JACK ROSS has insisted that Aziz Behich is ready to make his Dundee United debut tonight against AZ Alkmaar.
The Australian yesterday received his work permit for the UK having joined United earlier last month.
He missed out on United’s 1-0 victory over AZ last Thursday but could be in line to start in the Netherlands in the return fixture.
The left-back has over 50 caps for his country and is set to be part of the Australia squad that travels to the World Cup in Qatar later this year.
Although he is yet to play a competitive fixture this season, Ross is confident that Behich will be able to handle the rigours of Europa Conference League action.
The United head coach said: “When you have someone with Aziz’s experience it negates any worries about handling the occasion because he’s played in Europe numerous times and has a lot of caps for his country.
“He’s played in a lot of big matches in his career and has that pedigree.
“Aziz is tough, he’s robust and naturally in a good condition so there’s that psychology aspect of it as well, knowing he can get through games.
“If we didn’t think he was ready to go he wouldn’t have travelled, no matter the work permit situation.
“It has been frustrating for both us and Aziz because it has taken a long time. He’s a passionate lad and you could see him get increasingly frustrated because he’s been preparing to be involved right to the last minute. So when we contacted him to say it was all done, he was very happy.
“He’s been desperate to get going. In some ways watching last week’s game and the two league games have made him desperate to get going more.
“He has trained really well and has been desperate to be involved, so we are really pleased to have him with us.”
Goalkeeper Mark Birighitti is particularly looking forward to the clash in Alkmaar. As a 15-year-old, the Australian had a trial at AZ but was knocked back by the Dutch club on what was his first ever trip abroad.
He now hopes that the journey can come full circle and he can be part of a United side that ends their opponents’ European dream. Birighitti said: “I was only 15 and I just stayed in a hotel round the corner and we trained on the pitch out the back.
“It was a great experience and the first time I’d ever left Australia. It was a big stadium and in Australia you don’t see football stadiums like this and quality training pitches. It was amazing. Then when I was at NAC Breda, we played here and we had a horrendous time. We got smashed.
“I came over myself. Fair play to the club, they looked after me. I actually just bumped into him in the dugout.
“I had a good chat with him and he remembers me. He’s a good guy. For me, it was a great experience. I was only 15 at the time and was lucky enough to get a trial for one week. It was a step up in terms of quality, the training, the speed they do things. The environment, the players and how technically good they are, it was a big step up.”