JACKIE McNamara last night insisted his turbulent Tannadice times will make him a better manager in the future.
The Dundee United boss has endured a torrid spell since the turn of the year, which began with the loss of key duo Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven to rivals Celtic prior to their League Cup final defeat by the Parkhead side at Hampden.
That sparked uproar among the United fans, who felt the club had sold off their best chance of landing some silverware, having still been involved in all three domestic competitions at such a crucial stage of the season. But results since then have dipped with only two wins since defeating Stranraer in the Scottish Cup in early February, even though they still have a chance of securing a place in Europe this weekend.
McNamara could not have asked for a much tougher past few months, but the former Celtic and Scotland defender believes it will strengthen him for the challenge ahead as they gear up for tomorrow’s derby clash with Dundee at Tannadice.
McNamara said: “For me, it has been difficult at times. If you’d said to me at the start you’d be in a cup final I’d be pleased. But with everything else that’s happened it’s been difficult and I don’t think many teams would cope with losing what we’ve lost in six months.
“Losing Ryan Gauld and Andrew Robertson in the summer and then losing the two boys in January had a big impact. In addition to the cup finals, we’ve won the same amount of games as we did last year – and if we beat Dundee we’ll have exceeded that.
“When you look at the other teams around and see what’s happened here, we’ve done well.
“That’s over two years I’ve been here now and I inherited a lot of problems coming into the club in terms of the debt and the structure. I think I’ve learned a great deal – not in the football side but in the off-field politics and stuff I shouldn’t have to deal with but it will make me stronger.”
United could still be celebrating a return to Europe should they beat Dundee and rivals St Johnstone lose away to Aberdeen, while relying on Inverness to win the Scottish Cup.
McNamara said: “Chasing Europe is an extra motivation for Sunday. Obviously we’ve got an outside chance of getting fourth place and the fact it’s a derby as well is something to look forward to. Hopefully, we can finish the season in a good way for the fans as well.
United keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak is fighting to shake off a rib injury to face Dundee in what is almost certain to be his final appearance for the club as his contract expires in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Dundee striker Greg Stewart last night revealed he is already dreaming of forging another golden partnership with Kane Hemmings after his ex-Cowdenbeath team-mate signed a pre-contract with the Dark Blues from English outfit Barnsley.
Stewart said: “It will be good to be back playing with him. We did well at Cowdenbeath together. He maybe struggled a wee bit down the road so it is a new challenge for him. I know his style of play so hopefully we can play well again together.”
Dundee triumped 3-1 in the last derby after waiting ten years to end their hoodoo and Stewart hopes they can bow out with another victory.
He said: “The last few games since we got into the top six haven’t been good enough from us. But if we can win this last derby and game of the season it could make up for it.
“We wanted it so much that night in April as we had taken a couple of sore ones off them this season. The boys played well and fully deserved the win so hopefully we can take that hunger into this game.”