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Mark Wilson: Lack of experience is hurting Dundee United

| 22.10.2015

I’ve been watching from the sidelines this season and unfortunately that has meant a lot of disappointment as far as one of my old teams are concerned.

Dundee United are really struggling of late and it’s been going on long enough now that it can’t be written off as a slow start to the campaign or a blip.

Unfortunately this led to Jackie McNamara losing his job and I have to say I was a little surprised to see Mixu Paatelainen come in as his replacement.

A lot of names were linked with the vacancy, with the likes of John Hughes, Tommy Wright and Stuart McCall and I thought one of those three would get the nod.

That’s not to say Mixu won’t be the right man for the job. He had his detractors at Hibs, with a few fans not liking his style of play, but he had a decent spell with Kilmarnock that led to him being headhunted for the Finland job.

He’s now in the dugout at Tannadice and for me it doesn’t take a genius to see what the problem is at the moment.

Everyone realises that there is a lack of experience at the club at the moment and that is a major issue.

If you look back at United under McNamara, while they had real success with young players like Andy Robertson, Ryan Gould and Gary Mackay-Steven it was sometimes overlooked that there were a number of experienced players in there too.

When times got hard it was these players that chipped in and helped the youngsters out. This season it’s different though. I left in January along with Keith Watson, and while I’m not saying that they are missing me personally that was still two experienced players out the door.

Then in the summer Jaroslaw Fojut and Radoslaw Cierzniak left, and they were big players from the spine of the team. Throw in the fact that they lost Paul Paton through injury and that’s a lot of experience that can no longer be called upon. When you lose that experience you lose a lot of your ability to change games. United have young talented players but are they equipped to dig the side out of a hole when times are tough?

So Mixu needs to add some experience and he needs to do it as soon as possible. They are already four points behind Partick Thistle and if that gap widens, especially with a crop of young players, it will be very hard to close them down.

Time will tell on Forssell – but it would be a start

United are being linked with Mikael Forssell and providing he is still fit and able to perform at this level, he’s exactly the sort of player who could give them a boost until the transfer window opens again in January.

You can’t be swayed by the fact he played for Chelsea and had a glittering career though. Mixu has to be sure he can still do the job and score goals. If he can do that and give advice to the younger players it will be a good move. It will certainly lift the fans, with his pedigree it’s an exciting signing for them but he has to deliver on the pitch and only time will tell if he can.

Defence is the pressing issue at Tannadice

However, while his experience will lighten the load up front I’ve watched United three or four times this season and on each occasion the centre backs have struggled. They have brought in two centre backs in Mark Durnan and Coll Donaldson and while both are good players they are quite young and Durnan is not used to the league and has had a tough ride and with others out injured it is a problem position at present.

I noticed at the weekend that Mixu played John Souttar at centre half but for me he’s best used in the middle of the park. So on that basis centre half is a position that needs improving, with someone who is big and imposing and can make their mark.

I’d love to help out at Tannadice and can’t wait to get started coaching

It’s frustrating to watch from the sidelines but after leaving in January it seems my playing days at Tannadice are well behind me. I still think I could do a job on the pitch for someone but teams are aware of the knee problems I’ve faced and the offers haven’t been there.

What excites me more though is the prospect of coaching.

I’ve got all my badges now so if and when the right opportunity comes along I will jump at it. I’d love to help some of the younger players who are gracing the game.

If Mixu called I’d jump at the chance to work with the defenders at United. I wouldn’t hesitate to get involved but I’m sure he has his own staff already set up.

Managers and coaches tend to bring in people who are well known to them and me and Mixu have never crossed paths. I’d appreciate the offer but realistically I don’t think the call will come.

Really you need to rely on existing relationships in order to be asked to come in as a coach. It’s just a case of waiting for the right job to come up whether that means cutting my teeth on my own or going in to help someone else out.

All the jobs are taken at the minute so it sounds harsh but it means waiting for a job to become available. It’s unfortunate and a cut-throat way to operate but that’s the way it is and the way it has to be.

Treble needs to be Celtic’s aim along with a good run in Europe

Another of my old clubs, Celtic, are sitting at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership once again and they might just stay there now.

The Bhoys went through a tough period earlier in the season when they were criticised for not seeing results out. At that time Ronny Deila said they were better off that last year but I’m not so sure.

I wouldn’t say they’ve gone backwards but perhaps they have stood still. With Aberdeen playing so well at the start of the season it highlighted this. When Celtic lost to Aberdeen at Pittodrie it showed that they were in a slump of sorts. They were conceding from set pieces which would have been alarming for the coaches.

However the 6-0 win over Dundee looks to have been a turning point.

They have built on that and got some decent results away to Hamilton and Motherwell which are difficult places to go as they are both tricky sides to break down and tough surfaces to play on.

Next up is a game against the bottom side who are out of form so they’ll go into that game with a lot of confidence.

If you look back at the last few weeks Aberdeen had the chance to go seven points clear but couldn’t do it. That gave Celtic a lift and they look to have kicked on now. It’s a similar situation to last season where they struggled to find their feet but when they got to the top they didn’t look back – I think it could be the same this year – they will be very hard to shift now.

Gary Mackay-Steven recently played down talk of a treble but that is what they should be aiming for. It’s easier said than done though – I didn’t manage it in my six years at Parkhead – but any player or manager at Celtic should be aiming for that, especially in the current climate.

After going out of the Champions League winning a treble would go a long way to regaining some of the faith lost in Ronny Deila by the fans. There aren’t too many coaches in the Scottish game that have achieved a treble so it would be a real feather in his cap and a big plus for the fans.

Away from the domestic scene Celtic also need to ensure they go on a decent run in the Europa League.

They have failed to win their last eight games on the road in the competition though and arresting that form will be vital if they are to progress.

Winning away from home in Europe is difficult though, we were dreadful when I was at Celtic. It seemed to pick up the year after I left funnily enough, but it will be a struggle for the current side.

The performance against Ajax was encouraging and they showed that they can perform away from home but it’s about getting results now.

Molde won’t be the easy game everyone was expecting. They may have struggled domestically this season but they are not the whipping boys that everyone expected in Europe. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has gone back there too and that will give them a huge lift ahead of the game on Thursday. On paper Celtic should take the three points but we all know football doesn’t work like that.

With Deila’s knowledge of the Norwegian game though you’d have to say this is their biggest opportunity to pick up an away win. It may not be as easy as people first thought but these two games should result in six points.

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Mark Wilson

Former Dundee United, Celtic and Scotland defender Mark Wilson has scooped four league titles, two Scottish Cups and two Scottish League Cups during a fruitful playing career so far. Now you can read his exclusive insight into the game at Ladbrokes News.