BILLY Kirkwood, the Dundee United manager, last night concluded the signing of Neil Duffy for #200,000. And the good news for Tannadice supporters is that the defender could be just the start of the influx at United.

``I hope this is just the start of our summer signings,'' said Kirkwood, who could follow up the deal which brought 29-year-old Duffy from Dundee by tying up Dutch defender Arman Benneker in time for Saturday's premier division game against Motherwell.

``I am delighted about signing Neil,'' said Kirkwood. ``He was always on my list of targets and at the end of the day, represented great value for money compared to some of the other players I had in mind.

``He will be a great asset to our defence but he also offers the important option of being able to play in midfield as well as being a goal threat.

``But I have not bought Neil as an alternative to Benneker. We are still talking to him and I believe we are getting closer. I hope that deal will happen, too.

``My other priority is a striker who will improve us and offer options in that area. That is going to be the toughest thing to sort out - but we are trying.''

Duffy is back at Tannadice more than 11 years after he arrived from South Africa aged 17. He went AWOL for four years after a short time in Scotland before returning to United and being sold to Falkirk in 1990.

``It wasn't an easy decision to rejoin United because I had been here before and also because of the rivalry which exists between the two sets of fans in the city,'' said Duffy.

``It came down to deciding if I wanted to play at Boghead or Parkhead. The chance to play in the premier division clinched it.''

Duffy, who signed a one-year deal with Dundee only two weeks ago, added: ``Although I was young and homesick when I was first here, I did learn a lot which has helped me.

``There are still players at the club who were here in those early days and I know we have a good squad. I think we'll do well in the new season.''

Duffy's departure means Dundee manager Jim Duffy - his cousin - has now lost five of his top players from last season, Michel Pageaud, Neil McCann, Gerry Britton, and Dusan Vrto.

Jim Duffy has no money to buy replacements and he says: ``We are going to be short if we pick up a couple of injuries and we have to bring in a couple of players. It is a matter of using all our contacts to come up with help to bring in replacements.''

Duffy has signed Kevin Magee on a free from Scarborough despite competition from Livingston. However, the Dundee manager has failed to reach agreement in his efforts to fix George Shaw on an extended deal.

``We made George an exceptional offer,'' said the manager. ``But we wanted him to agree to two years and he was only prepared to talk about one year.''