Osman Sow’s return to Dundee United means Robbie Neilson no longer has to worry about recruiting another striker during the current transfer window.
The required profile was someone tall but also good with the ball at his feet and who can link the play. The 6ft 4in Sow certainly fits the bill and is already on the club’s books. Handily, he is also still the owner of the No 9 shirt.
It’s just Neilson was not expecting the 29-year-old back from a six-month loan move to Kilmarnock quite so quickly. But Alex Dyer, who has taken over as interim manager at Rugby Park following the departure of Angelo Alessio, opted to send Sow back early and Neilson believes this can only aid United’s bid to seal the Championship title.
The manager does now have another headache, however – ensuring the player stays fit. Sow’s second spell in Scotland has been derailed by injury. Remarkably, he has still only scored once – in United’s play-off win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle in May – as the first anniversary of his return to Scotland later this month draws near. He did not hit the net in nine appearances for Kilmarnock, the last of which was as a first half substitute in a 1-0 defeat by St Mirren at the end of last month.
The fact he played a minute for Dundee United earlier this season – he came on in the 89th minute of a 2-0 win over Dunfermline in August – means he cannot go elsewhere this season, either on loan or in a permanent move. But Neilson seems pleased be able to add him to his striking options since he was on the look-out for another attacker in any case.
“We looked at bringing in a striker in January because we thought that Kilmarnock, prior to the change of manager, were going to keep him,” he explained. “They decided against it, we managed to get him back and we are quite happy with that. The remit for getting a striker was someone big, tall, who can link the game, and Osman ticks a lot of those boxes.
“His loan to Kilmarnock was terminated,” he added. “We had hoped he would go down there and get game time, but he didn’t manage to do that.
“He picked up an injury. But he has come back and he is fully fit.”
It has to be mentioned that, while Neilson felt he was in need of some back up, United are hardly badly served for strikers at present. Lawrence Shankland is the top scorer in Scotland and he has been ably assisted by Nicky Clark, who has struck seven times in his last 11 appearances, and 20-year-old Louis Appere, who has four goals. Nevertheless, Sow could come straight back into the squad for tomorrow’s trip to Partick Thistle.
Providing Sow can maintain fitness – and team-mate Mark Reynolds described him as looking as good as ever this week – then he could be a valuable addition to the United ranks as well as a dismaying one for those teams trying to catch the runaway league leaders. Of course, a significant caveat to this is whether he can stay fit and avoid the niggling injuries that have hampered him of late.
Reynolds is adamant a fit Sow is not just a boost for United now, but would be one in the top tier as well, providing the Tannadice side can deliver on their current 14-point lead.
“If you get Osman fit and right he is one of the best players in the league,” said Reynolds. “In fact, he would be one of the best strikers in the Premiership because he’s got everything. It’s just about getting him right.”
Neilson, who has worked with Sow at three different clubs, concurs.
“With Osman, it was about getting his body right and playing on a Saturday,” he said. “I had him at Hearts and he left to go to China. The style of play there was different. He went out there, it was very low tempo and he didn’t play a lot of games.
“He went to the Emirates, and it was the same again.
“I took him to MK Dons and he was just picking up wee niggly injuries, having trained and played at a low tempo for such a long time. For us, it just about trying to manage his body and make sure he’s ready for a Saturday because there is no doubt that, if we can keep him fit, he will be a very big player for us towards the end of the season.”