It’s been a short, sharp pre-season but frontman Paul McMullan has no doubts about Dundee United’s readiness for competitive action when they face Hearts in this season’s Betfred Cup opener tonight.
After a shortened summer break because of the promotion play-offs, the Tangerines have been back at training for just a little over two weeks.
And while they’ve crammed three pre-season friendlies into that period, including a weekend double-header at Brechin and Dumbarton, no single outfield player has had a full 90 minutes in any one of the fixtures.
That didn’t stop Robbie Neilson’s team looking very impressive as they won at Brechin, scoring six times in the process.
And if they went down to the Sons on Saturday it was another decent run-out, with the result easily put down to the fatigue of two outings in just 18 hours.
It’s the work put in on the pitch and not the results that tells 23-year-old McMullan the squad is where it needs to be.
“It’s mainly about getting boys fit and getting the minutes in the legs and not the results,” he said.
“When the goals go in it always looks nice on the scoreboard but it’s getting those minutes in and getting us ready for the season ahead that’s important.
“It has been a short pre-season but you’ve just got to be as ready as you can be. Getting these games at the weekend should’ve done that for us and we’re good.”
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For McMullan, the preparations for the Betfred being a sprint, and not the marathon the build up to a campaign can often be, is welcome. He believes it will prove to be a good thing come the time the league action gets under way.
There will be no repeat of the mistake made by then-boss Csaba Laszlo this time last year as he declared the group stages of the Betfred no more important than pre-season games.
That led to a failure to progress and a less than impressive start to league business that ultimately cost Laszlo his job and United their chance of automatic promotion.
“You will get fitter as you are going through the Betfred Cup games but that’s the way it always is in the early games of a season.
“With the big game for our group coming as early as it is at Hearts on Friday, you want to be as ready as you can be for that one and we have been working hard.
“And the short pre-season has not really been a worry for me because I don’t like pre-season, so I always want it to be as short as possible, get the work done instead of it being dragged out over a longer period.
“I’ve done it before when we’ve had to have a short build-up. My first year we came back after only a few weeks off and had to put the work in quickly and it was fine.
“We got 11 points in the Betfred group that year and qualified, so that showed you can be ready in a short time.
“The short break we’ve had also maybe works the opposite way to you think it will. The boys come back still fit because they’ve not had much time off and it means they get ready to go again quickly.”
Having been through this before, for him, an important part of the summer was making sure he did get some down time. The temptation to just keep working was there but having a rest was important.
“I did have a couple of weeks off this time because the end of the season was tough when we had those four big games in something like 10 days.
“I needed to give my body a break because, if you don’t, you can pick up niggling injuries at the start of the pre-season work.
“There’s only so much fitness you can lose in two or three weeks off, so when we came back none of us were far away.”