While thousands may have took to the streets of Paisley to celebrate St. Mirren’s recent promotion to the SPL, thoughts have already turned to next seasons’ top-flight adventure.
After all, the club has already undergone significant change in the weeks since their Scottish Championship win, with manager Jack Ross having departed for Sunderland and been replaced by former Hibernian boss Alan Stubbs. Ross, who won last years’ coveted PFA Manager of the Year award, will be a big miss for the Buddies as they look to re-establish themselves as a top-flight force.
In this post, we’ll look at St. Mirren’s prospects for the new season, and ask how the club is likely to fare under Stubbs’ stewardship.
Can the Buddies Survive in the SPL?
Ultimately, St. Mirren won the Scottish Championship in style last season, ending a three-year hiatus from the SPL. In fact, they finished 12 points clear of their nearest challengers, winning 23 of their 36 league games and earning 74 points in the process.
So far, the club have managed to hang on their key permanent players, including skipper Stephen McGinn and last seasons’ top scorer Gavin Reilly. However, there is serious doubt about the future of Celtic loanee and fleet-of-foot winger Lewis Morgan, who won the Championship Player of the Year and plundered 18 goals in 42 outings for the Buddies last year.
While the player himself is thought to be keen on a return to Celtic (who only signed him permanently from St. Mirren in January before loaning him straight back), Jack Ross is also hoping to entice Morgan to join him south of the border at Sunderland. Either way, it seems unlikely that Morgan will be in Paisley next season, and this would strike a blow to St. Mirren’s hopes of remaining in the SPL.
Given this, St. Mirren’s dealings in the transfer market will be key, while they’ll need to ensure that they do not lose too many more of their Championship winning squad as the summer unfolds.
How will Stubbs Fare at the Helm?
St. Mirren’s transfer plans may have initially been impacted by the departure of Ross and the subsequent appointment of Stubbs, but there’s no doubt that the club are getting a seasoned and talented manager.
After all, he was in charge of an Hibernian side that won the Scottish Cup as a Championship club back in 2016, ending a 114-year wait to lift the trophy for a third time.
However, Stubbs admits that he was too hasty in leaving the Hibernian role in the aftermath of their cup win, with a subsequent stint at Rotherham in the EFL Championship yielding just one win in 14 games.
He was sacked after after just four months at the helm, and has since spent more than a year-and-a-half out of the game as he considered the best way to rebuild his career.
Stubbs will certainly have a point to prove this time around, but much will depend on whether he can temper his desire to play attacking and positive football and recruit the requisite calibre of players this summer.
The Last Word
Stubbs, who has moved quickly to add former Celtic striker Darren Jackson to his back room staff, will certainly adopt a proactive approach to preparing St. Mirren for life in the top-flight.
He’ll also use all of his experience to plot a path towards SPL survival, which would represent an achievement for the Buddies in the first season back at the top table.
Last season, the SPL was arguably the most competitive it had been in years, with Hibernian and Aberdeen emerging as growing forces at the top of the table. There’s no reason why St. Mirren can’t compete with the teams outside of the top four or five, however, and this will be Stubbs’ primary focus over the next few months.