The term legend is thrown about too often in football but St Johnstone’s Scottish Cup-winning captain Dave Mackay insists Tommy Wright is just that at McDiarmid Park.
The first Saints manager to lift a major honour said goodbye to the club he led for almost seven years last weekend and his former skipper says no one connected with the Perth side will begrudge Wright wanting to move on.
Mackay played 110 of his 268 appearances for St Johnstone with the Northern Irishman as manager and the club finished in the top half of the Premiership in each of those seasons.
Should the 2019/20 campaign end prematurely, a fifth top-six place for Wright’s team – thanks to their points-per-game average – would be the perfect end to his reign as boss.
Mackay told Courier Sport: “I think over the last year or two it was building up to a parting of ways.
“Tommy and the chairman Steve Brown had worked together for a good few years and I’m sure they left on good terms.
“Like everybody who works closely together, there will be disagreements, but from what I saw they got on really well together and I’m sure they will have separated on good terms.
“And nobody would begrudge Tommy that either.
“If the league ends as it is, he has achieved another top six finish to add to the collection.
“It’s amazing how many times he’s done it and, obviously, winning the Scottish Cup – he’s quite rightly regarded as a St Johnstone legend.
“I’m sure he’ll be looked at for some decent jobs now, though, and I’m sure the Northern Ireland one will interest him.”
Speculation over who will replace Wright has been bubbling away since his departure although, with football not expected to return in Scotland for months, Saints chairman Brown is in no rush to make an appointment.
Callum Davidson and John Robertson have as frontrunners for the role while long-time coach Alec Cleland has been placed in caretaker charge at McDiarmid Park.
Mackay reckons the former Dundee United, Rangers and Everton man would be a good fit.
“The club can take their time, there is no rush at the moment,” the former Saints captain said.
“They won’t be going for the first person they see, it will be a thought-out process.
“Alec Cleland is in caretaker charge and I’m sure he’ll fancy it. Alec has been at the club for years and knows the club.
“I’m sure the club will look at a lot of avenues, though, and they can take their time.”
Having been a manager himself at Stirling Albion and with his history at St Johnstone, Mackay’s name has been mentioned in connection with the role.
But the Dundee coach says he has a lot to learn at Dens Park before moving on to pastures new.
He added: “St Johnstone is a club I have been at for a long time and I’m sure when I go back into management at some point I would love to go there but now I am really loving my time at Dundee.
“I’m back working in full-time football with great people and there’s no rush from me to look at management again.”
Mackay says his time as a player at Saints working under three successful managers in Derek McInnes, Steve Lomas and Wright has had a “huge influence” on him as a coach.
He also enjoyed learning from former Scotland international Davidson, currently Gary Rowett’s assistant at Millwall.
“I loved my whole time at Saints,” Mackay added.
“I worked under three really good managers. Derek McInnes laid the foundations, Steve Lomas took the club to third and then Tommy built on that too.
“All three were a huge influence on me. I’ve picked up bits and pieces from them all but Tommy and Callum Davidson were the ones I worked with latest so they probably had a bigger effect on me.
“Tommy was a great all-rounder, he was a good coach but he could do a bit of everything, man-management and all aspects of the job.
“I think the biggest surprise for years was he didn’t get a big move on the back of the work at St Johnstone.
“I always found it strange that nobody came in for him.”