Dundee United hitman Nicky Clark says he’s happy to fight for his place and insists competition among Dundee United’s attacking ranks is good.
Starting in last weekend’s 4-1 defeat at Rangers, Clark played for the first time since being hooked at half time in United’s 2-1 loss at Motherwell at the start of the month.
The Tangerines’ hitman hasn’t found the back of the net yet this year, with Lawrence Shankland hitting form and other options like Marc McNulty and Louis Appere preferred.
The 29-year-old admits frustration at being dropped but is hoping to be involved in some way against Kilmarnock this afternoon as the Terrors continue their top-six quest.
Competition for places is healthy for Mellon’s Tangerines
“It was frustrating. I was the top goalscorer but the gaffer’s got to make the decisions and he’s got to pick the team which he thinks is best and will get the result,” he said.
“For me personally, it was frustrating, but I just need to keep working hard.
“I definitely feel as if I’ve to fight for my place.
“I’ve said before that you need that at your club, you need competition for places.
“If you knew who was going to play every week, you’d just be like: ‘Ooch, it doesn’t matter what I do in training I won’t play next week’.
“We’ve got competition, we’ve got four great strikers at the club, two with international experience (Shankland and McNulty) and young Louis who’s done great when he’s played this season.
“It’s good to have that about the club and, hopefully, the four of us can score some goals before the end of the season.”
Clark happy to see Shankland hitting form at right time
With McNulty grabbing a consolation at Ibrox and Shankland now on seven for the season, Clark’s squad-leading eight goal high is under threat.
However, he insists he is happy for his team-mates, particularly Scotland star Shanks as he aims to fire his way into Steve Clarke’s plans for Euro 2020 this summer.
Clark added: “I’m not sure how many Shanks has got – but I think he’s playing catch up anyway!
“If the two of us keep scoring, Sparky scored at the weekend and Louis as well and we can keep picking up three points then we’ll all be delighted.
“I don’t think Shanks cares how they go in! If it was tap-ins he was scoring he wouldn’t really care.
“I’m just delighted for him that he’s scoring, to be honest.
“With the Euros coming up in the summer and with him being in the previous squads, hopefully, he can score a few more and get that spot.
“He’s started scoring again at a good time in the season, for us as well.
“If he keeps scoring, then Dundee United will have a chance of winning games and that’s important at this stage of the season.
“For him, personally, I’m sure he’ll have one wee eye on getting back into that squad and getting a spot for the Euros.”
Tangerines don’t need outside praise for validation
With the top six well within United’s grasp at this stage of their first season back in the Premiership after four years, Clark believes they can be delighted with their progress.
And he reckons they don’t get enough credit for where they are, two points behind St Mirren in sixth with three games remaining before the split.
“Probably not, if I’m honest,” he admitted after being asked if they get enough credit for their campaign so far.
“Livingston have had a great season getting to the cup final and where they are in the league and people are talking about St Johnstone but we’ve not really seemed to have got any credit.
“Especially for just having been promoted this summer, to be in the top six for the majority of the season and we still have a great chance of getting there.
“We’re not really that fussed about it (getting credit), we know in house that what we’re doing is good.
“There’s a long way to go but our aim is to get into this top-six position and if we get that then I’m sure we’ll probably get the credit we deserve.
“We’re happy with each other and giving each other credit where it’s due.”
United “need to go and perform” at Rugby Park
Heading into the match against second-bottom, relegation-threatened Killie at Rugby Park today, and with Celtic and Aberdeen still to come to Tannadice, Clark hopes they can secure a valuable three points in a “massive game” in Ayrshire.
“The battle isn’t half heating up,” he added.
“It’s been tight for a wee while now, even towards the bottom end it’s been really tight.
“It’s our aim to look up and try and get into that top-six position, starting on Saturday which is a massive game for us.
“The draw (between St Mirren and Motherwell on Wednesday) was probably the best result we could have hoped for.
“It’s down to us now on Saturday. We need to go and perform and get the three points – hopefully we can get that sixth spot.
“It’s all about winning games, no matter how you do it. It’s about grafting and grinding, getting the three points and pulling away from the teams round about us.
“It is tough games coming up but I don’t think there are any easy games in the league.
“We just need to focus on today, that’s the next one. They’ll be disappointed with the form they’ve shown recently and will be desperate to get the three points and as are we to try to get into the top six.
“I’m sure it will be a good game but it doesn’t matter how we get the three points, just so long as we get them and get closer to St Mirren.”