WHEN St Mirren took the step to relieve Danny Lennon from the managerial role two years ago, it was done on the basis that he had taken the club as far as he could.
It was a move that surprised many outsiders, given that Lennon had preserved the clubs top flight status each of his four years in charge of the Paisley club and won the clubs first major honour in 25 years by defeating Hearts in the 2013 League Cup Final.
Although Lennon’s career hasn’t prospered since his sacking, he resigned from his last job at Alloa with the club well adrift at the bottom of the Championship, his former employers have went into a steady decline.
The bewildering appointment of Tommy Craig as Lennon’s successful started a slippery slope for the Buddies that has overseen relegation after 9 seasons in Scotland’s top flight, the inevitable loss of key players such as John McGinn and Kenny McLean and a struggle in Scotland’s second tier, where Ian Murray lasted just six months and now Alex Rae’s position is under scrutiny.
Given that there was an expectation on the club to challenge for a playoff spot, the fact that St Mirren are bottom of the Championship, albeit after just five games, is worrying for the Buddies faithful.
So what has gone wrong at the club that has seen them slump from Hampden Heroes to struggling against the likes of Dumbarton, Ayr and Morton?
Relegation obviously hurt the club badly on and off the park. Whilst their financial predicament is not as severe as other clubs, from what I know St Mirren are quite well run, the fact they aren’t in the top flight means they are getting less revenue and are not able to attract better players.
With an overhauled squad that has seen its better players depart, they found life tougher than expected in the Championship that saw Murray, who had worked wonders to establish part-time Dumbarton in the division for two and a half years, depart with the club hovering above the playoffs to avoid relegation rather than fighting for one of three promotion playoff spots.
Alex Rae was the surprise choice to replace Murray and he steadied the ship in his first six months, eased them away from relegation trouble and finished sixth with the prospects of a good campaign this term.
Two points out of 15 and exiting the League Cup in the inaugural group stage is not the start Buddies fans were expecting and now the future of Rae, who flopped in his only managerial role at Dundee in 2006/07, is under scrutiny from fans who now own the club.
Looking at the squad on paper, St Mirren have a decent squad with the likes of Andy Webster, David Clarkson, John Sutton and young prospect Stephen Mallan, who no doubt is on the shortlist of some top flight managers future targets.
However, on the pitch it’s not working so far and St Mirren face being pushed well out of the race for a playoff spot with Queen of the South, Dundee United, Falkirk all looking far better for the three positions behind Hibs, who are likely to win automatic promotion.
Their immediate priority is to get the first win under their belt and start moving away from bottom position quickly to get their season going, starting with Dumbarton away tomorrow.
If their results don’t start improving soon, there’s no question that the club will be looking for its fifth manager since giving Lennon his P45 just over two years ago and, more worryingly, face a battle to avoid dropping into Scotland’s third tier for the first time, and the consequences are major with the prospect of further cutbacks and, potentially, part time football.
This next month will properly shape St Mirren’s campaign and tell whether they will emerge into the frame for promotion or battle against the dreaded drop into League One.
If Alex Rae wants to remain St Mirren manager, he needs to start winning games and quickly, otherwise his managerial career will be as good as finished.