Jack Ross admits the challenge for Dundee United is to ensure they are fully focused on Sunday’s cinch Premiership match at home to Livingston after the euphoria of Thursday’s stirring victory over AZ Alkmaar.
The Tannadice side pulled off one of their best results in recent decades when they defeated the Dutch club 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa Conference League third qualifying round tie.
While supporters are salivating about the prospect of completing the job in the return leg in the Netherlands next week, Ross is adamant his players will be ready for domestic matters this weekend.
“I learned last season that it’s not easy,” said Ross, who was involved in four European matches at previous club Hibernian last summer. “Thursday-Sunday is tough, physically and also mentally, especially after the emotion that was involved on Thursday.
“Hopefully we’ve got enough players in the squad now to bring a freshness to it for Sunday. That’s the priority for us at the moment. The next leg will only come into consideration once we play Sunday’s game.”
Ross was only appointed United manager in late June following the departure of Tam Courts, so the Tannadice club’s summer recruitment drive kicked off later than most of their rivals. The manager is pleased at how quickly new signings like Mark Birighitti, Steven Fletcher, Jamie McGrath and Glenn Middleton have integrated.
“We’ve been diligent and patient in our recruitment,” he said. “I said before that ideally the Alkmaar game would have come a few weeks down the line because we’re still adding to the group.
“Jamie had only trained one day, for example, and we’ve still got Aziz (Behich) to add to that when his work permit comes through.
“We feel as if we’re putting together a strong squad but I’ve been impressed by their willingness to take on information in a short period of time. Going forward, we’re trying to be more expansive and carry an increased threat.
“We’re not always going to get that right, we’re going to be open at times. But we’ve got players in the group – the likes of Jamie McGrath, Steven Fletcher, Tony Watt, Glenn Middleton and Ian Harkes, who will thrive on those forward opportunities and us having the ball more in that area during games.
“We showed against Alkmaar we’re a good team. There’s a good squad of players we’ve put together. We’re still a work in progress in terms of all the pieces of the jigsaw coming together but we’re a good team.”
Ross is eager to see Behich’s work permit granted in time for the experienced Australian left-back to make his debut on Sunday.
“We hoped Aziz would be ready for Thursday and so did he,” said Ross. “He’s really frustrated because he’s a big-game player and he’d have thrived on it.
“Hopefully he’ll be available for Sunday. There’s been a delay we didn’t anticipate but we’re hopeful that approval will come through.”
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