New Firm, Rangers test and return of the Dundee derby

The return of derbies next season is “an exciting proposition” according to Dundee United head coach Thomas Courts.

Dundee and United will contest their first Premiership Dundee derby since 2016 when the two teams meet at Tannadice on September 18.

Dundee United’s 2021/22 Premiership fixture list in full: Dundee derby dates revealed and Rangers are first visitors to Tannadice

It’s been almost two years since the teams played each other in any capacity – a 1-1 Championship draw in December 2019 – and new Terrors boss Courts is excited for the fans to have their big game back.

Before then, the Tangerines travel to Aberdeen, St Johnstone and St Mirren and welcome champions Rangers and Hearts to the City of Discovery.

United looking forward to challenging early season fixtures

“I spoke about the excitement of the fixtures for the players and staff but the derby returning is very much one for the fans,” Courts said, discussing their early fixtures.

“That will be an exciting proposition when it comes around.

“Our first five games are against teams who will be targeting third, last season’s champions, the double cup winners and another top-six contender.

Dundee United boss Tam Courts.

“I think, for the players, if they look at our first few fixtures, they will be really excited and looking forward to them.

“With Hearts and Dundee coming up it is going to be a really exciting league this year.

“There are also quite a few teams with new managers who will bring new ideas.

“The first five games are against established teams and with Hearts coming back into the league they are viewed as another one of our top-tier teams.”

Brown friendship will be put to one side for Aberdeen clash

The Tangerines kick off the season with a trip north to Pittodrie to take on the Dons.

Despite his friendship with the Dandies’ new player-coach Scott Brown, Courts insists the New Firm derby campaign-opener will still have a real competitive edge.

“He is someone I have known for a number of years,” Courts said of Brown.

“He has made a brave move but, ultimately, friendship will go to the one side for 90 minutes.

New Aberdeen player-coach Scott Brown.

“Aberdeen always aim to be one of the top teams.

“We will go there and use the game as a benchmark to see how close we are to that level.

“It is up at Pittodrie and, hopefully, the fans will be back as well.

“We had a bit of history last season from the Scottish Cup (a 3-0 quarter-final win). It was probably our performance of the season.

“Their manager (Stephen Glass) is now going through a transition period in terms of his squad. He is trying to put his stamp on things.”

Fans at Tannadice for Rangers test important for United

The Terrors first home game of the new term sees the Gers come to Tannadice.

Steven Gerrard’s side were highly-impressive champions last time out and Courts hopes for a return of fans to provide a vocal home backing for his side.

“We saw it in the Champions League and now the Euros how important fans are to live sport and football matches,” he added.

Dundee United’s Jeando Fuchs challenges Rangers Scott Arfield in a match between the sides last season.

“What better way to welcome the champions to Tannadice but with a noisy and passionate home support.

“I know we are in communication with the powers-that-be and we are just looking at a bit of direction and guidance as to what is going to happen.

“I take a lot of confidence from the Euros and the Champions League and I am hopeful we will have fans back in our domestic game soon.”

Focus on cup first urges boss

For Courts, being in the top flight is where the club belongs and something to very much be proud of and look forward to competing in.

However, before the Premiership season gets under way, he is urging his players to place their immediate focus on the Premier Sports Cup group stages.

United kick off that campaign with a trip to Courts’ former club Kelty Hearts on July 9.

The Terrors gaffer said: “I have been with United since we were in the Championship, knowing that we were a Premiership club outside of the top league.

“For me, the club is back in its rightful place and so there is a lot of excitement, looking forward to the games starting.

“The Premier Sports Cup games are a preamble to that and, because the club has never progressed from the group stages for the last three years, that has to be our immediate focus.”

EXCLUSIVE: Dundee United academy chief Andy Goldie on ‘born winner’ Tam Courts – youth focus, first-team aims and what makes new head coach tick?

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