9 Scottish football managers who face a critical run in September
Managers in 2019 find themselves continually under pressure with some finding themselves heading toward the exit door before the first round of fixtures are even over.
Now that the international break is done and dusted (Thank. The. Lord.) we look forward to the return of the SPFL this weekend by scouring the four divisions and picking the managers who need a strong end to the month to keep themselves in the hotseat.
Tommy Wright (St Johnstone)
Wright has to be considered one of the greatest managers in St Johnstone's history, but all good things must come to an end - even for legends. Saints currently sit bottom of the table with two points from four games and limped disastrously out of the Betfred Cup group stages, losing to both Montrose and Forfar Athletic along with Premiership rivals Ross County. How often do we hear that things have "gone stale" when a previously successful manager starts to struggle? Wright will need a decent month to quell such opinions. Saints added Stevie May in the closing days of the transfer window and the return of Drey Wright from long-term injury should give them a spark in attack they've been lacking for the most part. However, they've got a tough September coming up and may not move from the bottom when October arrives, even if performances improve.
September fixtures: Aberdeen (away), Rangers (home), Motherwell (home)
Paul Heckingbottom (Hibs)
Seeing as Heckingbottom was rather popular last season, taking Hibs from eighth place to fifth after the exit of Neil Lennon, it's quite a surprise that members of the Easter Road faithful are already grumbling for a change at the manager's position just five games into the new season, especially as they've still got a Betfred Cup quarter-final to look forward to. But that's the state of things at the moment and he'll need to pick up some results this month to quieten the discontent. Getting the right balance in the starting XI would go a long way. Having favoured a 4-5-1 with roughly the same personnel during the unbeaten streak last term, he's yet to find his winning formula this time around.
September fixtures: Kilmarnock (away), Hearts (home), Kilmarnock (away - League Cup), Celtic (home)
Craig Levein (Hearts)
Levein is viewed as bulletproof by a sizeable section of the Hearts support and they would argue, from his point of view, that a good September is not entirely crucial after all. However, the vocal protests from the crowd at the end of the Hamilton game last time out felt like the animosity had gone up a level. If things do not improve then the chants will get louder, and if there isn't a change still then the supporters will likely start protesting in other ways, mainly refusing to attend matches. That's typically the kind of disapproval that pushes a club's board into action.
September fixtures: Motherwell (home), Hibs (away), Aberdeen (home - League Cup), St Mirren (away)
James McPake (Dundee)
The Dens Park club were expected to challenge their rivals for the Championship crown but already sit seven points behind Dundee United after just four games played. Last weekend they followed up the humiliating 6-2 loss at Tannadice with a defeat almost as embarrassing, losing 2-1 at home to Elgin City, a team two divisions below them, despite leading 1-0 at half-time. There were questions over whether McPake was the right man for the job when the board decided to make him the permanent replacement to Jim McIntyre in the summer. The good news is that he's got an agreeable September in which to navigate, including home matches against two of the bottom three from last term. The bad news is that if they don't pick up any victories then his American bosses, and the fans, will start to question where the next win is coming from.
September fixtures: Alloa Athletic (home), Greenock Morton (away), Queen of the South (home)
Stevie Crawford (Dunfermline)
Dunfermline looked like they're found the perfect replacement for Allan Johnston when, from mid-February to late March, they won six consecutive games without conceding a goal. Things have since taken a severe turn for the worse. Though they enjoyed a strong Betfred Cup campaign by qualifying from their group and taking Celtic to extra-time at Parkhead, in the league they've badly struggled. Since losing the steak they've gone ten league games without victory, sit second bottom of the Championship table, and last weekend were eliminated from the Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Cup by part-timers Alloa Athletic. Crawford has built himself a young team in which to mould into a swashbuckling, high-pressing, entertaining second-tier outfit. He'd better teach them how to eke out some victories first, or he may not get the chance to do so.
September fixtures: Inverness CT (home), Partick Thistle (away), Alloa Athletic (home)
Gary Caldwell (Partick Thistle)
The former Celtic stopper did not hesitate in dismantling Alan Archibald's side and getting his own players in, even when it made him massively unpopular with the fans. But now here we are, almost 12 months on: Archibald is gone, Chris Erskine is gone, Kris Doolan is gone and Partick Thistle are still struggling at the bottom of the table. In fairness there have been mitigating circumstances with the proposed takeover being a constant distraction in the background, which also impacted on his signing plans earlier in the window, but they will still need to climb the table and do so quickly if he wants to avoid getting the chop.
September fixtures: Arbroath (away), Dunfermline (home), Celtic (away - League Cup), Inverness (away)
Ray McKinnon (Falkirk)
The Falkirk faithful weren't too happy with McKinnon being kept on in the wake of the club's relegation from the second tier, so you can probably imagine how they're feeling about two wins from the first five games in Ladbrokes League One. The club's under-pressure hierarchy have thus far remained patient to the man they wretched away from Morton last season, though that can't continue for too long unless they begin to start resembling overwhelming favourites for promotion.
September fixtures: Forfar Athletic (home), Stranraer (away), East Fife (home)
Colin McMenamin (Stenhousemuir)
Another case of a team expected to battle at the right end of the table but one which finds itself among the waifs and stays after the first month. The former striker has three winnable games in this month in which to get things back on track, otherwise he could fail to see out his first 12 months in charge after taking over from Brown Ferguson last November.
September fixtures: Cowdenbeath (home), Brechin (home), Stirling Albion (away)
Kevin Rutkiewicz (Stirling Albion)
The Binos are currently bottom of the SPFL, having lost all five of their opening matches. If it's still that way come October then it could be the end for Rutkiewicz, who did impress last term after taking over from Dave Mackay in the autumn.
September fixtures: Elgin City (home), Annan Athletic (away), Stenhousemuir (home)
Steven Gerrard (Rangers)
It's not quite as crucial for Gerrard as some of the others on this list as there's very little chance of him losing his job based on what Rangers do in September. The danger is that the supporters, who mainly remain fully behind their manager despite the recent loss to Celtic, begin to doubt whether he is the right man to halt their rivals' dominance. Such a lingering feeling is hard to shake and could prove costly for the Liverpool legend further down the line.
September fixtures: Livingston (home), Feyenoord (home - Europa League), St Johnstone (away), Livingston (away - League Cup), Aberdeen (home)
Angelo Alessio (Kilmarnock)
Nothing coming out of the Rugby Park camp has sounded all too positive regarding the Italian coach and the dynamic within the dressing room. Three positive results in succession has quieten such noise a little, but it will come back blaring if they don't sustain that momentum across the next four matches.
September fixtures: Hibs (home), Celtic (away), Hibs (home - League Cup), Ross County (home)
Allan Johnston (Queen of the South)
The former Palmerston boss has done little since his return to the club to quell the criticism that Queens are nothing but a one-man team relying on Stephen Dobbie. But seeing as he was only hired in the summer and has credit in the bank from his previous spell in charge, he won't be in imminent danger even if they remain winless in the league.
September fixtures: Greenock Morton (home), Inverness CT (away), Dundee (home)
Stewart Petrie (Montrose)
Montrose only have one league point from five games and are searching for inspiration at the bottom of the third tier. Then again, Petrie was the man who took them from relegation trouble to promotion and out of League Two wilderness for the first time in 22 years. Even if they remain bottom come the end of this month there will still be enough goodwill for him to be given the chance to turn it around.
September fixtures: East Fife (home), Forfar Athletic (away), Peterhead (home)