It’s changed days in more ways than one since Dundee United last went to St Mirren but midfielder Calum Butcher insists history and turmoil will be parked to one side tonight.
This evening’s clash with the Buddies represents United’s first trip to Paisley since the infamous 2019 Premiership play-off final penalty shootout defeat and comes amid challenging off-pitch circumstances for both clubs.
United players are currently negotiating with the club after being asked to take 20% pay cuts until the end of the season, while St Mirren haven’t had a game in nearly four weeks after a swathe of positive coronavirus tests struck their squad.
However, Butcher says the players are fully focused on the job at hand, as they put strife to the back of their minds and aim to pick up another valuable three points.
“It’s out of our hands, we are all together and focusing on the pitch,” the 29-year-old said of the cost-cutting measures.
“It’s at the back of our minds, the boys knew that it would be out of our hands.
“We are a tight group, most of us have been together for a few years now. We look after each other and want to do well for each other.”
‘We’re over play-off heartache’
On tonight’s game, the Englishman says the Tangerines hope to build on last weekend’s 2-1 win over Ross County, which saw them rise to fifth in the Premiership standings.
He continued: “We want to build on last weekend’s win – that was one of our best performances.
“We were solid, we got the mixture right and could have won it more comfortably in the end.
“Hopefully we can keep that going, take it into the St Mirren game and solidify in fifth place.
“It has been a decent start to the season.
“It could go either way, they could come out with a freshness because of the break or we could catch them. Who knows?
“St Mirren are a good side, we will go out there to try and exploit any weaknesses we can find just like they will do to us.
“We haven’t been back there since the play-off a year and a half ago but it’s not something we have spoken about.
“We have had some good results there in the past.
“The boys like playing on a Friday night, we have games coming up next week in the Betfred Cup.
“We have been disappointed with the cup so far so we want to get Friday out of the way then focus on St Johnstone because we have to win that one.”
‘United players can handle the weight of expectation’
Some criticism has been levelled at the Terrors in recent weeks, particularly for their play in the final third of the pitch in goalless draws against Aberdeen and St Johnstone.
However, Butcher believes they have made steps to rectify that problem and that the weight of expectation simply comes with the territory at Tannadice.
He added: “There is always criticism surrounding Dundee United because the club had so much success in the 1980s.
“But we accept it, we expect it and we expect to do well ourselves.
“We know we are a work-in-progress, we know the manager wants to set up in a certain way to frustrate teams sometimes.
“So we just block everything else out and get on with it.
“You can see when we play that we are sticking together, everyone is going for the same things.
“We’re fifth in the league, so I don’t see what there is to be moaning about at the moment.
“There will always be expectation, that’s the way it is here?”
Butcher, who had a previous spell with United from 2013-15, insists learning to cope with playing for the club in the Premiership is a work-in-progress for the squad.
He continued: “Is it the same as my first spell here? It’s hard to say because that was a completely different experience.
“That’s just what it’s like at Dundee United, the fans expect success and so do we.
“This is a big club and you have to do well all the time.
“You can’t have much to do with what people say about you, you just have to get on with your job.
“That’s what we’ve been doing, we’re fifth and we are happy with how things are going.
“The gaffer has pointed out that we’re new to the league and if you look at the games, apart from one or two, we have been in every game.
“We have been doing well.
“When you come up you just want to stay in the league, that was the main aim.
“We have not set ourselves targets beyond that, saying we want to finish fifth or anything like that.
“It’s just a case of performing as well as we can and taking it week by week.”