Oct 21 2011 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Friday
AS Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty were being officially paraded as Bristol City’s new management team yesterday, Alec Cleland and Jody Morris were preparing the squad they left behind for a weekend derby date with Dundee United.
Right now, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are rare creatures. They are among the few candidates not being bandied about to fill the void left by the man who led Saints to a First Division title and four cup semi-finals during his four years at the helm.
And yesterday, while skipper Morris was refusing to look beyond the Tannadice trip, youth coach Cleland made it clear he was keen to be considered for the Perth post.
At 32, ex-Chelsea and Leeds midfielder Morris, in the final year of his contract, has a few years left in him as a player and while he was immediately installed among the bookies’ favourites to continue the fine work done by close friend McInnes at McDiarmid, he was reluctant to be drawn on his career plans.
He explained: “I will be helping Alec with the team as we prepare for the United game. That is the priority first and foremost. The timing hasn’t been ideal but I spoke to Del around midnight and he informed me the idea was for me and Alec to handle the team for Saturday. I had no problem with that.
“But I’m not thinking beyond Tannadice. It’s only fair we concentrate on United. It is a big derby and we want to do well.
“This is a short-term measure. Who knows what will happen further down the line? Let’s get this game out of the way,” said Morris, who was lured north from Millwall by McInnes and Bristol’s new manager might well have him on a list of potential transfer targets in the January window.
“Whatever they have in mind, the club’s last two appointments have been successful and I’m sure the chairman and his son won’t get it wrong with the next one.”
But one-time Dundee United, Rangers and Everton defender Cleland (40) had no qualms about making his own ambitions clear.
He said: “I'm delighted to work with the squad. It might only be for two or three days but it will be a great experience for both myself and Jody.
“I've been a caretaker manager before at Livingston before Richard Gough came in, and I did it at Inverness before Terry Butcher took over. So it's not as if it's something new to me.
“It's temporary at the moment but I do see it as an opportunity. I'd be silly not to. Hopefully I'll get a word with Steve and Geoff Brown about the position, because it is an attractive one. There's no doubt about that.
“Whoever gets the job will inherit a strong squad thanks to all the good work by Derek and Tony.
“There will be many people in for the job – experienced and inexperienced – but hopefully I'll get a chance to speak about it to the chairman. The boys are giving me a wee bit of ribbing already. I think Dave Mackay was in the team at Livingston, so he's got a good memory!
“As a continuity candidate I can put my hand up. I've been working here for two-and-a-half years and the boys are used to working with me.
“So from that perspective I might be the obvious choice. But we don't know Geoff's ideas on the position. He might be looking for experience.
“I don't know how the boys feel but I'm sure the chairman will speak to the likes of Jody Morris, Dave Mackay and Callum Davidson.”
Fifth placed Saints enter the second quarter in good shape and the Tannadice trip offers a chance to claim their first United scalp since returning to the top flight.
Cleland, who will assess striker Cillian Sheridan’s progress from a back injury today, said: “I'm delighted to work with the squad. It might only be for two or three days but it will be a great experience for both myself and Jody.
“I've been a caretaker manager at Livingston before Richard Gough came in, and I did it at Inverness before Terry Butcher took over. So it's not as if it's something new to me.
“I'm sure I'll be speaking to Derek about the team. We've won four out of the last five so without giving too much away we won't be radically overhauling the team and bringing in four or five under-19s!
“It's a massive game for both teams. I've been involved in many derbies and the players will be up for it.
The show must go on and we'll be looking to keep things ticking over.”
With McInnes securing a lucrative deal at Bristol through to 2015 after impressing at this week’s interview, Morris confessed to mixed emotions.
“It’s a great move for Del after four great years with St Johnstone. As a mate I am delighted for him but it is sad for the football club. He has done an amazing job here so it was inevitable a club from England would come in for him and he was close to going a couple of times before.
“It was just too good an opportunity to turn down at Bristol. Ideally, he’d have wanted to go there on an even keel. They have got off to a bad start but that probably helped him get the job.
“So many managers from Scotland have gone south and done well and Del is definitely going to be one more in that long line.
“The players here are sad that they have lost a top manager. He is one of the best I have ever worked with.
“But the fact that Del and Doc have moved on is a testament to the job that has been done here. They have accumulated a squad of good pros and there is real experience in the ranks here. That will stand the club in good stead.
“As much as the loss of the gaffer at this stage is unfortunate we all have to pull together now and look ahead. Right now that means the derby against Dundee United. We have to continue the recent good work.
“It was a funny sort of goodbye on Tuesday. We couldn’t train because of the wonderful Scottish weather so the gaffer took the squad for breakfast and it was only right that he picked up the tab. It wasn’t at Gleneagles but with the money he is on now maybe it should have been!
“He didn’t know if he had the Bristol job or not at that stage. But he knew that if he did get it he wouldn’t be here for training on Thursday. Maybe the goodbyes were said ahead of schedule so it was a strange one for the lads.
“But that‘s the type of guy Del is. Rather than be embarrassed if he didn’t get the job he wanted to at least say goodbye to them and see what happened later. He has got really close to these players. I don’t know anyone who has worked with him who doesn’t speak highly of Del.”
A QUIZ is being lined-up at the St Johnstone Barossa Street club on November 6 with a 2.30pm start .
It is open to all and will consist of up to 25 teams of four at a cost of £8 per team, with the winners receiving 50% of the entry fees. The event will generate funds for the Saints youth development policy.
There will be a mix of questions from general knowledge through to sports related and hopefully they will not be too difficult.
After the quiz there will be stand up bingo and a raffle followed by a discussion of We Are Perth forum topics of interest.
To enter a team contact email@example.com or ring the Barossa Street club on 01738 628391 and leave contact details. The quiz master will be Kevin Heller.
*BUS times for St Johnstone’s weekend game at Tannadice are: Scone Wheel Inn carpark 12.15; Scone Kinnears 12.20; Bridgend opposite Drain Cure/Strathmore bar 12.25 and leaving Barossa St 1pm. The price is £10 for adults and £7 for under 16's and over 65's. All welcome. Phone 01738 628391 to guarantee a seat.