Possible St Johnstone Next Manager

Dumitru Palanchuk
Dumitru Palanchuk
31 October 2023, 15:24

On October 29, St Johnstone announced the departure of manager Steven MacLean as the Saints suffered their fifth defeat of the season in the Scottish Premiership.

MacLean started in an interim role at McDiarmid Park in 2022/23, and after helping them avoid relegation, was offered the permanent job. Now, the 41-year-old leaves St Johnstone sitting rock bottom in the league standings with a record of four draws and five losses after nine games. 

The Perth club is five points away from safety, and the season yet to reach its midway point. Thus, the situation is not unsalvageable at McDiarmid Park, although the club should be careful about their appointment of the next St Johnstone manager.

List of Potential St Johnstone Next Manager

So far, three names have been linked with the job vacancy at St Johnstone in the press, with David Martindale perhaps being the most exciting option. We have completed the list with two other names that the fans may want to see as the next St Johnstone manager.

David Martindale

David Martindale is reportedly one of the names the Perth club has on the list of potential next St Johnstone managers. However, it is important to mention that Martindale is currently managing fellow Scottish Premiership club Livingston and has so far refused to comment on the rumours in the press, saying he is focused on his work with the Lions.

Martindale took charge of Livingston mid-season in 2020/21, first on an interim basis. Since then, the 49-year-old has successfully managed to keep the Lions in the Scottish Premiership, always finishing a few spots above the relegation zone.

The Scottsman has a long history with Livingston as joined the club in 2014, performing basic training duties and ground maintenance at first. He climbed up the ranks after receiving his coaching badges and was appointed first-team assistant in 2018. So, luring him away may prove impossible for last-placed St Johnstone.

Robbie Neilson

Robbie Neilson, on the other hand, is available for instant hire and he has also been linked with the Saints. The Scottsman was dismissed by Heart of Midlothian in April 2023 after a string of underwhelming results, although the team was sitting in fourth place at the time of his departure.

That was Neilson’s second spell at the Hearts, as he started his coaching career at Tynecastle Park back in 2014. During his first two seasons in charge, Neilson led the Hearts to promotion to the Scottish Premiership after making them champions of the second flight, and then finished third and qualified for UEFA Europa League on their return to the top division.

Later on, Neilson worked in the EFL League One with Milton Keynes Dons and Dundee United in the Scottish Championship (second tier), winning promotion with the latter. The 43-year-old has a lot of experience for a coach his age, and his proactive approach could help him turn things around at St Johnstone.

Billy Dodds

The last name among those who have appeared in the press as the potential St Johnstone manager is Billy Dodds. Unlike the previous coaches on the list, Dodds has a past at McDiarmid Park as he played there in the 1993/94 season.

The former Scotland striker began his managerial career as a strikers’ coach at Queen of the South soon after retirement. In 2010, he was made assistant manager at Dundee United, and then worked with Jim McIntyre at Ross County in a similar position between 2014 and 2017. 

Dodds’ only experience as a head coach has been with Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish second tier. Appointed in 2021, Dodds took Inverness to promotion play-offs in the first season only to be defeated in the final. And the next year, they reached the Scottish FA Cup final. 

In September 2023, the 54-year-old was relieved of his duties with his team sitting dead-last in the league standings.

Tommy Wright

There are no credible rumours surrounding Tommy Wright at the moment, but the North Irishman may well be in contention to become the next St Johnstone manager as he knows the Perth club like the back of his hand.

Wright first arrived at McDiarmid Park in an assistant role in 2011. In 2013, the former Northern Ireland international was appointed head coach by St Johnstone, a position he would hold for the next seven years. Under Wright’s guidance, the Saints regularly finished in the top half of the Scottish Premiership and also won their first major trophy in history, the Scottish Cup in 2013/14.

After his departure from St Johnstone, Wright had a brief spell at Kilmarnock where he could not implement his playing philosophy and suffered relegation in 2020/21. Since August this year, Wright has been managing the Northern Ireland U21 squad.

Gary Bowyer

Lastly, there is also Gary Bowyer who departed Dundee United at the end of 2022/23 after leading them to promotion and being named Manager of the Season in the Scottish Championship. It was Bowyer’s first and only season in Scottish football to date.

Born in England, Bowyer started his coaching career at semi-professional Ilkeston before joining Derby County's academy as their U17 coach. Bowyer made the move to senior football in 2012 when he was appointed caretaker at Blackburn Rovers. 

The Englishman would go on to be appointed permanent manager by Blackburn in 2013. Afterwards, he also managed Blackpool, Bradford City and Salford City at various levels of the English football pyramid. 

Dundee aside, his most proud achievement was winning promotion to League One with Blackpool in his first season at the club and the eight-place finish with Blackburn in the EFL Championship. Bowyer may be attracted by the idea of coaching in the top flight for the first time in his career.