‘Dundee United need to battle – like Jim McLean’s team’

Dundee United legend John Holt believes the current side has to develop a winning mentality if they are to get their promotion challenge back on track.

Still a regular at Tannadice, where he works in the hospitality lounges along with the likes of fellow greats Paul Hegarty and Hamish McAlpine, like all Arabs “Holtie” has been worried by the recent slump in form.

He feels the Tangerines have to turn things around if the aim of getting back to the Premiership this year is to be achieved.

And he believes a win-at-all-cost mindset is what’s going to be required to do that.

John Holt believes Willo Flood is the only leader the Tangerines have.

Albeit at a different level, like this side, the great United team he was part of was known as one that liked to get the ball down and pass.

What’s forgotten, though, is with players like him that side was more than capable of rolling up the sleeves and battling to victory.

“We were a team that could play very good football and, if everything went to plan, we did,” he said.

“We were also winners and that meant if you had to bite and scratch to come out on top, we did. We had players throughout the team that could, boys in every area of the park.

“The likes of myself and Billy Kirkwood and then Dave Bowman and Jim McInally when they came in were known as players who could battle, but there were plenty others.

“Paul Hegarty was a winner, we had them in the middle of the park and up front even though boys like Paul Sturrock were known for their ability. Even the goalie, Hamish, could get the team going. I can remember when he’d be turning to the fans encouraging them to sing.

“Holtie” had a distinguished 14-year playing career at Dundee United.

“Now I see a team who can play but the only one who stands out as a winner is Willo Flood. I see him shouting and urging others on but he can’t do it all on his own.”

Another thing Holt’s United were known for was being a tight-knit group.

The players didn’t just train and play together, they socialised as well and friendships that’ve lasted a lifetime were forged.

He stresses when the white line was crossed and someone wasn’t performing, the gloves came off.

He said: “Paul Hegarty and I are mates to this day but, when I was playing in front of him and he felt I wasn’t having a good game, he used to give me stick. There would be fall outs if we weren’t doing well.

“When we came off at the end we made up and it was forgotten, but for 90 minutes what needed saying was. It goes back to being winners.”

Holt remains hopeful United will come good and the pre-Christmas form that produced a strong unbeaten run gives him encouragement.

“They were playing well and it shows what they are capable of.

“Chances were being created and that’s what the team needs to get back to. Now they’re keeping the ball but a lot of the time it isn’t going anywhere. We were a passing team in my day but Jim McLean made it clear we had to get the ball forward.

“If you were at the back you knew you could play the ball into midfield then get it back but, from there, you basically had two passes to get it forward.

“It might mean playing it in behind, but we had Paul Sturrock and with his pace if you got the ball in behind defenders you knew he’d kill them.

“Not just at United but in general these days I see a lot of passing that goes nowhere. I’m not in favour of lumping the ball up but you have to be positive.”