Jun 16 2009 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
SAINTS boss Derek McInnes continues to be enveloped in speculation linking him with the West Brom managerial post being vacated by Celtic-bound Tony Mowbray.
But yesterday the St Johnstone boss was pressing ahead with his UEFA pro licence badge at the European U21 Championships in Sweden.
Watford backed-off when Perth chairman Geoff Brown asked to see the colour of their compensation cash, instead appointing coach and hot favourite Malky Mackay.
But now Perth fans fear losing McInnes to a Midlands club relegated from the Premiership to the Championship with the cushion of a £30million parachute payment.
Geoff Brown knows it would be an irresistible lure for McInnes if the Baggies were to come in for him.
And that would kick-start a hunt for a successor with the SPL on the horizon.
Yesterday, a Midlands contact told PA Sport: “Derek is still a fans favourite here.
“He is still highly regarded within the club and he features along with Darren Ferguson of Peterborough as a top pick in fans’ polls.
“He was probably Gary Megson’s best signing when he came in from Toulouse. Derek was captain when the team reached the Premier League.
“There are other names being bandied about down here but I suspect he is high on the list of potential candidates.
“He seems to tick all the boxes, apart from experience.”
But McInnes is refusing to be drawn on speculation.
He said: “As I said last week when Watford was being mentioned, I’m sure the club will be first to know of any interest and they will tell me.
“Right now, I’m getting on with the coaching badge and I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to the SPL season. I hope all the speculation isn’t dampening the fans’ enthusiasm for the season ahead.
“We have fixed-up pre-season games now and we’ll be based in Belfast for a couple of matches.
“Then we have Owen Coyle bringing his new Premiership team to McDiarmid the week before our first league game. It would be nice to put one over on him!
“Pre-season results are rarely an indicator of how you will do but it is essential we instil the right level of fitness in the players for the campaign ahead.
“We had progressed talks with two or three players but that has gone on hold until the Setanta scenario becomes clearer.
“That is sensible and there’s no panic. But I’d like to have the squad in place to work together and bond in pre-season.”
Midfielder Paul Sheerin admitted the Perth squad was keeping a close eye on developments at West Brom.
He said: “We are all over the place on holiday at the moment but obviously there has been a lot of speculation involving the gaffer in the last week.
“That’s all it is right now. And hopefully he’ll be back here to take the club into the SPL.
“But in football there’s usually no smoke without fire and the boss was highly thought of at West Brom when he was a player and captain.
“His connections there are still strong and the fans remember what he did for the club.
“Our chairman might be bracing himself for an approach. Look what happened with Owen Coyle.
“The precedent is there for all to see.
“The gaffer has achieved what St Johnstone have been striving for over the last seven years. So interest from other clubs doesn’t come as any surprise.
“Owen took Burnley back to the top flight for the first time in nearly 40 years.
“It would be a blow to us if Derek McInnes was to leave and he would be a hard act to follow for whoever took over.
“But these things happen in football and we’d have to get on with it.
“But it would be a bit unsettling if we were looking for a new manager with the SPL season looming.”
Sheerin shared a dressing room with McInnes before his elevation to the manager’s office.
He said: “You could see he was a born winner. He is incredibly thorough in everything he has done.
“His attention to detail is amazing and that took us to the title and promotion.
“Maybe he had a panic to himself last August when we were losing games but he never allowed it to show to the players.
“When you become a manager you have to distance yourself a bit from the lads and set out your own guidelines.
“The gaffer brought in Tony Docherty, who’s a bubbly character and a link with the lads in the dressing room.
“We knew he had always wanted to be a manager and it was obvious he was ready.
“From a personal point of view I listen and learn from every manager at every level of football.
“The gaffer’s methods have certainly opened my eyes and I’m thoroughly enjoying working under him. And it would be nice for that to continue in the SPL.”