DUNDEE United manager Peter Houston is contemplating a move to Blackpool after being given permission by chairman Stephen Thompson to talk to the Championship strugglers.
The prospect of a move south for Houston arose after Blackpool manager Michael Appleton left for Blackburn and Bradford boss Phil Parkinson declined to be interviewed for the vacancy,
“The club have granted Blackpool permission to contact Peter Houston,” a United spokesperson said yesterday. “That’s on the basis that, as a football club, we won’t stand in the way of anyone furthering their career.”
The 54-year-old Houston has been in charge at Tannadice since the end of 2009, initially on a caretaker basis after Craig Levein left to take charge of Scotland. United were at first close to appointing Pat Fenlon, now at Hibernian, but they could not agree compensation terms with the Irishman’s then employers Bohemians.
Houston was then given the job until the end of that season, in which he took United to third in the league and also won the Scottish Cup – only the second time in their history that United had lifted the trophy. He then signed a three-year contract, but despite that early success his job security has never appeared assured.
Poor results in the autumn of 2011 led to widespread speculation that Thompson was about to sack his manager. Although the club’s board of directors eventually said that Houston had their support, the
uncertainty appeared to have a lasting impact on relations between Houston and his employers, and Levein publicly criticised his old club for the length of time they took to give Houston their backing.
United’s form improved after that shaky start to the 2011-12 season, and since then the focus has turned to whether Houston would be offered a new contract when his current deal expires. He said last month that he had no desire to leave, but that
prolonging his stay could be dependent on the nature of the contract on offer.
“I’m happy at Dundee United, but you have to make sure you’ve the proper contract,” he said. “If it’s a similar contract then I’d be happy to stay. Hopefully we can come to some agreement, because I’ve never stated that I want to go.”
Blackpool have struggled to find stability in recent months, having lost Ian Holloway to Crystal Palace back in November. Appleton, formerly of Portsmouth, was then appointed in preference to caretaker manager Steve Thompson, but stayed only 65 days before moving on.
Blackburn have had similar problems themselves, having already parted company this season with Steve Kean and Henning Berg. Appleton has been joined at Ewood Park by his assistant Ashley Westwood.
“We are delighted to welcome both Michael and Ashley to the football club,” Rovers managing director Derek Shaw said. “They are both highly regarded within the game and we are confident that they have the drive and ambition to take this club forward. We will do everything in our powers to support them in our quest to make an instant return to the Premier League.”
Blackburn are 13th in the Championship, just two points and two places above Blackpool. They were relegated from the Premiership at the end of last season.
Houston has become the second SPL manager since the turn of the year to be headhunted by an English club. Last week Terry Butcher travelled to Yorskhire for talks with Barnsley, who are bottom of the Championship, but returned to Inverness and announced his decision to stay with Caley Thistle.
Former Dundee United defender Garry Kenneth, now at Bristol Rovers after leaving Tannadice in the summer, insisted last night that Houston’s record in management should make him a strong contender for the Seasiders post.
“I think it would be a great move for him,” said Kenneth. “Peter has a good CV when you look at what he’s done during his time in charge of Dundee United. He won the Scottish Cup in 2010 in his first season which was obviously the main highlight. Not many managers get that sort of success so early in their career but he did.
“On top of that, he’s taken the club into Europe three years running by finishing high up the SPL. That’s no mean feat, so you can see why the Blackpool board would be sitting up and taking a bit of notice.
“Looking in from the outside, I reckon you would have to be impressed by those achievements. That is as probably as good a record as any manager outwith the Old Firm would be likely to have.”
Houston took United training as normal yesterday, and Kenneth added: “Peter has been there a few seasons, both as assistant to Craig Levein and now as manager in his own right. He’s as long serving a manager as any in the SPL, so maybe he feels it’s time for a fresh challenge. It’s a big job, but he’ll be in with a shout.”