IF YOU were to hold a straw poll among pundits and fans alike about who is the most likeable man in Scottish football, chances are that St Mirren manager Danny Lennon would figure in the top three.
Nice guys do finish last, however, and likeability is perhaps not the quality in demand when your club has gained just one point from a possible 18 at the start of the SPFL Premiership. St Mirren have also notched just two goals in their half a dozen matches.
Lennon is sure that, had he run up his recent managerial record at any other Premiership club, he would have already departed.
“There’s no doubt about that, no doubt about that,” said Lennon. “The support I have had and the opportunity I have had from my board of directors at St Mirren FC, I will be ever so grateful for that opportunity.
“It’s a job and a club that I have grown to love in the just over three years that I have been there. I have given absolutely everything of my life in those three years to that, and I certainly don’t want it to be taken away from me, and it won’t be for the lack of will or the lack of trying.”
His commitment is beyond doubt, but Lennon’s side are just not in any sort of form. Only the fact that Hearts had 15 points deducted for going into administration is keeping St Mirren off the bottom of the table, and the clamour for Lennon to go – despite winning the League Cup in March – has reached a crescendo in recent days.
His situation might be even worse had Celtic not exercised their right to skip their home fixture with the Buddies on the second weekend of the Premiership and, if there is no improvement in St Mirren’s record, it will be very doubtful that Lennon will still be in charge when the fixture is eventually played at Celtic Park on 18 December.
Lennon has suffered through the club’s recent travails with no little humour and his dignity intact, but the smart money has to be on the manager making an exit if St Mirren cannot get a result against in-form Aberdeen in Paisley tomorrow night.
Weekend reports that his situation had already been discussed with the Saints board were wide of the mark, Lennon insisted.
“It wasn’t a direct confrontation,” he said. “I haven’t even had these conversations with the board of directors.”
The League Cup win may have given Lennon extra time, although he does not see it that way.
Lennon said: “The only thing that is going to give me time is results and I know that has got to happen ever so quickly. I’m not naïve enough to think otherwise and I will stick by every player in that dressing room. My message to the players is that I want them to go out there and relax.
“They are putting themselves under unnecessary pressure but, if they go out and be themselves, then natural things will happen. I have every faith they will turn this round. To get back to the way we used to, the tag we took two or three years to earn, is not going to happen until we get our confidence back.
“You could even see the players throughout last week at Easter Road, their speed of thought has slowed, they are not bouncing the ball as quickly as they normally do. What is very frustrating is that they do it on a weekly basis, from a Monday to Friday but they haven’t rolled it over to a game on a Saturday, which is why I am ever so grateful that this game is on a Monday!”
A typical Lennon quip, but he was serious in saying that other managers have been an inspiration with their ‘bouncebackability’, notably Pat Fenlon at Hibs who was leading the “must go” brigade six weeks ago but who then guided Hibs to a six-match unbeaten run which included their 2-0 win over Lennon’s side last weekend.
“He has done terrifically well,” said Lennon, “and I look at Derek Adams last season who had a fantastic second half of the season, and I look at Stevie Lomas having an ever-so-slow start, and he turns it around and gets the club their highest-ever finish in the SPL.
“They have rewarded their boards for the faith that the boards showed in them. It’s absolutely fantastic when you see colleagues able to deal with the pressure they are under and turn that around.”
Tomorrow night’s match against Aberdeen looms large, and Lennon made an impassioned plea to the supporters to get behind the team and give them some reward for that League Cup win.
He said: “It’s got to be payback time not just for Danny Lennon or for the board of directors, it’s something we have got to do for Paisley.
“We went out there and we won a national cup, and that wasn’t just down to Danny Lennon and the staff and the group of players that we have.
“To win it in the way that we did was a collective achievement for the community of Paisley all the way through.
“The support that we got throughout that was fantastic, and that is the same kind of support that we require now.”
There will be those who say that Lennon has gone from being hero to zero, but while his tenure of office may be dramatically shortened in the near future, the true Buddies will always recognise his heroic achievements in leading St Mirren to the League Cup triumph – no zero does something like that.