Csaba Laszlo’s reign as Dundee United manager had its fair share of mad moments, yet it’s also left a lasting legacy from which current boss Micky Mellon is benefiting today.
Whether it was his half-hour, two question press calls delivered in the Hungarian-Romanian’s unique brand of English, the 6-1 defeat at Falkirk, wanting to kill Bilel Mohsni after a draw with Dunfermline or his constant referral to Fyvie Fraser and Willo Floody, Laszlo was different.
Admittedly, slightly bonkers, the former Hearts gaffer was an endearing character who, at times, shone in the dugout.
Strong start quickly turned sour at Falkirk
Upon checking in at Tannadice in November 2017, replacing Ray McKinnon, Laszlo led the Tangerines to five wins and a draw in his opening seven league games, with the one loss coming against eventual-Championship winners St Mirren.
Unfortunately, that defeat at the hands of the Bairns soon followed and United’s season spiralled, ultimately, losing out in the promotion play-off semi-finals to Livingston.
Hamstrung by the absence of star turns ‘Fyvie Fraser’ and Scott Fraser for parts of the campaign, Laszlo was given a second chance and he recruited reasonably well ahead of the 2018/19 term.
No more were the ghosts of the Falkirk Stadium – Brandon Mason, Emil Lyng and Craig Slater – haunting United.
New faces couldn’t save Csaba but have benefitted United
Laszlo brought in new stars in the summer of 2018 including Pavol Safranko, Paul Watson, Rachid Bouhenna and, crucially, Nicky Clark and Benjamin Siegrist.
Of course, as demonstrated by the likes of Mason, Lyng and Slater, Laszlo also signed a lot of dross including, but not limited to, Adam Barton, Christoph Rabitsch, Yannick Loemba and Matej Rakovan.
Initially signed as a back-up to Slovak stopper Rakovan, Siegrist was seen as a future No 1 by Laszlo, who, upon the Swiss goalie’s arrival at Tannadice, was quick to point that out.
He said: “Benjamin comes to Dundee United with a very good pedigree and is a large presence with good hands. I see him as a potential No 1.”
How right he was.
As for Clark, his impact for the Tangerines was immediate, scoring on his league debut – a 3-2 loss against former club Dunfermline on opening day at Tannadice.
Rakovan would be United’s league goalie, with Siegrist largely their man for cup contests, until Laszlo’s Tannadice exit at the end of September after a 5-1 home humbling by Ross County.
In terms of the overall goal, winning promotion back to the Premiership, the Laszlo experiment failed.
However, he can hold his head high knowing the impact he made as United, eventually, achieved that goal earlier this year.
Weighing up whether to pitch former Aston Villa man Siegrist into action was a constant consideration towards the end of his reign, something caretaker boss Laurie Ellis, ultimately, did.
Siegrist made his league debut in a 2-0 defeat at Ayr and never looked back.
He and Clark would become integral parts of Robbie Neilson’s Championship-winning side the following season, after he joined the Terrors as boss in the October of 2018.
Laszlo also gave opportunities to youngsters Logan Chalmers, Louis Appere and Declan Glass, while seemingly got the best out of Sam Stanton. All have played a role in success in subsequent seasons.
What we are seeing now from Siegrist and Clark, though, sets them apart as masterstrokes by the 56-year-old.
Laszlo’s lads have made Mellon’s men top six mainstays
It’s been a steady start to life back in the top flight under new boss Mellon and Laszlo’s lads have been the shining lights.
Clark has nine goals in 18 games in all competitions, while Siegrist has been lauded as one of the best keepers in the division for his displays between the sticks, keeping four clean sheets so far.
They are, undoubtedly, United’s stars of the season. Without them, would they be sitting in the top six? Unlikely, you’d say.
In a Tangerines team that features Scotland strikers Lawrence Shankland and Marc McNulty, Clark has been the saving grace in what has otherwise been a string of poor attacking performances.
Although, at times, the defence in front of him has looked capable, Siegrist has been busy in games.
He’s made 48 saves, the second-highest in the league, often winning points on his own for Mellon’s men.
Keeping both fit and hanging on to Siegrist in January will be a priority for the current incumbent of the manager’s office at Tannadice.
However, we should never forget, bringing them to the club in the first place was down to one man – Csaba.