Oct 28 2011 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Friday
GEOFF Brown switched off his mobile and retreated to the golf course yesterday as speculation again cranked-up over the vacant St Johnstone post.
The Perth chairman lamented seeing his doomed bid to lure Paul Cook to McDiarmid become public knowledge after word of the approach leaked out in Ireland, with bookies deluged by punters keen to get some action on the 44-year-old Liverpudlian.
And after Cook’s high-profile decision to head back to Sligo Rovers after being unable to agree personal terms, Brown is even keener to go about his task under the media radar. But he acknowledges that is easier said than done.
After looking to Ireland to replace Derek McInnes, it’s no surprise that ex-Saint Michael O’Neill, a title winner with Shamrock Rovers this week and out of contract in December, and one-time Dundee United candidate Pat Fenlon, of cash-strapped Bohemians, are now warranting a mention in dispatches.
But yesterday, youth coach Alec Cleland, assisted by skipper Jody Morris, was preparing the Perth team for the visit from a St Mirren which crashed out of the Scottish Communities League Cup at home to Ayr United in midweek.
And with the move for Cook hitting the buffers, Cleland re-iterated his hope of being considered for the vacancy.
“I spoke to vice-chairman Steve Brown when the talks broke down with Cookie. Hopefully we will sit down and go over what their plans are.
“I said right at the start of this I would love the job on a permanent basis. There are a lot of candidates, I know that, and the board have been very busy and have a lot on their plates. But I would like the chance to talk about it.
“There is always going to be speculation about a job like this one in Perth. But myself and Jody, with help from Callum Davidson for the midweek reserve game, are preparing for the next match. We are fortunate to have a lot of good pros at the club so it is business as usual.”
Cleland is far from naive and knows managerial conjecture is dominating dressing room chit-chat.
He said: “The longer we take the team and the more games we win could strengthen my position. Jody has made it clear he isn’t quite ready for it yet but he will be a manager in time. He has done great with the boys.
“But Callum made a good point that the longer the uncertainty goes on, it might start to affect the players. That is my only worry. We don’t want anything to have a negative impact on the guys here.
“We know they will be talking about the management situation before and after training. There are many names being linked with the post. But Jody and I are speaking to the guys all the time to make sure they remain focused.
“We were told we would take the team until we heard otherwise and nothing has changed. And to be fair we are getting a good response from the lads.
“I want them to win the game for themselves, not for me. And that will be the point we are putting across in the build-up to the game. From a personal point of view I would love them to do it for me but from a professional perspective they owe it to themselves to put in a performance. And we have enough experienced players here to do it.”
Cleland had good news on the injury front, with striker Cillian Sheridan set to return against the Buddies after chiropractic treatment to address the back problem which kept him out of the 1-1 draw against United. Midfielder Murray Davidson should also return to the squad after resting a knee knock.
“Cillian has trained this week and Murray is making good progress so it is very positive. We have two home games against St Mirren and then Aberdeen. I was at the Buddies game this week and they will be hurting from that cup defeat. They have shown this season they are a very good side. But we are at home and we have a chance here to kick-on,” he said.
Brown is trusting to Cleland and Morris again this weekend and told PA Sport he had been inundated with applications for the post vacated by McInnes.
But for various reasons many of the names in the public domain look non-starters, including Mark McGhee, Jimmy Calderwood, John Hughes and Russell Latapy.
With the club leaking cash despite turning on the style on the park this season, any new manager will have to trim the squad, and presumably target a replacement for on-loan Sheridan in January. He will also have to base his family in Scotland, which could rule out any prospect of Rangers’ David Weir starting his managerial career in Perth.
Brown said: “It can be upsetting when things leak out. I know Del hadn’t even spoken to his mother about Bristol and it was on Sky Sports. Sadly that became some sort of X-Factor with one of two men going to get the job. That is all wrong in my book.
“I have always been one to handle business discreetly wherever possible rather an expose anyone to the glare of publicity until there is something concrete to announce.”
Brown has had no lack of applicants for the post. Some are surprisingly big names in football. Others are downright bizarre, including a couple with impressive CVs handling some of Europe’s top clubs, on computer games!
ISSUE Two of the St Johnstone magazine on sale £3.95 from the souvenir shop and at turnstiles tomorrow and also from a range of Perth and Kinross outlets. Fran Sandaza and Peter Enckelman are profiled.
FANS should note the pick-up times for the Barossa Street Supporters Club bus tomorrow are: Scone Wheel Inn 1.40, Scone Kinnears1.45, Bridgend Strathmore bar 1.50 and leaving Barossa Street at 1.30pm. It is £3 return, £2 single -- phone 01738 628391 to guarantee a seat.