ST MIRREN boss Danny Lennon has made an impassioned defence of his managerial record in the face of supporter unrest following the Paisley club’s miserable start to the season.
Lennon’s side have managed just one draw from their three opening Scottish Premiership games while their defence of the League Cup fell at the first hurdle as the holders were knocked out by second-tier opposition Queen of the South on Tuesday night, just six months after they beat Hearts to claim their first major trophy since 1987.
Lennon’s woes have only been exacerbated by the fact they have won just once in the period since their Hampden victory back in March. But the former Cowdenbeath manager – who faces the biggest test of his three-year reign when newly-promoted Partick Thistle visit St Mirren Park today – insists he is capable of turning around Saints’ stalled season.
He said: “It’s been a slow start from us and we need to improve. But I’m not naive. I’m like every other manager out there. It’s a results-driven business.
“My remit when I first came to this club was to make sure we stayed in the division and I’ve done that. In addition, I have also given the club national silverware for the first time in 26 years and their highest-ever SPL finish.
“So to me, that demonstrates that I can achieve with this club. I believe in the players we have and myself and my own character. And I believe that with our wonderful supporters, we can turn this slow start around.”
Lennon has acted swiftly to strengthen his squad following this week’s disappointments. Blackpool winger Jake Caprice made his debut as a late substitute against Queens following his arrival on a year-long loan, while 21-year-old French-Cameroonian Stephane Bahoken is joining on a similar arrangement from parent club Nice.
Lennon hopes the striker can give his side the attacking boost they desperately need after former Portuguese loanee Esmael Goncalves – who played with Bahoken at Nice – put in a good word for his old club.
“Stephane is a striker, 6ft 2ins, powerful and quick. He’s made 22 appearances for Nice, got four goals,” said Lennon. “He’s the one we’ve been waiting for but I believe he’s been worth the wait.
“We’ve been under no illusions that a striker is what we needed to give Stevie Thompson and Gary Harkins a hand up there. But we think we have identified the right one who will come in and give us exactly what we need.
“Esmael Goncalves who we had here last season was quite influential in telling Stephane about his experience here and how it helped his career. That was lovely of him to do.
“Esmael has now played in Champions League qualifiers since leaving and it has been fantastic to see another of our former loan players, Paul Dummett, pushing on with Newcastle. That kind of credibility has given us a helping hand in attracting this kind of player.”
But while Bahoken and Caprice have checked into St Mirren Park this week, Lennon confirmed defender Lee Mair – who has yet to feature for Saints this season – is nearing his exit.
Lennon, who put the centre-half on the transfer list in the summer, said: “I did have a chat with Lee about a potential club showing an interest in him. That’s as far as I know what is happening with that one. I have made the player aware of it.”
Meanwhile, Partick’s English midfielder James Craigen travels to Paisley today still thanking his lucky stars he chose Edinburgh University to further his education after his move north of the border began his journey into the Scottish Premiership. The 22-year-old started his career at home town club Preston before moving to Edinburgh to undertake a sports business management degree. He caught the eye playing for the university football side, while also featuring for the Scottish university and Great Britain university teams.
Craigen knocked back Conference side Tamworth to join Partick last season and he is enjoying life in the top flight following Thistle’s promotion from the First Division.
“When I left Preston at 18 I decided to go to university in Edinburgh, was there until 21 and signed for Partick last year. It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Craigen.
“I could have gone to other universities in England but Edinburgh turned out to be a good choice.
“I always thought I had the ability to enter the game at some point. University standard football is not as bad as you think, there are some good players in higher education.”
Thistle have made a decent start to the season with five points from four games to sit in seventh place and Craigen is hoping to stretch further away from St Mirren and bottom side Hearts.
He said: “Hopefully we will get the three points but like last season, we will take it one game at a time and hopefully put in a 90-minute performance.
“We have done okay so far. We had quality in the squad and I think the manager has brought in some great players. We have a great togetherness.”