'Long-serving' Derek McInnes has new grounds for optimism

IF someone had told Derek McInnes a year or so ago that he would start the 2011/2012 campaign as the longest serving manager in the SPL, his expression would have been quizzical.

A 'sad indictment' is how the man, who has already endured a fair share of speculation about his own future, views this description of himself as 'long serving'.

Having only just turned 40, McInnes has been unsullied by cut-throat boardroom decisions that can end a promising dugout career early. In fact, those touting him to leave Perth have been doing so because of his success.

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Perhaps the most ironic thing, then, was that when he did get the chance to move, to Brentford, one of Scotland's most promising - and most touted - managers knocked it back.

"When someone pointed it out to me recently about the whole longest serving thing, I just thought it was a bit ridiculous, really," says McInnes, who has been busy recruiting striker Cillian Sheridan on a six-month loan from CSKA Sofia and Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Alan Mannus ahead of today's opener with Aberdeen.

"It can be a cut-throat, results-driven business and we all accept that. You are judged every Saturday regardless of what has happened before. Managers come and go for various reasons."

When League One Brentford were given permission to speak with McInnes last season, St Johnstone's campaign was petering out after losing the Scottish Cup semi-final. The top six, one of their other targets, had slipped them by.

However, McInnes could not be accused of the kind of short-termism that club boards are sometimes criticised for when dispensing with managers. The money would have been better but, for McInnes, it was more about potential and unfinished business.

"I thought long and hard about it (the Brentford approach] and I felt it was the right decision to stay. I have a good relationship with my chairman and a good job and it is not something I would give up lightly.

"Obviously, if the right opportunity arose and it was right for the club, then it could be the case that you would move on but I am not agitated or unhappy enough to move at just any opportunity. I feel there is more to come from the team and the decision was the right one."

McInnes' belief that there is more to come from St Johnstone has been highlighted by his close-season recruitment drive.

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Landing Sheridan from under the noses of Hibs, who were reportedly willing to pay less than Saints for six months of service, demonstrates McInnes' tenacity to make the Perth club a force.

Chairman Geoff Brown rejected a 150,000 email bid from Rangers for key asset Murray Davidson on Thursday and McInnes is happy to wait to land one or two more targets he feels will reignite the club's hunger and bolster ambitions.

"For many reasons, last year was a trying one," said McInnes. "It wasn't as enjoyable.

"We still had enough about us to get the job done but we never reached the highs of the year before or the year before that, when we were promoted.

"Being solid will always be the bedrock of what we do but, if I can do what I hope to do by bringing in one or two more, we can change the dynamics of the team a wee bit and bring in the types that can help win a game at the top end of the pitch."

In many ways, injuries and the state of the Perth park made a mockery of McInnes' blueprint for 2010/2011.

Loan striker Marcus Haber, their most consistent pre-season scorer, was ruled out for the season with a cruciate injury. Wily recruits such as Cleveland Taylor and, for a short spell, Jennison Myrie-Williams, could make little headway on the quagmire park.

This season, the pitch drainage has been improved and the park relaid and McInnes believes there is much for the supporters to get excited about again.

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"It was very difficult to score on our pitch last season," said McInnes, who admits other teams also came unstuck on the sticky surface.

"The new park looks fantastic and the chairman has delivered what he said he would.

"We've brought in seven or eight players and there is a real freshness again. The additions will stimulate the crowd as well and we don't want a trying season, we want a memorable one. It is not always easy to achieve that but that is the aim."

St Johnstone were yesterday working on international clearance to allow Sheridan to debut today in the Granite City but will be without youngster Liam Caddis.

Should Scotland's longest-serving SPL manager succeed in guiding the Perth outfit into the top six or a cup final, that tag would be likely to fall to someone else next season.