Ayr form led to Dundee United making moves for new boy Liam Smith

Dundee United's summer recruit Liam Smith looks ahead to the new season.
Dundee United's summer recruit Liam Smith looks ahead to the new season.

New boy Liam Smith is delighted to be one of Dundee United’s summer recruits and suspects previous employers Ayr United were partly responsible for the arrival of some of the men who beat him through the doors at Tannadice by a few months.

It was Tangerines gaffer Robbie Neilson’s knowledge of Smith from their time together at Hearts, plus his form for the Honest Men last term that earned the 23-year-old right-back his move.

In fact, such was his form during the first half of last campaign, United made a bid for him in January before having to settle for fixing him up on a pre-contract and getting his services now.

And Smith believes Ayr’s surge to the top of the Championship before Christmas prompted increased transfer activity elsewhere in the division.

Read the Tele’s special five-part series on Dundee and United’s Millennium Managers here.

“I think because we had done so well in the first half of the season and Ayr were considered a smaller club, the bigger sides in the division got a bit of a fright,” he said.

“United, Partick and other teams like them saw we were doing well and thought we have to do something about this, so they signed a few players in January.

“There was nothing Ayr could do about the players these clubs were signing, they don’t have the budget to compete at that level and I think they can be delighted with where we finished last year and the season we had.”

News Smith would be heading for Tannadice once his Ayr contract was up, leaked out just a day or so before the teams were due to meet towards the end of the season.

While he would have preferred if his proposed move had been kept under wraps for a little longer, the way things have panned out, he insists it was not a major problem.

“It came out the day before we were playing United, that wasn’t ideal but Ian McCall trusted me and knew that I would give my all for Ayr until the end of the season and that’s what I did.

“We didn’t meet United in the play-offs, probably thankfully. It would have been a little, maybe slightly, awkward. When the news came out it was near to the end of the season, so all I could do was give my all for Ayr to win.

“And it’s not something you even remotely think about it when you’re playing on a Saturday. It’s not in your head, you are just doing your job in the day.”

While he’s known for months he was Tannadice-bound, it was only with the start of pre-season training at the beginning of the week that he was able to get down to working with his new team-mates.

And already, he admits, he’s been impressed with what he’s seen.

With most of the squad that will be used next season already in place, he is confident the quality required to live up to expectations and secure automatic promotion is there.

“Just from the first couple of days of training you can see the quality in the squad and the players the manager has to choose from. To be added to that is, obviously, good for myself and, hopefully, I can stay in the team and do well.

“I have experience of winning the Championship with St Mirren so I think I’m ready for that challenge of the expectation of winning games and playing in front of a big crowd at Tannadice. I’m confident that I can handle it and I’m sure we’ll be doing all we can to make it happen.”

And he’s made it clear that, for all the Championship is a division he rates highly, he plans to be spending most of his United career operating a step up from it.

“I’m ready to challenge myself at a higher level. It would have been great if United had gone up last season but 100% the aim is to win this league.”