Wilson vows to back United teens
Dundee United defender Mark Wilson admits it is time the Terrors' older heads started helping youngsters Ryan Gauld and John Souttar face up to the pressure of first-team football.
Playmaker Gauld, 18, and 17-year-old defender Souttar were both inspirational during the Tannadice side's six-game run of consecutive victories just before Christmas.
But boss Jackie McNamara admitted the pair became jaded as United's impressive form collapsed, giving way to a streak of half a dozen games with a win.
The duo were sent to Spain for a sunshine break by their worried manager last week in a bid to recharge their batteries.
Both teenagers are now back in the squad for Monday night's Scottish Premiership clash with St Johnstone at Tannadice.
But Wilson, 29, says United's more experienced campaigners must ensure their rookie colleagues are not left to shoulder so much responsibility this time.
The former Celtic full-back - this week handed a new 18-month contract - said: "We're hoping that John and Ryan will come back in refreshed after their break, because results have been lacking in the last few weeks. Our performances have simply not compared to how we played in the first half of the season.
"We were flying, we were fresh. But the life has been sucked out of us lately. When the young ones get tired, maybe it takes it out of us older ones as well.
"Hopefully the two young ones will come back firing on all cylinders because they were the stars of the show who were making us tick.
"Maybe the older characters need to shoulder that responsibility and work with these young guys, because it is all good when the football is flowing and we are beating everyone 4-1 but when it gets tough as it is now, the older more vocal guys have to stand up and help the young ones.
"I had a taste of it when I was young when results were poor and the crowd was booing.
"This is guys like Ryan and John's first taste of it and it can be a daunting experience. A year and a half ago they were playing youth football; now they are taking the SPL by storm, but it's hard to adjust.
"Man United had a group of youngsters back in the '90s who did the same sort of thing but their kids were world-class."
St Johnstone have all the incentive they need, according to midfielder Chris Millar.
Revitalised Saints, unbeaten in their last three games, are in sixth place in the table, two points behind their Tayside rivals whose scintillating early-season form has dipped.
Jackie McNamara's men are without a win in six matches, including a 3-0 reversal against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on December 29.
Millar believes the evening is set up for the Saints to continue their good form and leapfrog United.
"Our form had dipped but we have worked hard to take seven points from nine and if we could make it 10 out of 12 that would be great," the 30-year-old told Press Association Sport.
"There is also the incentive to go above them and put us in a good place before the League Cup semi-final against Aberdeen next week.
"When you are on a bad run it is sometimes hard to get out of it.
"But United are a young side and they are going to be inconsistent at times.
"The next game you play gives you the chance to end that poor run and I am sure that is what the manager will be saying that to them.
"Before their bad run started, they were on fire, scoring four goals at a time and they scored four against us earlier in the season so they are capable of scoring goals.
"But we can take a lot of confidence from the 3-0 win over them.
"They got a man sent off but sometimes it is hard to play against 10 men.
"I was injured that day and watched the game but we played well."