Levein aiming to steady St Johnstone ship and climb the league table

The former Scotland manager has replaced Steven MacLean at the Perth club.

Craig Levein is looking to steady the ship at St Johnstone and get the club off the bottom of the table as he makes his return to management.

The former Scotland and Dundee United boss has been away from the dugout since leaving Hearts in 2019.

He has now been appointed as a replacement for Steven MacLean who had nine league games without a win this season and left last week with the club anchored to 12th spot.

However, a midweek win over Kilmarnock, under caretaker boss Alex Cleland, has given Levein hope that there is enough quality in the ranks to put a run together.

They start on Tuesday with a home game against Motherwell, who themselves are currently on a seven game run without a win.

And despite signing a three-year-deal at McDiarmid Park, Levein is under no illusions that they will need to start getting points on the board before even thinking about any longer term ambitions.

When asked about the challenges he will face at his new club, he said: “Well we are at the foot of the table, so that’s pretty obvious.

“Mac was a wee bit unlucky I felt, I watched some of the games and I felt that St Johnstone were in the games, it’s not like they were out of the games early and had no chance.

“I watched the game midweek and it gave me an idea of what is possible here and I was pleasantly surprised by the energy and the quality of the team.

“When Geoff (Brown) called me it was a pretty easy decision, baring in mind that that I’ve known Geoff for quite a while and I respect him and with the team there is possibilities there.

“Our main concern is looking at the league table and trying to improve the situation there, coming into management and talking about long-term? I think those days are long gone. So I’m looking at the short term at the moment, we can worry about the long-term when the ship has been steadied and is sailing along.”

Levein also revealed he will not make the “horrendous mistake” of taking on too much and is ready to hand assistant manager Andy Kirk a major role.

The pair worked together at Highland League outfit Brechin City, with Levein in a director of football role and Kirk as manager, before making the switch to St Johnstone.

Speaking at McDiarmid Park, the 59-year-old revealed he missed the “the cut and thrust” of football management but will take a new approach to the job which will involve more delegation.

He said: “What I realised at my latter spell at Hearts is trying to do two jobs is extremely difficult, that’s one thing I have learned.

“The reason I brought Andy with me is he can take some of the load, mainly the day-to-day coaching and give me the chance to spend what energy I have in areas that are the most important.

“I keep talking about having the energy to cope with the demands of the job and I did think that coming into a role in the Premiership and trying to do everything again would just be a horrendous mistake.

“So I have Alec (Clelland, first-team coach) here who knows the club and players and Hinshie (head of goalkeeping, Craig Hinchliffe) here as well, who is similar, and then with Andy and myself, I feel that we can split whatever duties there are so that everyone is doing what they are good at. That is the intention.”

Levein stressed 44-year-old former Northern Ireland international Kirk’s responsibilities will be significant.

Ahead of a “tough” Premiership game against Motherwell on Tuesday night, he said: “His understanding of tactics is extremely good and the way he had Brechin playing, if we can replicate that, which is our aim – and we do have the players here to do that – then improving players and improving the overall team is eminently possible.

“I have been working with Andy for the last two or three years. He has his own ideas of how the team plays and the reason I am bringing him with me is we are going to play the same style.

“I have a huge amount of respect for him, a young coach making his way in the game and my job will be to manage everything, manage him doing the coaching and I want to give him that responsibility.

“He has got to the position where he has a clear idea of how he wants to play the game.

“We will try to play football. A lot of time it depends on your opponents and we will be flexible and try, if we can, to entertain.”

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