BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Alloa boss Danny Lennon admits his long-awaited return to St Mirren this afternoon will feel like a family reunion.
The 46-year-old has not faced his former club since he was axed last summer and he concedes the trip to Paisley will be an emotional one after revealing he still gets fan mail from the Buddies faithful.
Lennon lifted the League Cup in 2013 – their first major trophy in 26 years – and enjoyed a magnificent rapport with the St Mirren supporters, with the club also registering their highest ever top-flight finish during his four-year tenure.
However, St Mirren now find themselves languishing in the Championship, and Lennon is charged with masterminding their downfall from the unfamiliar surroundings of the ‘away’ dressing room.
Lennon told Capital City Press: “It will be like visiting long-lost relatives that you haven’t seen for years.
“I still get very kind messages to this day – cards, letters and e-mails – thanking me for my efforts during those four years.
“I have fond memories of St Mirren, memories that will live with me for the rest of my life. It was great to be able to develop some fine young players – guys like Kenny McLean and John McGinn – and also enjoy success in the League Cup.
“I was a very raw manager when I went to St Mirren on the back of two promotions at Cowdenbeath and I learned a great deal and developed during my four years in the top flight.
“I’m a much better manager for all my experiences at St Mirren and it will be very strange sitting in the away dressing room today.”
With his regard for the club’s supporters evident, Lennon’s greatest regret remains that he was never given the opportunity to bid a proper farewell at St Mirren Park.
The 2013/14 campaign ended with his future shrouded in uncertainty and he was subsequently relieved of his duties unceremoniously during the close season.
Lennon continued: “I wasn’t told that my contract would not be renewed until the season was already over, and my real regret is that I never got the chance to say goodbye to the fans and thank them for everything.
“They [St Mirren board] must have known before the last game that it would be my last match in charge – and I would have loved to have said goodbye to those supporters.
“When I was serving the club, I was working for them. They commit so much time, money and emotion to supporting their team and I was honoured to manage their team.
“It’s a shame I wasn’t afforded that chance to say ‘thank you’ on the last day.”
Nevertheless, sentiment will be put to one side by Lennon, whose focus is on securing another season of Championship football for perennial overachievers Alloa.
Lennon added: “We need focus, commitment and work-rate this afternoon. We need to earn the right to put points on the board at a place like St Mirren Park.”