It is more than a coach that Callum Davidson believes he has brought on board in appointing Steven MacLean as his No.2 at St Johnstone. The fact the 37-year-old led the line with such distinction for the club in tandem with Stevie May was firmly in Davidson’s “thinking” when it came to making his first major decision as a manager. He now believes his recruitment of one former striker in MacLean can bring the refinement of another in May.
The pair last featured alongside one another for the McDiarmid Park side in the Scottish Cup final success of May 2014, when Davidson was then playing assistant to Tommy Wright. For May, who left for Sheffield Wednesday that summer, this trophy triumph was the culmination of a 27-goal season. He has never since recaptured that potency in front of goal, but Davidson believes MacLean can help him do just that.
“Macca’s at a similar age to me when I hung up my boots at 37,” said Davidson. “However, I saw him run the other day and he could probably still play. He’s really fit and he’s got that enthusiasm. I wanted someone in on the attacking side. We’ve got some good strikers here. Stevie May, Callum Hendry, Michael O’Halloran, Chris Kane, and we have a few good young ones too. That was part of my thought process with Macca. When I worked with him, he used to coach players within the games. But he’ll bring a youthful exuberance and for the strikers, it’s a massive plus for them having someone like Stevie MacLean working with them.
“Stevie May can recapture the kind of form he had when I was last here, he’s got the potential to do that. He’s our main striker. Sometimes he actually works too hard for the rest of the team, running everywhere. I remember watching him in England and he was doing too much, rather than staying in the box scoring goals.
“Our job is to get him shooting again. When I was here, he used to shoot from everywhere. So we have to get him in the right positions again because he’s got the quality to score goals. I’m hoping he scores 20 goals next season, we’ll have won a watch if that happens. It’s about getting him to that level again and I think he can do it. Hopefully with the team behind him, we can push Stevie forward. But that goes for all the strikers, there are four or five of them who can go on to bigger and better things.”
MacLean was a street-fighter of a forward and Davidson is convinced his drive and determination will make him a coach who can get the best out of those under his charge.
“Let’s just say, he’s lively,” said his manager. “He was like that as a player. I’ve already told him he can’t get involved in training – in case he loses his temper. I need to ban him. No seriously, he’s got a great knowledge of the game and I used to speak to him all the time about strikers, their movement, how they play.
“We’ll look at different things in terms of how we’re going to play. So we’ll challenge him and he’ll need to adapt. But that’s the only way you’ll learn as a coach. We’ll put him out on the grass and let him coach some players. I think he’ll be very good.
“When I was assistant here, he was always talking to the strikers. When you put a training session on, Macca was always the first person to get it. He was the first to understand what was going on. You could see his wee brain working on the training pitch, he was brilliant. So he’s got that and I want to help him develop that on the training pitch.
“Steven has that winning mentality and that’s the type of characters I want at the club. You don’t want people who are nice and easy to get on with or players like that.
“I want competitive players and staff who challenge me. Most of the players here have played with Steven so they know what he’s like.
“He’s also got this club’s mentality within him. He knows what type of club St Johnstone are. We’re a hard-working club and that won’t change. That’s what I want from my backroom staff – it will go right through the staff and the squad.
“I’m not sure if he’ll be the bad cop to my good cop. I actually think coaching and management has evolved, especially when you’re working with young players. We have a really good, young squad. So it’s about what the best way to develop them is.
“Sometimes it’s not about being bad cop all the time. There are different ways to manage these young players, like Hendry, Ali McCann, Liam Gordon and Jason Kerr. It’s an exciting time to work with them and try to help them.”
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