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Everybody's best buddy, Craig fits in with Paisley pattern . . .

THE shock decision to appoint Tommy Craig as St Mirren manager was, in hindsight, the most obvious thing in the world.

It is a path the club's board of directors have gone down at various points in the past.

When Tom Hendrie was removed as manager in 2002, it was to his assistant John Coughlin that they turned. When Coughlin's tenure was cut short the following year, his assistant Gus MacPherson moved into the role. When MacPherson departed in 2010, Andy Millen, his deputy, was given the chance to succeed him but declined.

Given all that, it should perhaps not be a huge surprise that, following the decision not to extend Danny Lennon's contract, the board turned quickly to his assistant, Craig, to take over the reins. It is what they do.

This, though, had felt different. After four tumultuous years that included the first League Cup success in the club's history but also extended periods of unimpressive league form and a patchy transfer record, it had almost felt like the end of an era.

The longer the board went without offering Lennon an extension to his deal, the more likely it seemed that they felt change was necessary. A club run on prudent grounds and still up for sale were never likely to go for a flashy, big-name manager - Steve Clarke and Owen Coyle, for example, were not going to be serious candidates - but there seemed a decent chance they would throw the dice and hope a young, up-and-coming prospect like Ian Murray or Barry Ferguson could bring the same sort of freshness and vitality as Lennon did when he pitched up from Cowdenbeath in 2010.

If reaching the fabled top six was to be a realistic goal for a club of St Mirren's standing, then the feeling was that it would take a fairly radical shaking up of ideas for them to get there. Instead, the Paisley pattern has remained largely the same. Craig, the man who stood beside Lennon for three years through good times and bad, has been given the chance to be his own man. His two assistants have also come from within the fold, Gary Teale and Jim Goodwin promoted to the role of player-coach.

There is something to be said for continuity but the haste with which Craig was appointed, without any external candidates being interviewed, suggests the prospect of a genuine revolution was never really under serious consideration. If social media is any kind of reliable barometer, it has left many in the St Mirren support feeling decidedly underwhelmed.

This is new territory for 63-year-old Craig, the first time he has been manager of a Scottish club. There is surely good reason why such a vastly experienced coach has never been promoted until now to front office but Craig, a single-minded, old-school individual, was never likely to be wracked by pangs of self-doubt when the opportunity arose.

"I've been pigeon-holed as a coach rather than as a manager but I've been managing players all my life," he said. "Now I've got the title I don't feel any different."

There has been no explicit reason given for the decision not to extend Lennon's contract - chairman Stewart Gilmour was not present at Craig's introductory media conference yesterday - which makes it hard to know just how the new man is expected to improve on what went before. The cynical answer might be to do something similar, only do it more cheaply.

One of Lennon's most impressive feats was to successfully introduce young talent into the team - Kenny McLean, John McGinn, Jason Naismith, Sean Kelly etc - and Craig gave the impression he will continue that trend. How great the need is to do so will depend on how many of the out-of-contract players elect to re-sign, with Craig set to sit down with them all in the next few days. "It's a massive job as recruitment is absolutely key now," he added.

St Mirren have never come close to finishing in the top six in any of their eight successive seasons back in the top division. It was one of Lennon's key targets at the beginning of each campaign but his one-time deputy was not of a mind yesterday to set any specific goals.

"We know where we want to be," he said. "We have no delusions of grandeur here. We want to be more consistent and to try and push ourselves up the ladder. But to start talking about place finishes? I don't want to do that."

The decision not to offer Steven Thompson a place in his backroom staff seemed a curious one. The striker has become an iconic figure at the club he supported as a boy, his goals in the semi-final and then the final of last season's League Cup triumph cementing that status. Craig will meet with him today to discuss why he chose not to include him alongside Teale and Goodwin.

"I don't need Stevie Thompson the coach right now, I need Stevie Thompson the 20-goals-a-season centre forward," said the manager.

"I think what we will be speaking about will certainly appeal to him. I'm not saying there will be something cataclysmic going on, but I want Stevie to know exactly where I see him in his role at the club."

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