Chris Erskine – From Zero to Hero.

Chris Erskine score for Dundee United

Chris Erskine scores for Dundee United

Tannadice Park, August 10th 2013.  Dundee United headed into their first home game of the season, versus Inverness Caledonian Thistle, on the back of a frustrating 0-0 draw away to Partick Thistle the week previous.

Manager Jackie McNamara had made a raft of changes to the playing squad over the summer, the first opportunity he had to really stamp his authority on the team he had taken over in the January of the same year.

One of those players brought in was Chris Erskine, who had joined from McNamara’s previous team Partick Thistle under freedom of contract.

Many had high hopes for Erskine, but following a lacklustre performance against ICT from United, which culminated in a 0-1 defeat, many wondered if Erskine would make it at the club.

United had fallen behind to a 20th minute goal scored by Billy McKay. You could say the game was looking tight but in reality, United were out of ideas and really never looked like coming back into it in any way.

As they huffed and puffed, nothing was coming off and the fans were understandably frustrated.

In the 63rd minute of the match, McNamara attempted to change things by making his second substitution of the game.  Coming on was youth product Ryan Dow, off was Chris Erskine, who was making his first start and home debut for the club.

The stats from that day will show you nothing more than a routine substitution, pretty much like for like tactically, albeit it was a change in style in respect of what each player brings to the team.

But for those at the game that day, what we heard could have ended Erskine career for the club.

As he trudged off the pitch that day the boos rang out.  These were not boos aimed at McNamara for the substitution, these were boos aimed at Chris Erskine himself.

It was hard not to feel sorry for him. This was a player coming to a new club and trying to make the step up in a new division.  He had made his debut the week before, off the bench and played around half an hour.

Nobody could deny that he was putting in 100%, it was just not coming off for him.

But what impact did the fans reaction have on him?  Well I suppose only Chris himself can answer that one but from the outside looking in, it looked as if it shook his confidence, so much so, he fell away.

In the games following the ICT game, Erskine went on to make only a handful of appearance from the bench, never really being given the time to make any real impact.

Then he was out of the squad completely after suffering an injury.

On October 26th 2013, it looked as though thing may have been starting to look up for Erskine.  Back in the squad for the home game versus St Mirren, he was brought on from the bench in the 68th minute to replace Ryan Gauld

It was 3-0 United at the time but the scoring was not finished as up stepped Erskine with a fine left footed finish, straight into the top corner from outside the box to make it 4-0.

It was glimpse of what he was capable but it was not to last.

Still struggling to make the first team, he appeared on the bench unused, before coming in to make 3 starts over the festive period and in to January.  Unfortunately, this was at a time when United’s form took a major downturn and his impact was limited.

As the end of the January 2014 transfer window neared, Erskine was allowed to return to former club Partick Thistle for the remainder of the season.

Erskine went on to make 15 appearance in the second half of the season for Thistle, scoring twice.

As the 2013/14 season drew to it conclusion, United were looking forward to a Scottish Cup final.  The match would take place at Parkhead and was against Tayside rivals St Johnstone.

Prior to the game, comments attributed to Erskine appeared in a national newspaper, comments which brought scorn from some United fans and leaded many to suggest that Erskine may make his move to Thistle permanent in the coming transfer window.

The article in question saw Erskine suggest that he would not be attending the Scottish Cup final, rather he would be staying at home that day.  Many questioned his attitude, suggesting if that was they way he felt, he would be better off leaving the club.

Erskine took to social media to give his side, commenting that the article had taken his words out of context, saying he was not attending because he did not feel it right, given he was not part of the team that made the final.

The matter appeared to drop, the final was lost and the club went into their summer break wondering what could have been.

As the 2014/15 drew near many player came and many players went.  Some were leaving for the bright lights of England or Europe, some were moved on the free up wages and makes space.  One player never mentioned was Chris Erskine.  Despite struggling the season before, Jackie McNamara appeared to be keeping faith in his signing.

Erskine turned out for United in most of the preseason games, even scoring the winning goal in the away game at Hibs.

Although many were still of the opinion he would not be good enough, Erskine made his first appearance of the season in the first game away at Aberdeen.  Despite the points being tied up Erskine, who replaced Stuart Armstrong in the 48th minute, popped up to round off the scoring, making it 3-0 to United in the closing seconds.

It was the perfect start to the season for the gangly attacker and was one that stood him in good stead.

Erskine went on to make substitute appearance for the team in the games following, at home to Motherwell, away to Celtic and at home to Ross County, generally looking lively at notching a later winner versus County, doubling his tally for the season.

McNamara then seen fit to start Erskine away versus St Mirren and he repaid his manager’s faith in him by opening the scoring in a 3-0 win.

By this point opinions had changed, Erskine was coming in for praise from the fans and the press with his fantastic performances and important goals.

The culmination of his turnaround in fortunes came on September 21.  It was the first Dundee Derby of the season, the City was buzzing.  Erskine was in the starting lineup for the game and despite not scoring in the 4-1 win, as he made way for Stuart Armstrong little before the hour mark after another fantastic performance, he was given a standing ovation from the 4000 United fans in attendance.

In little over a year, he had gone from being booed off the pitch to being seen by United fans as a hugely important part of the team.

At that point, Erskine had gone from Zero to Hero.

Erskine has since gone on to notch another this season, scoring in the 2-0 home win over St Johnstone, making him the clubs top scorer so far this season and sitting only 1 off the SPFL’s top scorer, Ali Crawford of Hamilton.

*Many thanks to The Arab Archive as without your stats, this piece would not have been at all accurate.
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