Craig Conway has tipped Craig Levein to replicate the early success of his transformative tenure at Dundee United when he takes over as St Johnstone manager.

Conway, who played the final season of his career with Saints in 2020/21, was at Tannadice when Levein made an instant impact on a toiling team of relegation candidates 17 years ago.

United were anchored deep in trouble, having won just one of their first dozen top flight matches, and a desperate 5-1 drubbing at Falkirk cost Craig Brewster his job.

Former Hearts manager Levein breezed into the role and swiftly inspired a 2-1 victory over Rangers in his first game in charge.

His steering of United to a comfortable finish in ninth that season was the beginning of an upward curve that took in top six finishes and cup final appearances.

It’s the type of trajectory that St Johnstone can only dream of following a tough couple of seasons since their double trophy triumph under Callum Davidson and a desperate start to 2023/24.

Yet Conway is convinced the hiring of Levein, 59, can spark a revival in fortunes.

Saints are three points adrift at the foot of the Premiership after 10 matches, prompting the Perth board to persuade the ex-Scotland boss to make a managerial comeback and replace sacked Steven MacLean.

Conway noted: “This looks a similar situation to the one Craig took on at United. 

“St Johnstone are bottom of the table and needing a pick-me-up. Like United back then, I think this St Johnstone squad is better than what their league position shows.

“If he takes the job, Craig would snap your hand off for the same kind of reaction.

“When Craig took over, we were in a very sticky situation. We had a good squad but needed a big lift. He gave us all that - and more.

“He gave me a start when I hadn’t been playing. We didn’t expect to beat Rangers in the first match but that changed everything and gave us a massive boost.

READ MORE: Craig Levein confirms imminent St Johnstone appointment

“We then beat Kilmarnock and it all went from there. He got us a bit more organised. 

“I don’t really want to use the phrase ‘back to basics’. But we’d been conceding lots of goals and he knew that had to stop.

“We had the quality going forward but had to stop the rot. He built us into a solid unit, first and foremost. 

“We became a very organised team and we started getting a bit of success. 

“Craig then signed Morgaro Gomis, Danny Swanson, Prince Buaben and, combined with a sprinkling of youth coming through, he brought us on really well. 

“For a few years we challenged to be third force, we got into Europe. It was the start of a pretty successful period.”

Former Blackburn and Cardiff wide man Conway was only 21 when Levein took the Tannadice controls.

Conway reveals he was an inspiration on his journey to playing in the English Championship and winning seven senior caps for Scotland.

Conway is sure several struggling St Johnstone players will reap the benefits of working for Levein. 

He assures former McDiarmid Park colleagues, including skipper Liam Gordon, Stevie May and Chris Kane, that their new gaffer is capable of dragging them well clear of trouble.

“Craig is definitely the right person to take on the job,” Conway insisted. “It’s a great appointment and St Johnstone have done well to get him.

“The one thing that sticks out is Craig is someone you wouldn’t want to cross - and I mean that in a positive way.

“He’s the boss and was brilliant for me as a young lad. I’ve a lot of thanks to give him for what he did for me.

“He helped turn me into a Scotland international. I thought we’d maybe seen the last of him in the dugout. He was at Hearts, where he had a bit of ill-health, and then left a few years ago.

“It’s great to see him hopefully coming back into the game if he takes this job.

“Craig has vast experience; he’s been Scotland manager. He has dealt with just about every situation in the game.

“Older players, loan players, youth players, he can get them all doing the right things for him. 

“I can speak for most footballers when I saw that a new manager coming in gives everyone a chance to impress because it’s a clean slate. I’m sure everyone at St Johnstone will get a boost straight away.”