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Thompson believes he has ace in McNamara

IF Jackie McNamara and Stephen Thompson felt like a pair of gamblers then they masked it well.

Jackie McNamara and his assistant Simon Donnelly have signed three-year contracts with Dundee United Picture: SNS
Jackie McNamara and his assistant Simon Donnelly have signed three-year contracts with Dundee United Picture: SNS

The pair of them must have poker faces. An element of risk is obvious in Dundee United's appointment of the 39-year-old McNamara and the new manager admitted that it was a gamble for him, too, to leave the comforting embrace of Partick Thistle.

As the pair of them faced the media at Tannadice, though, there was not the slightest sign of doubt about the deal they had just struck. Thompson looked pretty pleased with himself about landing McNamara. His new manager's pleasure was just as obvious.

A press conference scheduled for 2pm eventually began two hours late. Hitches in the paperwork and the compensation package being thrashed out with Thistle, apparently. Everything else ran like clockwork. McNamara, smooth and quietly polished, spoke of his enthusiasm and his respect for United. Thompson, full of restless energy, looked like a man happy to move on from the tortured end of Peter Houston's reign.

Thompson had phoned McNamara on Monday night to say he was the man United wanted, rather than Steven Pressley or Billy Dodds. Three-year contracts were agreed yesterday with McNamara and his assistant, Simon Donnelly. The pair of them still look youthful enough to be playing together, as they had while forming their friendship as team-mates at Celtic.

McNamara was concerned by only one thing: the difficulty it had caused him to walk out on Partick Thistle. That club are in the Ramsdens Cup final against Queen of the South in April and sit second in Division One with – at least while they had their manager – an excellent chance of overtaking leaders Morton. "The hardest thing was walking away from that," said McNamara. "It's a big risk. It's a big risk for United to take a young manager in only his second year and it's a big risk for myself as well leaving that behind. But since I spoke to Stephen I know the infrastructure here, the players we've got at United, the youth set-up, the training facilities, the players and the squad we've got. I just felt it was the right thing to do."

Just 14 days ago, Thompson and Houston had sat in the same suite, at the same table, and the former manager talked of United being unable to remain as competitive as he would wish because of ongoing budget cuts. Everything is relative. What United could offer McNamara was far in excess of anything he would ever see at Partick Thistle. "It's not just about money to go and buy players," he said. "A lot of things add into it and that was what attracted me. There is a strong foundation here. I think there is so much to achieve. Long-term, we'd want to be challenging for everything. Obviously, that is very ambitious given how Scottish football is at the minute, Celtic are miles ahead, but we want to put together a good team that everyone can be proud of."

McNamara will meet his players for training this morning. Among them will be Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay-Steven, for whom a reported bid of £2m from Crystal Palace has yet to materialise. The transfer window closes tonight. United's on-field prospects hinge on holding on to the pair of them for as long as possible, just as their financial robustness depends on ultimately cashing in on them. "Every club in Scotland has players with a price on their head," said McNamara. "The main thing is that it has to be right for the club and obviously the chairman will decide that if the right bid comes in. I would be happier if it was in the summer. Johnny has another year and a half of his contract to go. Players have left before that the club got nothing for. As much as we want to keep them, ideally it would be in the summer . . ." Only time will tell if he will fulfil the promise he has shown in 21 months in charge of Partick Thistle, and if Thompson will be vindicated in appointing him. The only previous time Thompson picked a manager he took a man already at the club, Houston. His determination to land McNamara was evident from the fact he paid compensation to Houston to leave early and will give more to Partick Thistle for enticing their man. Thompson called Pressley and sent Dodds a text, thanking them both for making themselves available for interview.

McNamara has tried to play attractive football at Firhill and that, coupled with his energy and enthusiasm for sports science, and all other aspects of the modern coaching environment, seduced Thompson. "Finances are tight but they are tight for every club," said the chairman. "But if you went for someone based on money then you might not end up with the right guy and end up relegated. I have had some very interesting texts from people today saying we have got a great man."

IF Jackie McNamara and Stephen Thompson felt like a pair of gamblers then they masked it well. The pair of them must have poker faces. An element of risk is obvious in Dundee United's appointment of the 39-year-old McNamara and the new manager admitted that it was a gamble for him, too, to leave the comforting embrace of Partick Thistle.

As the pair of them faced the media at Tannadice, though, there was not the slightest sign of doubt about the deal they had just struck. Thompson looked pretty pleased with himself about landing McNamara. His new manager's pleasure was just as obvious.

A press conference scheduled for 2pm eventually began two hours late. Hitches in the paperwork and the compensation package being thrashed out with Thistle, apparently. Everything else ran like clockwork. McNamara, smooth and quietly polished, spoke of his enthusiasm and his respect for United. Thompson, full of restless energy, looked like a man happy to move on from the tortured end of Peter Houston's reign.

Thompson had phoned McNamara on Monday night to say he was the man United wanted, rather than Steven Pressley or Billy Dodds. Three-year contracts were agreed yesterday with McNamara and his assistant, Simon Donnelly. The pair of them still look youthful enough to be playing together, as they had while forming their friendship as team-mates at Celtic.

McNamara was concerned by only one thing: the difficulty it had caused him to walk out on Partick Thistle. That club are in the Ramsdens Cup final against Queen of the South in April and sit second in Division One with – at least while they had their manager – an excellent chance of overtaking leaders Morton. "The hardest thing was walking away from that," said McNamara. "It's a big risk. It's a big risk for United to take a young manager in only his second year and it's a big risk for myself as well leaving that behind. But since I spoke to Stephen I know the infrastructure here, the players we've got at United, the youth set-up, the training facilities, the players and the squad we've got. I just felt it was the right thing to do."

Just 14 days ago, Thompson and Houston had sat in the same suite, at the same table, and the former manager talked of United being unable to remain as competitive as he would wish because of ongoing budget cuts. Everything is relative. What United could offer McNamara was far in excess of anything he would ever see at Partick Thistle. "It's not just about money to go and buy players," he said. "A lot of things add into it and that was what attracted me. There is a strong foundation here. I think there is so much to achieve. Long-term, we'd want to be challenging for everything. Obviously, that is very ambitious given how Scottish football is at the minute, Celtic are miles ahead, but we want to put together a good team that everyone can be proud of."

McNamara will meet his players for training this morning. Among them will be Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay-Steven, for whom a reported bid of £2m from Crystal Palace has yet to materialise. The transfer window closes tonight. United's on-field prospects hinge on holding on to the pair of them for as long as possible, just as their financial robustness depends on ultimately cashing in on them. "Every club in Scotland has players with a price on their head," said McNamara. "The main thing is that it has to be right for the club and obviously the chairman will decide that if the right bid comes in. I would be happier if it was in the summer. Johnny has another year and a half of his contract to go. Players have left before that the club got nothing for. As much as we want to keep them, ideally it would be in the summer . . ." Only time will tell if he will fulfil the promise he has shown in 21 months in charge of Partick Thistle, and if Thompson will be vindicated in appointing him. The only previous time Thompson picked a manager he took a man already at the club, Houston. His determination to land McNamara was evident from the fact he paid compensation to Houston to leave early and will give more to Partick Thistle for enticing their man. Thompson called Pressley and sent Dodds a text, thanking them both for making themselves available for interview.

McNamara has tried to play attractive football at Firhill and that, coupled with his energy and enthusiasm for sports science, and all other aspects of the modern coaching environment, seduced Thompson. "Finances are tight but they are tight for every club," said the chairman. "But if you went for someone based on money then you might not end up with the right guy and end up relegated. I have had some very interesting texts from people today saying we have got a great man."

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