Jun 9 2009 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
GEOFF Brown yesterday revealed he’s confident wanted man Derek McInnes will be around to lead St Johnstone into the SPL campaign.
Only financial confusion created by the troubled Setanta television deal has held-up the Perth chairman’s moves to reward his manager for a title-winning debut campaign.
The impact McInnes has made at McDiarmid Park has not gone unnoticed and yesterday it emerged he features on a three-man shortlist for the vacant Watford post.
And if Tony Mowbray, as anticipated, ends up at Celtic Park, the highly regarded one-time West Brom captain is certain to emerge as a candidate for the Midlands post. Perth fans may have to endure a summer of speculation.
McInnes returned to his McDiarmid Park desk yesterday after a family break in Florida.
Ironically, during the final week he teamed-up with his predecessor Owen Coyle, whose success in steering Burnley into the top flight has prompted clubs south of the border to cast an eye over Scotland’s First Division.
McInnes insisted it was business as usual, with moves ongoing to strengthen his squad.
PA Sport understand that Inverness Caley Thistle’s goalscoring midfield Richie Foran is a target.
The 28-year-old would boost the Irish contingent if he arrived at McDiarmid. A one-time Motherwell player, he was lured south two years ago by Southend United for a £150,000 fee.
Foran was one of manager Terry Burcher’s first recruits at Inverness but looks set to move on, with the Highland club relegated.
With Watford plotting an approach, McInnes stressed: “I have a good relationship with the chairman and I’m sure I will be the first to know if there is interest from elsewhere.
“But I’m concentrating on the job I have here. I’m just back from my holidays but we’ve had a couple of games covered in the last few days.
“I’m looking to bring in one or two players so the calls have been continuing. There are areas I want to strengthen.”
It’s understood former Celtic defender and current Hornets first-team coach Malky Mackay is favourite to succeed Brendan Rogers, who was head-hunted by Reading. But McInnes is in the mix.
At 37, he’s one of a new breed of manager and, inevitably, success at St Johnstone has put him on the national radar.
Brown is resigned to losing successful managers to bigger clubs but he is ready to open talks about a lucrative contract extension to fend off predators.
He told PA Sport: “We are expecting Derek to lead us into the Premier League. He has done a very good job and the one we expected when we took him on, despite claims at the time that we were going for a cheap option.
“He has had a lot going for him, including the backing of his board. But Derek is still a rookie.
“He has a year left on his contract but that was going to change anyway, after promotion to the SPL. We have every intention of upgrading his contract here. The only thing which has held that up is doubt over the Setanta money for next season.
“But I wouldn’t want to mislead our supporters. Every manager wants to better himself.
“And while we will do our best to hold onto Derek McInnes we have to be realistic. If someone comes in offering him the sort of money in a year that most people would happily retire on, he would go. If our manager is doing well, this sort of speculation is inevitable.”
“It’s a crazy world out there. With so many jobs vacant at the moment there are agents pushing their men as candidates and flying kites.
“But we have never made any secret of our desire to keep Derek. He has been tested in the First Division and now has a great chance to prove himself in the SPL.”
McInnes isn’t being diverted by speculation that he’ll follow Coyle’s path to the Championship.
“I’m looking forward to the new season and I believe the three players we have already secured – Dave MacKay, Murray Davidson and Kenny Deuchar – will enhance the squad,” he said.
McInnes is also trying to firm up his pre-season schedule. It was wrecked by an unexpected Co-operative Insurance Cup first round tie at Stenhousemuir on August 1.
He said: “That was sprung on us when I was on holiday so changes have had to be made since that cup draw. We had planned a July 4 return to training but now it will be June 29. I was surprised by the late decision but we have had to get on with it and change a few dates.”
McInnes welcomed news that Collin Samuel had scored on his return to the international fold, despite Trinidad and Tobago losing 3-2 to Costa Rica. Tomorrow, he features in the Soca Warriors squad to face Mexico, with the game going ahead despite flu fears.
The manager said: “Sammy was delighted to get back into the squad so I’m really pleased for him getting a goal on his return. He finished the season relatively well but if he can avoid injuries I know there is much more to come from him in the SPL.”