Rarely a week seems to pass without a contract announcement coming out of Dundee United but yesterday’s bullet of news was lent some extra excitement since it involved a player regarded by many as the jewel in the Tannadice club’s crown.
Stuart Armstrong has extended his contract until July 2016 – endearingly, he was unsure about when exactly it ended when he spoke yesterday – and in another novel break from the norm, there was no agent involved in the negotiations. Armstrong’s father handles such activities on behalf of his 21-year-old son. While Jackie McNamara stressed he does not have an issue with agents per se, the United manager did concede that it was refreshing dealing with the new breed of player at Tannadice.
Armstrong grew up in Aberdeen and John Souttar and Ryan Gauld, United team-mates and even more tender-aged talents, are also from the north-East. All are inclined to continue their career at a club close to home for the time being, with Souttar and Gauld having recently extended their own contracts until the summer of 2016 as well. Their progress has meant the focus on Armstrong has lessened a little.
The midfielder has already played over 100 games for
United. He fits the profile of a highly desirable purchase,
particularly since he has a precious talent for making things happen on the pitch.
Remaining with United is now a doubly attractive thought for ‘local’ players because the team appears to be going places. However, this progress does seem to hinge on the ability to keep hold of those such as Armstrong. McNamara made several wearied references to those “wanting to sell them off” yesterday. However, Armstrong’s retention once again underlined United’s desire to resist this growing pressure.
“It’s really enjoyable at the minute playing every week with such a talented team,” said Armstrong, highlighting why the players seem happy to stay where they are for the time being – they know they will get a chance.
“It was quite a straightforward choice for me,” added Armstrong. “It was me and my dad who were speaking to the club about it. I don’t have an agent as up until this point in my career I’ve not had a need for one. If the time comes that I require one I’ll have a look at it. But for the time being I’m quite happy to deal with it myself.”
Of course, one-year and two-year extensions are a long way from the eight-year deals that were in vogue in the Eighties and early Nineties at Tannadice. Back then, the club held the power, although this was eroded as Ray McKinnon, Duncan Ferguson and Co began to agitate for some self-determination, with a gentleman called Jean-Marc Bosman set to change the game forever.
Well-spoken and polite, the likes of Armstrong would appear to underline the old Jim McLean contention that players from the east coast were simply too nice to truly want to make it, while those from a perhaps tougher background in the west coast were willing to knock their granny out of the way to score the winning goal. The former United manager stressed that given the choice of players of equal quality from the west coast and east coast, he would always plump for the former. Now United are benefiting from a new influx of ‘home-grown’ players.
“When you speak to the boys you realise they’re not your norm, and I don’t mean that
to sound disrespectful,” said
McNamara. “When you speak to them they’re very level headed. Some boys’ heads can be turned by speculation or when the
spotlight is on them but you can see in their performances it’s not hindering them in any way.
“They’re focused and they’re embracing it very well and for me that comes from their parents and their background. Stuart doesn’t have an agent, which is unusual, but it shows you how he sees things moving forward that he is guided by his dad.
“He still sees himself as a player here who wants to learn and play for Dundee United for the next year or two. I won’t stand here and have a pop at agents. They’ll do what’s best for the player but also for themselves and sometimes the quick move is not the right one. I’m a great believer that things happen the right way. It’s not the agent who gets you the move – it’s the player. And, if it is the agent, then it’s not a true deal. If offers come in for the players then I’ll sit down with them and speak to them, like we did with John Souttar and Sunderland. I want to be open and honest with them rather than hiding things.
“I want to have that trust in each other that you want them to be here. The time will come when all of them will probably leave, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s important it’s the right move for them. When they say that to me nobody will be happier than myself that they go to the next level.
“There’s no financial pressure to sell,” stressed McNamara. “I think we’re the only club making a profit in the Premiership in the last few years so we’re doing things the right way.”
Nadir Ciftci has also recently extended his contract at the club and, although Gary Mackay-Steven has yet to re-sign, his current contract runs until 2015. McNamara did acknowledge that agreeing a new deal with Mackay-Steven is now a priority. “He has a year and a half, so he is one we are speaking to as well,” he said. “We will try and put a year on that, similar to Stuart.”
DUNDEE United are looking to trace the family of the late Tommy Millar, who played for the club in the early to
mid-Sixties. They are also looking to locate the whereabouts of former captain Tommy Neilson from the same era. Neilson is believed to have since emigrated to South
Africa but both he and Millar once lived in the Edinburgh area. Please contact director Derek Robertson at