JOHN Collins has backed “father figure” Tommy Craig to come good at St Mirren.
The 63-year-old has struggled at the Paisley club since moving up from assistant to manager when Danny Lennon departed in May.
Craig has picked up only one win in six Premiership games to sit second bottom of the table while his side exited the League Cup to Partick Thistle in midweek to increase the pressure on him.
Few in football know the Saints boss better than Collins. Celtic’s assistant manager learned his trade as a midfielder under Craig when he was coach at
Hibernian and the Parkhead club .
When Collins became Hibs manager in 2006 he chose Craig as his coach and took the former Newcastle and Aston Villa player with him to Belgian club Charleroi, where Craig subsequently had a spell as manager himself.
Ahead of the visit of Celtic to Paisley in the Premiership today, Collins said: “Tommy was my best ever coach growing up so I have huge respect for him as a coach and as a person. He is a father figure to me and I always look up to him on and off the pitch.
“I had him when I was 17, 18, 19 and had him at Celtic when I came here as a player. He is my kind of coach and I learned a lot as a coach from him. Everything I’d want in a coach Tommy gave me as a young player; quality sessions at high tempo. You never walk on a training pitch with Tommy and the session is not organised and high-tempo.
“He has had a tough start to the season, we know that. He lost players and brought new players in. He has a small budget as well, so it was never going to be easy. But he will have them organised and fighting for their lives.
“At St Mirren it is all about survival in the Premiership, that’s the reality and I am sure given time he will get them winning games and going up the table. Given time Tommy will do a good job there.”
St Mirren striker Callum Ball is adamant they can take full points from both Celtic and Aberdeen.
Saints scored only once in their first five Premiership games but they won their first points with a 2-1 comeback victory over Partick at Firhill last Friday.
Ball is sure they can give the champions a fright at St Mirren Park today before doing the same against the Dons. “We have been unlucky and not getting the points,” said Ball. “On Friday we came out at half-time and showed our spirit and got the win.
“We have two big games coming up but I feel we can get four, possibly six, points out of those two games because we’ve got the players and the ability. It’s just been the luck. In most games we have been on top and getting done in the last few minutes.
“If we can repeat the second half against Partick Thistle, I think we can beat any team in the league. We worked hard as a unit and dug in and pressed well. If we play like that against Celtic I feel we can give them a good run for their money and put them under pressure, and hopefully nick three points.
“It’s nice to play a big team like Celtic. You can show them what you can do and show other people because it’s live on Sky as well. I feel we can get three points.”