SPECULATION over who would replace Danny Lennon as St Mirren manager ended swiftly yesterday when bookmakers’ favourite Ian Murray signed a new contract to stay in his present post at Dumbarton, before Tommy Craig was promoted from within to become the new boss in Paisley.
Lennon led Saints to a League Cup win last season as well as two eighth-placed finishes in the top flight, their highest placing since 1989, but was told on Monday that his contract would not be renewed. Veteran coach Craig will face the media today as he relishes the chance to manage a Premiership club, and he will be assisted next season by experienced duo Jim Goodwin and Gary Teale, who have both been promoted to player-coach roles.
Former Scotland Under-21 manager Craig assisted Lennon in the final three seasons of his four-year reign. The pair first met when Craig was on the coaching staff at Hibernian and Lennon was a young player at Easter Road.
The 63-year-old also had coaching spells with Aberdeen, Celtic and Newcastle and worked at Hibs again with John Collins, who he later succeeded in a brief spell as Charleroi manager in Belgium.
A club statement read: “The initial work for Tommy will be to re-sign the players who are out of contract that he wishes to see remain in his squad, together with the identification of signing targets throughout the summer and programme our pre-season plans. The remit from the board is to continue the foundations already in place at St Mirren, part of which is to encourage young players from our academy to develop within our club.”
Dumbarton, meanwhile, were delighted to secure former Scotland international Murray on a new two-year deal.
Murray had been tipped to succeed Lennon at St Mirren, but said he had no hesitation in remaining at the Sons, where he has had a successful 18-month spell, especially as he could be facing Hibs and Hearts in the Championship next season.
The 33-year-old guided Dumbarton away from relegation in his opening six months in charge before taking them to within a whisker of making the Premiership promotion play-offs in this campaign. The former Hibs, Rangers and Norwich City player said: “It was a bit of surprise to see myself linked with the St Mirren job as I knew last Thursday that I was coming to complete the paperwork to remain here. I cannot control what people write or say and Danny Lennon only left yesterday so it would have been a very quick appointment if I was going in.”
Murray added: “It was a relatively easy decision to make as we have created a really good team here. I am excited about them playing in what will be a tough Championship next season. I enjoy being here and it fits into my family life. Dumbarton gave me a break in management and I am grateful for that.”
Murray will face at least one side from his native Edinburgh next season and it could even be two if Hibs fail to win their play-off against either Falkirk or Hamilton. “As a Hibs supporter I do not want them in the Championship but as a Championship manager it is an exciting prospect. We already have games coming up against Rangers and Hearts so it is an exiting time for the club.”
As for facing Hearts, Murray has already told his players they will get an easy ride from the crowd. “No-one will be paying much attention to the players when we pitch up at Tynecastle. I will be getting it from the crowd but I am looking forward to it,” he said.