ST MIRREN are confident of keeping manager Jack Ross until the end of what is shaping up to be a league winning season as they brace themselves for an official enquiry to be made for him from English Championship side Barnsley.

The relegation-threatened Yorkshire club, they sit third bottom of their division, are on the look-out for a replacement for former boss Paul Heckingbottom who joined Leeds United earlier this week.

Ross is their number one target, they are expected to seek permission to begin talks today, a result of the 41-year-old’s incredible transformation of St Mirren who he has taken from the foot of the Championship just over a year ago to where they are now; 14 points clear of the rest and odd-on to win promotion to the Premiership.

We understand that while the desperate Barnsley owners can offer the Scot a significant wage rise as they seek to avoid falling in English football’s third tier, it is far more likely than not that Ross, who does love his current job, will remain in Paisley – at least until he leads them to the Championship title.

Aberdeen were all-set to make a move for the highly rated St Mirren manager, who captained the club during a playing career which also took in Falkirk and Hartlepool United, had Derek McInnes quit for Rangers.

Ross also knocked back Dundee, another of his former club, last summer. He is without question one of Scotland‘s most in-demand managers.

Tony Fitzpatrick, the St Mirren chief executive, told us last night that no contact has been made by Barnsley and that he was relaxed about a not unexpected nor unfamiliar situation.

“As a club, we are taking all of this as a compliment, although I have not heard anything official from Barnsley,” said Fitzpatrick. “Every time a manager leaves a club, Jack seems to be the one who is mentioned as the replacement which reflects very well on us.

“The good thing for St Mirren is the players are used to it, Jack is used to all this talk, and we continue to focus on this season. It’s not the first time we have had this since Jack has been here.

“We will see what happens if Barnsley get in touch but what I will say, and I’m not counting any chickens here, is that Jack could be on his way to a league winning season with St Mirren, and that is a huge thing.

“But if we do get to the summer and our manager hasn’t changed, I’m expecting 100 clubs to come in for him. If they don’t want our manager, they want our young players. That’s says everything you need to know about St Mirren right now.

“Barnsley will need to talk to me. What I will tell them is we do not want Jack to go.”

The Paisley club were enduring a wretched run and found themselves in deep trouble when Ross was poached from Alloa Athletic in October 2016 to replace Alex Rae.

After a difficult start, St Mirren eventually emerged from the relegation places and are not odds-on to return to the Premiership.

Fitzpatrick said: “What Jack has done for us is remarkable. They will make a film about this one day. We had it in our minds that he had huge potential and could be a top manager, but he’s surpassed all expectations.

“In saying that, we did our due diligence and took time to get in the right man. The more I learned about Jack, the more impressed I was. We all love him. That goes for players, supporters and directors.

“Look, he is going to get a big, big job one day. Managing St Mirren is a big job, I know that better than anyone, but this is a guy with who has it all to achieve at the very top of management.”

HeraldScotland | Sport

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