JACKIE McNamara admitted he could not turn down the opportunity to accelerate his progress to top-flight management with Dundee United despite the difficult decision of leaving Partick Thistle.
The former Scotland defender was unveiled by United after leaving Thistle in second place in the Irn-Bru First Division, five points off leaders Morton but with two games in hand.
McNamara emerged as the leading candidate over the previous 48 hours after United spoke to the likes of Steven Pressley and Billy Dodds over the managerial vacancy created by the expedited departure of Peter Houston on Monday morning.
Thistle have been leading the First Division for much of the season and are in the Ramsdens Cup final but McNamara knew he could not pass up the opportunity. “It has been difficult,” he said. “Obviously it was a big decision to make, to leave Thistle at this time. But it’s one that feels right. It says what I think of Dundee United to do that.
“It wasn’t an easy decision but the things that are in place here are the things that really attracted me to the job. It’s an established SPL club with a fantastic playing squad, infrastructure and youth set-up.”
McNamara, who has signed a three-year contract, has only been in management since April 2011, when he initially took over from Ian McCall on a caretaker basis before securing a permanent deal a month later. Thistle finished sixth last season and McNamara impressed by turning the Jags into title contenders on a reduced budget to earn him a chance in the SPL. “It has come a lot quicker than I expected in my managerial career,” said McNamara, who has taken assistant Simon Donnelly with him from Firhill.
“You obviously want to do well and get better at things as I did as a player and go up and up. It has come really early on and that’s why it’s the right time to take it. Great jobs like United don’t come around very often.
“It’s a club with a fantastic tradition, with a lot of trophies and great players and great managers over the years.”
The former Celtic captain arrives three days before United host Rangers in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round in one of the most eagerly-anticipated matches of the season, but his composure was one of the attributes that made him stand out as a player and he is taking the high-profile introduction in his stride.
“We just have to get to work quickly,” he said. “These were the type of games I relished as a player and it will be the same on Saturday.”
He added: “I could stand here for an hour and tell you all the things I didn’t expect to have to deal with as a manager. But I think the biggest lesson I have learned is the players are so important. You have to look after the players.”
McNamara joined on the eve of the transfer deadline but he is not looking to change his squad already. “I would be happy if nothing happens,” he said.
Scotland Under-21 internationals Gary Mackay-Steven and Johnny Russell were earlier linked with Crystal Palace but chairman Stephen Thompson insisted there was no news.
Thompson, who revealed McNamara was the outstanding candidate of a “rigorous” recruitment process, said: “There has been no approach at all for any player.”