

“St Johnstone beat us three times in the league and quite convincingly too. People tipped us as favourites but we didn’t see it like that. It was just a disappointing day.

“But we’ve got the chance to address that and put it right,” he added.

“If we put in a good performance – a battling performance with pride, passion and desire like we did against Celtic at the weekend – the fans will be right behind us.”

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