Sacked Alan Stubbs says St Mirren expected far too much after promotion

Former St Mirren manager Alan Stubbs promotes BT Sport's coverage of the play-offs. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane
Former St Mirren manager Alan Stubbs promotes BT Sport's coverage of the play-offs. Picture: Malcolm Cochrane
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Whatever happens to St Mirren in their Premiership play-off against Dundee United, Alan Stubbs doesn’t believe he can be blamed for the fact that their top-flight status is on the line at Tannadice tonight and in Sunday’s Paisley second leg.

The Liverpudlian is more than willing to lay the blame for where it all went wrong for him at the club, though.

The former Hibernian manager lasted only three months at St Mirren, during which time he took charge of only four league matches. Yet, Oran Kearney is considered to have performed a salvage operation, despite taking over with the team 10th and ultimately finishing 11th. The Irishman is presented as having taken over a club at which a toxic atmosphere had taken root amidst a summer recruitment drive that backfired spectacularly. Stubbs signed 13 players of whom Cody Cooke is the only one remaining.

The hat-trick netted by the striker in the win over Dundee last Saturday – a result which didn’t allow Saints to overtake Hamilton in the scrap to avoid the play-offs – made for about the first time anything positive has been said about a player brought in by Stubbs.

Given the expectations and governance of chairman Gordon Scott and chief executive Tony Fitzpatrick and the suggestions that he presided over widespread dressing room unrest after he gutted the squad which had claimed the Championship under Jack Ross, Stubbs believes he has been the victim of what amounts to a smear campaign.

The 47-year-old claims the “unrest” charge” is a “complete lie” levelled at him by Scott simply because he told Adam Eckersley and Gary McKenzie
at the club’s pre-season training camp in La Manga that he didn’t see them being given much game time in his reshaped team. An accusation as unfair, he contends, as making his signings “an excuse” for the club’s league form.

“I’m not really interested in throwing mud but, at the time, I thought they were used as scapegoats,” said Stubbs, speaking yesterday as he promoted BT Sport’s coverage of the play-offs.

“[The fact they are gone] tells you about what a couple of individuals were saying to the board. We’ll see at the end of the season whether the board were right in sticking with them – or not. What I did was completely separate from what is happening now. Completely. I think people got blinded by the size of the task because they’d come up. I remember speaking to one St Mirren fan, well connected in football, and he said potentially only three of the squad I inherited were good enough.

“You look at the chairman and even Tony. One was 
saying top six, one was saying top four.

“Great to have your head in the clouds but to actually sit down and evaluate where you are and then say that, I found it baffling.

“I had Hibs in the Championship and, seeing the quality I had in that team in terms of individuals, I have to be honest these players weren’t at that level and that’s why I knew this was going to be difficult.

“Some of the players I brought in didn’t work out but those are the gambles you have to take when you are working to the level of wages.

“I can’t talk figures but the 
figures weren’t big.

“More often than not, the level of budget will dictate roughly where you are, give or take a place or two.

“When St Mirren came up they had a style. To be honest, I think Jack knew what he was leaving [when he went to Sunderland]. I spoke to Jack – not before I took the job, after I took the job – and he told me about some situations. I’m not going to go into it because that’s a private situation but after the phone call I thought: “Oh dear”. Jack was very honest with me. So I knew it was always going to be difficult, but I am not bitter and twisted. I wish them all the best. If they stay up, fantastic. I have got no animosity to them whatsoever. I could have. But I haven’t.”

l Watch Dundee United v St. Mirren live from 7:15pm tonight on BT Sport 1 and via the award-winning BT Sport app. For more info visit bt.com/sport