Gary Mackay-Steven rooting for Dees, just not today

GARY MACKAY-STEVEN knows Dundee United could send rivals Dundee a step closer to relegation at Tannadice this afternoon – but would still hate to see their biggest rivals head back to the First Division.

The Tangerines host the bottom-dog Dark Blues in the televised midday clash, with John Brown’s Dundee having just eight games to save their SPL skin. United have triumphed in the previous three derby clashes already this season, and today’s visitors sit 14 points adrift at the foot of the SPL.

Mackay-Steven, who hit the winner in their recent 2-1 Scottish Cup quarter-final triumph at Dens Park, knows what it means to the city to have both Dundee teams sparring in the SPL and even though he’s desperate to inflict more misery on United’s rivals this afternoon, the winger, pictured, wouldn’t like to see Dundee go down. He said: “I’d love to see the derbies staying. I’ve only had one season in the SPL before this one, but with Dundee here, it’s a lot better. All the players enjoy these occasions and it’s great for the city as a whole.

“Dundee have a great support and so do we, so the whole town relishes the derbies. It’s even better from the point of view that we were missing them for about seven years before Dundee were promoted back to the SPL. So I’d love to see them stay up and I even hope they do well – but not [today].”

Dundee’s Gary Harkins, meanwhile, knows former Kilmarnock team-mate Rory Boulding will be buzzing after joining him in being handed the chance to kick-start his career on Tayside – but hopes Dundee United fans don’t see the best of him until after today’s clash.

Boulding was snapped up by United boss Jackie McNamara recently on a short-term deal designed to ease their striking crisis after injuries to Johnny Russell and Jon Daly.

Harkins, who also left Killie in January for a second stint at Dens Park, knows Boulding will be relishing his return to first-team action but is hoping he doesn’t have an afternoon to remember on Tayside today.

Harkins said: “Rory will just be pleased to get back playing again. Things didn’t really work out at Kilmarnock but you never know the reasons why in football.

“He’s got a decent touch for a big guy so he’ll pose a threat, along with the rest of the Dundee United players.”

Harkins, pictured, is loving being back at Dens where he’s already made himself into a fans’ favourite all over again, and can’t wait for today’s match. “Everyone is looking forward to getting out there and there’s always a buzz for such a big game with so much at stake,” he said.

“Our results as well as performances have been pretty good of late and we want to keep that going.

“[Today is] a massive occasion for ourselves and the fans. The punters have been brilliant to the team and know we are giving our all and pulling in the same direction.”