Cooney and Black

No tears should be shed for Tommy Craig. He was the wrong man for the job. Should anyone really be surprised that the gamble of sacking Danny Lennon backfired spectacularly?

Tommy Craig

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FEW, if any, tears will have been shed over Tommy Craig’s sacking as manager of St Mirren.

In truth, Craig is not a popular figure within football. He has made many enemies for a variety of reasons, and I suspect the announcement that he had been axed after a string of dire results left Saints second bottom of the Premiership was greeted with a distinct lack of sympathy.

His repeated refusal to apologise to the club’s fans prior to his dismissal was sheer arrogance at worst and staggering naivety at best.

Did he actually imagine that those who pay a sizeable percentage of their hard-earned cash to support the Paisley club were not entitled to a show of humility?

I witnessed at first hand Craig’s unbelievable high-handedness when he pitched up in the media room minutes after the team’s four-goal Scottish Cup defeat at Inverness earlier this month and announced he was only going to make a brief comment as he was in a hurry.

Surely, those few dozen hardy souls who had made the journey from Paisley were deserving of a detailed explanation for their side’s tame surrender.

But while Craig must shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for dismal displays and uninspiring results, it is also a collective failure.

Yet, club chairman Stewart Gilmour and his fellow directors appear to have all but washed their hands of any involvement.

But who was it who took the decision to dispense with the services of the previous manger, Danny Lennon, after he had won the club the League Cup and kept them in the Premiership, and appoint Craig as his successor? The Bogeyman?

Craig was shown the door at the age of 64, having achieved a win ratio of less than 11 per cent following just three wins, three draws and 13 defeats.

But should anyone really have been all that surprised that the gamble of sacking Lennon backfired spectacularly?

I suggest not, given that Craig’s record in management reads: Played 45, won five, drawn eight, lost 32.

A coach for more than 30 years, his previous forays into management ended in failure. Two spells as caretaker boss of Hibs did not yield a single victory. His record at Belgian side Charleroi was little better: two wins in 19.

It does not require a degree in rocket science to know that Craig was the wrong man for the job. The warning bells should have been ringing so loudly in the ears of the St Mirren chairman – a decent sort whose company I have enjoyed on occasion – and his fellow directors that the noise should have drowned out any calls to place Craig in charge.

But, for reasons that defy my understanding, Craig is one of the game’s great survivors in spite of his abysmal record.

He outlived John Blackley at Hibs, David Hay, Billy McNeill and Liam Brady at Celtic, several high profile personalities at Newcastle, including Sir Bobby Robson and Kenny Dalglish, John Collins at Hibs and Charleroi, before then seeing off Danny Lennon.

Why? You tell me.

Yet, instead of throwing up his hands and confessing to having erred in appointing Craig, Gilmour insisted that it was not a mistake.

“He’s still the best coach I’ve seen here,” declared the chairman post-sacking. “Unfortunately, he didn’t get the results in a results-driven business. It’s as simple as that.”

I don’t think so and neither do those Saints supporters I have spoken with who have voted with their feet of late and walked away from St Mirren Park.

Craig should also have done the honourable thing and walked the day Lennon got the heave. But Tommy doesn’t do walking away. Instead, he who had been part of the problem was suddenly seen as part of the solution.

Gary Teale and Jim Goodwin, likeable individuals despite the latter’s inability to behave responsibly on the pitch, were appointed to the coaching staff to assist Craig in his endeavours to turn the club around, and the former has been placed in temporary charge until a successor is appointed.

Good luck, Gary, because it appears that St Mirren is a club riven with divisions.

Teale’s situation will certainly not be helped by the presence of Steven Thomson hovering in the background, given the striker’s barely disguised desire to lead from the front.

Gilmour, in complete fairness, has done his level best for St Mirren for two decades and he undoubtedly has the club’s best interests at heart.

He has overseen a move from Love Street to a brand new stadium to be proud of and has somehow consistently balanced the books, while sparing no effort to find someone to take over the running of the club and re-invest in its future.

Celtic’s 4-1 victory on Sunday means that the results torture goes on. The stark fact is this is almost certainly St Mirren’s last chance to get it right. The club is teetering on the edge of the precipice, in grave danger of losing its footing and tumbling into the Championship from where it may not re-emerge in the foreseeable future, if ever.

 

 
PICTURE COURTESY OF JEFF HOLMES PIX

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