Dundee United boss Robbie Neilson has hailed star striker Lawrence Shankland’s contribution to their Championship title success.
The Tangerines were this week crowned champions as Dundee’s ‘yes’ vote led to the SPFL ‘calling’ the season in the lower leagues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With that, United were declared second-tier winners, 14 points clear at the top and with Shankland the league’s No 1 marksman.
The lucky number for Shanks this term was 24 – the same as his age and the one that adorns the back of his jersey.
In total, it was 29 goals in 35 appearances for club and country in a campaign which saw him make his Scotland debut, pick up two caps and net against San Marino.
It has been a great story for player and club, one which Terrors gaffer Robbie is thankful to owner Mark Ogren for making a reality.
“Lawrence has been magnificent for us since he came in,” he said.
“If you want to win a title you have to have the best defence in the league, you have to concede less than 30 goals and that’s what we’ve done.
“And you also need a striker who will score you at least 20 – and he’s done that.
“Other players have pitched in with eight, 10 and 12, too, but you always need that one striker.
“The investment the chairman put in to get him has been very important. It has been everything we hoped for and more.”
Robbie is hopeful of keeping the former Ayr United hitman for the 2020/21 Premiership campaign and believes the financial impact of Covid-19 could make that easier.
The virus has hit the game hard, even those with deep pockets down south.
The likes of Stoke City, Norwich, Nottingham Forest, QPR, Rangers and Celtic have all been credited with an interest in Shankland of late.
However, it is likely bids will still roll in, with goalscorers of his ilk so hard to come by, and Robbie knows he will have to fight tooth and nail to keep his star man.
He added: “I would like to sign Lawrence up on a longer contract, but you have to be a realist as well.
“Will the financial situation in football help us keep him? Possibly, but nobody really knows at the moment.
“The game is going to take a hit everywhere but until it settles down we won’t know where people are financially.
“People will always want to buy goalscorers so there will be interest in him but it all depends on what level.
“It will depend on what happens down south because that’s where he will likely go.
“There will be interest in him, but it’s whether it’s from the right clubs or not.”
Having spoken to Shankland and club chiefs Ogren and sporting director Tony Asghar about his future, Robbie is convinced they don’t need to sell.
In fact, United’s league-winning manager believes a season in the Scottish top flight could be as beneficial for the player as a move elsewhere.
Robbie hopes goals in the Premiership and more calls into Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad will only increase Shankland’s value and prospects.
He continued: “We are not in a position where we need to sell him.
“We believe, when we have spoken to him, the best thing for him is a season in the top flight.
“That will increase his value as well.
“He’s got into the Scotland squad as well, which has raised his profile and the club’s, too.
“I believe he will score in the top flight and that will increase his stock even more.”
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