ST MIRREN chairman Stewart Gilmour has admitted he and his fellow board members bowed to the inevitable when they dispensed with the services of Tommy Craig as manager.
Craig was relieved of his duties yesterday morning – officially by “mutual consent” – just seven months after taking charge.
The 64-year-old, previously assistant at the Paisley club to Danny Lennon who was effectively sacked at the end of last season, won just three of his 19 games in charge to leave Saints joint-bottom of the Premiership and already eliminated from both domestic cup competitions.
Craig has been replaced in the first instance by player-coach Gary Teale, who was named as interim manager yesterday. The former Scotland winger will be assisted by head of youth development David Longwell with the pair’s first assignment a daunting league visit to champions Celtic on Sunday.
Among the early favourites to be the next permanent manager of the club are Alloa boss Barry Smith, who last week guided his part-time side to their shock 3-2 Petrofac Training Cup semi-final win over Rangers, and former St Mirren midfielder and fans’ favourite Billy Stark who recently stepped down as Scotland under-21 coach.
Craig became the third top-flight managerial casualty of the season in Scotland so far, following Derek Adams’ dismissal by Ross County in August and Stuart McCall’s resignation from Motherwell last month.
Increasing levels of disenchantment among St Mirren supporters, with home attendances slumping dramatically in the past few weeks, forced the club’s directors to accept their faith in Craig could no longer be justified.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
“We’re in a results business and we’re not producing results, it’s as simple as that,” said chairman Gilmour.
“We felt we needed to have a change. I’m sure Tommy thinks maybe another couple of weeks and he might have been able to turn it around.
“I understand that thought, but we came to the decision as a group after lots of discussion. We had great confidence in Tommy. He is one of the best coaches I’ve seen working at St Mirren.
“He was given the opportunity to try to do it and, regrettably, and I mean that because he’s been a pleasure to work with, it’s not worked out.”
Craig’s appointment in May was regarded as a curious decision by many observers, given the veteran coach’s lack of any previous success as a manager in his own right.
He had been brought to St Mirren in the summer of 2011 by Lennon, himself recruited as Gus MacPherson’s successor the previous year. In March 2013, Lennon and Craig guided the club to one of the highest points in their history with a dramatic 3-2 win over Hearts at Hampden as they lifted the League Cup for the first time.
Gilmour insists St Mirren did consider other options before they named Craig as manager just 24 hours after deciding not to renew Lennon’s contract.
“We saw all the other applications,” added Gilmour. “People think we didn’t look at them, but of course we did, but we thought Tommy could take the club forward. He is particularly good at coaching kids.
“He was part of a very good team and he will always be remembered, him and Danny, for our day in 2013.”
In naming Teale and Longwell as the interim management team, there was conspicuously no mention by St Mirren yesterday of Jim Goodwin having any role in the temporary set-up. The Irish defender was also a player-coach under Craig but has again blotted his copybook this season with a disciplinary breach of conduct when he elbowed Dundee United youngster Aidan Connolly, earning a three-match ban and a public reprimand from the club.
Gilmour has admitted limited resources at St Mirren, who have been up for sale for more than two years now, will influence the search for a new permanent manager.
“It’ll be handled internally until we see what applicants are in and we’ll make a decision which we hope will be good for the club,” he said.
“The main thing at the moment is to get the manager in place.
“Finance is very difficult at the moment. That will no doubt be one of the criteria we’ll be looking at – what contacts they’ve got and maybe what wheeling and dealing they can do – but that’s a job for later in the week.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS