The Paisley 2021 stadium was build by the property company of recently-appointed St Mirren chairman Gordon Scott. He has intimate knowledge of a place where he is found daily after the supporter-led takeover in July underpinned by his investment. That extends to all the ways he made the smart, modern stadium meet Uefa specifications. As Scott yesterday discussed his biggest decision since taking charge in the summer, though, he could have had cause to consider his design for St Mirren’s home lacked something: a revolving door for the manager’s office.
Jack Ross became the sixth man in his post in under two-and-a-half years when introduced as the new St Mirren manager. Scott assumed control two months ago pledging that everything would change and that the Championship strugglers would move forward. Yet, the Paisley club currently prop up the second tier and Alex Rae was jettisoned before his first anniversary and replaced by a man whose time in frontline management equates to a ten-month period during which he experienced relegation with Alloa. It could be argued then that the new regime are being forced to replicate the ways of an old St Mirren board in which faith had been lost.
Former chairman Stewart Gilmour had a penchant for bluntness. Scott, as personable as his predecessor was charmless, might naively be continuing that judging by his take on ditching Rae. “It was the right thing to do but it wasn’t something that had been in my thinking when I took over,” said Scott. “I wanted us to be in a position where in ten years’ time Alex Rae was still our manager. So this isn’t something I wanted to do but I felt I had to do.
“Look at the squad of players we’ve got. They should be competing in this league. Every player in our team could play in almost every other team in the division. We’re bottom of the league but we’ve got a good squad of players.
“The problem is we’ve got five strikers and only two can play every week. And we’ve only got three attacking midfielders, two holding midfielders and no left-back. Everyone who has come in for the job has seen the same problem. Not the quality of the squad, but the imbalance.”
Blame could be directed at the board for sanctioning an odd summer recruitment, but Scott isn’t working with fans’ groups to put St Mirren in their hands to be some sort of autocrat. “You cannot say – especially with me just walking in the door – that this isn’t right, or that’s not right,” he added. “So you have to trust someone when they say this is what they want to do. It will be the same with Jack. You’ll look to build up a relationship but you can’t stick your nose in.”
Ross isn’t the sort of manager who would accept being told what to do – and will bear some criticism for not starting until next Monday, after taking Alloa to Wales in the Challenge Cup this weekend, because he has taken this decision out of “respect” for contractual obligations and all at Alloa.
Unlike his tiny jackets, St Mirren is the “right fit” for the 40 year old. A place that is comfortingly familiar after he had two years to savour towards the end of his playing career at the club as it established itself in the top flight, and made the move from Love Street to its current home, and developed its training complex. Had there not been a takeover of St Mirren the job might not have held the same allure for Ross.
“I don’t think you would be entirely truthful if you didn’t say you consider all the factors around who you are potentially going to work for,” said Ross.
“I think one of the biggest things for me, when I met the chairman and the rest of the board over the last few days, was the feeling I had. Who they are and the plans they have is hugely appealing and it ties in with how I am. In the past I thought it doesn’t matter who you are working with; if you are good you will do it anyway. I think I have learned that what is very important is the people you have running the club and how they work, how they behave and what they are doing.”
Ross will be heartened by Scott’s desperate hope that the current St Mirren can break with the recent past.
“We need to stick with Jack and back him,” he said. “And we will do that. That’s why we went through an exhaustive process. I’m really happy with how we’ve done that. We see this as a long-term appointment. It’s no coincidence we had Gus MacPherson here for seven years and Danny Lennon for four. That’s what works.”