FORGET the speculation, forget the predictions of some and the denials of others – as far as Dundee United manager Peter Houston is concerned, there is no likelihood of his players downing tools simply because they know he is leaving, especially not when there is a trip to Celtic Park looming.
“You have to be 100 per cent switched on when you play a team like Celtic or you could get embarrassed and no player, no manager wants that,” insisted Houston, who announced he would be quitting Tannadice when his contract expires at the end of the season. “The game against Celtic will be a difficult game but I don’t have any doubts about the players’ attitude. I spoke with the players and explained everything to them. I have never had any reason to doubt their commitment or effort, in fact, even though we have not done as well as we had hoped so far this season, the players have always been fully committed.
“What we need to cut out is the silly individual mistakes and we are working on that.”
Houston knows that there is rarely any margin for error when visiting Celtic Park. But he is still hopeful that he can taste victory in Tuesday’s rearranged SPL fixture. “I have won at Ibrox but the win at Celtic Park has, so far, eluded me and I would like to rectify that but we are under no illusion. I know Celtic have dropped some points at home this season, and they might, hopefully, have one eye on the Juventus game which is coming up, but we know we are the underdogs.”
The two teams drew their last meeting 2-2 at Tannadice in November courtesy of two very late goals for Houston’s men and they did defeat Neil Lennon’s side in their final clash of last season but, again, that was in Tayside. A couple of heavy defeats have been partially offset by a clutch of draws between the teams in Glasgow but the win has proved beyond them so far.
The return of Gary Mackay-Steven has boosted a United side which has been fairly stretched at various stages throughout the current campaign but Celtic have added even more depth to their squad, making it tough for Houston to work out exactly who his players will be lining up against.
“We had someone watching them against Hearts and we will try to get hold of a DVD of the game but Neil [Lennon] has so many options. He may include the new signings against us, he might not but, even if he doesn’t, he still has so many quality players to choose from. It means we have to concentrate on ourselves and hope that what we do is good enough. And if we can cut out the silly mistakes which have cost us then we can give them a game and hopefully pick up some points and start moving up the league.
“I want to finish in the top six and the players want that as well and we all know we are going to have to work hard for it but I’m confident we are all willing to do that.”