LEE Bullen is barely out the door at Ayr United - but as you might expect, fans are already discussing the next person they'd like to see in the Somerset Park hotseat.

Picking a manager is no easy decision - and given their precarious position in the Championship standings, the task facing Ayr's board of directors is particularly crucial.


Do you go for someone tried and tested - or do you take a chance on a younger manager?

Before his departure Bullen spoke of how the club's activity in the January transfer window would be a case of "out before in", with finances tight - and that may govern who the Ayr board go for, and who applies for the job, too.


Following Bullen's departure, here we take a look at 11 possible candidates - all of them already discussed by Ayr fans as potential successors.

1. Billy Dodds

Ayr Advertiser: Billy Dodds guided Inverness to last season's Scottish Cup final.Billy Dodds guided Inverness to last season's Scottish Cup final. (Image: PA)

This would certainly be a move which would qualify as "tried and tested".

Dodds, who hails from Ayrshire, spent a vast majority of his playing career in Scotland - so it is safe to say he knows the game here well.

He also stepped into the dugout for the first time with Ayr's Scottish Championship rivals Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

While he left the Highlands with the Caley Jags bottom of the league, he also enjoyed some success during his two-year spell.

In his first full season in charge he led Inverness to the Premiership play-off final - where they lost over two legs to St Johnstone.

And the following season he took his side all the way to the Scottish Cup final, where they lost 3-1 to Celtic.

He may not have the experience of others, but as far as out of work managers go there are certainly worse options.

2. Kevin Thomson

Ayr Advertiser: Kevin Thomson's one spell in management was a fruitful season with Kelty Hearts.Kevin Thomson's one spell in management was a fruitful season with Kelty Hearts. (Image: Archive)

Former Hibernian and Rangers midfielder Kevin Thomson is far from the most experienced potential candidate, though the the little time he has spent in management so far has certainly been successful.

After working as a youth coach with his former club in Glasgow, he took on the managerial reigns at Kelty Hearts in 2021-22.

He guided the club to the League Two title before departing that summer.

Success was expected at Kelty, and many may feel his success here does not warrant the chance to take a step up after a few years out of the dugout.

Given Ayr's need to pick up points, and fast, it certainly feels like this would be a risky appointment.

3. Aiden McGeady

Ayr Advertiser: Aiden McGeady could be the 'easiest' option for Ayr United as he is already contracted at the club.Aiden McGeady could be the 'easiest' option for Ayr United as he is already contracted at the club. (Image: PA)

This seems unlikely but far from impossible - especially if resources are tight at Somerset Park.

McGeady is already on the books at Ayr, combining his playing duties with a role as 'technical manager'.

The 37-year-old has previously stated he does not want to get into coaching - though he has changed his tune on that slightly - and  could be seen as a good fix until the end of the season before the club re-assesses its position.

He knows the squad, and the transition would be far easier with the former Republic of Ireland international.

McGeady has the experience as a player, but with a relegation battle on their hands, appointing someone completely untested would be a bold step to take.

4. Dick Campbell

Ayr Advertiser: Dick Campbell is out of a job for the first time in seven years.Dick Campbell is out of a job for the first time in seven years. (Image: Archive)

If experience is what Ayr are looking for, surely they shouldn't be looking any further than Dick Campbell.

He knows the league inside out, having worked wonders with part-time Arbroath, before he resigned following a challenging start to this season.

He spent seven years at Gayfield and before that, another seven at Arbroath's Angus rivals Forfar, so it's clear he's seen as a trusted pair of hands.

He may also be exactly the kind of character Ayr need to try and whip the squad into shape quickly.

However, the recently honoured BEM may not be a long-term fix for Ayr United, if they want to look beyond this season.

In fact, the 70-year-old may be a hard one to convince to come back to management at all.

5. Charlie Mulgrew

Ayr Advertiser: Charlie Mulgrew has no managerial experience though worked as a player/coach at Dundee United before retiring.Charlie Mulgrew has no managerial experience though worked as a player/coach at Dundee United before retiring. (Image: PA)

Certainly not a name many would have expected to see, but the former Celtic and Dundee United defender has been touted by more than a few fans.

Mulgrew is another with no managerial experience. He has been without a club since leaving Dundee United at the end of the 2022-23 season, and announced his retirement from playing in September.

Despite his lack of managerial experience, Mulgrew was hired as a player-coach during his last playing spell.

Appointing the former Scotland international would certainly be another in the 'risky' category and would hinge on his capabilities in the dugout being similar to those he had on the pitch.

6. Scott Brown

Ayr Advertiser: Scott Brown has been out of a job since he was sacked by Fleetwood Town in September.Scott Brown has been out of a job since he was sacked by Fleetwood Town in September. (Image: PA)

Appointing the former Celtic captain would certainly capture the attention of many.

The former Hibs youngster first stepped into coaching when he left Celtic to take up a player-coach role at Aberdeen.

He retired from playing in May 2022 and that same month was appointed head coach of Fleetwood Town, only to be sacked on September 3 after a poor start to the current campaign.

Prior to that he had led The Fishermen to the FA Cup fourth round for the first time in their history as well as a respectable 13th place finish in League One.

Brown - who could potentially bring in Kevin Thomson as his number two - would certainly command respect and be a statement appointment.

But his managerial track record is far from proven, and the former Hoops captain may have his sights set on a job further up the ladder.

7. Marvin Bartley

Ayr Advertiser: Marvin Bartley took up the managers job at Queen of the South after a finishing his career as a player/coach with Livingston.Marvin Bartley took up the managers job at Queen of the South after a finishing his career as a player/coach with Livingston. (Image: PA)

While Ayr seem more likely to consider managers not currently in a job, it can't be considered a given.

One name touted from that bracket has been 'the Palmerston Pep', Marvin Bartley.

The current Queen of the South boss moved into management with the Doonhamers almost exactly a year ago after a spell with Livingston as a player and then coach.

His spell at Queens hasn't quite set the world alight, with the team currently in the wrong half of the League One table, though he has also been far from a bust.

The reason many may be tipping Bartley to swap Dumfries for Ayrshire is his links to United's managing director Graeme Mathie.

Mathie was head of player identification and recruitment when Bartley first moved to Scotland to sign for Hibernian from Leyton Orient.

With similar options out there who are not currently in a job, it seems that Mathie is the main reason Bartley might be touted to come to Somerset.

8 . David Gray

Ayr Advertiser: David Gray has taken caretaker charge of Hibernian on three occasions.David Gray has taken caretaker charge of Hibernian on three occasions. (Image: PA)

While on the subject of Mathie and his links to former Hibernian players, 2016 Scottish Cup winning captain David Gray is certainly worth a mention.

Another signed during Mathie's tenure in Edinburgh, Gray became a cult hero amongst supporters at Easter Road after scoring the winning goal to deliver the club's first Scottish Cup in 114 years.

Off the park, Gray moved into a coaching role at Hibernian in 2021 when he called time on his playing career.

He has yet to take on a full-time managerial role, but has filled in in a caretaker capacity at the club on three occasions in 2021, 2022 and 2023 - including leading the capital side in a Scottish League Cup final, which they lost 2-1 to Celtic.

In each of those spells he has shown glimpses that one day he may make a good manager in his own right.

For Ayr? Well, of the 'untested' options, he certainly feels like the most realistic, and perhaps best, option.

9. Neil Lennon

Ayr Advertiser: Neil Lennon would bring plenty of pedigree to the role.Neil Lennon would bring plenty of pedigree to the role. (Image: PA)

Another who worked alongside Mathie during his spell at Hibernian is divisive Northern Irishman Neil Lennon.

Perhaps wishful thinking from some Ayr fans, of all the names linked Lennon by far boasts the most pedigree.

Masterminding Celtic to victory over Barcelona in the Champions League is certainly a highlight from his CV, and he has experience winning the Scottish Championship during his stint at Easter Road.

But Lennon left Edinburgh under a bit of a cloud and it is unclear what his relationship with Mathie, if there is one, is like.

If it was possible, it seems by far that this would be the best option, and Lennon is someone who would certainly draw attention to Somerset Park.

But is it really possible? It seems doubtful to say the least.

10. Malky Mackay

Ayr Advertiser: Malky Mackay was sacked by November at the end of last year.Malky Mackay was sacked by November at the end of last year. (Image: PA)

Another controversial character, Malky Mackay is another manager who has the potential to get Ayr fans excited.

In England, he guided Cardiff City to their first ever League Cup final - where they lost to Liverpool on penalties - as well as promotion to the Premier League.

But he has never quite been able to shake off the controversy that greeted the emergence of text messages considered to be racist, sexist and homophobic in nature when he was in line for the Cardiff City job in 2014.

He spent almost four years as the Scottish FA's performance director, and was appointed Ross County's manager in 2021, guiding the Staggies to an impressive sixth place finish in his first season in charge.

He kept County in the top flight last season - after a dramatic victory over Partick Thistle in the end-of-season play-off final - but was dismissed from the Dingwall hotseat in November after a nine-match winless run.

It's an appointment that may have seemed unlikely only months ago but would certainly be an interesting one if Ayr should go down that route.

11. John 'Yogi' Hughes

Ayr Advertiser: 'Yogi' has had a rollercoaster time in management.'Yogi' has had a rollercoaster time in management. (Image: Archive)

There is hardly a managerial vacancy which comes up in Scotland with which John Hughes isn't linked - sometimes by the man himself.

Yogi's years in the dugout have been a bit of a rollercoaster to say the least.

His early years in management, with Falkirk, Hibernian and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, were certainly impressive, including guiding the Caley Jags to their first major piece of silverware, the Scottish Cup in 2015, as well as a highest ever league finish of third in the Premiership.

But since leaving the Highlands he has had a tougher time of it, with relegation while in charge of both Raith Rovers and Dunfermline, either side of a brief spell at Ross County, seeing his stock drop.

It would be a risky appointment but you would assume Yogi would be up for it. The question is though: would Ayr?