It’s one of the most attractive jobs in Scottish football but the next Dundee United manager will have his work cut out making a success of it.
That’s the view of United legend Hamish McAlpine.
The 1983 Premier Division-winning goalkeeper was, like most, shocked by Robbie Neilson’s departure from Tannadice for Hearts on Sunday night.
However, McAlpine insists the Tangerines can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves and must move on quickly.
“It was a surprise,” the 72-year-old said.
“I saw it late Sunday night on the news and I said to myself ‘what is that all about?’
“There have been rumours left, right and centre about what went on but I wouldn’t want to speculate.
“It does seem a strange one but he spent a lot of time in Edinburgh and Hearts were his first club so maybe his heart is there?
“It’s strange but never mind, United must move on.”
McAlpine, who made 688 appearances for the Tangerines from 1969-1985, thought Robbie would’ve stuck around for Premiership football with United as he now prepares for another assault on the Championship with the Jambos.
He continued: “He did what he had to do. They failed in the play-offs last year, of course, but this year they got the right signing in Lawrence Shankland to win the title.
“That made all the difference for them, scoring those goals, and they did get a wee bit steadier at the back.
“Robbie would’ve known they’d have needed two or three players more for going up but I thought he’d still be there for the fight.
“He’ll just have it all to do with Hearts again in that league.”
As for who will lead the Terrors into the top flight, McAlpine says it’s anybody’s guess.
Whether it’s Tommy Wright, Craig Levein or Lee McCulloch, the former goalie reckons they’ll have a job on their hands.
However, McApline insists the club remain in a strong, attractive position for a new man coming in.
“There’ll be plenty folk out of a job who’ll be desperate to take it,” he added.
“With the crowds they can pull in they can have success. There’s a potential for 7,000 home fans at every game.
“That’s a big attraction to a manager, having the big crowd behind them, because there’s not many places like that.
“There’ll be a lot of CVs being sent through and, with Tommy being installed as favourite, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up at Tannadice.
“I know they’d spoken to him before back in 2015 but I’m not sure of the ins and outs of what they’re thinking now.
“Anybody moving to United will be rubbing their hands because it’s an attractive job.
“It will still be a tough ask but at least they’re in the right place in the Premiership.
“It’s a struggle for half the teams in that league so they won’t be any worse off than most after a couple of signings.
“They’ll need somebody up front to help Shankland, some pace and width and maybe another experienced defender.”
He continued: “Somebody mentioned Craig Levein and Peter Houston to me but, obviously, with the new regime that’s come in at United, you just don’t know what they’d be thinking.
“They were both at the club before, of course, and have that connection.
“Craig’s been in and out of it with Hearts the last few years, had a spell as manager that didn’t work out and moved upstairs before it changed again.
“Houstie has been coaching and scouting so he might fancy it but you never can tell.
“Whoever they get has a hard job but at least they’re starting off in the right league.
“The club will need to get their finger out to get somebody in, look over the squad and see where they need to strengthen and how much money they can spend.
“That’s going to take time to get it sorted out so I think they’ll be wanting somebody in sooner rather than later.
“Robbie has started them on a journey and what’s not to say a new manager won’t come in, have a look at them and push them on?
“He’ll like some of what he sees, might have different ideas about things but will it work? You just don’t know.”