DELIGHTED Danny Lennon hailed midfield ace Kenny McLean for his performance and winner at McDiarmid Park on Saturday – then challenged him to nail down a starting jersey.
McLean, 19, was in majestic form against St Johnstone and it was his 81st minute strike that sealed a narrow 1-0 SPL win.
And while St Mirren manager Lennon tipped a bright future for ‘King’ Kenny, he’s challenged him to make a place in the Buddies first team his to keep.
Lennon said: “I’ve got great hopes for Kenny and that’s why he’s in there.
“The only thing that will stop that boy going to the top is himself.
“He’s got such a bright future in the game.
‘But his big challenge is to now hold down the jersey here at St Mirren.
“He’s doing that very well at this minute.”
McLean’s overall performance at the weekend was excellent and he had some chances to even add to his tally.
Lennon said: “His goal has been coming for a few weeks. He is always getting himself into wonderful positions.
“He had chances against Hibs last week and before that against Rangers.
“But today he capped off a fantastic opportunity with an absolute quality goal at a crucial stage.”
Shrewd Lennon tied the player down to a three-year deal last season.
As a result, he played down suggestions McLean’s performances could earn him a move to a so-called bigger club.
Lennon said: “I’m not worried at this point because I’ve got him tied up for another three years.
“He’s got a lot of developing to do but he’s got a big bright future ahead of him.
‘He’s a level-headed lad, and we won’t let him get ahead of himself.”
“We’ve got a lot of young talent here. We’ve got young Joe McKee sitting there waiting for his opportunity and Jon McShane is very hungry.
“There’s wee Nigel Hasselbaink too, so we are looking very promising in what we are trying to achieve here.”
Lennon was happy with the weekend win but stated that it did not make up for the club’s bitterly disappointing 1-0 Scottish Communities League Cup quarter-final defeat at home to Ayr United four days earlier.
He said: “That doesn’t make up for Tuesday’s defeat at all.
“There is still a lot of hurt there for a wee while to come.
“It’s a game that we will always look back on and use as a motivation, not that you need that. It was a wonderful opportunity but it is in the past.
“But I’ve got a wonderful group of players there and a coaching staff that believe in all the good work we have put in from the start of the season and you don’t suddenly become a bad team overnight.
“It was important to us to go out there and show that same composure we have done so far.
“We tweaked one or two wee things and we got some wonderful deliveries and a lot of entries into the St Johnstone box and, give them credit, they defended it well.
“But I thought we deserved the win on the way we went about it.”