Dundee United: Jack Ross opens up on playing style, Hibs criticism, Tony Asghar, Ben Kensell and Ron Gordon

New Dundee United head coach Jack Ross is unveiled by sporting director Tony Asghar.New Dundee United head coach Jack Ross is unveiled by sporting director Tony Asghar.
New Dundee United head coach Jack Ross is unveiled by sporting director Tony Asghar.
It is near impossible to discuss style of football in the context of Dundee United and not reference Jim McLean once fining his team for not being entertaining enough in a 6-1 Scottish Cup win over Motherwell.

In fact, the punishment was for slacking off. Dundee United supporters feel an exciting brand of football remains part of their heritage. The danger is it is becoming a lost part. Sound familiar? Ross has heard it all before.

Because Hibs also believe they are the purveyors of a noble tradition as great entertainers. And the new United manager suffered for the perception that his team were not exhibiting this quality to an acceptable standard while at Easter Road.

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Of course, sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for. Hibs swapped cup finals for bottom six football under Shaun Maloney, Ross’s successor. The football certainly didn’t get any more watchable.

Like the new club badge unveiled by United on Monday, and which didn’t seem to be very different from the old one, it’s often in the eye of the beholder in any case.

“It is a funny one,” said Ross. “It happens a lot. I had it at Hibs. The more football is accessible all around the world and the more people are searching and believing it should be done in a different way.

“It is very easy for a manager to make false or lazy promises. You have to produce a team that wins but ideally in the right way.

“But I feel as if I have had teams that have been front foot teams. That [style criticism] probably irked me a little bit at Hibs. I am quite detailed. I know for example that in over 50 per cent of our games Hibs scored two or more goals. I just throw that at people. Because that’s not bad.

“Maybe we did not score the goals in the right way … I don’t know if there is a right way to score a goal or a better way to score a goal. It is a common criticism managers have to put up with.

“I am not being flippant about the fact supporters need to be entertained because I know they come and want to be enthralled on a match day. If I wasn’t a manager, I would be watching games myself and saying: ‘he doesn’t know what he is doing!’”

Ross will hope such complaints are a long way off at Tannadice. The 46-year-old has already made a good impression by turning down Dundee last month after he was lined up to replace Mark McGhee at Dens Park, where he started his career.

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A new Dundee United manager seems to be an annual occurrence these days but there is every sign that Ross will buck the trend.

A two-year contract indicates there is willingness on both sides to eliminate the need for a fourth successive summer of change. The Tannadice club want to parade trophies not managers.

Ross is realistic. No matter how well he gets on with sporting director Tony Asghar, the common denominator in the last two managerial departures, there are no guarantees.

As a coach, the longest he has stayed at a single club was at Dumbarton, where he was assistant to Ian Murray. “I got £100 a week!” recalled Ross. “I negotiated a few pay rises along the way but it wasn’t significant!”

He can probably expect to still be in place when he is first due for a reunion with Hibs, at Tannadice on September 10. But since he’s not scheduled to make a return to Easter Road until January, then who knows if he will still be around then … Ross is confident he can work with not only Asghar, but also Asghar’s son, Adam.

He is part of his backroom staff, as is Liam Fox – a more obvious ally. Indeed, Ross reveals he tried to recruit him at Hibs at the start of last season. They previously worked together on the coaching staff at Hearts.

As for Asghar senior, there will be some give and take on both sides. “I think from the outside people looking in will wonder how I’ll fit in here,” conceded Ross, who didn’t last long under similarly strict hierarchical conditions at Easter Road.

“And that was part of the open conversations I had with Tony in the beginning because I am quite strong willed and I have taken responsibility on at clubs.”

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There might already have been some tough talking, but Ross does not expect to fall out with anybody whatever happens in the future. He wishes Hibs well, for example. After some initial anger following his sacking in December, just ten days before the League Cup final against Celtic, he is on good terms with owner Ron Gordon and chief executive Ben Kensell.

“It is funny when you leave clubs,” he said. “I know there are a lot of things that float about and people throw out and which then becomes fact or a ‘reality’ that there is never any truth in.

“The challenge for you guys is trying to know what is actually right,” he continued. “People throw things out willy nilly. I left – I didn’t agree with it – but I left on good terms.

“I have had messages from the chief exec and owner since I took this job so that gives you an indication of where that relationship still lies. I wish no ill will on the club. It was a brilliant club to manage. I was very, very close to my players and staff so that would probably give you an indication that I wanted them to do well.

“You don’t take any vindication from anything that happened after that. I believed in two years I delivered a lot of what was asked of me and when it was done it was done.

“As I said, there is certainly no feeling of bitterness or a desire to prove them wrong. I am probably too long in the tooth for that.”