By Colin Byiers
Dundee United’s Kieran Freeman, who has newly signed a new contract extension with the Tannadice club, recently spoke with NE98’s Colin Byiers about his season so far, his loan spell at Peterhead and playing in a Dundee derby.
Kieran, congratulations on your new deal, how pleased are you with it?
Yeah, the security is nice. Being out of contract in the summer is never a good feeling. I’m delighted to have been playing games this season and I’m very happy to have signed a new contract. I’m really pleased to have played so many games and happily signed. I don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s only come about in the last month or so but delighted to get in done. When I was at Peterhead last season with a year left on my contract, naturally I didn’t think I would be signing a 2-and-a-half-year deal four months later.
You played in all four of United’s League Cup group matches at the start of the season, but what was the play for you at the beginning of the campaign?
I hadn’t really spoken with the gaffer about it. The right-back got injured in the warm-up in the first group game, so that’s how I ended up playing a few of the games and was decent in those games. After that, I was out of it for a few weeks when the league started and was benched. Injuries meant I got back in the team, and you never want to see that happen to anyone, but now it’s up to me to try and keep the jersey. I need to perform to stay in the team and I know that if I don’t perform, I’ll be out of the team, and that’s a different kind of pressure. I think we’ve done well so far; hit a rocky patch in the last few weeks, but hopefully it’ll come good again.
Did the experience of playing in the League Cup help you transition into the first team?
Absolutely. When I was at Peterhead, we played Kelty Hearts and East Fife, so I knew what to expect and knew that opposition and what players we’d be coming up against. They were different games obviously, playing against them for United. They were still tough games. I don’t think there’s too much difference between Premiership and League 1 in a way, but it certainly helped me for when I came on against Dundee. It was definitely a good way to get bedded into the team.
You’ve now played in a Dundee derby and played at Celtic Park. What were those experiences like?
Away at Celtic was good, I think we played well that day. The atmosphere was ridiculous! Then the Dundee Derby, it’s all about getting the win. You feel it around the city that week. It’s the biggest game of the season for the fans. We’ve got another coming up on the 2nd of January so that’ll be interesting.
You’ve managed to get on the scoresheet twice this season, tell me about those goals.
My first goal against Elgin (City), Shanks (Lawrence Shankland) was one-v-one and if I was him, I would’ve just shot but I started running down the wing, helped by the fact we were 4 or 5 up. I’ve slashed at it, and it’s hit the post and gone in somehow! I’m not going to complain. The one at Easter Road was a worse finish but it meant a lot more! We got to celebrate with our fans and got the 3-0 away so it was decent.
You mentioned fans there. Has it been a welcome return to be playing in front of fans again?
Funnily enough, I never really played in front of fans. When I was at Peterhead, there was no fans so it’s something I hadn’t experienced before. It adds a different dimension to games. You are aware they are there especially at home or at places like Celtic Park, but you try and block it out and get on with your own game. The fans can give you a boost when they are shouting and screaming.
How did your loan spell at Peterhead come about last season, and how was the experience?
It came about because of Calum Butcher. Calum is close with Jim (McInally), and he had mentioned it and I didn’t think too much of it to be honest. I had come in one day and then signed for Peterhead in the afternoon. It happened that quickly. I didn’t know too much about Peterhead or Jim McInally, but as soon as I got in, I loved it. I speak to Duff (Flynn Duffy) and he’s having the same experience I had. It’s good to get games every week and it was sometimes a tombola as to where I was playing but as long as I was on the pitch it didn’t matter.
There are great people up there, so I think it was the perfect club at the right time. The biggest benefit was being on the pitch. You learn a lot more from playing against men. They are more street wise, and you have situations that you wouldn’t have in academy football. You’re also playing for 3 points which you don’t do in academy football, so it means more. It was certainly beneficial for me. I said to Duff when he had the opportunity to go to Peterhead it was the perfect place for him at the time. It’s so much better than just sitting around. He’s loving up there just now. As a defender, League 1 is probably the best place to be to learn the game. And if you think about the things that Jim McInally had done in his career why not learn from him.
On a personal level, what does the rest of season look like for you?
I don’t like to look too far ahead, but I like to keep playing consistently well. I’d like to get a few more assists and get a few more goals by the end of the season if I’m lucky. As long as we are doing well as a team and winning games, then I’m happy.
And from the team side of things, was the targets?
If we can finish around 3rd or 4th or around that would be good. If it’s top 6 then I don’t think we can have any complaints. It’s our first season with the new gaffer but it’s been good so far, with some good performances. We’re all gaining experience every week, and we’re going to make mistakes and we’ve had some bad results, that will happen to any team, but I think it’s been outweighed by the amount of very good performances we’ve had. Hoping for a good run in the Scottish Cup as well and get to Hampden.
Thanks to Kieran for taking time out of his day to take part in this interview.