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Tannadice tyros are trained to take it on the shin

JOHN Rankin last night warned Dundee United's opponents that rough- house tactics won't stop his side's talented young players - and he should know because he adopts a similar approach in training each day.

The Tannadice side take on their Tayside rivals St Johnstone today, hoping to get back on track after their six-match SPFL Premiership winning run shuddered to a 4-1 halt on Boxing Day against a St Mirren side who employed a physical, high pressing game against them with some success.

No matter whether others follow the Jim Goodwin no-holds-barred blueprint in the inclement winter conditions, Rankin feels United will stick to their attacking, passing principles and fully expects creative types such as Ryan Gauld, Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven to bounce back from the setback.

"We've come to expect a few tough tackles in the last few weeks, to be honest," said Rankin. "They have been quite physical games. But, to be fair, the boys stand up to it. There are not many who shy away from it. They know it is a man's game. It is our culture, that's what it is.

"I do it in training, but it is not within the rules there, it is prison rules in training. So they know what to expect when it comes to physical challenges. They know what they are going to get.

"You come up against teams who want to try to play us at football, which is great, then you come up against teams who want to try to kick us, which is fine as well. Whatever.

"The manager goes with the game plan, but nothing is going to affect the way we play and we are going to continue to play this way until the end of the season. The boys are used to getting kicked from a Monday to a Friday so it is not going to make any difference on a Saturday."

Rankin, who is chairman of the players' union PFA Scotland, has no complaints about the degree of protection the likes of Gauld and co are receiving from referees. He simply feels they have to get back on another winning run if they are to reach their goal of finishing second in the league.

"I don't see any reason why not," he said. "We have been on a good run although obviously it ended on Boxing Day. We need to put another one together and, to be honest, I think we can. We need to take three points on Sunday and build on that.

"The next week is massive - we have three games in seven days - and we always knew this was going to be a difficult period. Last year we picked up three points over the whole festive period, this year we have three already with three more games to go. We have boys in the dressing room who have got enough experience to bring the young lads through."

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