On the 9th of August last year, Dundee United battered Partick Thistle at Tannadice in the League Cup. It was a blistering performance and in the emotion of the game I tweeted: “Make no mistake, we thumped Thistle tonight. That Utd team would be comfortable in the Premiership.”
You’re probably familiar with it if you’re reading this because one of the contributors to this site loves to retweet it every time United lose.
And hey, that’s fair enough because that’s the nature of footballing rivalry in the eyes of some…
But I stand by that remark based on the evidence that was there before me at the time. On that day in that tie, that United side played like a team who would have finished comfortably in the top division.
Of course, a lot of water has flown under the bridge between that warm evening in August and today’s depressing play-off final defeat to Hamilton and I have long since reconsidered my opinion.
Whether we limped over the line or not, pretty much every player in that side would have to be replaced because, as they proved – especially since the turn of the year – they weren’t even good enough to finish second in the Championship.
The squad had no balance to it, the bench was so poor that when players were out on their feet, the manager still wouldn’t make substitutions and the quality just wasn’t there.
So here are my ratings for the Dundee United players in season 2016/17.
[editor: this was written before the club announced some contract activity around certain players]
Cammy Bell – 7/10
Early in the season, Bell was the hero. He saved three penalties in one game and a good few more besides. He is a steady goalkeeper; but he’s not without his faults. There have been goals flogged and points dropped, there have been crosses missed and free kicks not saved when they should have been. On the whole he’s been one of the best performers in the squad, but he’s not perfect.
Luis Zwick – 3/10
He only played a handful of games, usually coming on for Bell when he was injured, but I don’t think anyone had any confidence in him based on how he performed the previous season. He’ll be away in the next few days and nobody will bat an eyelid.
Sean Dillon – 2/10
Ah, Dillon. He’s a great guy, a stand-up dude. If footballers were judged on whether or not they could be described as ‘A Good Cunt’ then he’s your man.
But that’s not what footballers are judged on, and any ability the club captain may have had has long since gone.
I don’t think anyone can question his commitment to the club over his ten years, but on the pitch he’s a liability who just wants to kick the ball away as fast as possible. He too will also be away this summer. If he’s not, then he definitely knows where the bodies are buried.
Paul Dixon – 3/10
Allegedly our highest earning player, Dixon is another one who defines the term ‘washed up’. He’s often found out of position and has lost most of the ability he once had.
People feel empathy towards him because he’s a fellow fan, and it’s been clear over the last few games that the play-off ties have meant a lot to him, but still…it’s time to go.
Jamie Robson – 3/10
Equally poor has been the young left back who managed to replace Dixon in many of the games this season. If United have any match analysts under their employ then they will no doubt have found that many of the goals we’ve conceded have been down our left side with Robson at fault to some degree.
He’s young and could well have a good future ahead of him, but he’s not a first team standard defender yet. The softest of soft touches.
Stewart Murdoch – 6/10
Murdoch was signed as the central midfield partner to Willo Flood, but despite a decent start, injury meant he lost his place there and any time he was thrown back in he was poor. However, for the last portion of the season he was deployed as a surprisingly tidy right back. No, he didn’t offer much going forward but he was stable enough. Since we’re staying down, he’s one player who might be useful next season.
Frank van der Struijk – 5/10
The forgotten man of Tannadice; why the decent Dutch right back – he was signed as a centre back despite playing his entire career on the right and was very obviously better suited out there – just disappeared from the squad remains a bit of a mystery. He had some stinkers but usually had a decent game in the early part of the season and played a pivotal role in the team’s long forgotten shut-out run in the winter of late 2016.
I believe he’d already left the club before the play-offs ended.
Lewis Toshney – 3/10
He’d be a four out of ten had we not paid a decent fee for him. I actually rate Toshney higher than most other fans do, but even I would hold my hands up and say that he’s an injury-prone bombscare who is expected to be sent off in every game he plays. He has almost no footballing intelligence.
And remember, I rate him higher than most.
William Edjenguele – 7/10
He’s a limited defender and one who would probably be on the poorer end of the spectrum if we had been promoted to the top division. But at the Championship level, Edge does just fine. He kicks and headers the ball away from goal when he needs to. And he’s also helped out his fellow centre back…
Mark Durnan – 8/10
In my report card for last season I stated that Mark Durnan was hopeless. He was, and that continued in the early weeks of this season, with him being booed off the park in Dumbarton and almost released on deadline day. But after Lewis Toshney had one of his 7,000 injuries, Durnan was thrown back in to the side and has actually done very well since.
Like I say above, I believe Edjenguele has helped him kick on, and playing with more confidence he does the job he’s supposed to, while also occasionally proving useful up front.
Coll Donaldson – 3/10
I can’t say the same for Donaldson though; he’s just a clown, even if there is some raw ability hiding under the surface.
Willo Flood – 5/10
I thought he might be an inspired signing for us and at the start of the season he did well, but then I remembered why I’ve never liked Willo Flood. He’s a headless chicken who runs about a lot without doing anything useful with the ball. He also gets in his team-mates way.
You cannot fault his commitment and work ethic, but like a few others, he’s desperately in need of a trip to the glue factory.
Charlie Telfer – 5/10
Telfer epitomises the sort of blah player loads of Scottish sides seem to be developing at the moment. He’s a sideways passing, unfit looking lightweight who happens to have a little bit of technique. He might well have scored number six, but apart from a small purple patch at the end of last year, he contributed very little.
Watu Kuate – 5/10
Oh Watu, never has a player gone from hero to zero in such a short space of time. He was possibly the slowest player I’ve ever seen and was deluded as to how good he actually was, but it cannot be argued that when he played, the team played better.
Why? Because unlike Flood, Telfer, Murdoch, Toshney or anyone else who played in central midfield over the season, Watu passed the ball forward. It made such a difference.
That being said, he was shown to be completely out of his depth against Hamilton and his meltdown was inexcusable.
Scott Fraser – 6/10
One of the only creative players in the side, Fraser improved a fair bit from last season, but some of his long-standing issues remain.
He’s another lightweight player and he’s scared of going in to challenges. But he’s one of a small number of players who will likely survive the cull going in to next season.
And at least he invested in a hairband.
Scott Allardice – 5/10
I expect this kid will play more next season and though he’s been mostly unremarkable in his small number of appearances so far, he might progress into a decent talent.
Blair Spittal – 5/10
Spittal gets an extra point for his performances in the play-off games, but while the media sat up and took notice of him in the last few weeks and spoke about how much of a talent he is, what they forget is that between his last decent run of form in January 2016 and the start of this month, he contributed absolutely nothing to the side.
He’s a winger who has little pace and has no interest in beating a man, and he can’t really pass. More often than not he’s anonymous.
The only thing going for him is his age; you forget he’s only 21 and has scope for improvement.
Nick van der Velden – 4/10
If the season had ended in August – roughly the time VDV decided to retire from football – he’s have got a 9.
Unfortunately he didn’t tell the manager he’d hung up the boots so he still got a game from time to time and did absolutely nothing.
Tope Obedeyi – 6/10
Ray McKinnon punted Tope Obedeyi because he didn’t track back enough for his liking. He seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Tope was also our only player with pace, our only proper wide player and the only player who could get to the byline to cross the ball. But apparently he wasn’t good enough for the team and instead we got…
Alex Nicholls – 2/10
Whenever anyone tries to argue that the lower reaches of the English Football League is of a higher standard to the SPFL just remind them of Alex Nicholls.
He missed an open goal with his first touch and it went downhill from there. He never beat a man, he would run the ball out of play because he didn’t know where the touch-line was and he looked like a spiv.
Ali Coote – 4/10
There was once a lot of hype around Ali Coote. Perhaps people always look for the next big thing and he was talked up as being a player to rival Ryan Gauld. And yes, I took that hype and gave him a high potential in Football Manager which in turn hyped him up even more in certain circles.
Well all I’ll say is that Coote has not shown any sign yet of living up to that hype yet. I’m not even sure where he’s supposed to play on the park.
That might be grossly unfair considering he’s only just about to turn 19, but if he’s going to make it, he’s going to have to show something better next season.
Cammy Smith – 6/10
Poor Cammy Smith. He looked like a star in the making in the aforementioned drubbing of Partick Thistle. But then we signed Tony Andreu for his position and it all went downhill from there.
Of course, had we kept Smith on loan and played him occasionally he might have been useful in the second half of the season rather than strengthening a different side in the league.
Tony Andreu – 6/10
Wait, what? 6/10? But Tony Andreu was the top scorer throughout the season and is widely regarded as a player of a higher standard than the rest of the United side.
But here’s the thing; as much as Andreu scored some important goals, that was about all he did. If he wasn’t scoring, admittedly top drawer, goals out of nothing, then nothing was the sum total of his contributions on the day. As a player who is entirely limited to playing in the number 10 role behind the striker, Andreu was useless at everything else and a fish out of water whenever we played 4-4-2.
His performances during the play-offs summed that up.
Simon Murray – 7/10
Everyone knows Simon Murray is a very limited footballer, but his effort cannot be questioned. He’d often have bad games but he’d never give up pressing and harrying the opposition defences into making mistakes.
There are better footballers out there but there are few with higher work rate. You can’t help but appreciate him.
Thomas Mikkelsen – 6/10
It took him a few games to gain fitness, but once he got it, the big Dane proved useful in the air and with the ball at his feet.
But he’d also dive a lot and break up play by committing foul after foul.
Ray McKinnon – 6/10
If I was told at the beginning of the season that United would have had a chance to win promotion by beating Hamilton in the play-off final then I would have said that McKinnon had done exactly what was expected of him. But that’s a very simple way of looking at it.
McKinnon deserves praise for certain things he’s done. For example he’s steadied the sinking ship on the park and has got certain players playing better football than before.
But his recruitment has been imbalanced in the extreme, with far too many number 10 style players signed rather than wide men or strikers. As you can see, there are only two forwards in the entire report card. And he weakened the squad in January rather than strengthened it.
Meanwhile he’s got it tactically wrong a few times, not least on Sunday when he concluded that the team lost because of tired legs yet only made one substitution out of a possible three.
McKinnon will very likely still be manager next season, and I have some confidence that he’ll get us to at least the same position as we achieved in 16/17, but he must improve on certain areas, especially recruitment.
Written by Stuart Milne