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Tommy Craig: 'I thought we both might be leaving'

Tommy Craig said he received the full blessing of Danny Lennon after succeeding him as St Mirren manager.

Tommy Craig prepares to address the media at St Mirren Park yesterday. Picture: SNS
Tommy Craig prepares to address the media at St Mirren Park yesterday. Picture: SNS

Lennon was informed on Monday by the board of directors that his contract would not be extended beyond the summer, and a day later Craig was announced as his replacement, with senior players Jim Goodwin and Gary Teale making up his backroom team.

The pair having worked together for the past three seasons, there was an expectation that Craig would also move on after Lennon was released, but the veteran coach instead elected to stay put in Paisley. It is the 63-year-old's second deployment as a manager, his first having been a five-month stint with Belgian club Charleroi four years ago.

Craig admitted he was surprised to be offered the St Mirren job and admitted it "wasn't easy" to succeed a man he considers a friend. "On Sunday I received a call asking me to come into the club on Monday," he said. "I know that Danny received a similar call, asking him to come in at a different time.

"As I was driving in to work, I can hold my hands up now and say in all honesty I thought we both might be leaving. After I got here it was pretty quickly relayed to me they wanted me to consider taking the job. I think the board just wanted to know whether I would be interested and I said that I would be, knowing full well that the guy I've been working beside for three years has just walked out of the door.

"It's not easy but it happens all the time in football. Once you're ingrained into the mechanics of football, it helps you deal with it. It never really softens the blow but, being football people, you know it can happen and it happens every year, as we've just seen. I was asked to come back in on Tuesday morning to rubber-stamp that I was going to take up the post and, after having given a lot of thought to the back-up I would need, I asked the board whether they would be prepared to appoint Jim and Gary, which they were happy to do."

Craig spoke with Lennon after being offered the position and revealed yesterday there had been no sour grapes. "I spoke to Danny once I was offered the job and he said, 'I wish you all the best'. I enjoyed our three years together and built up a good friendship with him. I've known him for quite some time because I coached him as a teenager at Hibs 30 years ago. So we go back a long way.

"I went home knowing full well that this was a parting of the ways. I tried to rationalise it and thought, 'what's the alternative?' It was an offer that was very attractive because of the kind of club it is, and that stuck with me. But I also know there's

a guy out there who has just lost his job. What would he want? I know Danny wanted me to take it."

One player who will not form part of Craig's plans is Conor Newton, the midfielder who is being chased by Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers, Wigan, Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall and Rotherham after negotiating his release from Newcastle United.

Newton, pictured left, said:

"I am looking forward to the challenge of playing for a new club next season. I am keeping my options open and I will sit down with my agent and discuss what offers come my way."

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