IT MAY seem a little premature to predict which players might light up the new-look Scottish scene, but Dundee United would appear to have unearthed the kind of gem with the potential to do exactly that.
Scorer: Dundee United - Ciftci (52)
Nadir Ciftci was largely unheard of until he arrived on Tayside recently for a trial spell which resulted in him being handed a two-year deal last week by United manager Jackie McNamara.
On Saturday, it was easy to see why McNamara wanted Ciftci on board as he grabbed a glorious goal to help his new club defeat Wigan, the FA Cup holders, in their final pre-season friendly at the DW Stadium at the weekend.
The Dutch-born Turkish forward produced a supreme 25-yard strike in the second half to sink Owen Coyle’s Championship outfit ahead of Friday night’s televised SPFL Premiership curtain-raiser at Partick Thistle.
Stuart Armstrong, Ciftci’s new Tannadice team-mate, has been impressed by the 21-year-old so far and believes the former NAC Breda man will be one to watch out for.
“Nadir has real talent when he has the ball at his feet,” said Armstrong. “I think he showed that with his goal, which was a beauty. There is a lot to come from him this season, hopefully. He has flair and will keep his opponents guessing. That’s the big thing about him. I’m glad he is in our side and can see him having a big impact.”
United won’t be duped into thinking that beating Coyle’s Championship outfit, which contained former Celtic trio Shaun Maloney, Stephen Crainey and Thomas Rogne, means they will automatically click for the season ahead. The new-look Taysiders have lost key players like Jon Daly, Johnny Russell and Willo Flood, but, with McNamara bringing in no fewer than nine new faces, Armstrong is confident United will be a force this season. “I think we will be better than last season because I feel we can score more goals,” he said. “I believe we look threatening going forward and have a lot of players than can really penetrate defences in the final third of the pitch. I can see us being an exciting team to watch.”
Armstrong feels the win at Wigan will ensure United head to Glasgow in good fettle for a match which takes McNamara back to his former club in the wake of his bitter departure back in January. He added: “It was maybe a surprising result for the neutral. We sat in to start off with and tried to find a way into them. We then created some nice passing moves and then came the great strike from Nadir to win the game for us. I think that win showed that we are continuing to work hard to be ready for the league season starting.
“Of course, the result and performance against Wigan were promising so we go into the Partick Thistle game full of confidence.
“A couple of guys came from Partick to us – Chris Erskine and Paul Paton – and the gaffer has history there so it all adds to the occasion. We want to win it and we will be going all out to get off to a good start. We have a lot of competition for places now which is a good thing.
“We are all fighting to be in the team and that gives the manager plenty of options. So if you are unlucky enough to be hit by injury there will be a quality player to take your place.”
McNamara, the former Celtic and Scotland player, intends to make a decision soon on trialist defender Neal Trotman and feels his team are approaching his first full season at the helm in decent shape. He said: “I think we’re getting there. Everything is geared towards being ready for the Thistle game. You never know about more new faces. We’ll see what happens.”