Second-bottom St Mirren have got off to their worst start to a league season for 23 years – and back then they dropped out of the top flight.
Chic Charnley was part of that relegated Saints side and he claims that the club’s board must now sack manager Tommy Craig or face Championship football next year.
Craig’s side has racked up only eight points from 14 Premiership games and that’s only marginally better than their record in 1991, when Davie Hay’s men won only one of their first 19 league fixtures.
Midfielder Charnley was part of a squad that contained Saints heroes such as Campbell Money and Paul Lambert, plus former Celtic and Scotland captain Roy Aitken and Aberdeen’s European Cup-Winners’ Cup final match-winner John Hewitt.
The Buddies should have survived with something to spare but they ended the campaign ten points adrift of third-bottom Motherwell.
Charnley blamed the players then and insists the current squad should accept responsibility for the fact that they’re above bottom club Ross County only on goal difference.
However, he claims that the only way Saints can beat the drop is by removing Craig.
“No disrespect to Tommy but the only way they’re going to change things is for him to go,” he said. “People tell me he’s a good coach and I don’t doubt that for a minute but there are plenty of good coaches who don’t succeed as managers – and that’s maybe because they stop doing what they’re good at.
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“Of course, the players should be doing better and it’s their performances which have seen them stuck at the bottom of the table. It might be unfair on Tommy if he were to lose his job but it’s a harsh world we’re living in and the bottom line is that it’s easier to replace one manager than it is to shift seven or eight players.”
St Mirren lifted the League Cup – their first silverware since 1987 – under Danny Lennon last year but they were knocked out of that tournament by Partick Thistle and they’re odds-against to beat second-placed Inverness in the Scottish Cup at Paisley on Saturday.
Another defeat and the pressure on the directors will mount ahead of the home league game against St Johnstone the following weekend.
Charnley knows how tough it can be when teams are battling for survival.
“Back in 1991 we had players who should have been capable of dragging us away from the relegation zone but the longer that run went on the harder it became,” he said.
“Davie Hay was a brilliant manager, too, as he proved before and after that. Everyone liked him and it wasn’t as though we weren’t trying for him but it just didn’t happen and he left the club at the end of the season.”
The Paisley side are hoping veteran striker Steven Thompson – who notched 46 goals for St Mirren in the three previous seasons – will finally return to fire them up the table after being out for three months due to a groin injury.
Charnley isn’t so sure.
“Obviously, it will be good for the team to have him back but let’s be honest here – Steven’s 36 now and he’s not going to save them single-handedly,” he said.
“The problem they have is that the manager has tried everything he can do up until now and it hasn’t worked. Now the dressing room needs a new face and a new voice if things are going to get any better.
“Ross County aren’t going to be behind them for much longer. They’ve kicked on recently and taken eight points from their last seven matches – after they sacked Derek Adams and brought in Jim McIntyre.”
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