Alex Cleland expects lots of interest in the St Johnstone job

The Perth side are looking to replace Steven MacLean, who was sacked on Sunday.

Alex Cleland is adamant the St Johnstone job will be attractive to a range of highly-regarded candidates as he holds the fort on an interim basis.

Livingston boss David Martindale and former Hearts manager Robbie Neilson are the two early front-runners to succeed Steven MacLean, who was sacked on Sunday with Saints five points adrift at the foot of the cinch Premiership after failing to win any of their opening nine league matches.

Despite their struggles this term and in each of their last two campaigns since winning a historic cup double in 2021, Cleland – who has been at the Perth club for more than a decade – believes nobody should be discouraged from taking the reins at McDiarmid Park.

“It’s a good club to come and work for,” he said. “We’ve been in the top league for many years, we’ve won cups, we’ve been in Europe, we’ve had players who have come through the youth and moved on to bigger clubs.

“It’s still a good club to come to even though we’re in the position we’re in. There’s plenty of games to go.

“Whether it’s a British manager or a foreign manager, there are plenty good managers out there who will want this job.

“I’m sure after it (MacLean’s sacking) was announced, the chairman’s phone would have been buzzing with applicants for the job. It’s a good job for a manager to come into despite the position we’re in.”

Cleland – who is unlikely to be considered for the role on a permanent basis – is busy trying to galvanise the Saints squad for Wednesday’s match at home to Kilmarnock after they crashed to a 4-0 defeat at St Mirren on Saturday in MacLean’s final game in charge.

Assistant Liam Craig was also relieved of his duties and Cleland hopes that his two long-time colleagues will both be back in the game soon.

“We’re all absolutely gutted at losing two members of staff in Steven and Liam,” he said. “For what they did for the club as coaches and as players, I think the fans really respect that and hold them in such high regard, as the players did.

“I spoke to Steven (on Sunday) and he said ‘come back to me at any point if I need advice’ and I will go back to him if I need to.

“I said ‘don’t let this disappointment hinder you in any way’. I know he’s a good coach. He’s a young manager and it doesn’t always go as smoothly as you want it in your first managerial role.

“We’ve got to remember he kept us up last season with the results he got (as interim). That was a hard task. That’s a big tick in terms of Steven’s managerial career so I just hope it doesn’t hinder him. I’m sure it won’t because he’s a big character.”

Captain Liam Gordon, who played alongside both MacLean and Craig, said: “It’s two good men who have lost their jobs so we’re disappointed as players because we’ve played a massive part in letting them down.

“We need to look at ourselves in the mirror as individuals and as a group in terms of what we can do better. They’re two guys I’ve played with growing up and I’ve had them as coaches as well so I’ve got good relationships with them.

“It’s horrible to see. They’re not just your peers or your bosses or your coaches, they’re also your friends who have lost their jobs and they’ve got families. It’s not nice at all. It’s not easy but it’s part and parcel of football.”

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