Steve Brown: St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright departure case of 'when, not if'

Tommy Wright and Steve Brown
Steve Brown, right, accepts St Johnstone may struggle to retain the services of manager Tommy Wright

St Johnstone chairman Steve Brown admits the club have a fight on their hands to keep Tommy Wright in Perth.

The 53-year-old Northern Irish manager has guided Saints to fourth place in the Scottish Premiership for the third season running.

And Brown accepts it may simply be a matter of time before a larger club, with deeper pockets, comes calling.

"It's probably when and not if," Brown told BBC Scotland of Wright's potential departure.

"Hopefully not, but he certainly can't fly under the radar. He keeps talking about flying under the radar, but he certainly can't with six consecutive top-six finishes.

"Four times out of five in his tenure we've been in Europe.

"There's not another manager in Scotland with a record like that, with the resources he's got available to him.

"It's probably extremely surprising somebody hasn't taken a chance on him."

Chris Kane celebrates scoring against Hearts
St Johnstone beat Hearts to fourth place, securing a Europa League qualifying berth

Wright joined Saints as assistant to his predecessor, Steve Lomas, in 2011 before taking the helm two years later when the latter departed for Millwall.

The Perth side finished sixth in his debut campaign before lifting the Scottish Cup - their first major trophy.

"It's certainly nothing to do with the lack of success he's attained in the short time he's been here," Brown added of the lack of interest for Wright.

"It wouldn't be a surprise to me if someone contacts me over the summer.

"In England, there's Watford just parted company with their manager. It's fairly brutal down there. It can happen at any point. You're just on-guard."

'It's a family club - new signings must have integrity'

Brown insists that St Johnstone's consistency, in spite of their modest top-flight resources, is the product of a hard-working ethos and a shrewd recruitment strategy.

"I don't think we've got any superstars - a lot of good, talented players - but we play as a unit," he said.

"A lot of games it would be fair to say we win ugly. But you've got to do that in this particular league.

Danny Swanson celebrates scoring for St Johnstone against Partick Thistle
Danny Swanson, who has scored 15 goals for Saints this season, is leaving for Hibernian, but Wright is confident of replacing him

"We look for a certain calibre of player in terms of skill, but he's got to fit in with the way St Johnstone play and the way the club operates.

"It is a family club and there are one or two players we could have got and we have looked into their background over the last three or four years, dipped into all sorts of things I'd rather not talk about, and even though they're good players, we tend to shy away from them and look for players with a bit of integrity and quality.

"The manger's on the same wavelength as me: he takes great care looking at the backgrounds and asks numerous questions long before he'd even sit down and talk to a player."

'Money talks'

Brown, who has been the club's chairman since 2011, says St Johnstone's recent success does not appear to make them a more appealing destination for prospective signings.

"Money talks," Brown said. "Probably too many players look at the money as opposed to playing in a winning team, or [gaining] European experience.

"I'm not saying that's widespread, but if that was the case, we'd be inundated with players and the reason we're not is because we don't pay the wages the other clubs pay, even though the success we've had is beyond quite a number of clubs with bigger revenue streams.

Tommy Wright's St Johnstone league record
Tommy Wright has never finished in the Premiership's bottom six while in charge of St Johnstone

"I think we've more chance of retaining players with the experiences they've had, the success they've had, the close bond everybody at the club has.

"I'm not saying we don't attract players, but unfortunately, certainly at this moment in time, money talks."

'I wish I knew the answer to bigger crowds'

Despite their consistent presence in the Premiership's top six and top four, St Johnstone's average home league attendance this season remains less than half the capacity of their McDiarmid Park home, which holds 10, 740.

Brown says the club is doing everything in its power to attract supporters through the turnstiles but is not overly concerned by the modest attendances.

"I wish I knew the answer to [getting more people to attend games]," he said. "We've got to continue doing what we're doing at the moment.

"We've got our kids 12-and-under go free, it is £16 for one adult, and two kids 12-and-under - that's been on the go for five years now.

McDiarmid Park
Despite their success, St Johnstone struggle to fill half of McDiarmid Park's capacity on most home matchdays

"We do a lot of work in the schools and community and we've just got to continue that and, hopefully through time, people will come to the games.

"But it's not a problem - bearing in mind there are only 45,000 people within Perth and the surrounding area, the percentage [of population attending] is probably higher than it would be maybe in Dundee.

"It's not as if we've had 10,000 people regularly the last 40 years and we're now down to 3,000.

"We are where we are and we've just got to work harder and make sure we can attract people to the games."