Calum Butcher has hailed boss Robbie Neilson for making the changes needed to get Dundee United within touching distance of a return to the Premiership.
Butcher has praised Robbie for bringing the ‘right characters’ into the Terrors’ dressing-room in his 18 months in charge as they close in on the Championship title.
It’s been a long four years fighting it out in the second tier but, on the cusp of bringing top-flight football back to Tannadice, 28-year-old Butcher believes they have gone full circle from soft touch to champions.
To listen to the Tele’s football podcast, Twa Teams One Street, download from Apple Podcasts or Spotify – or head to thetele.co.uk
He, in part, puts their success down to the arrival of 29-goal sensation Lawrence Shankland but insists the Tangerines are much more than one player.
“I think that would be unfair to say,” the Englishman said.
“You don’t listen too much to what’s going on out there.
“I think, ultimately, Dundee United have struggled to get up the past few years because they haven’t had the right characters in the dressing-room.
“That’s been the biggest problem but I think that’s all changed since the gaffer’s come in. He’s brought the right people that want to do well for the club and it’s not been like that for a while.
“Signing Shanks was a massive part of that because we needed a goalscorer but he can only score if we get assists to him.
“We’ve kept loads of clean sheets throughout the season and been hard to beat, too.
“We have been the best team in the league and that’s why we are where we are.
“It’s been a consistent team and a solid team. Over the years, Dundee United hasn’t been a tough side or a settled side but we’ve had that.
“People can say what they want but if we win the league that’s all that matters.
“There’s a very good team spirit and the gaffer works us hard. There’s been a lot of sessions and a lot of graft right from the start of pre-season.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with Evening Telegraph newsletter
“It’s not just one or two weeks, it’s every week with double sessions and in the gym.”
With United sitting 18 points clear at the summit, Butcher admits it’s been an enjoyable ride and one they are keen to wrap up as soon as possible.
As the day they can clinch the title draws ever closer, the defender-cum-midfielder insists they are used to living up to the big occasion.
“We’ve enjoyed every big game we’ve had this season,” he added.
“Whether it’s derbies or games where it’s really mattered like last Friday against Inverness, the boys have embraced the atmosphere and thrive off it.
“Even the cup games, we’ve enjoyed them and dealt with the big occasions over the season, so we’ll look forward to that day.
“We want to win it as quickly as possible because we want to enjoy it. We’ve earned the right to do that because of our performances over the whole season.”
And the first of three games in a week comes tomorrow as they call in to face Dunfermline at East End Park, a clash Butcher is expecting to be as difficult as ever.
“Three games in a week is good for us, we enjoy that. It’s a tough place to go and they’re a good attacking team.
“They’ve got good forward players but it’s also a big pitch and that suits us. We like to make the pitch as big as we can and it’s a nice place to play.
“We’ll bring a good crowd down, too, which is a bonus.”
Of his own performances this term, Butcher has been pleased and delighted to captain the side of late but admits the overall goal of promotion would be satisfaction enough for his efforts.
“I think I’ve had an all-round good season but, ultimately, it’s about the team.
“Coming here, even in January last season, it was all about promotion and if we can do that it’s going to be the main satisfaction for me.”