Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara is rooting for city rivals Dundee to clinch the title this weekend – because he has sorely missed the thrill of their derby day battles.
Dundee can seal a top-flight return tomorrow by beating Dumbarton at sold-out Dens Park and that would bring about a much-welcome return of the derby.
McNamara took over the reins at Tannadice last January and was fortunate to twice sample the unique atmosphere with their local rivals, winning once and drawing the other encounter following his move to Tayside. That gave the United boss the thirst for more such occasions and he admits he’ll be hoping Paul Hartley’s men can secure their place back in Scottish Football’s top tier so they can renew their rivalry next season.
McNamara said: “I hope Dundee can make it over the finishing line. I’ve always stated I would like them to be in the top league. We’ve missed the derby this season and everything that goes with it and it would be good for the city to have it back next season. I’m hoping they can do the business. At the moment the Aberdeen and St Johnstone fixtures are our two kind of derby games but it’s not quite the same and I enjoyed the experience last season of walking up the road... to a derby match!
“There’s a lot more pressure and everything else but I think it’s healthy and good for both sets of fans and the people of the city.”
Hartley can’t wait to lead his title hopefuls out against Dumbarton and has urged his men to take the occasion in their stride as they aim to get back to where they feel they belong.
He said: “I’ve been involved in this kind of situation as a player and I just tried to enjoy the game and make sure I did my best. You don’t want to have any regrets and that will be the key thing.
“As a player I always felt confident and comfortable and as a manager I feel good. I felt good last week in terms of the build-up to the game. Football has a funny way of working – I’ve been there as a player in terms of last days and trying to win every game to give yourself a chance of winning the title. This league has been so funny this season. I think it’s gone under the radar but we’re seeing the excitement now and it’s good for Scottish football as a whole.
“I’m sleeping fine, in early in the morning and leaving late at night. I just want to make the game about the players because it could be a great occasion for them.”
Hartley knows Ian Murray’s Dumbarton side won’t roll over and cited their comprehensive win over Hamilton last weekend, which helped Dundee regain pole position in the title race, as proof of that.
And he’s also relishing the prospect of derbies with United next season, should his men make it over the line tomorrow.
He said: “Dumbarton were up for it last week and beat Hamilton 4-1 so they’ll want to come and spoil the party and we need to make sure we’re on our guard, defend well and attack as a team.
“It would be good for the city to get the derby back. It would be good for Scottish football and we could be the only derby in the Premiership next season and we’ll try our best to make it happen.”
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.
The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.
• Email your Scottish football question for the BT Sport panel to answer. The next show will be recorded on May 7 after St Johnstone v Celtic with the video available on The Scotsman website the following day. You can also tweet us @TheScotsman.
A line-up of experts will handle your questions after each BT Sport game. Most match days, the team includes Darrell Currie, Derek Rae and Gary McAllister.
Over this season, BT Sport will air 30 SPFL matches plus 10 Rangers games from the SPFL League One.
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