Scottish Daily Mail




UNDER any other circumstan­ces, he’d have gladly walked to Hampden and dispensed with all sense of neutrality as Dundee United prepare to return to the stage where he enjoyed his finest day in football.

At the ripe old age of 37, Sean Dillon isn’t yet ready to hang up the boots and pick up the microphone. Montrose’s last-gasp entry into the Championsh­ip play-offs this week saw to that.

A 3-2 victory over League One winners Partick Thistle on Tuesday left the Links Park side requiring an Airdrieoni­ans win over Falkirk to sneak into fourth spot in the third tier for the third successive season.

While confirmati­on of the desired result from North Lanarkshir­e saw manager Stewart Petrie hastily compile a dossier on today’s opponents Morton, for Dillon, the welcome extension to the season necessitat­ed an apologetic phone call.

‘I’m really buzzing for United,’ said the 2010 Scottish Cup winner at Tannadice. ‘Being part of the team that got relegated (in 2016) and not being part of the team that came back up was a massive disappoint­ment personally.

‘I was actually invited down to help out with commentary at Hampden on Saturday.

‘It would have been nice to have gone there and watch the game but obviously I’m delighted not to be able to do that.

‘I’m just so pleased we’ve got our own game and our season is still on the go.

‘I’m just thrilled for United that they are back where they belong.

‘The manager, staff and everyone at the club deserve huge amounts of credit for the work they have put in.

‘You never know, they might ask me back if they get to the final. That would be nice.’

With the Championsh­ip play-off final scheduled for the day before the Scottish Cup final, there is at least no chance Dillon will again be double booked.

You’d still get decent odds on Dillon’s current and former sides clearing their respective hurdles, though.

United are currently six places and 17 points worse off than Hibs, while Montrose’s part-time legs must compete with the full-time Greenock side over two games.

Historical­ly, however, there is much to be said for ghosting into the end-of-season shoot-out the way Montrose did.

‘The manager will always play it down and we’re the same,’ Dillon added. ‘But when you are in this position, you want to have a go. We didn’t start the season off saying we were going to win the league.

‘We’ve got in there with a late, late show. But it doesn’t matter if you squeeze in like us or have been in from the start, you want to give it a go. These are games you want to be involved in.

‘I’ve been lucky since I came to the club. In my first year, we won the title (League Two) on the last day and have been in the play-off positions ever since, albeit we didn’t get the chance to play in it last season, understand­ably.

‘Everyone outwith our club will be expecting Morton as the Championsh­ip team to win the tie. That’s fine.

‘It’s a free hit for us but we’ll be looking to cause an upset.’

For the Irishman, this is a joyously unexpected finale. The same might be said of his four years at Links Park, which came after ten largely successful years on Tayside.

Although Dillon has coaching responsibi­lities these days, 24 appearance­s made to date this term speaks to his enduring love of the game and the environmen­t he works in.

He said: ‘I love it. I can’t say enough about the people at this club. They’ve made it very easy for me to still enjoy playing.

‘Being part of the coaching staff has helped as it’s given me a bit of extra responsibi­lity.

‘I’ve learned a lot more than I would have just playing.’

He’ll turn 38 this summer but there is no inclinatio­n to make the permanent move into coaching just yet. As long as they’ll throw him a jersey on a Saturday, he’ll give them his all.

‘I’ve been very lucky to work with players and coaches throughout my career and the message has always been to play as long as you can and enjoy it while it’s there,’ he said.

‘I definitely want to make the most of it and squeeze out every last drop I can regarding playing.

‘That’s down to the staff at the club and the players.

‘They always make it easy for you to enjoy it.

‘We now have the chance to do something really special. Whether you are 37 or 17, you don’t know when the next big game like this is going to come around again. You have to make the most of them when that happens.’

There is always someone or something new to aspire to. In the Angus region these days, that person wears a distinctiv­e bunnet.

Little Arbroath, the current home of the well-travelled Dick Campbell, were promoted to the Championsh­ip two years ago and have defied Newton’s Law of Gravity ever since.

‘Dick and his staff deserve huge amounts of credit,’ Dillon said of the seventh-placed finish for the part-timers from up the road.

‘I’m a massive fan of Dick Campbell and what Arbroath have done and what his side continues to do.

‘If you look at the way it’s been around Angus, Brechin were the ones who did it most recently.

‘Unfortunat­ely, that didn’t go the way they’d have wanted it to and it’s been very disappoint­ing for Forfar as well this season.

‘Arbroath have set the bar in terms of what can be achieved, there’s no doubt about that. Not just in terms of getting there but staying there for two years now by competing with the best teams in the Championsh­ip. It just shows you what’s possible.’

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