Why Aberdeen would be keen on St Mirren boss Jim Goodwin - savvy recruitment, hard to beat, ready for next level

Aberdeen's manager hunt has turned towards Paisley, just as it did 44 years ago.

Back then, Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at St Mirren came to a somewhat acrimonious end after four years at Love Street.

Now it is Jim Goodwin who has caught the attention of the Dons. It was reported on Tuesday that an approach had already been rejected by the Buddies.

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According to the Daily Record, talks between the clubs are ongoing and the Irishman has a £250,000 release clause. Paying such a fee would show how highly Aberdeen regard Goodwin, who appears to be the No.1 target to replace Stephen Glass.

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The 40-year-old is currently in the strongest position since taking over at St Mirren in 2019. The Buddies sit in the top six, they are in the Scottish Cup quarter-final and are in their best run of form in the league since the 2017/18 campaign when they won promotion from the Championship.

Building the Buddies

Goodwin’s tenure has been about steady progression. It hasn’t been exhilarating, it hasn’t fallen into a capricious state. Small incremental improvements.

When he first arrived, taking over from Oran Kearney he was dealt a difficult hand. The squad required rebuilding after staying in the league through the play-offs but he wasn’t hired until the end of June meaning he had a little over two weeks until the first competitive match in the League Cup.

Goodwin, more than anything, made St Mirren competitive and functional. They won just seven league games in what was a shortened season due to Covid and never put back-to-back wins together.

The 1-0 win over Hearts in March 2020 proved to be crucial. Jonathan Obika's goal allowed them to get themselves out of any danger and up to ninth place.

For St Mirren to be better the following campaign they needed to become more of an attacking threat after just 24 goals in 30 games. Goodwin had put a strong defensive base in place and built on that. The team missed out on the top six by the skin of their teeth but progression was evident. More goals than fourth and fifth in the league, while recording a better defensive record.

One of the biggest compliments you can pay the Buddies under Goodwin is how difficult an opposition they can be.

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For large periods they have played with a robust back three which has been protected by a dogged midfield with wide players who buy into that work ethic. Even the forwards can be a nuisance, supported by a bit of quality in the attacking midfield role.

Evolving Goodwin

Prior to the winter break there were question marks about Goodwin by St Mirren fans. There wasn’t quite a revolt but a feeling he was being too dogmatic with his back three system with so few attacking outlets.

There was reflection, analysis and some honest truths during the break. After the 1-0 win over Aberdeen in Paisley in January he explained the change to a back four.

“We worked hard on a different formation during the break and it gave me the chance to analyse the first half of the season,” Goodwin said. “Things weren't going to plan with the back three so we changed things a bit and we're seeing the benefit.”

It's not often managers make an admission that things weren't working, that they had been wrong almost. But what it shows is Goodwin has a pragmatic side and is capable of being flexible.

St Mirren may have lost key player Jamie McGrath, but the addition of Jordan Jones and Alex Greive, plus a switch to a 4-2-3-1 has given the team a different dimension. They have a greater equilibrium between defence and attack. Even with the injury to Eamonn Brophy, the manager has made them a more potent force in the final third.

Savvy recruiter

Another aspect of Goodwin's success at St Mirren and a string to his ever evolving bow is his recruitment. It can be described as sensible and savvy.

There have been misses, just as there always is at clubs, especially in the forward positions but there have been plenty of hits.

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What he's done is sign players with proven Premiership experience and complement them with some gems from the Irish market.

Over the last three seasons he has signed Joe Shaughnessy, Richard Tait, Scott Tanser, Alan Power, Jak Alnwick, Marcus Fraser, plus the aforementioned duo Brophy and Jones. That’s provided them with a solid, dependable spine.

McGrath, Conor McCarthy and Jake Doyle-Hayes have all been smart pick-ups from outwith the league.

Goodwin recently spoke about envy of the likes of Dundee United over their budget with St Mirren’s limited in comparison. It would be fascinating to see what he could do with the money on offer at Aberdeen.

The Pittodrie hotseat is a hugely attractive proposition. The club have some really talented youngsters but they need guidance.

As a team they are currently a soft touch. They are easy to play against, both defensively and offensively. The first thing Goodwin would do is make the team hard to beat. He’d put foundations in place which come the summer they can build on.

And, such is the nature of the league, being hard to beat with Christiam Ramirez’s goals would see the Dons move up the table and conceivably qualify for Europe.

Dave Cormack’s next appointment is set to be a huge one. Goodwin has shown at St Mirren he is ready to take on the task.

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