Dundee United manager Micky Mellon on winger Paul McMullan's pre-contract deal with Dundee. Is he in the squad for Saturday's game v St Johnstone? "He was.."

Dundee United manager Micky Mellon has admitted financial concerns at the club impacted on their ability to begin talks over a new deal for Paul McMullan.

Dundee United's Paul McMullan challenges Liam Grimshaw in the 1-1 draw with Motherwell on Boxing Day. It could be the player's last appearance at Tannadice for United. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Dundee United's Paul McMullan challenges Liam Grimshaw in the 1-1 draw with Motherwell on Boxing Day. It could be the player's last appearance at Tannadice for United. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Local rivals Dundee yesterday announced that the 24-year-old winger has signed a pre-contract deal with them. “The situation as everyone knows at Dundee United means we are not ready to proceed with a contract for Paul McMullan at the minute,” said Mellon. “He decided he wanted to carry on and sign a contract with Dundee.”

McMullan was in the Dundee United squad for tomorrow’s Tayside derby against St Johnstone at Tannadice. Unusually, Dundee are also playing at home – in the Scottish Cup v Bonnyrigg Rose - on the same day. But although the news from across the street ensures he will no longer be involved this weekend for United, that doesn’t mean to say McMullan will be at Dens Park - not yet, at least.

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Asked if McMullan was in the squad for the clash with St Johnstone, Mellon said: “He was.” The manager was speaking shortly after Dundee teased an announcement of the deal by cheekily posting a clip on Twitter of Eastenders actor Danny Dyer demonstrating just how close the Dundee grounds are for his programme on football hooliganism called the Real Football Factories, from 2006.

“Obviously, within the last hour, there’s a lot of things for us to discuss,” said Mellon. The manager admitted he was taken aback by the swiftness with which the deal was concluded. Because he is in the last six months of his contract, McMullan, who joined United in 2017, was allowed to speak to other clubs from the first day of this year.

Confirmation of his move to Championship club Dundee came 24 hours after it emerged Dundee United players had agreed a wage cut amid another lockdown and renewed financial concerns for football.

Mellon revealed McMullan had been part of his future plans. Indeed, he expressed regret at not having used him more this season. The winger has started just three league games, although two of these – against Kilmarnock and Motherwell – were in recent weeks.

“I like Paul,” said Mellon. “In my head I have a way that I want us to eventually play, and I want to play with attacking width at some stage. It’s just that at this minute there are some games when we have to compensate for who we are playing against. But I certainly saw Paul being part of what we wanted to do moving forward.

“I also want people who want to be here,” he added. “And I have said that to Paul, so I am not throwing anyone under a bus here.”

As in the case with Kilmarnock striker Eamonn Brophy, who was told by his manager Alex Dyer that he won’t play again for the club after signing a pre-contract with St Mirren, it is hard to imagine McMullan pulling on a tangerine jersey again, especially after signing for the city rivals.

As is normal in these circumstances, the expectation will be for the clubs to agree a deal for the player to make a move ahead of this summer. Mellon said he will speak to sporting director Tony Asghar, who in turn will brief US-based owner Mark Ogren, before deciding the next step.

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