Earlier in the campaign, John Rankin accused some of his Dundee United colleagues of downing tools when things didn’t go their way in games. Now another player has broken ranks, with Guy Demel questioning the desire of the squad and saying that any of his team-mates who can’t handle the pressure of digging the club out of the relegation mire should not be playing professionally.
Demel joined the club in November and is dismayed at what relegation could mean, not only for his own CV, but also for the club and the people who work there. Issuing a warning that it will not be easy to rebound into the Premiership if the worst does happen, the former Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Hamburg and West Ham United defender said that a number of the players understood the severity of the situation and were determined to battle. But he questioned whether others had the inner character needed.
“It’s all about how people have been raised, you can’t change that really,” said the 34-year-old Ivory Coast defender. “It’s something that you’ve got in you or not, actually, so of course we try to talk about it but it may affect a few of the lads, the rest no because everybody’s different.
“Of course we brought the subject up, Pates did it, Ranks, Dillon did it, but at the end of the day it’s up to any player to find in himself the motivation to go out there and give his best. By saying give their best it’s not always meaning having great performances because it’s football. We don’t have to lie to ourselves, sometimes in football you have a bad day, but at least you show desire, you want to do your best, you don’t hide.
“The bad thing is to hide, to be scared to have the ball. If I’m scared to have the ball I don’t have to be on the pitch.
“I try to get across that it doesn’t matter what happens in the end, just be proud of yourself, be honest with yourself, be able to look yourself in the mirror and say: ‘You know what, I did everything I could. Maybe it wasn’t good enough, but I gave 100 per cent’.”
The chances are, whatever Dundee United’s players do now is unlikely to be enough. Eight points behind with only five games left, starting today at home to Hamilton, the team with an 18 per cent win rate this term, which Demel said had, at times, been shockingly at peace with the ‘losers’ tag, will need to suddenly up that win-rate to at least 60 per cent and even that may not be enough.
“I hate losing and there’s been a few weeks where we were kind of accepting being a losing side, so this has to change. It’s not good to find yourself comfortable in that situation, loving games, you have to show a reaction.
“The pressure is high, but when you play football you play for the pressure. You have to accept it. It is up to you to turn it to positive or negative. If you’re not capable of coping with that then you should play in your garden with your kids. This is why you play football. You want to play football in front of thousands of fans and feel the pressure. That’s why, for me, it’s hard to understand how football players can hide from that.”
Demel warned that no one can hide from the realities of relegation, though.
“We all know what happens when a club goes down. Maybe some jobs are taken away, maybe some cuts in wages. It’s dramatic for a club like Dundee United,” he said, expressing sympathy for manager Mixu Paatelainen, claiming that he could tinker with as many formations as he liked but that, without committed players, it would matter little. “People may think that, a player of my age, I don’t really bother, but I do bother because I’ve never had relegation on my CV.
“I knew the risk when I came, but I believed we could get out of the situation and it’s still possible. I still have hope.
“Bouncing back is not easy because for any [Championship] team going to play against Dundee United it will be like a final for them. They want to make a name for themselves and they will play like it’s a Champions League game, so it’s going to be really difficult if we go in the Championship, but we’re not there yet. It’s going to be a hard task but that’s why you need characters, you need to be focused, you need to show desire. You have to cope with the desire from the opposite team, you have to at least cope with that.”