Danny Lennon analysed
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Sunday, 13th June 2010
It's now nearly a week since Danny Lennon was appointed Saints boss, moving from Cowdenbeath to replace Gus MacPherson. Mirren Mad takes a look at just what we can expect from the new gaffer.
STYLE OF PLAY
We know very little about how Lennon likes to set up his teams, however it seems he favours a 4-4-2 formation - similar to his predecessor. However, from reports it would appear he likes having proper wingers, which will be a nice change from playing central midfielders in the wide area. He wants to play attractive football, but will start off with a strong defence - which you could argue isn't much different to what we've had before!
The last few years have seen us fighting relegation, with many fans feeling we should be above that by now. So what does Mr Lennon say on his first day in charge? He wants to beat the drop this season - and yet there's no outcry. Maybe that's because he's a good talker (we'll come on to that later), but hopefully it's because the fans understand he's new to this level and the club and he needs to do a fair bit of squad building in the next couple of months. Expecting anything more than survival would be over optimistic.
In my view, it's a good thing as the players know from the off it will be a battle. In the last few years we've had the board and the management claiming they want us to get close to the top six, we fail and then with 10 games to go they suddenly acknowledge we're in a relegation fight. At least this season the players know from the off what they're up against.
He may only be doing it due to finances, but Lennon has already shown he's prepared to make some tough decisions when it comes to shaping his own squad and has already cleared out four players. There was much deadwood that needed sorting out, and he seems to be willing to do it, although you have to worry about the decision to offer new contracts to Steven Robb and Garry Brady. We wait with baited breath to see who, aside from David van Zanten (and that signing might have been made by someone else) he brings in.
A huge bugbear with fans over the last few years was MacPherson's unwillingness to turn to youth, which was highlighted by him continually naming benches that were short of the regulation seven players instead of putting a kid there to make the numbers up. It is widely believed that the "change of direction" the board were after was a man more willing to play the youngsters, which didn't seem likely with Gus.
Lennon was in charge of Gretna's youth set-up a few years ago but, more importantly, managed to integrate several youngsters into the Cowdenbeath team with great success. Arguably, that is a more important attribute than just being able to work with kids as Wilson and McStay have done. It's all very well doing that, but it's no use if you can't use those skills to bring youngsters into the first team picture.
A major concern over Lennon's appointment is that he lacks experience, especially at SPL level. He's only been a manager for two seasons and the highest level he has managed at is the second division with part-time players. In both his seasons to date he's achieved success, so just how capable is he of dealing with a relegation battle - which is almost certainly what he'll be facing at Saints this season. His assistant at Cowdenbeath, Iain Jenkins, who looks certain to follow him to Saints, also lacks experience.
However, a number of other candidates considered for the job - such as Tommy Wilson and Stuart Balmer - have no managerial experience at all and Willie McStay's record was hardly impressive. It should also be noted that Derek McInnes, who did a superb job with St. Johnstone last year, has just two and a bit seasons of managerial experience under his belt - a similar level to that which MacPherson had at the time of our arrival in the SPL. Plus, Billy Stark has plenty of experience and none of us really wanted him
A major criticism of MacPherson was the lack of contacts he had out with Scotland or, if he had any, the inability to utilise them. While just about every other SPL club seemed able to bring youngsters up on loan from down south (most notably Gretna, who managed nearly a team of them), we had none. Lennon claims to have good contacts at Bolton and some decent ones elsewhere in England, which can only be a good thing - providing he is able to use them.
LOWER LEAGUE KNOWLEDGE
Another issue was the lack of decent players we were able to bring up from the lower leagues into the SPL. Usually they were guys who had experienced the top flight before - like Garry Brady and Alex Burke - rather than the up and coming players who had earned their chance at the big time, like Kilmarnock managed with Craig Bryson. Lennon has spent his entire managerial career in the lower leagues and already reckons he knows a couple of players who could do a job - and they should be cheap. However, it should be pointed out that for every Bryson, there is usually two or three players who simply aren't up to it.
A different kettle of fish. Lennon hasn't managed at this level before, and hasn't been a player at it for years. His lack of knowledge of people at this level was highlighted when he revealed he'd be watching DVDs of our players to decide who to keep. This is a bit of a worry and could lead to problems as he tries to decide who to sign. Hopefully he's a quick learner. Perhaps someone could provide him with a copy of Football Manager to help him on his way.
MacPherson seemed to be able to work the media pretty well, resulting in widespread support for him while some fans were calling for change over the last few years, followed by shock that he left. Whether Lennon will be able to manage the same remains to be seen.
However, while Gus had a good relationship with the press, it's fair to say that in the last few years there was increasing frustration about the lack of positive things he had to say about issues involving the club. You could go as far as saying we've heard more good things from Danny in the past few days than we heard from Gus in the past few years. This has created a pretty good feeling among the fans and there is a renewed enthusiasm ahead of the new season.
The important thing is following the talk with actions - and let's hope he can do that in the coming weeks.