The sacking of Jackie McNamara as Dundee United manager was expected given the recent run of poor results at the club. The former Scotland and Celtic defender was released from his duties following the latest defeat, a 2-1 loss to St Johnstone on Saturday ending his two-year spell in charge. With only 4 wins and 4 draws in his last 24 Scottish Premier League fixtures, the decision by owner Steven Thompson to remove McNamara is the right one but the manner is which he did it has received a lot of backlash from both fans of the club and the media. Thompson broke the news to McNamara after the game in a board room at McDiarmid Park, home of St Johnstone handing the manager a pre-prepared letter confirming his termination. Many believe that this was disrespectful to McNamara and that the club should show him more respect and notified him the following Monday at Dundee United’s training ground.
Whilst the debate rages on about how he should have been sacked, his dismissal it seems is not up for discussion. McNamara has performed reasonably well in his role despite difficult circumstances. Dundee United are for all intents and purposes a selling club, like most other clubs in the Scottish Premier League. That was not always the case but after running into financial difficulties four years ago, owner Steven Thompson decided that the club would become so, helping to balance the books and keep the club in the black. The sale of £6.3million worth of talent in recent years including Ryan Gauld to Sporting Lisbon, Andrew Robertson to Hull and the duo of Gary MacKay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong to Celtic has helped United to wipe their debt and put the club back on a more even footing for the future. McNamara has remained positive despite the loss of key players and the lack of money made available to him to buy new ones, however recent revelations by Dundee United supporters may explain his reason for remaining silent. The club has admitted that during his spell in charge, McNamara benefited financially from the sale of players. Although not involved in player transfer negotiations, McNamara received a kick back for each player he helped the club to develop and sell on. In justifying this type of arrangement, Thompson claimed that the practice was widely used and was seen as a way to deliver value to the club over the long haul:
“The manager’s basic remuneration package was reduced considerably, replaced instead by a performance-based contract, with several bonus initiatives, which included developing young players into actual transfer targets. This way the Club drove down management costs and engaged a forward-looking management team whose income would only increase by achieving results. This practice is well established throughout the UK, particularly in England where transfer markets are a substantial incentive”.
Despite the work McNamara did off the pitch in developing saleable assets, the on pitch performances were not good enough. The players he did manage to bring in to replace his outgoing stars have not worked and as a result Dundee United have struggled in the past two season. With the third highest wage budget in the Premier League, the expectations were that United would be challenging for a place in Europe, not kicking it about in the relegation zone so changes had to be made. With McNamara now gone, the focus now has switched to who will replace him. A host of names have already been touted with some familiar faces in Scottish football being put forward by various media outlets and sports betting firms. Jimmy Calderwood, Stuart McCall, Mixu Paatelainen and John Hughes were among the first, later joined by the names of Ally McCoist and Steven Pressley. The latter has already pulled himself out of the running, speaking on BBC Scotland’ Sportsound radio call in show saying that he was approached to have a discussion but now settled in England with his family, it wasnt the right time for him to be considered. Pressley isn’t the only name south of the border to be linked with the job with Paul Lambert, Newcastle assistant Ian Cathro and Malky Mackay but its unlikely that United will be able to afford any of them.
To date, Thompson has kept his cards close to his chest around who he will appoint. He has an idea of what he wants in terms of a new manager/head coach but was unwilling to share when asked by journalists. One thing he was clear on was that any candidate who hasn’t managed in the past would not be considered saying that United is at a level where they shouldn’t have to give new managers their first job. The club will take stock over the next few days and work out who fits their criteria with interviews then set for the following weeks. With an international break coming next week, the timing couldn’t be better and the club will be keen to bring someone in before United’s game with Hearts on the 18th October.
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