A FINAL looms large but Dundee United are still managing to peek around its substantial bulk.
Ryan Dow, the 22-year-old attacker, and Marc McCallum, the goalkeeper, both signed contracts yesterday that will keep them at Tannadice until 2016.
Dow can expect to play a part, too, in the William Hill Scottish Cup final against St Johnstone at Celtic Park on Saturday so this could be a seminal week in the talented forward's career.
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United have signed a succession of their young players on long-term deals and Dow admits that the completion of the contract was ideal in cup final week.
"To sign an extension is good and if we can win the cup then it will be brilliant," he said with the barely restrained glee of a local boy made good. "My agent and the gaffer had been talking for a few months and it is nice to get it sorted.
"It has been a busy time with games but I was looking to get it all done before the cup final."
The prospects at United are bright for young players with Jackie McNamara offering extended runs and a cup final franking the notion that the side can compete for silverware.
"It was an easy decision," said Dow. "All I want to do is play and I have been doing that here. The way the manager sets the team up suits me down to the ground. I am a local boy as well so it makes sense."
Dow, neat and technically gifted, is at his best playing just off an imposing centre-forward and the presence of Nadir Ciftci, the 22-year-old Turkish striker, has complemented the guile of the young Scot.
Ciftci is a certain starter at the point of attack and Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven will take up two of the three spots behind the striker. Dow and Ryan Gauld are likely to vie for that position but the former has become more of a favoured option.
He has been supported by both the words and actions of McNamara and he paid tribute to his manager yesterday as United relaxed at the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews before the trip to Celtic Park.
"It is a big factor that the manager is here. He obviously believes in me and has given me a lot of games - the most I have ever played," said Dow who has made 29 appearances this season.
McNamara, whose 16 months at the club have been impressive, has been courted by Blackpool but Dow's future was not swayed by the manager's decision to stay.
Fit, playing and in good form, he had made his decision to commit to United some time ago, leaving his agent to finesse the details.
However, he said of McNamara: "I am glad he stayed and I hope he is here for the foreseeable future."
Dow has an extensive back story with United, and one that precedes his playing career.
"My dad was a United fan as were my pals so I had a season ticket for a good number of years," he said. "I had to give it up because I was a player myself eventually."
His highlight, of course, was the 2010 Scottish Cup final when United defeated Ross County 3-0 through a spectacular David Goodwillie goal and two strikes from Craig Conway.
"I was in the youth team but I went through to Hampden as a fan and it was a brilliant day," he said. "I got a good view of Goodie's goal.
"I was right behind the goal at that end of the ground so saw it going in all the way. I would have an even better view if I managed to do that myself on Saturday."
The aftermath of that match saw Dow watch the cup being paraded at Tannadice the next day with friends and family. But he added: "That was fantastic and I would love to get to the City Square this time if we win it because I didn't make it there in 2010."
The sizeable hurdle of Tommy Wright's St Johnstone stands between Dow and this eventuality.
"We won the first game of the season against them, then they have won the others," he said.
"Hopefully, we will be able to enjoy the big pitch and put that right on Saturday. I think Celtic Park will suit the way we play the game."
There is an increasing belief that if United play to their best they should be favourites on Saturday but Dow was cautious.
"St Johnstone are a good team. They have a good defensive unit and obviously there is Stevie May and Steve MacLean, who are a good partnership. It will be a very tight game," he said.
His first game of his new contract will be one of his most challenging.