PETER Houston’s departure from Dundee United yesterday has paved the way for Falkirk’s Steven Pressley to succeed him as manager at Tannadice, providing the clubs can agree on a compensation package.
Houston left United yesterday “by mutual consent”, just 11 days after the club arranged a press conference to confirm the manager would not be remaining at Tannadice when his contract expired at the end of the season. Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Ross County meant United are without a home win in the league since a derby victory over Dundee in August.
“It’s been something we’ve been thinking about for a few days, and that’s the decision we’ve reached,” said United chairman Stephen Thompson. “I’m going to go back and speak to my board and have discussions with them. Peter made his decision [not to renew his contract], and this is us making ours. I would like to thank him for all the hard work in the last three years.
“You’ll find out in the next couple of days where we are,” he added. “I would prefer someone in place before this weekend. We’ve been working on it for the past wee while, quietly, behind the scenes.”
Dundee United entertain Rangers on Saturday in a much-hyped Scottish Cup fifth round encounter. The Ibrox club have asked their fans not to travel to Tannadice in protest at opposition to Rangers being allowed to remain in the Scottish Premier League after they were relaunched as a new company in the summer.
United’s struggles at home under Houston might well have influenced Thompson’s decision yesterday. The chairman said that he felt the departure of Houston now rather than at the end of the season was in the “best interests” of the club.
“I know on the continent it works very well, that the coach says he’s stepping down before the end of the season,” said Thompson. “It’s maybe different in the UK, we’re maybe not quite used to that kind of thing.”
Although Thompson admitted last night that there had been some late interest from a candidate in England, Pressley is favourite to be named manger in time for the visit of another of his former clubs on Sunday. Falkirk are understood to be demanding the best part of £100,000 for their manager’s services. Pressley took over from Eddie May in February 2010 and has since distinguished himself by fielding youthful teams who try to play attractive football. United are keen to appoint someone able to cope with cutbacks while bringing through the young talent at Tannadice. Pressley is, however, known to be an arch critic of the new league format of 12-12-18, a set-up which Dundee United agreed to back yesterday at an SPL meeting.
Pressley, who played with United between 1995 and 1998, has indicated he will take his coaching staff with him. Former Dundee United manager Alex Smith is currently Pressley’s assistant at the Falkirk stadium, while Neil MacFarlane and Stevie Crawford, a former United striker, are also on the coaching staff. Falkirk are currently sitting fifth in the First Division, eighteen points behind leaders Morton.
Pressley impressed during an interview with Thompson on Sunday. Jackie McNamara, the Partick Thistle manager, has also held talks with the United chairman, as has former United striker Billy Dodds.
Falkirk have already made tentative steps to identify a replacement for Pressley, with current Dunfermline manager Jim Jefferies understood to be a candidate. Houston, meanwhile, has again been linked with a move to Blackpool, who made a request to speak to the manager when he was still at United earlier this month.