So, the big (non Old Firm soap opera) news in Scottish football is that, after much speculation, St Johnstone’s highly regarded manager Derek McInnes and his assistant Tony Docherty have agreed to take over at Championship side Bristol City. As St Johnstone supporters we are sad to see them both go but wish them both luck. With McInnes having guided Saints to the SFL1 title and re-established the club in the SPL after a 7 year absence, as well as regular strong cup runs, on one of the tightest budgets in the league, it was only a matter of time before he would move on to the next challenge.
Today’s events leave Saints at somewhat of a crossroads. When a manager is sacked, a complete change in approach is usually desirable to help cut out the rot. However when a manager moves on during a successful spell, some level of consistency must be desirable to maintain the momentum. With Docherty having followed McInnes south, the option of appointing the apprentice is removed.
There’s a case to be made that this season’s squad may be Saints’ strongest since that which finised 3rd in the SPL in 1998/99 and went on a European adventure the following season, all achieved under the watch of Sandy Clark who came to the job in similar circumstances to the present after Paul Sturrock was lured away to Dundee United. While I usually give little heed to superstition, it would be nice to experience a similar situation again!
Sturrock, McInnes and his predecessor Owen Coyle all shared in common a number of attributes: little or no managerial experience, but plenty of drive and ambition. Much has been made of chairman Geoff Brown’s success in bringing through young, inexperienced managers with good contact books (a necessity at Saints!), the popular expectation is that this will be the route taken again – though I have fears that this luck may run out eventually. That said, experience is no guarantee of success, and an untried or unkown quantity seems more exciting than the usual names that will be in the mix now that we’re a managerless SPL club rather than a managerless First Division club.
So, while names like Jim Jeffries, Jimmy Calderwood and John Hughes are being thrown into the mix, it’s the more “left-field” (and sometimes fanciful) names that are more interesting; current players Jody Morris and Callum Davidson, club legend and current Arbroath manager Paul “Peanut” Sheerin, Cowdenbeath player-assistant Colin Cameron, Brechin boss Jim Weir, Wigan assistant Graeme Jones …all the way to Rangers veteran Davie Weir (mates with McInnes? likely to want to go into coaching?) and Gary McAllister. Frankly, the media lists look like a combination of usual suspects, wishful thinking and a scan of the We are Perth forum.
Interesting times, but there’s still regular business to deal with. Saints travel to local rivals Dundee United on Saturday, with the Tannadice side on a dip of form and questions hanging over the future of manager Peter Houston. Hopefully the current situation at Saints won’t impact on an excellent chance to register a first league win over the Arabs since our return to the SPL – Saints late collapse in the two teams last encounter, surrendering a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3, is still a sore memory. Jody Morris and youth coach Alec Clelland are reported to be in temporary charge for the fixture.
Goodbye and good luck, Del and Doc. Thanks for everything!