Published: 17th January 2024
Dundee United Manager Jim Goodwin is relishing the opportunity to freshen up his charges for the second half of the campaign through a new recruit in David Wotherspoon and a two-week pause from competitive action following a taxing winter schedule.
WARM WELCOME FOR WOTHERSPOON
Following on from the capture of Alex Greive, the Irishman secured his second January signing on Monday afternoon, with Wotherspoon penning a deal which sees him remain at Tannadice until the culmination of the current season.
Speaking on his decision to bring our new number seven to the club, he began: “Everybody in Scotland will be well aware of the qualities that David has got and what he will bring to our team. He's already scored a few goals in the Championship this season with Inverness.
“David gives us another real bit of quality in the forward areas, that little bit of cutting edge that we've sometimes lacked at home, in particular here at Tannadice where teams come and sit deep and put lots of bodies back behind the ball.
"Someone with his intelligence, space awareness and quality at being able to unlock opposition defences, will be really important to us in the last 16 fixtures. We're hoping that he's going to have plenty of goal contributions, whether it's assists or putting the ball in the back of the net himself."
Wotherspoon, who spent the first half of the 2023/24 campaign at Duncan Ferguson’s Inverness, grabbed six goal contributions from his 11 starts with the Highland outfit. And Goodwin has opened the door on extending the 34-year-old’s stay in the city of Discovery should his form persist.
“It's not necessarily a case of coming here for the next six months. If we're successful and David’s successful, then he's certainly a player that we'd like to keep around for longer than just this season.
“He did have a lot of other options on the table to him but I think he's excited by the opportunity to come to such a big club. He sees where we are in the table and wants to go and try and win a league to help us achieve our objective of getting back into the Premiership. We're very lucky to have him."
With three major honours to his name during a decade-long stint with St Johnstone, Wotherspoon is well versed in what it takes to secure silverware - a quality which will be vital during the final months of the cinch Championship title race according to Goodwin.
“It’s massively important at a club of this size to have a winner’s mentality. You're expected to go in and be successful - with that comes a real level of expectation and that can be a lot of pressure on players. Especially here at home in front of 9,000 fans that are demanding high-quality performances. He's a player that won't be overawed by the big stadium and the fan base. He's well aware of the level of expectation that's on us.
“I think you need strong characters to be able to handle that. David is certainly in that mould. Any time I've played or managed against him, he's always a player that we identified as a key player in the opposition team. I’m looking forward to working with him and having the luxury of actually having him in my team for a change.”
Since 2018, the midfielder has represented Canada across various prestigious international competitions including, but not limited to, the Gold Cup, CONCACAF Nations League and the FIFA World Cup. Remaining prevalent on the international stage throughout his Tannadice stay is a self-confessed ambition of Wotherspoon’s.
“If he gets in the team and he holds down his place, playing well and contributing at the top end of the pitch, then I would like to think that the Canadian National team will give him some kind of recognition.
“He's been an important player for them in the years gone by. Sometimes, when players get into the mid-thirties they’re winding down so it's great for me to hear David still having that drive and determination to try and force his way back into the international set up. If Dundee United can give him the platform to go and do that, then that would be great for everybody.”
On Friday, the Terrors leap-frogged Raith Rovers into pole position with a hard-fought victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Following on from an injury-time winner from Chris Mochrie on our last visit to the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, United left it late to snatch three points once more, this time through Tony Watt as lightning struck twice in the Highland capital.
“We went up to Inverness with a game plan. We didn't feel that we had enough energy in the team with the personnel that was available to us to go and play the way that we normally do, which is with a really high and aggressive press.
“We went up there with a game plan in place to try and frustrate and to try and be compact and hit Inverness on the counterattack. Thankfully it paid off. If it hadn’t, I would have been open to a whole lot of criticism. But in hindsight, that proved to be the right way to do it.
“Given the result at the weekend and Kirkcaldy as well, it turned out to be a really good weekend for us.
Whilst the performance, lacking in craft and guile, may have irked the United boss, this was an accepted consequence of a matchday squad decimated by injury and suspension.
“It was easily our poorest performance in terms of what we done with the ball in possession. But somehow we managed to find a way to win the game - that's what good teams do.
"That could be a massive three points when we look back on the season and nobody's going to worry too much about the performance. If those three points become decisive in May then it'll be a job well done.
“Alex Grieve had come into the starting line-up, but hasn't played a great deal of minutes for St Mirren before coming here and Jordan Tilson was playing with a tight hamstring throughout the course of the game and ended up coming off in the last few minutes of the game with that."
Those regular starters absent from the action boast a combined 6,566 minutes across all competitions this season, laying bare the scale gaping hole created through the spine of Goodwin’s side.
“When you rhyme off those three names that you just mentioned (Declan Gallagher, Ross Docherty and Louis Moult) and add to that Craig Sibbald missing through suspension - that’s four massive players in our team.
“Any team in the country that has to go without four key players is always going to be slightly hindered. I have to give great credit to the squad that went up to Inverness on the night and managed to get the job done. As we said, it wasn't pretty."
MEEKISON MAKES RETURN
Friday’s clash heralded the long-awaited return of Archie Meekison. Climbing from the bench for the final quarter, the talented Academy graduate made a notable impact on United’s attacking fluency, also registering United’s first shot on target as he tested Mark Ridgers with a vicious, dipping volley from the edge of the area.
“Archie Meekison had a difficult time himself. Little niggles here and there, kind of similar to Ross Docherty in many ways, just one injury after the other. But hopefully, both Archie and Ross have now got those difficult days behind them and they can look forward to finishing the season off strongly.
“Archie's a really good technical player as well. We talk about David Wotherspoon, I would look at Archie in that kind of mould as well - he can find good pockets of space, will take the ball in tight areas and suits the way that we want to play.
JANUARY BUSINESS SET TO CONTINUE
With moves for Greive and Wotherspoon now completed, Goodwin is continuing to scour the notoriously difficult winter window for additions which will bolster United’s title bid. The 42-year-old also remarked there could be some members of the squad heading for the exit door in an effort to balance his ranks.
“We'll continuously try and improve the squad. You always need to have strength and depth throughout the group and there always has to be a certain level of competition for places - that keeps everybody on their toes.
“We've got a number of players in the squad as well who are maybe wanting a bit more game time - we've been struggling to give some of the players in the squad consistent game time. There might be one or two going out the way and hopefully another one coming in before the window closes.”
The upcoming weekend is United’s first without a scheduled fixture since mid-August. Despite the lingering disappointment of our Scottish Cup exit at the first hurdle, the break in our relentless schedule will allow the squad to return to full strength for the visit of Dunfermline and therefore could potentially be viewed as a welcome hiatus.
“Of course, we would much rather be involved in the Scottish Cup this weekend but it is a slight blessing in disguise given that the players that we've been missing the last couple of games through injury and suspension.
“This ten-day period gives us a real opportunity to get a bit of freshness back in the group to work on those guys who have had the injuries. The likes of Meekison, Docherty, Moult and one or two others. Hopefully, come the next fixture, all those boys will be fresh and ready to kick on."
The work on the training pitch will continue, however, allowing the newest members of our squad to get up to speed on the demands of their new boss.
Goodwin resumed: “The minutes that Alex Greive got up at Inverness will stand him in good stead. He was cramping up after an hour but he gives everything for the cause, ran himself into the ground and then we had to make the change.
"The guys that we've been working with from pre-season to now are well understanding of what their jobs are within the team and what their roles and responsibilities are within it.
"But the next ten days is going to be crucial in terms of making sure that David and Alex both understand what is being asked of them and that they understand the tactical element of what our team looks like."
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Check out our interview with Tannadice new boy David Wotherspoon below!