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Next St Johnstone manager: Returning hero, Callum Davidson’s No2 and leftfield candidate with prominent McDiarmid Park admirer

Courier Sport assesses who could and should succeed Callum Davidson, with Saints' Premiership status on the line.

Steven MacLean, Tommy Wright and Mark Fotheringham. Images: SNS and Shutterstock.
Steven MacLean, Tommy Wright and Mark Fotheringham. Images: SNS and Shutterstock.

Steve Brown only has a few weeks left as St Johnstone chairman if he sticks to his pledge to step down at the end of the season.

After deciding the time was right to replace his manager following Saturday’s defeat at Livingston, he’s already made one of the two biggest decisions in his time at the McDiarmid Park helm.

One is yet to come – and it carries huge significance for Brown’s legacy and the future of the club.

Who succeeds Callum Davidson?

The fact that there are only six matches left in the campaign is one factor that makes a short-term appointment almost inevitable.

Another is that the club is on the market and progress is being made towards owner Geoff Brown selling his controlling shares to an American consortium.

Courier Sport assesses the options open for Davidson’s replacement, who will have six games to get the two wins likely needed to keep Saints in the Premiership and perhaps keep a takeover on track.

The homecoming hero

There are so many boxes Tommy Wright ticks.

He’s available and I believe he’d be willing to return.

Supporters would get right behind the Northern Irishman, who is still adored by the people of Perthshire.

McDiarmid Park would be energised for the visit of Hibs on Saturday were Wright to come ‘home’.

His Kilmarnock experience – even though it didn’t get a happy ending – would be invaluable for this sort of ‘hit the ground running’ job description and would give him extra motivation.

He’s certainly not a philosophy manager and would only make his mind up on a preferred formation after assessing his squad.

Tommy Wright and Steven MacLean. Image: SNS.

There’s also the added benefit that Wright already has an excellent (working and personal) relationship with coaches Steven MacLean, Alex Cleland and Liam Craig.

This really could be the definition of a two plus two equals four equation, which is so seldom the case in football.

The men in the building

St Johnstone have got a head of football operations who carved out a largely successful second career, after his playing one ended, as an SPFL manager.

Gus MacPherson, though, has gone on record to say the fire no longer burns to be in a dugout or on a training pitch.

This is no time and place to find out if the manager motivation can be rekindled.

MacPherson last had that role in the Premiership over 12 years ago.

More likely candidates are MacLean and Craig – as part of the one management team, with Cleland.

Both are hugely respected at McDiarmid and, in their playing days, were viewed as the likeliest future bosses to come out of Wright’s dressing room.

Born leaders, the pair of them.

Also, last March, MacLean was a caretaker manager of sorts when Davidson had to stay away from the ground after testing positive for Covid.

He took to post and pre-match media duties like a duck to water, was on the touchline, with Craig and Cleland for company, during the clash with Motherwell.

Oh, and Saints won.

Davidson picked the team and the tactics but it was an impressive dry-run all the same.

With the announcement of a change, MacLean was given the “interim” manager status.

That being extended through to the end of the season remains the likeliest next in charge scenario.

The outsider

Davidson is Brown’s only external managerial appointment so far in his time as chairman – and that was effectively a one-horse race following Wright’s summer of 2020 exit.

If he decides that MacLean wouldn’t be enough of a divergence from the era he’s just brought to an end and a completely fresh voice is needed, you can forget the idea of hiring someone who is in work elsewhere.

A couple of months ago, maybe. Not now that the finishing tape is in sight.

And there isn’t a great deal of choice in the free agent market.

Robbie Neilson wouldn’t entertain the idea and there aren’t many other realistic, out of work candidates.

The next St Johnstone manager? Mark Fotheringham on the training ground in Germany. Image: Shutterstock.

I don’t think it will happen, but Mark Fotheringham could be a leftfield contender.

He’s a highly rated training ground coach, who built up an impressive CV in Germany before his short time in charge with Huddersfield, where he was given just four months to make his mark before being sacked.

Fotheringham worked alongside Saints’ current head of operations, Ian Flaherty, on Gary Bollan’s coaching staff at Cowdenbeath so no introductions would need to be made.