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Saints manager refuses to be drawn into numbers game

AGE is just a number to Tommy Craig.

So too is a league position, for now at least. At 63, Craig has been given charge of St Mirren, stepping up during the summer after having been assistant to Danny Lennon, under the premise that he seems more capable of leading the Paisley club into the top six of the SPFL Premiership this season.

That is an ambition which has been unfulfilled since the Paisley club returned to the top flight eight years ago; the desire to breach the top half of the table growing with each campaign so that it now hardly need pointed out. Craig has been at St Mirren for three years so is aware of the store placed in a top-six finish, but he has been involved in football longer and has learned to focus only on what can be influenced. An opening league match in Motherwell is unlikely to impinge too much on where his side wind up come the split and Craig was not inclined to get ahead if himself. "I've no targets. I don't like putting numbers on things," he said.

This is a safety line, rather than a line which translates into enlightening newspaper copy but it could serve Craig well as he works to gain traction in the league campaign. His squad is both light - a trait illuminated further by the confirmation that last season's leading scorer, Steven Thompson, faces an indeterminate spell on the sidelines due to a hamstring tear - and lacking in experience. Of the six players that Craig has added since last season only two are aged more than 23.

The St Mirren manager might suggest that he has more than enough to share around, although it can be acknowledged too that this is still just his third management gig and his first since he was dismissed by Charleroi four years ago.

"This is my 48th pre-season," said Craig, who began his senior playing career with Aberdeen in 1967. "I've always had a passion for the game, for the way it is played and for its competitive nature. I'm sitting here with my team now and I want to see them perform. I feel ready."

He will hope that his players feel much the same way by tomorrow afternoon. "When we play well, we're good," Craig added. "I'm more interested in whether we can not play well and still achieve a result. That would be handy, because we've been flirting with the middle of the table for quite some time. I'd like to think that we can achieve that."

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