Quar­tet of for­mer United play­ers in Scot­land squad.

United rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Dark Blues squad still as strong as the glory days

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ERIC NI­COL­SON eni­col­son@the­courier.co.uk

Pride, sat­is­fac­tion, re­gret, anger, frus­tra­tion – Dundee United fans will prob­a­bly feel them all when Scot­land play Bel­gium to­mor­row night.

At a time when the club is as far re­moved from the days of Stur­rock, Narey et al as it has ever been, the tan­ger­ine in­flu­ence on the na­tional squad is as strong as it has ever been since those very same glory years.

Andy Robert­son, Johnny Rus­sell, John Sout­tar and Stu­art Armstrong make up a quar­tet of for­mer United play­ers in Alex McLeish’s squad.

All it needs is Ryan Gauld to ful­fil his po­ten­tial and the full band will be back to­gether.

“See­ing boys from United like Johnny, Andy and Soapy in a Scot­land squad af­ter all those years, it’s great how it’s turned out,” said Armstrong.

“It was a young team we had. It was ex­cit­ing. It was a very young team ac­tu­ally. There were a cou­ple of months where we scored four or more in ev­ery sin­gle game. We con­ceded four as well! It was ex­cit­ing for the fans and it was ex­cit­ing to be a part of.

“This will be a big week for John. Ev­ery­body re­mem­bers be­ing called up for the first time and their first in­volve­ment with the squad. It’s an ex­cit­ing time.

“He’s a re­ally nice guy and I’m happy to see him get this recog­ni­tion.

“I think he was only 16 when he played his first few games for United. He showed a lot of com­po­sure for a young player back then and he’s be­come a very good player.”

Gauld may be the for­got­ten man at the mo­ment but Armstrong doesn’t ex­pect that to last.

“I’ve al­ways loved play­ing with Gauldy,” he said. “Again, he was very young when he was play­ing at Dundee United. He went to a mas­sive club (Sport­ing Lisbon) and that can go dif­fer­ent ways. I’ve not seen too much of him since but I think he’s had a cou­ple of good loan spells.

“It would be good to see him in the fu­ture.”

From Rus­sell’s ar­rival to Sout­tar’s de­par­ture, the Tan­nadice ca­reers of the four of them spanned al­most a decade. Name-check­ing their big­gest in­flu­ence at United will be dif­fer­ent for all, though.

“For me, it was Ste­vie Campbell,” said Armstrong. “I think Soapy and Gauldy had a dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ship with dif­fer­ent youth man­agers.

“Andy came in as a first team player un­der Jackie McNa­mara.

“I don’t think it was down to one per­son. It was just the op­por­tu­nity for young play­ers to go and ex­press them­selves and be free on the pitch.”

Newly ap­pointed cap­tain Robert­son will make sure he gets the def­er­ence he de­serves from Armstrong.

“I’m room­ing with him,” he said. “He’s been ask­ing me to clean his shoes…. it’s gone to his head!”

The Liver­pool left-back was the ob­vi­ous choice for skip­per as far as Armstrong is con­cerned.

“It’s a very good choice,” he said. “I’ve known Andy for years. He’s the type of player who leads by ex­am­ple and gives his all for the team.

“He’s some­one who is very well liked in the squad and it’s a very good choice.

“The one thing I’ve ad­mired about Andy is that he’s the same player if he was play­ing for Dundee United as he would be if he was play­ing a Champions League fi­nal. He’ll al­ways be con­sis­tent.”

Armstrong’s ca­reer post United has taken him to Celtic and now Southamp­ton, where he is try­ing to es­tab­lish him­self in Mark Hughes’s first team.

“It’s al­ways chal­leng­ing when you go to a new club, a new en­vi­ron­ment,” he said. “It has taken a bit of time to get used to the dif­fer­ent styles. But it’s a fresh chal­lenge and I’m ex­cited about that.

“With Celtic, there is an ex­pec­ta­tion to win ev­ery sin­gle game and that’s the way it has been for me for the past three and a bit years. To go from that to not be­ing ex­pected to win the league and fight­ing a dif­fer­ent sort of com­pe­ti­tion is some­thing to get used to.

“You are programmed that way. Celtic dom­i­nate ev­ery game, but I need to ac­cept that it’s not go­ing to be like that down there. It’s go­ing to take some time but change is al­ways a good thing and I’m look­ing for­ward to this new ex­pe­ri­ence.

“With Dundee United and then Celtic, it was eight years of play­ing the same teams over and over again. The fix­ture list ex­cites me, go­ing to these new places, new sta­di­ums that you have watched on the TV. That’s ex­cit­ing.

“The time was right. The sum­mer be­fore, I had some thoughts about it but I had had one sea­son with Bren­dan Rodgers and I wanted an­other.

“I knew in the back of my head that, ul­ti­mately, the time would come when I wanted a fresh chal­lenge, and if I didn’t take it, I would prob­a­bly have re­gret­ted it. It was about chang­ing for a bit of ex­pe­ri­ence and try­ing some­thing new.”

Pic­tures: SNS/ DC Thom­son.

Above: Stu­art Armstrong and John Sout­tar at train­ing with Scot­land this week; right: Sout­tar, Ryan Dow, Gavin Gun­ning and Ryan Gauld watch Armstrong be­ing put through his paces dur­ing train­ing with Dundee United in Jan­uary 2014; left: the United con­tin­gent bound for the 1986 World Cup, from left – Paul Stur­rock, Mau­rice Mal­pas, Ea­monn Ban­non and Dave Narey.

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