Review of last season – It is fair to say that last season was one of highs and lows for St.Mirren. The club finished the season in 8th position, securing themselves in the Premiership for yet another season but at the end of the campaign the decision was made for Danny Lennon to leave his post as manager. It was the uncertainty over Lennon that seemed to be a constant theme throughout last season. As a side St.Mirren were either really good or pretty bad last year. Two or three times last season they had runs of five or six games where they couldn’t win, but then they would always seem to turn it around and go on runs of five or six games where they were consistently picking up points. The majority of the fans felt Lennon’s time was up, and his signings were poor last season so it felt the right time for him to move on. Despite many people being linked with the manager’s job it fell to an internal candidate. Experienced coach Tommy Craig was awarded the job with players Jim Goodwin and Gary Teale given roles within his coaching team. St.Mirren felt that Craig’s track record of nurturing young talent fitted well with the clubs long term ambition of developing their own players through their youth setup.
Players in – James Marwood (Striker, Gateshead), Mark Ridgers (Goalkeeper, Hearts), Ross Caldwell (Striker, Hibernian), Ellis Plummer (Defender, Loan, Manchester City).
Players out – Eric Djemba-Djemba (Free), Darren McGregor (Rangers), Paul McGowan (Dundee), Gary Harkins (Dundee), David van Zanten (Dumbarton), Chris Dilo (Free), Conor Newton (End of Loan), Josh Magennis (End of Loan), Adam Campbell (End of Loan)
What they still need – The St.Mirren squad isn’t looking too bad at the moment. Tommy Craig knows the club inside out so he has been better placed than most to judge what the team needs and he can identify where some of the clubs younger players can fill in the gaps. He has made some decent signings so far to balance out the team, but there are still a few additions needed. There still seems to be a need for at least three more players that would fulfil important roles in the squad. An experienced (and ideally versatile) defender is definitely needed. A wide midfielder, or creative midfielder could be a good addition to the squad and finally another striker to provide competition upfront. Tommy Craig has taken his time over his signings, which is maybe a slight departure from Danny Lennon’s approach, but many St.Mirren fans will be pleased about that.
Expectations this season – St.Mirren seemed to stall under Lennon over the past season or two. The fans will now look forward to a new manager, and a new beginning with the hope that the team can be rebuilt in Tommy Craig’s vision and that they can begin to think about challenging for a top six finish. Fans will also look forward to seeing even more of the St.Mirren youths being given a chance and they may also hope for a good showing in the cups. The Buddies squad has the capability of going on a decent cup run and they can cause any teams problems on their day.
Key player – Arguably the best signing St.Mirren have made this summer has been the contract extension for Kenny McLean. Many St.Mirren fans seemed resigned to losing McLean this summer but almost out of the blue he signed a 2-year deal with the club. Even at the age of 22 he is the key to this St.Mirren side. A technically gifted player with a fantastic work-rate, he is the driving force behind in the midfield and can be the difference maker that St.Mirren need. There is every chance that if he has another great season he might leave next summer, but the fans can be comforted that he will command a big fee. It is great to see a young, home-grown talent make the grade at the same club that developed him.
Young player to look out for – St.Mirren have an excellent youth setup, and it continues to produce quality players. One of the remits that new boss Tommy Craig has is to continue introducing young players into the side and that should be a feature during this season. One player that has already made the breakthrough and will partner Kenny Mclean in the midfield this season is John McGinn. The 19-year old had his real breakthrough season last term and has shown a great deal of promise. Like McLean fans were similarly worried that McGinn would leave the club this summer and there were a few enquiries and bids for him, but he remains at St.Mirren. A tremendous talent that has been capped at both U19s and U21s level, McGinn is an exciting player to watch and he will undoubtedly shine for the Buddies this season.
Opinion on St.Mirren – The appointment of Tommy Craig might have surprised some people given the fact that he has been working more behind the scenes in recent years. However it could turn out to be a very shrewd appointment and one that can provide St.Mirren with stability. The reign under Lennon seemed to falter towards the end, but much of that was not necessarily down to the quality of player but the system and tactics used by him. To give someone like Tommy Craig the opportunity to work with a similar team can pay off given his experience and the high regard people hold him in. He knows the club and knows the squad well so this can be a huge advantage to St.Mirren this year.
Prediction for this season – 7th