Tommy Wright’s “tough love” has helped turn Callum Hendry into one of the most exciting young strikers in Scotland.
And the St Johnstone forward wants more of the same from the Northern Irishman’s McDiarmid Park successor.
Ali McCann’s emergence as a top level all-round midfielder has been the Saints story of the season but the impact made by Hendry comes in a close second.
The 22-year-old earned a ‘supersub’ reputation with some crucial goals off the bench, the winners against Hamilton Accies and Hearts probably the most important of them.
There were plenty of people suggesting Wright should have made Hendry a regular first team starter long before he scored for the ninth, and last, time when Livingston were the opposition.
The man himself realised that his manager knew best, however. And he’s hoping there will be another strong character to guide his career following Wright’s departure.
“You are always going to remember the manager who gave you the big break,” said Hendry.
“He had been at the club for so long.
“I knew we had to expect it would come at some point, but I never actually thought it would happen.
“It’s strange for me because he gave me the opportunity. He was the one who took a chance on me.
“Tommy gave me the start to my professional career and hopefully it goes on for a long time.
“He dealt with me in the best way possible. He didn’t rush me into the team and I had to earn my spot.
“If I ever had any problems or queries about why I wasn’t playing, he would let me know. I would understand where I was and why.”
The former Blackburn Rovers man added: “I remember going to his door a few times!
“He basically just said I wasn’t ready yet and that he couldn’t trust me fully to start a game.
“But I have always thrived off something like that. Someone saying I’m not ready or still need time.
“It makes you work harder. You don’t throw the towel in and it makes you hungrier than ever.
“It could have taken two weeks or until next season, but he told me to keep working hard.
“It was the same with Alec Cleland and with Callum Davidson when he was at the club.
“Tommy knew when the best time for me was. I always had so much respect for him as a manager.
“If I wasn’t plugging away right, he would tell me.
“The tough love side of it that Tommy gave me was massive for my improvement.
“Tough love was the best way to get the best out of me. I hope the next manager is someone like that.”
There was certainly no appetite for managerial change in the Saints squad but Hendry does not believe they need to fear it.
“It will be such a hard job for someone to come in to but I know the board will make the right decision,” he said.
“They have everyone’s best interest at heart.
“Whoever comes in will be the right person for the job. The new manager won’t need to worry about getting the best out of the boys.
“We all work as a unit and will give 100 per cent as soon as we start back.”
The 2019/20 season has been Hendry’s breakthrough campaign as a senior pro. And had it not been for Covid-19, he would surely have progressed well into double figures for goals scored.
He said: “I was gutted because I was getting a run of games, building up confidence and enjoying it. I was scoring and was lasting longer than an hour.
“It was frustrating for the season to stop, but I can’t complain about how it went for me.
“It’s what I have dreamt of.
“It’s good to hear how important my goals were.
“They are not only important to me, but to all of the fans and the club. I just want to see the club and myself be successful.”
The switch from fringe player to established first team performer is a significant one in a footballer’s career. Hendry has now made that transition and he has no intention of returning to the shadows.
“I didn’t feel like one of the kids in the dressing room anymore,” he explained.
“I felt I had earned my place every day in training and to be in the starting 11. That is what I had wanted ever since I signed for Saints.
“I know it can change and a new manager coming in might not like the way I play. I need to make sure I am ready and that, whoever it is, can have no complaints.
“I want to hit the ground running when we get going again. I want to take my chance straight away.”