The Dundee United philosophy & why Rangers would be wise to follow their model

courtesy of Mark Runnacles (Getty Images)

Written by – John McIntosh

I expect ire from doubters to this post – just on the basis of the headline alone.   Let’s be honest Dundee United are a small club with a bit of an attitude among their fans who are impassioned in their hate for Rangers.  Plus, their owner is a complete embarrassment –  so for a Rangers fan to say we should follow their lead may sound pretty wide of the mark.

In the news overthe past few days it has emerged that Dundee United have sold their talented teenager Ryan Gauld for about £3 million to Sporting Lisbon – Lisbon instantly inserted a £48 million release clause in his six year contract.  Given that it would seem they believe he could continue to progress and one day the “big clubs” may be in for him hence the high release clause.

Gauld made his debut for the Tannadice side at just 16 years old and now at 18 has made 42 first team appearances.  Quite impressive stuff, if you compare the first team experience he has to Charlie Telfer – who managed just 25 minutes at the same age.  That is simply criminal.

Charlie Telfer, courtesy of DUFC

Charlie Telfer had this to say upon his signing with Dundee United:

I have watched how the younger players at United are allowed to develop in the first team and that has been a big reason in my decision to join the club.

That quote there is as much praising his new club as it is a dig at the club he loves and I can’t help but feel he has made the correct footballing decision which breaks my heart.

It’s really a simple business model, they play attractive football whilst allowing their youngsters from their youth sides to be promoted and gain valuable first team action.  They develop their biggest young talents and can make millions off them.  They are also on the look out for cheap young talents like Andrew Robertson who they got for next to nothing from Queen’s Park and are now rejecting £1.5 million offers for him from the English Premiership.

It might be a surprise to some of you to know we were offered Robertson but said – no thanks, we want Stevie Smith.  Smith is 28 & not as old as some of the other players we are looking at but the choice between a young talented Robertson or Stevie Smith should have been very simple.  Sell on value falls in favour of the younger Robertson and the wages would have been cheaper.

Andrew Robertson with Queen’s Park, courtesy of SNS

So can Rangers implement  this model and go for honours year in, year out?  Absolutely!  This is a great way of increasing profits and in the Scottish leagues where there is very little money to be gained, the model of promoting from youth sides and buying in cheap through a great scouting network is certainly the route we should take.

Charlie Telfer has just left for Dundee United and ironically could challenge for Gauld’s space that has been freed, the worry is with our management taking such a disinterest with bringing through our talented youth, nevermind putting in place a scouting infrastructure at all, we are going to be left years behind by the time we get back to the top flight.

For example, only two players from our very talented U20 side got any first team experience last season – with Calum Gallagher gaining 220 minutes and Charlie Telfer getting 23 minutes.  That is utterly shambolic as the league was basically won by Christmas.  Yet we persisted in playing players that were half-fit like Jon Daly & Lee Wallace – which actually caused  Wallace to miss the biggest game of our season & may have contributed to Daly’s current injury concerns.

Are Luca Gasparotto, Andy Murdoch, Calum Gallagher, & Danny Stoney going to want to stay just to get more U20 games or are they going to be pushed away like Telfer?

Luca Gasparotto, courtesy of EPA

Are Ismael Bouzid, Marius Zaliukus & Kenny Miller going to be the players in 2-3 seasons that will light up the top flight when we must challenge Celtic?  No, I didn’t think so & bringing them in painfully short sighted.

There is also a case for “sell on fees” when looking at signing players.  There should be a thought that a 18-25 year old can be bought, developed,then if playing well – sold on for 2-5 times the fee you paid in the first place.  Profits like that can not be recouped when buying a 28-35 year old player.

Just a wee example – even when you are going for free transfers or are tight for money that you can still long term plan:  Do we sign Don Cowie (31 years old) or Scott Allan (22 years old)?  Do we sign Marius Zaliukus (30 years old) or simply promote Craig Halkett &/or Luca Gasporotto (19 year old) both of whom have been getting great reviews?

Just today in the papers Ally McCoist said, “At the same time we are not in a position to plan longer term.”

Sorry, but managers should always be planning with the future in mind.  The fact he point blank refuses to do so sadly says a lot for his lack of managerial ability.

I will leave you with 3 words – Ajax and Porto….

You can follow John McIntosh on Twitter @JohnMcIntosh19 & hear him on the upcoming Rangers Report podcast – set to debut this month.



9 thoughts on “The Dundee United philosophy & why Rangers would be wise to follow their model

  1. An interesting and well written article and I commend you for it but I’d take issue with a couple of your assertions. As a regular at Tannadice “fans who are impassioned in their hate for Rangers” is frankly nonsense. There is nowhere near that strength of feeling about Rangers in the mind of the average United fan but it seems to serve the purposes of Rangers supporters for them to perpetuate that myth. Do we like getting one over the Old Firm clubs? Who doesn’t? Are we embarrassed to take our kids to Rangers games only to be asked what being “up to our knees in Fenian blood” means? Yes we are. Did Arabs find it amusing that the Rangers fans who have for generations revelled in the perceived superiority of their big club were being made to suffer for a change, and better still at the hands of their own hapless Directors? The answer is naturally yes. When Rangers were heading towards liquidation, did our Chairman choose to stick his neck out and say publicly what every other chairman was thinking at the time but were too weak to say on the record? Yes he did. Rangers fans made Thompson public enemy number one for his words and actions at the time and I can kind of understand that as it’s natural focus your anger and frustrations at somebody but it was hard to find anybody not connected with Rangers that disagreed with his stance. Rangers’ problems were almost entirely of their own making. I’ve met Stephen Thompson and to be honest he’s not somebody I’d choose to socialise with but he’s a determined and passionate owner, focused on securing the future of a club once crippled by debt. So if you are branding him a “complete embarrassment” because he is running his club prudently, ensuring that club is putting an entertaining product on the pitch and giving youth a chance, whilst at the same time speaking his mind on controversial matters that others shy away from, then give me a “total embarrassment” as a chairman any day. For a support who like to tell all who will listen that “no one likes us, we don’t care”, the irony is not lost on the rest of us that Rangers fans spend a lot of time concentrating their energies on the actions of those who don’t like Rangers but I can’t help thinking that Rangers supporters need to take a more introspective look at the club and at themselves and stop trying to blame others – as you have attempted to do in this article, to your credit. If you can just find it in yourself to lose the paranoia about United fans hating Rangers (most of us simply don’t like Rangers very much but hatred is way too strong a word for it) it might help you to move on. You really should also come to terms with the fact that, despite his shortcomings, if Stephen Thompson was a Rangers man and was running Rangers in the way that he is running United, you’d hardly have a bad word to say about him – even if he is admittedly a bit of an uninspiring personality mist of the time. I’m sure Rangers will return to the big time eventually but if their fans have not learned a bit of humility as as a result of the trials and tribulations of these dark years for the club, then it will be a real shame indeed.


  2. Steven ,
    As a regular at Tannadice why are you commenting on a Rangers blog other than to stir things up a bit .I skimmed through your comments because in trying to convince us all the Dundee Utd fans don`t hate Rangers , you actually proved the point for us .For the record most Rangers fans class Utd with Celtic and Aberdeen on the dislike list and not just because of your clubs behaviour since we hit our current problems .Go back further to not being able to keep your cowpatch fit to complete a game and then charging fans to see the replay.More recently ,your classless Chairmans rolling over to be Lawells pet is nothing short of cringe worthy .Complains about semi of cup being played at Ibrox , but said nothing when the final was scheduled to be played at Celtic Park when it seemed likely someone would need to play Celtic there .His recent incorrect statement about Rangers being 2 years old in an attempt to pay less compensation for Telfer also demonstrates his true character.
    We welcome opposition and will overcome it , but we will also not forget or forgive those who have relished our current plight and tried to score points off of us at every turn .We are on the way back .
    As for the actual article I would not want to follow anything Dundee Utd do , I would rather develop talent for a while , play it in the first team , win trophies and then sell if need be ,for say £8m to Spurs.I wish young Gauld all the best but lets see if he actually makes it , never mind is sold for 60m euros.The same goes for Telfer , good luck to him but lets not slag Rangers for losing some great talent until we see if he actually makes it as a first team player even at Utd.


  3. Another Arab I’m afraid (where are the Rangers fans today?), but I have to agree in the main with the article. I simply don’t understand why Rangers didn’t make the effort to bring through their youth players, and use their still considerable clout to attract the best young players (like Robertson) over the last few seasons. They could have come up through the leagues at a canter with just a handful of experienced pros to help them, so their lack of use of youngsters like Telfer is criminal (never mind him moving up a league to get more football!). Even worse, is that they’re continuing that this year too, I’ve been astounded by them trying to fill their team with older players like Miller, Zaliukas etc. It’s bad for youth development, but also Rangers are going to be up against many faster, younger and hungrier players in the Championship, quite risky I’d say.
    All it means is that when Rangers get to the SPL, they’re going to have to spend loads to get new players in to compete at that level, a scary amount if they’re realistic about competing with Celtic, as very few of the youngsters will be ready and very few of the oldsters fit for purpose. And that step will likely alienate youngsters for a few more years again. Ally is an idiot, I can think of few other reasons. I disagree about Daly though, he brought Goodwillie, Russell and other youngsters in midfield through and improved their game, he should have been used in the same way at Rangers.

    The only bit you’re missing though, is that United have lots of talent at the club just now (the ones we’re not going to sell anyway) and it looks like dreamland, but we put up with years of crapness on and off when we don’t have the talent coming through. And if we lose Gauld, Robertson, Armstrong and GMS then we’ll be back down to hoping our youngsters are good enough – sometimes they’re just not consistent enough during the season, and sometimes the club goes through a bit of a doldrum for a season or two (or 3). United fans and the club are used to that cycle, and we just have to deal with the football and/or results being rubbish for a while until there’s some promise again. I don’t think Rangers as a club or their fans could possibly cope with that, so that’s why I don’t think it’s a realistic model to copy for Rangers. You should sort out a model to bring through a couple of youngsters every year for sure, but you’ll still need to buy in quality players too, something United simply don’t have the option to do.


  4. Rangers signed Smith as cover for Wallace, if they had signed Robertson he would not have come through , not because he is not good enough or lack of youth promotion, but because he is not as good as Lee Wallace , our best player.The difference between us and Utd is mentioned by Stuart Hunt , our fans , including the writer of the article, would not accept selling off our best players and being unsuccessful.I am no fan of McCoist the manager , but I understand why he has gone for the safe option, messing up the return to the Premier League would have been seen as a disaster and cost him his job. No-one would consciously do that.I think the standard of football will be better this year and we will have 5 or 6 of last years youth team around the First team , on merit , not to prove a point.
    P.S -totally agree with Coplandbear.


    1. How can you return to a place you’ve never been to? You’re only 2 years old, ffs!! That’s like me saying “when I return to Hawaii” even though the furthest I’ve been is Brora! ! Stephen Thompson is a man to be admired.


    2. Some great points there. When we came out of liquidation and started our journey back to the top after chants like Thompson kicks us out for no good reason other then total pure jealousy of us being the people an that we lost players worth around £40 million and I still can’t understand why they got to leave anyway seeing as were the same club and that but who cares cause they’re tags or something, you were totally brickimg it cause you’ll get pumped by the big blue juggernaught featuring such lightning hot talemtmlile KM. KD big lee and that ken. WATP


    1. Well said mj and Copeland bear, ah pure hate they Dundee scummy bastards and their exciting, young, up and coming team, who are selling players for around 3 millions times what the bones of our old club went for. WATP GSTQ.


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