Motherwell appoint Gannon as new manager but Clarkson on way to Bristol

OUTSIDE of Stockport in Cheshire, Jim Gannon was not one of British football's better-known names, at least until yesterday when Motherwell appointed the 40-year-old as their manager to replace new Aberdeen boss Mark McGhee.

Once the red tape is completed, Gannon, pictured, will be introduced as Motherwell manager, most probably tomorrow morning. As soon as he arrives, he faces what the Steelmen's supporters will see as a major crisis – the likely transfer of Scotland international and fans' hero David Clarkson to Bristol City.

Paul Quinn is also set to leave in the near future, as Cardiff City are keen on him, with the future of goalkeeper Graeme Smith and midfielder Stephen Hughes uncertain, and all this just a few days before Motherwell meet Llanelli FC in Thursday's first leg of the Europa League first qualifying round.

It will therefore be a tough week for "Jimbo" Gannon whose appointment came as something of a surprise, better known names such as Gary McAllister, Lawrie Sanchez, and Steve Staunton having been linked with the Fir Park job.

London-born Gannon's playing career began in Ireland at Dundalk FC, his family having moved across the Irish Sea when he was a youngster. After a brief spell at Sheffield United, he moved to Stockport where he became a club legend, playing 479 times, the third highest number of appearances in County's history.

After a short spell in management at Dundalk, he came back to Edgeley Park, saved the club from relegation, then won promotion to League One in the 2008 play-offs, beating Rochdale 3-2 at Wembley.

Gannon was given permission to talk to Brighton earlier this year amid reports that Stockport were in financial difficulty but he opted to remain, only for the club to collapse in April owing an alleged 2 million.

For Motherwell, Gannon had a couple of serious advantages. The first is that he cost them nothing in compensation as he had been made redundant when Stockport went into administration – they know all about that at Fir Park – and he also holds the full UEFA pro licence which is to become mandatory for managers and coaches of clubs playing in European competition from 2010.

Given that he had been unceremoniously booted out, Gannon could not in all conscience have stayed at Stockport County even if former Celtic player Jim Melrose completes his ambitious bid to buy the club; reinstatement of Gannon had been mooted but will not now happen.

So it is undoubtedly a good move for Gannon to go from a League One P45 to the SPL, and given the reputation he enjoys down south for getting teams to play passing football, as well as speaking honestly to the fans and lashing out at cloggers in the game, it might well be a good move for the Steelmen, too.

Motherwell restricted all comment to a bald statement on its website confirming it had offered Gannon the job. It added: "After a lengthy and in-depth interview process, Gannon emerged as the outstanding candidate and following discussions with club chairman John Boyle on Friday, he has verbally accepted the post. Both parties will use the remainder of the weekend and the start of next week finalising contract details before a formal announcement of Jim's appointment. The club will be making no further comment at this stage."

That seems fair enough as the man hasn't actually signed his contract. Once he does there will surely be only one large item on his agenda – the potential loss of Clarkson.

Bristol City will be holding talks with Clarkson after the Coca-Cola Championship club agreed a fee with Motherwell, thought to be around 600,000 with an additional 200,000 dependent on his appearances and goals for his new club.

They said: "Bristol City Football Club can confirm it has agreed an undisclosed fee with Motherwell for striker David Clarkson.

"The club has been given permission to speak to the player and will do so early next week. The club will make no further comment at this stage."

Clarkson made his debut for Motherwell in 2002 as a 16-year-old and was soon a regular in the Motherwell team. A Scotland Under-21 cap, last year he played twice for the full international side, against the Czech Republic and Argentina, scoring against the former.

He also suffered the utter tragedy of seeing his uncle, Phil O'Donnell, collapse and die in a home match against Dundee United in December, 2007.

Gannon may be a mystery man to the Motherwell fans, but if he was to persuade the popular Clarkson to stay at Fir Park and sign a long-term contract, he would do himself a power of high-profile good.

But the player may feel the need to depart a scene that perhaps holds too many tough memories for him, and a spell in England's Championship would do his career no harm.

Either way it is a difficult and delicate situation for Gannon to encounter on his first day at work. And all that just three days before his first ever European tie, at Airdrie's Excelsior Stadium on Thursday, with the return leg switched to the 15,000 capacity home of Llanelli Scarlets rugby club.

It's a hectic time ahead for Jimbo Gannon, but like everyone else in work in these uncertain times, he'll be glad to at least have a job again.