I did not, for a second, buy the theory that Dundee United wouldn’t miss Micky Mellon in the dugout at Livingston last weekend.
Some suggested the absence of their boss because of Covid-19 precautions wouldn’t have too great an effect on the players at Almondvale.
A 2-0 defeat proves otherwise. All that was needed really, though, was some simple common sense!
Why even have the position of manager at a football club if it makes that little difference?
And when you are as hands-on and as influential as Mellon is, his presence posted missing proved to be a chasmic hole they were unable to fill.
Don’t get me wrong, youth coach Thomas Courts did a fine job in extremely trying circumstances with Mellon, the entire first-team coaching staff and nine players out due to three positive coronavirus cases in the Tangerines’ backroom team.
Hats off to Adam Asghar and the rest of the academy coaching staff for stepping into the breach at Livi, too, they conducted themselves marvellously.
Simply put, though, they are not the gaffer.
No amount of preparation, pre-match Zoom team talks or communication during the game can change that.
In what was a horrible and, frankly, embarrassing week for the club after the emergence of a needless 49-strong team photo lacking any social distancing soon after the news of the virus’ presence in the coaching staff, United needed their leader.
Of course, their own recklessness caused that, and that’s not to blame the players or coaches, that’s a failure of the high heidyins at Tannadice for allowing such a powerful and dangerous PR and public health maelstrom to ensue.
The Terrors will, rightly, have to face up to that rule breach in the coming weeks and months.
A grim reality but one which will be made easier by the return of Mellon to the fold after self-isolation for tomorrow’s visit of league leaders Rangers to Tannadice.
It’s a thankless task for the Tangerines, going up against Steven Gerrard’s juggernaut, but they’ll be all the better for having their manager back on the touchline.
From what I’ve seen of United this season – and heard thanks to the sad absence of supporters from grounds across the Premiership – they need their boss more than most to get through games.
Mellon is vocal, animated and always encouraging on the touchline. They’ll need those attributes more than ever tomorrow lunchtime in what is, essentially, a free hit for United.
Nobody is expecting them to get anything from the Light Blues. Why would they? The Gers are unbeaten in the league and are steamrollering their way through Europe and the domestic cups to boot.
You could argue I may as well take the team then but, the truth is, Mellon is the only man capable of helping United end the Gers’ almighty form.
A win against Arbroath last weekend has given Dundee a much-needed boost but they need to keep it up against big guns to prove their credentials.
Downing Dick Campbell’s part-timers in a narrow but rather convincing one-goal game at Dens is all well and good.
However, if the Dark Blues are to get their season, as set out back in October, back on track they could do with returning down the A9 with points in the bag from Inverness today.
If James McPake’s side are to ever, truly, flex their promotion muscles in the Championship, picking up three points against the likes of John Robertson’s Caley Jags is a must.
After all, the Highlanders are probably, pound for pound, the Dee’s equal. You could say the same about next weekend’s opponents Dunfermline.
Too much emphasis was placed on challenging a Hearts side, streets ahead on and off the pitch, for the second-tier title, in my opinion.
Many, myself included, were guilty of believing Dundee would be the only side capable of mounting a challenge to the Jambos but, after six rounds of fixtures, the Pars, ICT, Raith and Ayr United all look more likely.
The only way to change that is for the Dee to start taking points off those above them.
Easier said than done, of course. . .
It’s been a tough year for football, not just in Scotland, but globally.
Between the testing circumstances brought by the coronavirus and the continued fight against racism, it’s been a perfect storm we’ve made some steps towards emerging from.
After events this week, though, are the powers-that-be doing enough to tackle these issues?
For me, they must do more.
Our £30m share of Scottish government money (rugby got £20m) is disproportionate and insulting.
Abroad, events in Paris on Tuesday prove we are far from stamping out racism in football.