December 31st -
Paul Hartley admits that Saints need
another gubbing to keep their promotion hopes alive tomorrow at Gayfield.
"Everyone is writing us off and we are disappointed ourselves at
the position we are in. But we can still turn things around-providing we
dont drop any more points. The three teams above us in the table
have all gone on a run. It is time we went on one ourselves. Draws are no
use to us. It is three points we need to be picking up from games, not
one. Everyone knows that our problem this season has been scoring goals
and the winning margins-1-0 and 2-0-in the matches against Arbroath this
season havent been particularly big. However, we played reasonably
well and were quite comfortable in both and in the situation we are in,
the main things is winning-whatever the scoreline."
In terms of team news, John Robertson is doubtful with a thigh strain.
The transfer window opens tomorrow and Billy Stark hopes to bring in some new faces. He said, "Id like a big striker, someone who could give us the physical presence we lack up front, and a central midfielder. But finding people of the standard we require isnt that easy. Ive been working on this for the past few weeks though and will continue to work away." . It's still unclear whether or not Ryan McCann will be staying although no decision is required until his loan expires on January 8th. One player who isn't coming though is Colin Cramb with paper reports today saying Saints have no plans to offer last week's trialist a deal.
Finally, the Martyn Fotheringham loan move to Brechin has been called off by Saints.
30th - Tommy(right) was more
than happy to show off on Saturday after his goal. The celebration from
the Dane (involving a cartwheel and somersault which outdid his wee
brothers yesterday) was a first for him. He said, "Its a
long time since Ive done that-when I was smaller! Its the
first time Ive done one in a game. Weve been struggling at
home and today we played a different system-three up front-and tried to
get forward as much as possible. Thats the way forward for us now.
We have to play like that in all our home games and hopefully we can build
on this result."
He was happy with his own performance though despite the number of missed chances. "In the first 10 minutes we had a lot of really good chances and when we didnt get a goal by half-time I thought-oh no, here we go again. But it was nice to get a goal like our first because I dont think weve had a lucky goal to get us going all season. Then we got two more and I think we deserved that. It will be a boost for the players because weve been struggling to get goals."
Billy Stark was just as happy with his side except for the finishing. He said, "I thought the way we started the game was terrific. We played well but were booed off by a section of the support. Thats what were up against. We looked a bit nervy, but you saw the difference after we went in front. You could see the weight lifting off the players shoulders a wee bit. OK, its a break that their mans put it in his own net, but it was a difficult ball to deal with and if you keep doing that youll get breaks. Ive told the players that if you stay positive youll get them, and the good thing from my point of view is that theyve had tangible evidence of that today. The 3-0 scoreline was the very least we deserved, whatever way you want to analyse the game." . Meanwhile for conspiracy theories today, the Courier questions Saints use of the scoreboard believing that regularly reminding fans we're not scoring as many as ICT or the Weans is part of the reason for the boos in the home stand on Saturday. Hmmm......
December 29th - Some loan info today with Martyn Fotheringham apparently set to head to Brechin City on loan until the end of the season.
28th - Confirmation that Saints have given
Colin Cramb access to training
facilities though no word of any permanent move for the striker.
Billy Stark has been speaking to other
managers as to who's available when the transfer window re-opens on
Wednesday with some names already targeted.
Looking ahead to today's game, Flash Forsyth(right) believes that the next 3 fixtures can kick-start the promotion challenge (no honestly, he really means it this time). The defender looks set to play against the Wasps today and said, "When you are up in the stand all you want is to be on the park helping the team. I think weve played well enough so far but the results have not been ideal. Weve got three big games coming up and if we win them we will be able to look forward to the rest of the season and its a good chance to kick-start our challenge. People will be looking at Alloa to be a game we should win but as we saw last week with Inverness it is not always as easy as that. We have got to go out and work hard and, with a big pitch, we need to get on the ball and use the space to put them under pressure, which we have rarely done to teams. Against Queen of the South, we didnt start the game well and they got the goal, which is always difficult to get back. But if we get the first goal, the confidence will rise and I dont see any reason why we cant win from there."
As for the almost constant complaints from the McD stand he said, "I dont hear anything when I am on the park but in the stands, I have heard it and I have wondered if it has had an effect. But as a younger player, I dont feel any pressure at all. The only pressure the gaffer puts on us is to make sure we go and work hard and he has taken any other pressure off by saying that."
7pm - In the end Saints ran out well-deserved 3-0 winners over Alloa thanks to a Seaton own goal and strikes from Flash and Tommy which seemed to silence the moaners who booed the team off at half-time. The manager praised the players as well saying, "The lads did well to work hard for the win and fully deserved it. They are short on confidence but it was good to see them put the boos from a section of the crowd at half-time behind them to get the three points". Elsewhere in the league, ICT and Falkirk got excellent wins and Clyde a draw at Dingwall.
December 27th - Well after the
excesses and joys (see Fir Park yesterday) of the Xmas season it's back to
reality tomorrow with the visit of Alloa to McD. Whilst Saints are looking
for their 3rd win this season over the Wasps, Billy
Stark knows that the last 3 home games have seen us fail to take 3
points in any of them and he's looking for the players to turn it round.
"We have to be big enough to say our home form isnt good
enough and thats down to pressure. We have players who, when they
get the chance to play the ball forward, take the easy option of not
losing the ball. Thats what happens. You need to make mistakes
trying to do the positive thing. All that people in the stands will see is
a mistake, but thats when players need to be strong enough to ignore
that. We look a different side away from home, more confident and assured.
Weve had good as well as really good performances away."
He's hoping to build on the performance towards the end of the Queen of the South game a fortnight ago as well. "Ive never been involved in a comeback as dramatic as that. Salvaging a point from a two-goal deficit shows that we must have something about us. People see what they can use against you when things arent going well-questioning our spirit and fitness. But thats ridiculous and that finish to the game slaps all that down. We have to look at the Queen of the South game and say, why did that happen? Why did we manage to come back from two down? What we need now is a run of results without a dent to our confidence. That might turn out to be the most important five minutes of the season and the most important goal Mark Reilly scores"
Not too much team news with the only possible change being a return for Mark Baxter who has apparently done well in training this week.
24th - No news on a rearranged date for the trip to Paisley yet but
with the league not requiring a date to be arranged until February, it
looks like there's no rush on the part of either club.
Meanwhile there was plenty of goodwill on show at McD last night as Saints went down 6-bloody-1 to Scumdee in the U-21 game. Ryan McCann got our goal but more interesting was the sight of 28-yr old ex-Accies, Jambo and heaps of other clubs striker Colin Cramb(right) playing as a trialist up front. He was subbed after an hour and to round off a lovely night, Eddie Malone got this week's red card for handball.
Finally, Merry Xmas to Saintees everywhere - may you get what you want (starting with 3 points this weekend).
December 23rd - Well after that
weekend (wasn't it boring) it's back to normal today - yup nothing about
Saints in the media. In the rest of the Division, Caley Thistle look set
to decide on their new manager today with both Alan
Kernaghan and John Connolly apparently on the short list of
4 with the former revealing in the papers yesterday he's not put pen to
paper on his contract at Clyde yet.
Billy Stark was at Gayfield on Saturday to watch Arbroath v Ross County. Apparently we also had someone up north for the ICT v Alloa game. The U-21s are in action tonight at McD against Scumdee. Because of the layoff on SaturdayPaddy Connolly, Ryan McCann, Emmanuel Panther and Robbo will all play. Mark Baxter will miss out due to his calf injury but is expected to be back in training this week. Of the other victims, Stuart McCluskey and Peter MacDonald are said to be "progressing".
December 21st - No game so it's boring as feck today.
December 20th - Despite
Marc McCulloch recovering enough to be
available for tomorrow's game, it seems that the match itself is in "severe
doubt". According to a Buddies official, "If the game
was scheduled for Friday it wouldnt go ahead and, although a thaw is
forecast, there is still likely to be some bite left in the ground,
particularly the area in front of our main stand which doesnt get
the winter sun."
Billy Stark said, "If the weather stays the way it is I dont see much chance of our playing on Saturday, but we have to prepare as if the game was definitely on then see what happens"
Elsewhere and we've been linked with Pars midfielder Stewart Petrie for a possible move in next month's transfer window.
5.30pm - Tomorrow's match against St Mirren was postponed this afternoon due to a frostbound Love St pitch. No word yet as to a rearranged fixture date.
December 19th - Little news to report. The only Saints-related item is that Mark Baxter and Marc McCulloch both missed training this week with knocks and are already rated "doubtful" for the trip to Paisley.
December 18th - More
Jim Weir in the papers today with the
skipper trying to remain positive about his injury and his future. Out of
contract in the summer, he said, "Its too early to speak to
anyone at the club about the situation yet. I dont think they know
the plans for a number of people on the playing staff so its a case
of wait and see. Im hoping its not the end of my time with St
Johnstone but with my contract up in the summer, and two years of
repetitive injuries, its hard to say just now. The club have been
paying me a lot of money with little return in a playing sense but Im
remaining quite positive I can get myself fit for next season. Theres
a lot of people out of contract and the priority for the club is promotion
but the way football is, with less and less money, people will leave. I
would hope I can get back fit and still be involved with the club."
"Its difficult for me sitting in the stand and watching the team struggle. Im St Johnstone through and through and so are my kids and we see what the team means to the town because we live here and its important to get back to the level we achieved before. I dont have any doubt Ill still be a big influence around the club and intend to be there nearly every day, doing what I can to help. The club have been fantastic to me and I dont see that changing. The treatment I get is first class and I couldnt have been at a better club at this time."
Some good news though with Kiegan Parker declared eligible for Love St despite his red card on Monday night.
17th - Last night's U-21 game saw Saints draw 3-3 against TFOE.
Ryan McCann got one for us and
Kiegan Parker's run continued with a
couple of goals although he arsed it up in the 65th minute with a 2nd
yellow card and subsequent red for dissent. There's no official word yet
on whether that means a ban for this weekend's trip to Paisley.
There's some really bad news on the injury front with Jim Weir(right) ruled out for the rest of the season, with some unconfirmed reports that this time it could end his playing career. The knee knock which flared up in the U-21 game at Pittodrie worsened over the last week and a trip to a London specialist brought the bad news. The Saints skipper said, "I thought, and hoped, at first that it was just a minor knock on an old injury but the club doc and physio weren't so sure. I got an appointment with the specialist in London fairly quickly and he gave me the bad news. The injury has obviously come at a bad time for me with my contract running out at the end of this season. Although this isn't a career threatening injury, I am 33 and I was looking to earn myself another contract by my performances on the park. There's no point looking too far into the future just now; I'll just need to see what happens. I'm in plaster for the next six weeks but after that I hope to still be able to help out with the other injured lads."
Hopefully it won't mean the end of the defender's career at Saints - given he's got his coaching badges and is one of the few players to show any passion for the club, it's perhaps time Saints recognised this and gave him a chance to move into the backroom staff. In the meantime best wishes to the skipper from the Temple.
December 16th - Mark Reilly is today's sop to the media as he explained the poor performance against Queen of the South. The midfielder said, "Obviously at home were certainly not doing ourselves justice. The players have got to do a lot better. We didnt start well and I think some of the players are aware of the crowd getting restless, but weve still got to do a lot better. Were letting ourselves down and were letting the manager and supporters down. In the second half the manager went with three up and Ian Maxwell was up at the end as well. Normally I wouldnt make it into the box but I decided to gamble. We didnt lose ground on Inverness or Falkirk but with them playing each other, and it ending up a draw, we were hoping to make up ground. Theres no point in us looking at them at the moment though, we have to look at ourselves and do better because were certainly under-achieving at home." . He also revealed that Stark kept the players in the dressing room for 45 minutes after the game to read them the riot act.
December 15th -
Billy Stark praised the fighting spirit
of the fans but his comments post-match were rather strange. "At
2-0 they deserved their criticism but it was a good positive end by the
players. We must get into teams more. When our players see us hitting the
post they should get lifted but instead feel sorry for themselves and
that's something we must improve on." . Now I don't want to read
too much into that statement but when the manager believes that "they
deserved their criticism" then to me that implies he believes
the boos and chants if "Stark must go" from the stands
somehow were not aimed in his direction. Perhaps he's been misquoted but
with that sort of attitude and lack of responsibility how the fuck can we
ever expect to get things to improve?
Almost as wacky in terms of post-match comments was John Connolly who came out with "Where the referee got four and half minutes of injury time I do not know." - hmm despite the warnings from the ref about timewasting at the start of the second-half QoS still managed to spend a lot of time impersonating Celta Vigo and turning every tackle into an Oscar-winning episode of Casualty. And he wonders where the injury-time came from? God spare us from brainless managers!!
And with the papers all but sacking the manager today it was interesting to see John Connolly on Scotsport this afternoon talking about his ambitions to "move into full-time management". Should be an interesting week.
14th- Emmanuel Panther says
he's planning to keep his place in the first team after a couple of good
performances. "Its good to be back in the team. Id
been plugging away in the under 21s and the reserves, because I wasnt
playing well at the start of the season. I knew that and the manager knew
that. Ive just been patient, I didnt take a huff and I put in
more work in training to get back in the team. Hopefully now that Im
in the team I can stay there. I know that my place isnt secure
because there are people like Mark Ferry, Martin Fotheringham, Ryan McCann
and Ryan Stevenson waiting to come in. That will keep me on my toes. I
need to keep my form up to stay in the team."
After last week's win he reckons Saints can build on that to get back into contention. "I think we showed our character on Saturday when we were brought back to 1-1 but went on to win. Its given us the confidence we needed and hopefully we can now go on a wee run which will see us climb up the league. If we play the way we played last week I dont think many teams could beat us. Well be looking to get a few more goals as well-thats something everyone in the team is looking to do. Obviously Andy Gorams a bit of a legend and Ill be doing my best to score one past him tomorrow. That would be something to remember."
Billy Stark, meanwhile is looking for the defence to start chipping in with goals, having failed to hit the net this season and an increased strike rate from set pieces. He said, "Its a very poor statistic that we need to improve on. Set-pieces are a big factor in the game. To only score two goals from set-pieces this season is ridiculous. Weve not scored anywhere near enough goals from set-pieces and thats compounding our goalscoring problem. When defenders come up for corners theyve got to look as if they want to score and weve been working on that. Generally Paul Hartley gives a good delivery and weve got to capitalise on that."
As for the team selection, Jim Weir is still out and it looks like Mark Baxter will miss out with a calf knock. That means a return earlier than anticipated for John Robertson(right). The manager said, "John played for the reserves at Forfar on Tuesday night but he only started training on Monday. His last game was against Arbroath at the start of November and hes still a bit short, but circumstances might dictate that he has to come in and play a part."
7.30pm - Well we're nothing if not unpredictable. Another dire home performance saw a 2-2 draw only rescued thanks to late, late, late goals from sub Ryan McCann and Mark Reilly. With the top two drawing as well we've not fallen any further off the pace but the poor performance (let's face it we were bloody lucky to get a point) might not still be enough to save Billy Stark with the home support making their feelings known for the last 20 minutes of the game.
As an interesting aside to that Radio Scotland tonight reported that Billy Kirkwood is one of the names rumoured to be in the running for the vacant job at Caley Thistle.
13th- Latest injury news is that Jim
Weir is struggling to be available tomorrow. Of the longer-term
injured, Peaso, whose been out with
a groin injury will start some running and light work this week. Not so
good for Stuart McCluskey and
Ryan Stevenson who have no date
pencilled in yet for a possible return.
Tomorrow gives Billy Stark a chance to get a decent run going with a run of games coming up over the festive period which are about as easy as it can get. Speaking of the next few games, the manager said, "It doesnt take a genius to work out that if we were to go on a run over these next few weeks wed get ourselves right up there. But it is easier talking about winning these games than actually doing it, and, as a manager, the important thing is concentrating on each match as it comes along, rather than looking too far ahead."
Mark Baxter(right), whose impressed big-time is a doubt with a calf knock. Stark said, "Initially we thought Mark had a calf knock and would be back training by Wednesday, but it now seems he has strained the muscle and, as he still isnt training, thats a wee concern. Jim is still feeling the knee and as far as the weekend is concerned-its a case of wait and see. But the lads who played at the back last week did alright and the fact we have the best defensive record in Britain, despite personnel changes, shows we havent been found wanting at the back whoever is playing there."
December 12th- Injury news first
and John Robertson is expected to be
available for first-team selection by the end of December. Of course,
whether or not he'll be able to dislodge the impressive
Mark Baxter remains to be seen.
Billy Stark said, "After a
month out, John needs games. But fortunately, with under-21 fixtures
against Celtic and Dundee coming up on the next two Mondays, hell
get those and that should ensure we have him available before too long."
. Jim Weir has managed to train
yesterday to try and shake off the knee knock.
Not such good news for ex-Saints player Gerry McMahon. Now with Glenavon over the Irish Sea, he broke his leg this week in 2 places. Popular player out there now (how things change from his time at McD) the Temple wishes him all the best for a full recovery.
Billy Stark, who for the first time in
weeks seems almost willing to stick his head above the parapet has praised
Kiegan Parker's U-21 hat-trick - his
first in senior football. "For Keigan to get his first hat-trick
is a big, big bonus. They were all good strikers goals and you could
see the positive affect they had on him. You could see his hunger for more
goals after he scored his first. Hes still a young boy and hes
suffered a bit. Hes been working hard in games, but he hasnt
been playing particularly well. The base of working hard is there and now
were looking for him to get a bit of confidence. Hopefully this will
be the boost he needs." .
Not such good news for Jim Weir who went off at half-time with a knee knock and is set to be reassessed today to see if he'll be available for the visit of QoS on Saturday.
John Robertson managed 90 minutes yesterday as Saints went down 2-1 to Forfar in the Reserve League East with Daniel Noon scoring Saints goal from the penalty spot.
December 10th- Saints U-21s had
a good 3-2 win away to Aberdeen last night with
Kiegan Parker scoring a hat-trick
including a last-minute winner as Saints fought back from being 2-1 down.
Jim Weir also took part in the action.
Elsewhere in the First and it looks like Inverness might be about to lose their management to the Dons with reports suggesting both Steve Paterson and Duncan Shearer are in talks with the Pittodrie board.
9th- Today's piece of post-match back-slapping comes from
Paul Hartley who took time out to
praise Emmanuel Panther's(right)
performance on Saturdayas well as promise not to get sent off ever again,
cross his heart etc etc etc. He said "It was good to get back
playing again after the two-week suspension and I think the midfield
really battled it out today. We defended well, played some good football
and I think we were worthy of the three points. Im delighted weve
put a performance on. Tommy had three or four chances and kept digging
away, and we caused them problems all day. Manny's only 18 and a strong
kid and I think hell go on to bigger and better things at St
Johnstone. It was great to back. I know Ive been silly. Getting sent
off for punching someone is just not me. Ive learnt my lesson and I
want to get back playing well, week-in, week-out. We need six or seven
winning games running and hopefully we can do that and get ourselves back
in the chase, so that by Christmas or January we can have a real go."
Billy Stark, meanwhile was praising makeshift striker Tommy saying, "I was delighted for Tommy. It was his first game up front and I thought he had a really good all-round performance. When you have pace, you have to have a wee bit of intelligence, both from the player and from those feeding him, and the pleasing thing was that we showed that. We played Tommy in a number of times and it was a great weapon for us."
8th- First up there's a small piece in the News of the World
linking Saints with a January move for Ayr striker James Grady -
although with Scumdee, Hibs and Falkirk also interested don't expect
anything from it.
Elsewhere and Ian Maxwell has been talking about how amazed he was with yesterday's winner. "Tommy had been unlucky earlier and when this chance came to his right foot I'd have put money on him not scoring. But then he went and stuck it in the top corner.". The big defender was pleased with the performance and result though. "That's the first time we've lost a goal and then come back to win the game. Everybody dug in and there was a good spirit and togetherness in the team as we fought to get the result. We were desperate for three points to get back on track after the results we've had."
As you might expect, Billy Stark echoed the comments saying, "It was a blow psychologically when Clyde scored as we should have been two or three up but the boys didn't panic"
7th- Today's lamb to the slaughter with the confidence-boosting
interview with the media is Tommy Løvenkrands(right).
With a typical Scandanavain statement of the bloody obvious he said, "We
just need to score more goals" (no shit Sherlock)"It
been frustrating sitting on the sidelines, but Im feeling fit and my
confidence is really high. The problem right now is that we just cannot
score goals. We played really well against Falkirk and I dont think
gave them much at all. We had many chances, but we just couldnt get
the ball over the line. And then, of course, they scored. Hopefully,
against Clyde, we can get an early goal and force them to come forward.
That might change the game and maybe then we could get a few goals. With
this team we should score more goals. Im surprised there arent
more goals from set-pieces, where we have men from the back who head the
ball really well, such as Darren and Ian. Whats needed is a big win
to get us going. Weve been fighting for our points, winning one-nil.
We just havent had that big game yet. Myself, Im hoping that I
can score a few goals now that Im back and fit."
Meanwhile the forgiveness of "Arse" Hartley appears to be complete with Billy Stark saying, "Weve missed Paul. He has four goals from midfield this season, which isnt bad and, as far as passing the ball and controlling games goes, hes important to us-so were delighted to have him available again." ....although the more cynical of us might point out that given the way he's being touted for a transfer to an SPL club in the papers we'd better get used to "missing" him.
Ian Maxwell has trained and looks like being fit with the manager saying, "Of those who have been out, he is the only one with a chance of being fit. If hes fit, hes quite an important one for us to get back, as hes done well." . Mark Baxter and Emmanuel Panther will also play. Stark said, "They both played well last week and will still be heavily involved. The type of player Mark is, he didnt give me any cause for worry about how he would handle it. Hes a game lad, has a great attitude, hes quick and very fit and I wanted him to bring these attributes to the team."
The manager knows he's under pressure today as well with most supporters believing his reign will end with anything less than a convincing win at Broadwood today. Billy Stark said : "I have been under intense pressure since I took this job. I was under pressure to keep us in the SPL and it didnot happen now I am under pressure to take us back up to the tip flight. I'm under no illusions as to the magnitude of the task here but there are 20 games to go and all the speculation kicked off before the season even started in August. I am well used to it by now. Comments attributed to our chairman because of a back-firing joke and the stupid comment of a local DJ about a vacancy at McDiarmid Park did not help matters or make the job any easier for me. The chairman got drawn into dialogue with this DJ and all of a sudden it made the papers. I've spoken to the chairman about what is required at the club and everthing is fine. That is the nature of the game that we are in and I accept that."
"We need to start scoring goals and winning games, it's as simple as that. That is not easy in this division but fans are quick to react when results don't go your way. Our defence has not conceded too many goals this season but our strikers are creating chances and not taking them. They do not do that deliberately. Football supporters are an intolerant bunch and we live in a society where results are the be all and end all. There is a lot more to football management though than just getting results. Unfortunatelty supporters do not see that and I accept that as part and parcel of any mangerial job."
7.30pm - Well to give him credit, Tommy came up with the goods with a cracking solo 2nd half effort to deservedly get the points in a 2-1 win at Broadwood after Chris Hay's opener was cancelled out by Hinds. We easily deserved the win and it was one of the best performances oif the season. Bad news though was MoM Emmanuel Panther(right) going off with what looked like an ankle knock 5 minutes from time.
Finally reports suggest that TFOD had a scout at the game today looking at a certain keeper.
December 6th- Latest rumour has
it that Alan Main has already signed a
pre-contract agreement with TFOD. Not much else to report yet - at least
it means no new injuries. Mark Baxter
and Emmanuel Panther look like holding
onto their starting jerseys.
Billy Stark, who by all rumours is definitely, honestly, cross my heart and hope to die, really on his last chance this time, is confident of a win tomorrow. Speaking on the official site, he said, "Clyde are on their own patch so they will be looking to come and have a go at us. On the other hand we know how crucial the three points are and we need to get them. It's important having Paul Hartley back, he's had his punishment and it's important now for him to get back playing with his mind on the job."
Finally, there's another new Saints site opened at www.supersainties.2ya.com
December 5th- Looks like Paul Hartley is back in favour with the Perth management and he's a definite starter for the trip to Broadwood. Billy Stark said, "What Paul did was ridiculous and he was punished severely over it. But he is full of remorse and hopefully will be coming back feeling he has something to prove, and we can benefit from that." Elsewhere the ankle injury that kept Ian Maxwell out of the Falkirk game seems sorted and he's back in training and in with a chance of playing.
3rd- Last night's U-21 game saw Saints go down 2-1 at home to
Partick Fissel with Paul Hartley
getting our goal with a 25-yard effort. There was the traditional show of
unity with the board and management sitting together.
All that hasn't stopped Geoff Brown(right) appearing in the papers today with his latest warning for Billy Stark. The chairman said, "No club can go indefinitely without getting results. It doesn't take a genius to work that one out. Billy has always been aware of what's expected of him here. Make no bones about it, the current run of results can't be allowed to go on and on and I'm looking for an improvement. Things are going well at under-age level but every manager is judged on his first team results. There won't be any knee-jerk reaction to the defeat by Falkirk. They weren't better than us and we've lost to them twice from dead balls. The blight on our game is we aren't scoring goals. You have to ask if you're guaranteed a better team simply by replacing a manager."
"The onus is on the players to get the results which will save the manager - and themselves. Players will be going out of contract and a few of those who left here in the summer have found trouble getting a club. We have to be doing well to pay the wages".
Meanwhile, Billy Stark, if you believe yesterdays reports on his comments after the Falkirk game, is apparently set on buying another striker when the transfer window opens in January because it's "the only thing we lack"....apart from goals, tactics, motivation etc.
Finally there's a plea from the club for more sellers for their 50/50 tickets at home games. The press release reads St Johnstone Football Club are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to sell 50/50 Half Time Draw tickets on matchdays. We are looking to dramatically increase matchday sales by selling outwith the stadium as well as at turnstiles within the ground. As these posts are for volunteers all sellers will be admitted to the game free of charge therefore fans who are students may find this job of interest. We do however welcome applications from Season Ticket holders who are willing to help out. Anyone interested should e-mail Paul Fraser at the Club:- email@example.com
2nd- Following on from the usual Sunday depression, it's time for
the Monday laugh at the management's post-match comments. Let's hear it
for Billy Stark(right) who said, "That
result obviously makes it a lot more difficult for us but its not
something thats impossible. The season still has a long way to run."
. As usual bad luck and a lack of "breaks" is being
blamed with the manager's take on the goal being, "I dont
think it was a free-kick in any shape or form. We just cant get a
wee break, its as simple as that. I dont think anybody would
look at that game and say we got a break. We got plenty of balls into the
box, their keeper made two great saves and they had a saving header off
the line. You cant do much more than that. If we keep getting the
ball into the box like we did there, well get that wee break we
need." . See same old comments. (Small note to the
manager - yes you can do more. Start with marking their only dangerman at
set pieces and try getting the ball over the bloody line instead of headed
The manager did (correctly) go on to praise debutant right-back Mark Baxter. "Hes only 17 but hes a game boy with ability and a great attitude. Hell punch his weight and I thought he did exceptionally well."
December 1st- As usual on a Sunday morning these days, the grapevine is buzzing that time is up for Billy Stark and his chum Billy Kirkwood(right). The threat of part-time football is looking more and more likely next season given the current level of losses at the club (both on and off the park) so the board may wait until the end of the season before restructuring the club behind the scenes. If we do end up going part-time it's inevitable that it will be a much, much longer period before we're able to challenge for the title (look at St Midden). The youth structure will be safe, although some youth teams will be disbanded, with the majority of the first team squad consisting of youngsters (no bad thing perhaps given the way they've shown up their senior counterparts in recent years). Still that's all hopefully hypothetical just now and the club will be able to turn things round.
Top Of News
30th - Paddy Connolly believes
today is the chance for Saints to prove their worthy of challenging for
the title. Speaking ahead of the Weans' game he said, "The next
couple of games are big ones for us and we have to look to take maximum
points. Were a bit off the pace just now and we need to try to turn
things around. We need a big win. That doesnt necessarily mean a big
score, more a win against a top team like Falkirk. Hopefully that will
come tomorrow and it will be the result that turns our season around. The
aim is to try to get momentum going and string together a few wins on the
trot like Falkirk and Inverness have done. Thats the sort of form
you need if youre going to win leagues."
Whilst Paddy's shoulder is described as "80-90% fit", he'll be able to play. Stark has said though that he might make "one or two changes" for the Falkirk game. He said, "This is definitely a really good opportunity for us, and thats how were looking upon it. For the most part you play games in the league and then have to wait to see how other teams around you have got on. But when it comes to the matches against teams close to you, you know that if you do the business you dont need to look around the grounds, and thats the case today. Lots of positive things can come out of a win-most importantly three points, of course. Theres a buoyancy you can get from winning a game like this. Theres no point in worrying about Falkirk. Its about going out and doing what we do best, taking the initiative early on and pressing home the advantage. We have to get in about them and be bigger and better than them on the day. We were fragile after losing at Brockville and its resulted in the inconsistency weve had since then. That day it was an intimidating atmosphere and the referee was intimidated. They had a lot of things going for them that hopefully they wont at McDiarmid." ...hmmm an intimidating atmosphere at McD??????
For the Weans, Lee Miller is suspended and Kevin "Lanky Bastard" James is out injured.
7pm - Well from Man of the Match last week to Arse of the Week this time, Cap'n Jim(right) gave away the free kick leading to the eventual winner for the Weans in today's 1-0 defeat but then got red carded and conceded a penalty with 5 minutes left. Of course by then it was all over and part-time footie beckons next season. If we're looking for plus points, the players fought for the 90 minutes but a lack of finishing skills again cost us dearly. Mark Baxter made a good debut at right back and Emmanuel Panther added some bite to midfield. But if you want a real minus the crowd was four folk shy of 4000 with the Weans bringing a more than healthy travelling support.
29th - Well as if the current injury list isn't enough
Stark(right) has revealed that
Keigan Parker is suffering from a badly
bruised ankle but should make it along with Paddy
Connolly. John Robertson is
set to miss out with his sair tae though. Training this week has been
described by the manager as "lively" (hopefully as in
electrodes to the genitals to generate some passion lively). He's also
apparently asked them to "think positively going into the game"
and said, "In the Ayr United game things didnt go for us in
a few ways. We fought our corner well at Ross County, though, and we were
enjoying a good spell before that. The players have to remain positive."
- see positive - it's the electrodes again!!!!
Stark meanwhile has also issued a hands-off warning to any SPL clubs over Hartley although he admitted any possible new contract talks won't take place until we know where we'll be playing next season.
6pm news - Keigan Parker has been passed fit for the Weans visit but Paddy Connolly faces a late fitness test.
November 27th - Latest news is
that Paddy Connolly might be able to
make the team on Saturday. Another doubt though is
John Robertson, whose broken toe
places him in the "doubtful" category.
Finally Ross County have appointed Alex Smith as their new manager today.
November 26th - Both Marco and Stuart McCluskey look set to miss out on the Falkirk game this weekend with both their injuries looking more and more like long-term ones, with the latter undergoing a scan this week on his groin (oo-er missus). Another possible absentee is Paddy Connolly who's aggravated his shoulder injury. Hartley of course is still suspended.
November 25th - Cap'n Jim(right) is urging the fans to back the players next weekend, believing that could make all the difference. Speaking after the Dingwall game, he said, "One or two fans were shouting in the second half but they have to stamp that out and get behind us. We all know that if the crowd gets behind us then it acts like a 12th man. It would be crazy for anyone to say we're out of the title race because if we beat Falkirk next week then we are only five points behind them. The year we qualified for Europe we were 10 points behind Kilmarnock with about half a dozen games to go. I still feel we are the best team in the league but we need to start believing it. I have been sitting in the stand with the fans and I feel they are beginning to turn on us. The supporters have had some great times over the last five years but everyone has lows in the game. What they have got to realise is that with their support the good times are just around the corner."
November 24th - Well the trip to
Dingwall ended up with a 0-0 draw against
Ross County although the game was a lot more entertaining than the
scoreline suggests. Jim Weir returned to
central defence but again the midfield let us down with continual high
balls forward. After the game Stark
said, "I don't want to sound like I'm using bad luck as an excuse
but on any other day the breaks in front of goal could have gone the other
way"....nice non-excuse that.
Elsewhere results almost went our way with Clyde beating Falkirk who had Lee Miller sent off and banned for next weeks visit to McD. ICT won at Gayfield though to take over the top spot.
November 22nd - 17-yr old
right-back Mark Baxter who has
impressed for the U21s is in the squad for the trip to Dingwall. The
manager said "We will see if Mark actually appears on Saturday,
but he is certainly in the squad. The situation with injuries and
suspensions does not make things easy, but that is football and we just
have to get on with it the same as anybody else."
"Arse" Hartley will be missing though as he starts the first of a 2-match suspension (confirmed by the SFL). John Robertson, Stuart McCluskey and Marco will all also miss out. Jim Weir could be in line for a return to the team.
And one final note - due to the nature of this weekend's game, there won't be a match report on the site until I get back on Sunday.
November 21st - Well we can
safely chalk Alan Kernaghan off the list
of possible candidates as a replacement for Stark
should the expected happen. An interview with the ex-Saints player and
current Clyde manager on Teletext sees him ruling out any move
back to McD because "at this stage of my managerial career it
would be a step back". So that's that then.
Injury-wise, Stuart McCluskey has been ruled out of this weekend's trip north but Paddy Connolly has resumed training and has a chance of being fit.
Meanwhile, Meadowbank are the latest club said to be lining up a bid for "Arse" Hartley when the transfer window opens. According to today's Sun, "struggling Saints" will sell Alan Main and Hartley if they are "out of the promotion race by January" (even we're not that bad). The paper says that Hartley would have gone to the Pars last summer but they didn't want to meet Saints £75,000 asking price.
November 20th - Still no hint of a change in management. Stark is looking ahead to Saturday's trip to Dingwall with a stronger squad as the Plague starts to clear from McD. There are still some injury worries though as the manager said, "It is maybe a bit early to say we are definitely clear of the bug, but it certainly looks more encouraging now. Marc McCulloch, Darren Dods and Kevin Cuthbert have all resumed training. John Robertson caught the bug last week and, although he has recovered from that, he is still not training due to a broken toe. Paddy Connolly is also still suffering with a groin injury, but it is probably too early to say whether either he or John will be involved this weekend."
19th - The U-21s picked up a 2-0 win at Dunfermline last night with
goals from Tommy and
Emmanuel Panther both coming from
Martin Fotheringham(right) free kicks.
Jim Weir played in defence and
Tommy was up front for the 90 minutes.
No change behind the scenes yet and today's press has seen chairman Geoff Brown(right) publicly back Stark with the players taking the blame from him (erm that'll be the players the current manager brought in then?). He said, "I would never say there is no threat to anyones position-and I mean anyones. But Billy Stark puts in an incredible amount of work on behalf of St Johnstone and how can I complain about a guy who is giving 60-70 hours a week to this club? Changing a manager is the easy option and it doesnt always work as we know to our cost. The people criticising Billy ought to remember that when we brought in Paul Sturrock he took us down and it was three years before we came back up again. People can shout for the managers head but look around and ask yourself who would be better if push came to shove? At the end of the day it comes down to players because they are the ones out on the pitch, not the manager. Billy Stark has protected his players in every way possible and done everything possible to assist them. Now he and the club needs payback on that."
On the other side though, the chairman also paid tribute to the ever-dwindling fans that are at least turning up to criticise the manager in person. "I can only thank those supporters who have been showing patience with us and ask them for more patience. Without a doubt players have taken badly to dropping into the first division and theres been a settling in period. I believe also that some fans think all we have to do is turn up and win-forgetting that we are the Rangers of this league and everyone is up for playing us. When all is said and done the only way out of this situation is for everyone to do their bit. The players need to adapt quickly to this league and give a bit more and the false expectations which our finishing third in the SPL generated within the support have to be left behind. I have some sympathy for the fans because our record at McDiarmid Park over the past three years has been a nightmare but I still have to ask them to give the team as much encouragement as they can because the only way results will come is if they get behind the side. And maybe its time other people asked themselves whether they want a club in the city and if they do how they might help ensure that happens."
Financially though Brown realises the club is in a bad way this year. He continued, "Failure to go back up this season would make it impossible for us to balance the books and that might well lead to our having to mix part-time and full-time football. Our base costs are high and arent covered by season ticket income. On top of that you have still to meet the wage bill, remembering we have a number of players at the club on premier league wages. We are losing a fortune and I would take whatever action was necessary to ensure St Johnstones survival when the alternative would be there being no St Johnstone. But I am determined not to end up going down that route and am certainly not giving up the ghost as far as promotion is concerned. Yes, we have been very disappointed with a number of results-although not the general play-this season, but when it is three points for a win, a nine-point gap isnt a lot. Remember what happened to Ross County last year. They were bottom of the league at one stage but went on an 18-game unbeaten run and wound up third. (unfortunately we're struggling to go on a 1-game unbeaten run these days) That illustrates perfectly how theres no way we are out of things, although I accept the games coming up against County and Falkirk are crucial for us."
As for "under-barrage" Stark. All he said was "With expectations as high as they are there is a tendency to over-react when things go wrong and the anxiety that causes gets through to the players. I accept we havent handled the pressure which is on the club this season as well as we might. But at the same time it doesnt help that if we win we are told we should have scored more goals and if we draw we should have won. We all of us need to remain calm and remember this is only November." ....well at least he's taken the blame for something.
And confirmation that "Arse" Hartley has a 3-match ban thanks to his stupidity. He has taken the time to ensure his name is still in the papers though with an "apology" to the fans. "It was a moment of madness. I can only apologise to the manager, club and supporters because my behaviour probably cost us the game." . Doesn't wash with me anymore though.And in an extended interview in the Sun there is an interesting aside where it's revealed that "Hartley, who'll leave Saints if they don't get promoted".....nice to see loyalty this early in the season isn't it.
November 18th - Surprise,
surprise it's Mark Reilly who's in the
papers defending the Saints management after Saturday's shambles. Speaking
to the Retard the midfielder said, "Hes a first
class manager and hes been excellent with the players. If anything,
give the players stick. I dont know why theyre continually
shouting at the manager personally. I dont know what they wanted him
to do today. Its the players who have to stand up and be counted. Hes
only been in the job for about a year and it takes a lot longer than that
to build a team. The players are 100% behind him. Everybody connected with
the club wants St Johnstone to be top of the league but the story of our
season so far has been dominating games and not winning some of them, and
not playing as well in others. Weve got to try and do better."
As for the chants being aimed at Stark the manager would only say, , "Its something that comes with the pressure on us to go straight back up. People feel we should be top of the league and if were not well get stick. You have to be big enough to handle that." . As for any change, the rumour machine has started. If it's going to happen expect an announcement in the next couple of days.
November 17th - Surprise, surprise it was the usual stuff from Billy Stark after the game last night with the referee, Hartley (club fine for him which is fuck all good) and all and sundry getting the blame for the defeat.
16th - Expect big changes to the team today as it looks like the
Plague has forced Billy Stark to swtich
things round. Darren Dods(right) is
showing symptoms and already John
Robertson and Marco are out.
Paddy Connolly is also struggling with
a shoulder injury which caused him to be taken off early last week and is
doubtful. The good news though is that Stuart
McCluskey has been passed fit.
Billy Stark said, "Parker and Dods are still not feeling right but they managed a wee jog today and well see how they are tomorrow, but theyre obviously very doubtful. Darren Dods was feeling a wee bit better today so were hoping hell be fit to take his place on the bench tomorrow. club will have situations in the winter where injury and illness make you call upon your squad, and tomorrow looks like being one of those days."
The lack of options up front could mean a starting jersey for Tommy and he said, "I was happy with how last week went. I was really looking forward to it because Ive been in and out with injury so far this season. I was pleased to get back and to feel fine after the game. Id worked hard in pre-season and just missed the first three or four games. Then I got back in for a few games and was out again. Ive played a lot of practice matches this time and I feel ready to come back. I dont know what the manager is thinking but hopefully he is going to play 4-3-3 and it would be nice to play up front. Its easier for me if I can look both ways rather than just being on the touchline, and my pace could be an advantage there." .
7.30pm - A total disaster today with Paul Hartley's fucking stupidity resulting in a red card and more than doing his bit to contribute to a 2-0 home defeat to Ayr which leaves us sitting in 4th as Clyde overtake us. Poor refereeing and a stupid player doesn't get Billy Stark off the hook with the home fans calling for the manager's head for the last 20 minutes
Editorial Time (again). Whilst I don't think Stark was totally blameless today, there's no doubt that he's lost the backing of the Saints support (those that bother to still turn up). Just over a year ago that did for the last manager -whether the board will act as decisively remains to be seen but I for one will be very surprised to see him still in the job next weekend. He might have the backing of the players, and board for that matter but if the fans are calling for his head then it can't go on. There seems to be nothing left for the manager to try and he looks like a lost man out of ideas and out of luck/home/ whatever. The board have to take their share of the blame with the signs there for most of the season that change was required. Billy please realise that it's not going to work for you - go now.
Of course Hartley(right) will no doubt be forgiven and let off with a club fine. But despite all the talent he's shown for Saints in recent seasons (and admittedly scoring some spectacular goals), his temper has to be called into question again. Saints were arguably in with a decent chance of getting a result today (despite being 1-0 down) when he was sent off. That in my opinion makes it 2 games his temper has cost us in recent seasons (yes we've not forgotten the Arabs debacle in May 2001). Perhaps it's time to offload such a liability as well.
November 15th - Plague's hit McD with 4 players confined to bed due to a puking 'n' shitting bug doing the rounds. John Robertson, Darren Dods, Marco and Kiegan Parker are all rated doubtful for tomorrows visit of Ayr. And don't expect Jim Weir to step up either with the manager saying that , , "Jim needs a couple of games yet. The day after this weeks under-21 game was the best his knee has been since he started his comeback.".
14th - Some good news today with Chris
Hay(right) signing on until the end of this season. The striker has
hit a real streak since regaining fitness with Saints and his deal, which
was due to end in January has been extended until the summer. He said,
"I'm delighted to be staying with St Johnstone. I've settled in
really well here and I feel comfortable. I'm also scoring goals which is
important and I want to help the Club get promoted back to the Premier
league. I'm grateful to the gaffer for giving me a chance here at Saints
and I'm sure I will repay him with more goals throughout the season.
Promotion is on everyone's minds here and I'm no different. I've been told
there were a couple of other clubs who might have been interested but that
didn't interest me at all; as far as I'm concerned I'm a St Johnstone
player at least until the end of the season.".
Injury-wise, Jim Weir may return along with Tommy to the starting line-up on Saturday. Peaso is still another fortnight away though.
November 12th - The U-21s got a
1-1 draw away to TFOD last night with The
Panther scoring for Saints. Kiegan
proved he's not yet on form by missing a penalty (Blobby Williamson
eat yer heart out!!!). Bad news though is that
Marc McCulloch was taken off injured
in the first half. Tommy Løvenkrands
got another 90 minutes in and the mysterious
Martin Lauchlan was on the bench!!!
Billy Stark today came out to back Tommy against the boo-boys. He said, "He's a player that will be an asset to us once he gets back to playing regularly. The way the game was set up for him at the weekend wasn't the best because his game is based on confidence and he's still trying to find it".
November 11th - Well from his
comments today at least we know that Billy
Stark was aware of the mumblings of discontent in the home stands at
the weekend. Speaking of the Arbroath game, the manager said, "We
made things difficult for ourselves by not getting the second goal we
needed to be able to relax and play. We can perform better than that, but
at least we created a lot of chances and fully deserved to win. The
reaction of the fans doesnt annoy me, although that sort of thing
does create anxiety among players. The supporters turned up thinking that
because wed been the better team over two games with Livingston, wed
win this one easily and getting the early goal just added to that. But
Arbroath are a very difficult team to play against. They are aggressive,
tenacious and get stuck into you." . Arbroath manager John
Brownlie meanwhile has all but called us cheats after the sending-off of
Murray McDowell at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Tommy Løvenkrands, who returned to the team for the first time in ages at the weekend, reckons the boo-boys will never be silenced. He said, "I was happy with my performance - maybe I should have done more, but I was happy to be back and I think I played well when I came on. There was some booing when I was on but that's just how supporters are. I'll do my best every time I'm on the park. If the supporters aren't happy with that then I'll just have to try harder. I want to prove that I can do a job at St. Johnstone but there will always be unhappy people. I'm just back after injury and in need of match practice. I hope I am going to get more goals. I'm happy here but this year has been hard because I missed pre-season and three or four games after it. Then I played just five games before I was out again and that's frustrating. But now I just want to stay fit for the rest of the season."
9th - Alan Main(right) says any
talk about a move to the Death Star is just speculation and he's not
letting it interfere with his preparations for today's game against
Arbroath. He said,"As far as Im concerned its just
total speculation. Theres no question that if that sort of move came
off it would be fantastic for me in the current climate, because lets
face it, at the end of the season I could find myself unemployed. But
there are a number of players in our team they could be coming to watch,
and I also dont imagine Ill be the only goalkeeper out of
contract in the summer, either. I just want to go out and play well for St
Johnstone. Theyve been very good to me, theyve looked after me
and Im enjoying it here. Ive been out for a long time but I
now feel Im playing as well as I have in the past. Its very
frustrating when youve been out for a long time and youre
making mistakes and now I feel as if Im over that and I just want to
go out and play. Over the last three weeks, everything has started to come
together again and Im getting my old sharpness back. Ive been
disappointed with my kicking but thats come good in the last couple
of games. Arbroath will make it hard for us, like most teams who come
here. Its a good, big pitch and Im sure theyll be
looking forward to coming here. We had a good win at Gayfield earlier in
the season, but well not be taking them lightly. There are no easy
games, as Alloa proved last week. We started well but they came back at
us. Hopefully, we can get an early goal to settle us and well take
it from there."
Billy Stark though hopes that recent form can ensure we get all three points (with anything less almost certain to re-shooglise his jacket peg). "Theyre a close-knit unit who fight hard for each other. We recognise that, but at the same time we have to take confidence from recent results and performances. At long last, in Chris Hay, we have a St Johnstone player featuring in the goalscoring charts, so that takes the pressure off some of the others and I would expect them to pitch in with a few goals as well now."
7.00pm - An injury time goal from Paul Hartley spared the manager's blushes (and possibly saved his career) as Saints beat Arbroath 2-0 after the Lichties were reduced to 10 men and Chris Hay had opened the scoring in 90 seconds. Whilst Saints dominated the intervening time it's safe to say that the 2nd goal prevented the boos as the players left the park. Elsewhere in the league the other top teams all won convincingly so no change there.
8th - Paddy Connolly looks like
missing out tomorrow - his thigh strain was aggravated on Tuesday night
and he's not managed to train since. John
Robertson's "foot injury" has turned out to be a
broken toe although he's not yet ruled out. The goof news is that
Stuart McCluskey has a decent chance
of making tomorrow's Arbroath game. Billy
Stark said, "Its one of those cases that leaves me to
decide whether to push it or not, but well see."
Elsewhere on the treatment table, both Jim Weir and Peaso are definitely out but Tommy Løvenkrands(right) has managed to train this week and could make a return.
Meanwhile the e-Retard are sticking to their guns over the TFOD interest in Alan Main with tales of our relegation last season being blamed on his absence (I thought it was more to do with the other end of the park meself) and a random quote from Billy Stark who has apparently said, "Alan's the best in the division and as Scottish goalkeepers go, he's still up there with the very best. He is a huge influence in the dressing room and is a key player in our efforts to win the title and get back to the SPL." - whether or not he said that yesterday in relation to a question / story about the keeper moving to the Death Star remains to be clarified.
Off the park and the trial of the 2 Saints fans accused of racially abusing Sellik player MoMo Sylla started in chaos yesterday when Momo decided to throw a tantrum and demonstrate his stroppiness in court, refusing to answer prosecution questions cos they were "silly" (cue Monty Pythonesque images). Meanwhile witnesses confirmed that they'd seen the former Saints player making "gestures" towards the home fans before the alleged abuse took place. That noise you hear will be his halo crashing then?
November 7th - With the transfer
window due to reopen in less than 2 months, the latest rumour is that Partick
Thistle are eyeing up Paul Hartley
for a mid-season move. It's unlikely Saints would be that difficult to
deal with given that his contract expires next summer anyway (and he's one
of those tipped to be leaving). We've adequate cover in midfield and
recent performances suggest JR isn't
as indispensible as we all originally thought.
And on a related theme Alan Main is reported in today's Retard as interesting TFOD with the Ibrox bigots having watched him 5 times recently. Another out of contract in the summer it's difficult to see Saints standing in his way.
Billy Stark meanwhile is still looking at the positives from the CIS Cup performances. He said, "I think it was more than just holding them. In the first half on Tuesday particularly, we dominated and controlled the game and did some good passing movements and Alan Main had no saves to make. Following on from last weeks 80 minutes, we deserved to be in front but the first goal was always going to be crucial and I thought we deserved the break they got at the time. It was a real lucky break they got because it was a big deflection. After that they were experienced enough and defended well and had the ability to hit us on the counter. When you look at the two games though, it is all positives, although I would have rather played badly and got through to the next round of the competition."
6th - Billy Stark has been
praising Saints performance last night. He said, "I am
disappointed not to go through. I don't think we deserved to lose the
match. We dominated and were the better side for long spells." -
a fact apparently lost on the media who have decided to slag off the
entertainment on show last night as another dull game.
Some good news for Saints was Jim Weir and Tommy Løvenkrands getting another 90 minutes in yesterday in Saints away Reserve League (East) 4-1 win against Raith Rovers. The goals came from Martin Lauchlan(right) (remember him?), Davie Dodds, Emmanuel Panther and Martin Maher.
It's not all good news on the injury front though with Stuart McCluskey still doubtful for the Arbroath match this Saturday. And Peaso missed out yesterday due to his persistent groin injury - the club are now set to send the striker for a scan. From last night John Robertson came through ok but Paddy Connolly was still receiving treatment for his groin injury today.
5th - Well it doesn't look like the injury situation is getting any
better ahead of tonight's rematch. Stuart
McCluskey is still suffering from a groin injury and is likely to
miss out whilst Paddy Connolly(thigh
strain) and John Robertson (foot
injury) will both also be assessed pre-match. Billy
Stark said, "Well take a close look at all three and
decide whether they play"
Ryan McCann(right) meanwhile believes tonight's game is the highlight of his career so far. "This will be the biggest game of my career. I played for Celtic against Dundee United at Parkhead in front of 60,000, but the league had already been won by then. I also played in Tony Adams testimonial match before around 40,000 at Highbury. The Livingston match is for real though and, if selected, it will be my most important. Its a good chance to get to a cup quarter-final against Dundee United, which would be a local derby for our fans. We want to show other SPL clubs that we deserve to be back amongst them. Im convinced we would have won had the game continued seven days ago, but well just have to do it again."
"It was disappointing to sit out a few games-no player wants to be on the bench. But theres a lot of competition for places at St Johnstone. I knew when I came here that just because I played for Celtic I wasnt guaranteed a starting place every week. I feel that Ive done OK so far, but I want more than that for St Johnstone. I want to be great."
Billy Stark expects a tougher game. "It was 12 minutes on my watch before they got into our penalty box and I dont expect that to happen again. Theyll know now that theyll be in a game tomorrow night. Livingston will do better I feel. We took a lot of positives from the last match and its all to play for again. We have to try and reproduce that sort of performance. Things dont always go to plan, but the least we can do is give it everything weve got and try to get into the quarter-final. Ryan suffered as much as anybody confidence-wise during our wee bad spell and hes only a boy in terms of first-team football. I expected him to take up the challenge on Saturday, which he did. It was great to see Paddy Connolly get his goal as well. It looked like a simple finish, but Paddy made a lot of ground to get to the back post to be in the position to score. And Chris Hays goal ratio will stand comparison with anyone in the division just now."
11.30pm - Saints put on a good performance but in the end a Handball Dadi soft goal saw us lose 1-0 to the Ferranti Works XI. Of course an unbiased ref might have helped had he sent off Xausa in the 1st half for raising his hands and spotted the Livvy handball in their box in the 2nd half. Still no real complaints (unlike the pair of whingeing moaners behind me all night - sometimes you just wish these folk would follow someone else).
November 4th - Nothing much to report in the papers today with the 1st Division getting it's usual blanking by the media. A quick check shows Ferranti have no new injuries from their game against the Pars though so expect both teams to line up along the same way tomorrow night.
3rd - Paddy Connolly(right) is
a striker who is a happy man this morning after finally putting to rest
the "van Vossen" jokes from a fortnight ago. Speaking after
yesterday's game he said, "I was delighted to get the goal
especially as I gave the penalty away. It was a relief for me. It has been
difficult because of that miss against St Mirren but you just have to get
on with it. We've not had a great record here and we obviously didn't want
to lose any ground on the two teams above us. So at the end of the day the
result is more important than me getting a goal. Even in the St Mirren
game when I missed that chance we still went on to get the points. So I
suppose it could have been worse."
Billy Stark, fresh from his comments in the Sun where he called some of the criticism against him as "pathetic" said, "I'm delighted for Paddy because everyone saw that miss. He doesn't really let these things get to him but I'm sure this goal will be good for his confidence. He did well for us in the cup against Livingston during the week and worked really hard and that is what we're looking for." . Speaking of the match he said, "My players fought for everything and deserved the win. But Alloa got a break with that penalty. It is one of the softest you'll ever see. I told the players at half-time just to keep their head and sure enough we got the early second-half goal. After that we went on to play well and create a lot of chances."
November 2nd - Today's game
definitely goes ahead despite heavy rain in Alloa over the last 24 hours.
No more news on the team selection so Stuart
McCluskey could still miss out. Jim Weir
and Tommy Løvenkrands are likely
to play in a reserve game next week as well so don't expect to see them at
7pm - Well it wasn't all brilliant but another 4-3-3 formation and some good goals saw Saints win 3-1 at Alloa with 2 from Chris Hay sandwiching the miraculous sight of a Paddy Connolly goal in front of a large travelling support. ICT and Clyde won as well but the Weans dropped a couple of points at Palmerston so not a bad day overall.
1st - Stuart McCluskey(right)
is still suffering from the groin strain which led to his substitution
against Meadowbank on Tuesday. The big defender is doubtful for the trip
to Alloa tomorrow. Billy Stark said,
"Stuart is still suffering a wee bit with a groin injury but we
have not ruled him out for Saturday yet. This season he has been a good
player for us and hopefully he will be okay ".
Mark Reilly is also recovering from his
stomach bug. The manager went on, "Mark was taken ill during
Saturdays game at Inverness and he was still not 100% on Tuesday
night. However, he has now started eating a bit more normally and
hopefully he will be fine."
The only other changes could be a possible return to the team for Jim Weir and Tommy Løvenkrands who both played in Monday's U-21 game.
Top Of News
October 30th -
Billy Stark had no complaints with the
referee's decision to call off the CIS match. He said, "We could
have been looking at extra time and it wasnt going to get any
better. It was disappointing because I felt we played really well."
Meanwhile Saints have announced that admission to the rematch next Tuesday will be £10 for adults and free for kids. The winners will play the Arabs in the quarter-final with Wednesday November 13th pencilled in as the date for that fixture.
29th -Tonight's performanc in the CIS Cup against an on-form Livvy
side could determine whether or not Billy
Stark and Billy Kirkwood's have a
future with Saints. Even today's Courier match preview is
commenting on the supporter's lack of faith in the current management.
Billy Stark says he's not going to hide
from the flak though, "Weve had a wee bad spell in terms of
results, and criticism goes with the job. Until were top of the
league, Ill be getting criticism and Im not going to hide. The
nature of the division is becoming clear now, with games such as Falkirks
at St Mirren on Saturday, and our last four games is probably as tough a
spell as youll get. We should have done better in it, but weve
got to try and not feel sorry for ourselves and pick ourselves up. The
league is the most important thing by a million miles but were going
into this game with the chance to get into the quarter-final of a national
cup competition and thats a great incentive. We have to look at it
Other than the usual injury list, Mark Reilly has been suffering from a bug and will have a fitness test today.
Last night saw the U-21s get a win over Motherwell with Mark Ferry(right) scoring the only goal late on. Better news was that both Cap'n Jim and Tommy Løvenkrands played for the full 90 minutes.
11.30pm - A fairly good performance but a game which with the score at 0-0 was abandoned due to fog with 12 minutes and extra-time remaining. No real complaints given the lack of visibility from the stands and the whole shebang will take place next Tuesday at 7.45pm with the winners facing the Arabs at home in the quarter-final
October 27th - Yesterday's
defeat seems to have killed off our title hopes with the media apparently
writing Saints off last night. They're not alone with the majority of
comments on the net and match reports showing that the performance
yesterday was more of the usual Saints performance - unable to score,
losing stupid goals and lacking in passion, fight or tactics. The calls to
the phone-in programmes have started and reports from some of the Saints
fans that made the trip north yesterday hint that the away support
(usually the most loyal of Saintees) are also calling for a change in
5.30pm - Billy Stark was on Scotsport today and didn't look worried about our performance, coming out with the gem of a quote that "All our performances have been good so far". You might think so Stark, but the majority of fans beg to differ.
26th - Chris Hay is a doubt for
today's game but only due to his attendance at a funeral on the west coast
this morning meaning he might not make it to the Caley Thistle ground in
time. The manager said, "Its going to be tight for him
getting up there in time. Hes going to get to Inverness as early as
he can and well take it from there. Its one of these things
that you cant do anything about, it cant be legislated for.
You have to plan for every circumstance and I know what Ill do if
Chris doesnt make it in time. Well be positive about whoever
comes in. Were OK otherwise. Stuart McCluskey and Ian Maxwell are
feeling knocks a wee bit, but theyll both be fine."
John Robertson(right) meanwhile is expecting a tough game. He said, "Inverness are a team who are very capable of scoring goals. They got six just last week. Theyre very attack minded and they like to pass the ball about. This will be a very difficult game for us. I dont think having to play Celtic in midweek will make any difference to them. Theyve done really well and theyre flying at the moment. The lads have as high expectations for ourselves as the supporters do. On the other hand, there are games where you just have to grind out a result, like when Inverness came here earlier in the season. Sometimes thats what it takes."
5pm - Chris Hay got a late penalty but it wasn't enough as Saints lost 2-1 to Caley Thisle leaving us 8 points off the pace and killing off any hope that last week's win was the start of a run of form.
October 25th - First up, it
looks like work means I'll miss out on the trip to Inverness tomorrow, so
don't expect the usual totally unbiased objective reporting.
Looking ahead to the game and Paddy Connolly is in the papers today going on about that miss last weekend. He said, "I am running out of excuses now but it was just one of these things. Even my boy Darrell has been slagging me and calling me van Vossen! Darrell plays for a local boys' club and says he has not missed any sitters. I have never felt so low after a game I've won. I never even watched it on television - I just couldn't. When John Robertson pulled the ball across to me I had actually got into position before the ball came and I just saw the whole goal in front of me. My body was going backwards, so I was off balance when the ball came in and I just mis-hit it with my shin and foot and it ballooned into the air." .......just dont do it again Paddy.
Whether or not he'll get the chance to try another miss over the 90 minutes or will settle for some last-minute entertainment looks like depending on whether or not Chris Hay, sorry "ex-Sellik hitman Chris Hay" (for the benefit of the Retard / Sun journalists reading this) has fully recovered from his dead leg. Cap'n Jim is another who has been mentioned as a possible starter tomorrow although that looks unlikely given his lack of match fitness.
October 24th -
Chris Hay has managed to train and looks
like being fit for Saturday's trek to Inverness although it's unlikely he
would have made the Livvy game. The cup-tie has been rescheduled for next
Tuesday and Tayside Police have given the go-ahead which should ensure it
takes place despite the possible fireman's strike. Saints are also set to
play Motherwell in the U-21 league at McD on the Monday night.
Billy Stark said, "We did think
we might have to move the under 21s but our groundsman, Jimmy Hogg, is
happy to leave things as they are".
10pm - The draw for the CIS Cup Quarter Final was made tonight. Assuming Saints beat Meadowbank next Tuesday, we'll be at home to the winners of the Airdrie Utd v Arabs tie - leaving a chance for possible revenge for last seasons defeat to the Tannalice folk. Tie to be played on the 5/6/7th of November.
October 23rd - Despite both clubs agreeing to reschedule last night's postponed CIS match to next Tuesday, there is a real danger the game won't be able to go ahead thanks to the forthcoming fireman's strike according to an SFL spokesman. The club also revealed that whilst the pitch was just playable at 2pm yesterday, the forecast meant no let up in the rain so the game was immediately called off.
22nd - Despite recent form, Saints are still underdogs tonight
against "Ambitious" Meadowbank and Billy
Stark enjoys the role. Talking us up with the usual confident air,
he said, "Its almost like an Old Firm situation for us in
the league, where were expected to win every game. Weve always
been the favourites going into matches. This wont be the type of
game where youd say the Premier league team will definitely win, but
I certainly dont think you can make us favourites for this one. Im
not trying to be clever or to use some sort of psychology, but Livingston
are an established Premierleague team who played in Europe and are coming
off the back of a great comeback win against Dundee United on Saturday, so
theyll be bouncing. Theyve improved their squad from the one
which finished third in the SPL last season, so the facts speak for
themselves really. Hopefully it will prove to be a close game but weve
got the opportunity to enjoy being the underdogs. Were certainly
going to try and take advantage of it. This is a game the players will be
looking forward to and were going to try to make it a difficult
night for Livingston."
Chris Hay(right) is still struggling to recover from his dead leg but if he makes it will definitely start up front with Kiegan Parker. The manager said, "Sometimes theres a wee bit of luck in forming a partnership where you get a bit of chemistry between two players. You can get two players who you might not think would click together, but do. There wasnt a lot of interplay between them on Saturday-I dont think you get that nowadays between forwards anyway-but theyve both played well and Chris carried his injury from 20 minutes into the game. Its certainly a promising partnership. I also thought that John Robertson had his best game, and Ian Maxwell did well too after being touch and go with an injury beforehand."
5pm - The Livvy game was postponed after a pitch inspection at 2pm due to a waterlogged McD. The game's been rescheduled for Tuesday 29th October.
October 20th - Billy Stark, was, like most Saints fans, a bit of a happy man last night. Speaking after the win he said, "I'm delighted with the result and the way we played. If you take note of the nature of the opposition and the nature of the game, it was a great performance. St Mirren are a good team and they'll cause problems for everyone. We had the Clyde game and after that bad result, people forgot the way we'd been playing up until then. We've said consistently that we just needed to start scoring. We had two good chances in the first ten minutes - Hay had a good chance where we might have expected him to score - but we kept at it against difficult opposition. We knew we would have to defend well, but that's 3 goals we've conceded in ten matches. Hopefully now we can start to build up some momentum. "
19th - Mark Reilly(right) has
come out fighting in defence of the Saints management in what he calls
"way over the top criticism". Speaking ahead of today's
game he said, "Our preparation from the start of the season has
been excellent. Trainings been great and its always been
geared towards the match on the Saturday. The manager and Billy Kirkwood
cant do any more, to be fair. This week again weve been
working on crossing and finishing. Trainings been first class. Its
down to the players now. Unfortunately criticism is part and parcel of
football. Personally I feel the criticism has been way over the top. Up
until the Clyde game wed lost only one game in the whole season, and
that was in the last minute. Weve dominated most of the games weve
played and weve probably deserved to win more than we have. Weve
got to live with the criticism, though. As a player you have to be strong
enough to take it. It comes at every club. The players are determined to
get a result against St Mirren for everybody connected with the club. Its
important that we pick ourselves up again, and hopefully well do
that today." . Let's hope so but only 2 points from the last 12
kind of tells it's own story.
Billy Stark has been reflecting on our last performance against the fake Saints. He said, "Its probably been the only game in which weve been satisfied with everything. Since then, if weve drawn, its been a case of us dominating a game which we should have won-and this has turned into criticism. If weve won 1-0, we should have won by more. Love Street has been the only place where the dressing rooms been really upbeat after a game. St Mirren are capable of beating anybody on their day, and this will be a difficult game. Obviously with us losing our last match it adds to the difficulty of this one. Well have to show strength of character. We obviously need to score to back up the other things that were doing, and I totally accept that. Im not saying Ive got a 30-goal-a-season player, but I do believe weve got players here who can score goals. People see it as excuses but, if you look at things calmly, the only department which has let us down is in front of goal. We work on that constantly in training and, hopefully, things will turn for us."
Injury-wise we've got some new ones. Alan Main suffered from sickness in midweek but should make it. More worrying though is Ian Maxwell who is suffering from a calf-strain. But Darren Dods should step up.
7pm - What a difference a fortnight off makes with Saints easy 2-0 winners over the Paisley fakes. First-half goals from Paul Hartley and a cracker from Chris Hay ensuring the points stayed in Perth. Of course it would have been 3 but sub Paddy Connolly managed to make the headlines again with the worst miss of the season.
Finally some good fashion news with the new Saints away shirts appearing almost unnoticed in the Perth shops this weekend.
October 18th - Billy Stark has reiterated that there will be changes to the Saints line-up in an effort to get back on form this weekend. Two-goal hero from the midweek trip to Forfar Ryan the Rocket (right) could be in line for a long-awaited chance in the Saints first team. Speaking of the possibility, he said, "I feel confident after getting a couple of goals. I'm desperate to get a regular starting jersey and I know if I keep turning in good performances I have a good chance. There's a lot of expectation of Saints this year and so far we've not quite lived up to that. Everyone is under pressure but at the same time we're all confident of climbing back to the top of the table. On a personal note, I don't mind where I'm asked to play as long as I start the St Mirren match.". Another who could be set for a recall is Kiegan Parker who hit form during the week and could be the player to finally turn things round.
October 17th - Cap'n Jim has come through his first 90 minutes of action unscathed after the Forfarshire Cup win. He's set to play in the U-21s again next week - don't expect him to play against the Fake Saints this weekend, despite Billy Stark's reported comments that there will be changes to the side for Saturday's game in an attempt to get back on track.
16th - Cap'n Jim(right) made his
comeback in last night's Forfarshire Cup 3-2 win over Forfar at Station
Park. Mark Ferry got the opener and
Ryan Stevenson numbers two and three
in a tough game. The Saints side was - Cuthbert, Baxter, Forsyth, Panther,
Weir, Darren Dods, Maher, Fotheringham, Parker, Stevenson, and Ferry.
Subs: David Dodds, Briggs, MacDonald, Noon, and Gilpin.
October 15th - Honest the
website isn't shut down it's just that there is sod all happening in
Sainteeland. Jim Weir might make his
return in the Forfarshire cup-tie tonight. Elsewhere,
Tommy Løvenkrands is set to
resume training tomorrow and Peaso
is getting close to a resumption as well.
Billy Stark seems to have finally stuck his head above the parapet about the Clyde game as well. He said, "The international weekends are part of the season and you just have to accept that, but probably it would have been better if we could have got straight back into it and put right the wrongs of that game. The players did really well in training today and weve just got to bounce back, its as simple as that. Weve played well enough for a number of weeks but not scored and its eroded confidence. Eventually it caught up with us against Clyde. We just need to keep working away and hopefully the breaks will start going for us."
October 12th- Billy Kirkwood says he's keen to get Saints back playing as soon as possible (aren't we all) after the shambles that was Clyde. "Obviously, it would have been nice to have played again relatively soon in order to try to make amends for that last performance. Unfortunately, football doesnt work like that these days, what with international fixtures and suchlike, and well just have to accept the situation as it is. On the plus side the players get a chance to recharge their batteries and get over any niggling injuries. We have St Mirren here next Saturday and the players are going to have to roll up their sleeves for that one as three points are an absolute necessity. We have a Forfarshire Cup tie with Forfar at Station Park on Tuesday night, and the good news is that skipper Jim Weir should participate in part of that game. Hes been training and showing no reaction to his knee problem. That game will probably feature fringe players in the main". Still nice to see the club realise that the 3 points are a necessity now.
October 10th- If anyone thought
that a break from the first team would see an end to the depressing stuff
on the park then they were proved wrong last night as Saints U18s were
knocked out of the BP Youth Cup in their first round tie at Montrose,
thanks to a 40-yarder 15 minutes from time giving the Links Park kids a
Still if you want a minor piece of good news, skipper Jim Weir finally resumed full training this week. He's well short of match practice but is aiming to return to action in next Tuesday's Forfarshire Cup tie at Station Park.
8th- Saints U21s drew 2-2 at McD with Killie last night. Midfielder
Martyn Fotheringham(right) got Saints
first from the penalty spot and then in the final minute
Mark Ferry got the equaliser.
Kiegan Parker was taken off after 20
minutes with a knock though.
Elsewhere in the league Alex Smith was punted from Tannadump yesterday with Ian McCall / Steve Patterson in the frame for the job kicking off another Scottish managerial merry-go-round. Whether or not this will extend to McD remains to be seen.
6.30pm - Nothing much else to report with Falkirk hopefully looking like imploding with a manager set to head Tannadump-wards. Billy Stark meanwhile has been speaking of Saturday's result. "It was a missed opportunity with Falkirk losing, but my only concern is St. Johnstone. We didn't do enough. We expect teams to sit back and make life difficult for us. Obviously we're not scoring enough goals, but the players have to be stronger than they showed against Clyde. There's a fragility going into games which I can't understand." . There's little else I can add to that. Comments about this sort of understanding being part of the manager's bloody job spring to mind.
October 7th- There's no official
comment from McD yet on the managerial situation (either the vote of
confidence etc) but expect tomorrow's PA to feature several letters going
by comments on the net. Meanwhile it looks like the Bairns might lose Ian
McCall to the Arabs with Alex Smith set to be punted this week and McCall
lined up as his successor.
Alan Main is this week's media voice to back the strikers to turn things round with the usual comments after the game on Saturday. Speaking of his performance he said, "Obviously I was very pleased to get back playing again, but the result was very disappointing. I did not have a lot to do other than face a penalty, which I felt I got quite close to. It has been a really difficult year for me and I did not expect to be out for as long as I was. When you have been out for a while you start to worry about when you will get back playing again, but my wife kept me positive and that was very important. I am still a bit rusty, but I just have to knuckle down and get on with it." . He then continued to back the strikers saying, "We had a good opportunity to make up ground on Falkirk today, but it did not really work out for us. There is a lack of confidence in the team at the moment as far as goal scoring is concerned, but I have absolutely no doubt that we will turn it round. Undoubtedly there are goals in this team and I am sure they will come soon enough." ...the question is though will it be too late for us to do anything this season?
October 6th- Judging by the reaction on the net today, Billy Stark has lost all faith of the support. Whether or not the board will act remains to be seen. Meanwhile let's hear it for the Sunday Mail whose match report contained the phrase "A small band of fans called for Stark to be sacked at the end of the game but it's still too early for that." - that'll be the manager's media chums then.
5th- As well as today's game against Clyde seeing the likely return
of Paul Kane and player/manager
Alan Kernaghan in opposition colours (with
the reception given to the latter a possible indicator to the supporters'
rating of his future managerial potential at McD if things don't go well
by 4.45) it's likely that Alan Main(right)
could return between the sticks. Billy Stark
said, "There's a decision to be made soon on Alan. I've no
complaints whatsoever about the way Kevin Cuthbert is handling himself and
he was brilliant at Falkirk. But a fit Alan would add ingredients that
Kevin doesn't have because of his age. Alan is experienced, he's an
organiser and a talker. Alan and I had always looked at getting him six
games under his belt before we felt he'd be ready to come back in. He's at
that stage now so he's getting closer."
Up front it looks like Paddy Connolly and Chris Hay will the the striking partnership with the manager saying, "In a way Chris fills the gap. He played in three games last week and has concentrated solely on training this week. Hopefully he will reach another stage against Clyde.". At least he's looking for an improvement in form after the last few games have started the doubts being raised amongst the fans. "I'm looking for a positive reaction following the loss at Falkirk. The challenge is to bounce back immediately. If we'd got the draw we deserved, we'd have been feeling pretty good about ourselves, especially as we can play much better. But we handled ourselves well enough and it's just a pity the superb travelling support didn't get the chance to celebrate a good point that we looked like getting."
Acting skipper Stuart McCluskey is also in no doubt about this game. "This is an important game. We need to bounce straight back and show everybody the Falkirk result was just a blip. Clyde will be a hard test, though. They got a great result against Inverness Caley Thistle last weekend and well need to be on our guard. Were not overly worried about being seven points behind Falkirk. Its an old cliche but injuries and suspensions will come into play. Well get those, as every other club will, but hopefully the fact that were better covered for players coming in will be to our benefit."
7pm - A total shambles on the park and chants of "Stark must go" as the fans patience finally gave out in a shambolic 1-0 defeat at home to Clyde in a result which sees us slip to 3rd in the league and it's only thanks to an Arbroath win at Gayfield that we're not further behind Falkirk. After the game, under-fire Billy Stark said, "We can't expect to win every game but I thought we didn't handle that well today. We started the game brightly again - but the players have to be stronger than they showed today. I really can't understand it - there's a fragility when we go into games. If they're going to do anything they need to get a little self-confidence. Confidence is everything in any sport. If we'd gone out and got the big win we should have had, then it might be a bit different. The players haven't let anyone down this season but they let themselves down today.". Meanwhile his opposite number, and one being touted by many on the net as a possible successor, Alan Kernaghan(right) tried to be realistic and said sympathetically "The title isn't lost in October. Saints lost last week but there's a long way to go and other teams will beat each other before the end of the season."
EDITORIAL TIME - Billy Stark has been in charge for just over a year. When he took over the team was playing with no confidence and no hope. From what happened today nothing has changed on the park with the manager showing far too much faith in the same under and non-achievers that saw us relegated last season. Of his signings there has been little sign that they will improve the squad. The happy days of the summer pre-season and early games have long gone. Saints have managed to get 2 points out of the last 12 and for a team of our resources and supposed strength and quality of the squad this is nothing short of a disgrace. It's plain the fans' have finally given up with the reaction in the sparse home crowd (itself a point of worry) clear for all. We've all willed Stark to succeed and turn things round at the club but it's obvious that he hasn't got the ability to do so. Currently we're 3rd and 7 points off the pace. Whilst Falkirk might still slip up, until there is any sort of sign that the Saints players are able to produce any consistent form for more than 45 minutes, there is absolutely no point in entertaining any notions of promotion or even challenging for the title.
I'd love Stark to turn things round, and I've tried to back him but I'm afraid today was the last straw. I do not believe any more that he is capable of turning things round and getting Saints back up. I might be proven wrong but I don't think the fans, board or club can afford to give him any more time. We left it too late last season to change things round, Saints can't afford to make the same mistake again. Time for a change.
October 4th- Saints have
announced the date of their Forfarshire Cup semi-final against Forfar. The
match will be played at Station Park on Tuesday October 15th with
admission set to £4 / £2. It's the same night as the Scotland v
Canada game though so yours truly will be giving it a miss.
Looking ahead to tomorrow and as expected, Tommy Løvenkrands and Peaso will again miss out, along with long-term injury victim Jim Weir. Marc McCulloch has trained for the last couple of days though so will make the squad. Billy Stark said, "The squad will be the same as it was last weekend. All three of them though have got a chance of returning to full training next week."
October 3rd- Nothing to report in the papers other than Marc McCulloch has returned to training now his tummy feels all better.
1st- With all the puns you could come up with it now appears that
on-form Marc McCulloch has picked up a
"stomach bug", similar to the one that hit
Stuart McCluskey last week. Cue for
all the jokes about the players not being half as sick as the fans etc etc
etc. Anyway he's being kept away from McD in a bid to prevent the
crappiness spreading (cue joke no2 about how it's too late for that etc)
Under-fire manager Billy Stark meanwhile is still going on about the penalty at Brockville which Saints were denied, putting the incident in the class marked "stonewall" especially after watching it again on the STV camcorder footage. "The ball clearly struck Kevin James hand-it looked like he was playing basketball, not football" .
5.30pm - One departure today is Craig Russell(right) who according to Saints has "left the club by mutual agreement". Billy Stark said of the move, "Craig's family has already returned south and Craig was obviously keen to be with them. He has been extremely unlucky in his time with Saints, not having a chance to show what he can do beacuse of the injuries he's suffered here. He felt he needed to put these problems behind him and make a fresh start and that's something we're in agreement with. We would like to wish him all the best for the future!". Whilst his wages meant that his departure was not unexpected it's still sad to see him end his Saints career this way. Never having had the best of luck with injury, he's always given 100% for the club and the Temple wishes him all the best for the future.
Top Of News
September 30th - It's
blank-firing striker Paddy Connolly's
turn to come up with the excuses int he papers today. He said of the
defeat at the weekend, "Thats Falkirk seven points in front
of us now and theyre flying at the moment. Though theres a
long way to go we need to pick ourselves up, start scoring goals and
string together a few victories." - (No shit Sherlock)
"There really wasnt much football played in the game and it was pretty scrappy throughout. It was the sort of afternoon where one goal was always going to win it. Losing a goal so late on makes the defeat an even harder one to take for us as well." - (maybe he should try being a fan, it's a lot bloody harder for us to take)
Meanwhile the U-21s are in action at Easter Rd tonight - kick-off 7pm
9pm - Well if anyone was looking for some hope amongst the youngsters forget it. The U-21s went down 1-0 to a Mixu goal at Easter Rd just before half-time and spent most of the game chasing their tails or looking like headless chickens. Only Emmanuel Panther (my MoM) , Craig Russell and Alan Main even looked like they knew what they were doing. The full team was : Main, McClune, Briggs, Forsyth, Dods, Panther, Ferry, Maher, Parker, Stevenson and Russell. Briggs, Panther and Maher were replaced by Malone, Noone and Baxter in the 2nd half.
September 29th -
Billy Stark who is fast losing the
support of a lot of the fans spoke last night about the defeat at
Brockville. The manager said, : "It was a sore one to lose but it
always is when the goal goes in so late. James is a big, big boy and the
ball fell nicely for him. We can play better but we have had two penalty
claims in the first half and the boys are convinced they should have been
given. However, we will keep this in perspective. It's our first defeat
and it's only September." . Unfortunately the previous manager
made similar comments prior to being sacked as well and it's increasingly
unlikely that the fans will show anything like the sort of patience the
club seem to require, with several calls on the net for a change to be
made sooner rather than later.
Whilst I don't believe the time is right to sack Stark, I'm don't believe he has many chances left. Saints should be walking this league. We arguably have the best finances, strongest squad and facilities yet the failure can be put down to the inability to get the wee white thing into the net.
28th - Chris Hay is the main
interviewee in the tabloids today ahead of the big match with surprise,
surprise the Retard concentrating on his OF-related past. Anyway the
player says, "I left Celtic to get a regular game and things went
well for me at Swindon. Then Huddersfield came in and I thought that they
were going in the right direction. They looked as if they had the ambition
to get to the Premiership. But for whatever reason it didn't work out for
me. The club wasn't what I expected and I played only two games in my
first two years there. I can't explain why that happened. So this is a
fresh opportunity for me and obviously the aim this season is promotion.
I've been away from Scotland for five years and it's good to be back.
Obviously I know the manager from our time together at Celtic and that was
a big factor in me joining St Johnstone. Falkirk are one of our rivals in
the league and this is a massive game for the club. It's a top-
of-the-table clash and a win would be a great boost for us. It would be
great to score. I enjoyed my goals in midweek because they were the first
I had scored in about a year."
Billy Stark is playing down the championship tag of the game though. "There are a few other teams who could win the league. Inverness have a good side, while Ayr won't be far away. This game won't decide anything. If Falkirk win they would go seven points clear but nothing gets settled this early in a season. It's going to be our biggest test of the season because Falkirk have been flying and are probably many people's favourites to go up." - unfortunately talk on the net might indicate that a bad result today would settle most fans' opinions of our manager.Stuart McCluskey(right), set to play despite an injury rumour believes the main worry today is Sellik-daft Owen Coyle. "Owen's legs might not be getting any younger but he's proving that once a goalscorer, always a goalscorer. He hasn't lost the killer instinct. He carries a real threat in this division. Given half a chance we know he'll tuck it away, as he's always done. We've got to be on our guard or we'll be punished. Falkirk have set the standard goals-wise and they've had others weighing in."
No new worries for Saints with Tommy, Peaso and Jim Weir still missing.
7pm - Well we blew it big time. Saints were beaten 1-0 at Brockville by an 87th minute Kevin "Circus Freak" James header and despite a good battling performance never looked like creating or scoring enough chances. The result leaves us 7 points adrift and to be honest we don't look like making it up.
27th - Billy Stark's (right)big
decision for the team selection tomorrow is whether or not to give 2-goal
supersub Chris Hay a starting slot at
Brockville. The Saints manager said, "Chris had played an hour of
a closed-doors game on Monday and scored in it. At Stranraer we put him on
with 15 minutes to go and he got the 30 minutes extra-time on top of that.
As well as his two goals he did very well in the game as a whole. Keigan
Parker also did well, so there were lots of positive things to come out of
the match. Chris is definitely in contention for a starting place at
Falkirk. Theres no doubt that his fitness has still got a bit to go
but hes obviously proving to be a goal-scoring threat. I think the
other players have got a lift as well from seeing the type of player he
is." . Whilst there are no fresh injuries from midweek,
Tommy will definitely miss out.
For the Ballboy-battering Bairns, Yogi Hughes looks set to make a miraculous recovery from injury to face Saints as their so-called injury crisis evaporates in a cloud of psychological hype.
September 26th - With less than
48 hours to the big game, Saints have some injury concerns from Tuesday
night's marathon.Stuart McCluskey,
John Robertson and
Craig Russell are all said to be
causing some concern.
Meanwhile the 3rd round draw for the CIS Cup sees Saints at home to bottom-placed SPL side "Meadowbank" (no ambition now you see). The tie's set for Tuesday 22nd October and it'll be more than a bit interesting to see how many fans this European giant bring up the M90.
Finally, the club have also announced that the new home kit will finally go on sale in Asda and Campus Sports in Perth from Friday. There will be a number of Saints players at the Asda store from 4.00pm on Friday giving you the opportunity to get your photo taken with your favourite player and get their autographs - go on, you know it makes sense.
September 25th - After last night's win Billy Stark said, "We are delighted to get through to the next round. We got the kind of game we expected down here, looked slightly vulnerable at times and you've got to give Stranraer credit for that.". The draw for the 3rd round will take place at Hampden tomorrow at 2pm.
24th - With Saints likely to have no returnees available, tonight's
CIS Cup tie at Stranraer will see the side likely picked from the same
squad as Saturday meaning a bench spot for Chris
Hay. He's more than happy with that just now and said, "Ill
be ready for it. Ill only get sharpness now from playing games. I
could start and see how long I last. But the manager might prefer to go
with others who are fully match fit and decide they deserve the chance
before me. Ill just wait and see. I wont feel under any
particular pressure to come in and score. As a striker you know youre
expected to score goals and thats what youll be judged on."
Billy Stark isn't expecting an easy game though. "Stranraer would be difficult opponents at any time. Cup ties are like that and we wont be under- estimating the task in front of us." .
10.00pm - It was a changed Saints line-up that won 3-1 at Stranraer after extra-time tonight in the CIS Cup. Marc McCulloch opened the scoring for Saints in 17 mins and got an og 10 mins later to even things up. It took until extra-time and a double from Chris Hay(right) to make it 3-1.
23rd - Saturday's man of the match Marc
McCulloch(right) believes we're lacking the ruthlessness to kill
teams off. He said, "Its a nightmare when you analyse how
many chances we had and its now happened so many times this season.
We have been on top of teams and things just arent coming off for
us. I had a chance today and so did John Robertson, as well as Paul
missing the penalty, so there are lots and lots of chances. I think we are
looking for a bit more ruthlessness. Maybe we are just too nice and are
too good friends with each other-we need someone to take us by the scruff
of the neck and really shake us up on the pitch. If we had won that game
four or five-nil no one could have complained."
And Billy Stark who is starting to come under pressure on the various sites to improve things up front believes the pressure to score is starting to tell on the strikers. "We had some great chances in the first half and the game should have been dead by half-time. Both wing backs had gilt-edged chances early in the second from some great play and we didnt take them. There is no doubt there is a bit of anxiety there because we havent taken chances but it is a long season and we will certainly play nowhere near as good as that and score more goals. The defenders concentration was good but we lost a bit of composure late on. When you play as well as that it must have an effect when you feel youre not going to get the three points you deserve."
Meanwhile, the club today announced that Perth-based Stagecoach will be sponsoring the youth development programme (and keeping rivals Citylink off the youth shirts). Stewart Duff said, "We're delighted to announce that Stagecoach has agreed to support our Youth Programme with a two year deal involving a five figure sum. This area is very important to the Club and it's great news that Stagecoach being not only a local company, but a major international organisation, is happy to support the Club in this way."
21st - Ian Maxwell(right) is
looking to put one over on his old side today as Saints take on Ross
County for the first time. But he knows it won't be easy and said, "We're
the only team in Britain that hasn't conceded a goal. It is an amazing
statistic but it brings its own pressure because teams desperately want to
be the first to score against us. They've improved every season and that
means they must have their eye on a top two finish this time round. The
fact they drew with Falkirk last week is a warning to us. I keep in touch
with some of the lads and phoned Kenny Gilbert to say thanks for his goal.
But I know they fancy their chances against us."
Billy Stark will be making some changes. Chris Hay is likely to be on the bench but Peter MacDonald and Tommy will miss out. The manager said, "Chris is still not match fit so he won't start but with Peter MacDonald out with a groin strain, he could do a job as a sub. I'm not hiding from our scoring record but the important point is the way we are playing. The players are showing the right attitude. And in Alan Main and Jim Weir we still have two of our most experienced players to come back into contention."
7.00 - The clean sheet record finally went in a 1-1 draw against Ross County and to be honest we were lucky to get a point. Ryan McCann opened the scoring before several missed chances and poor defending let Ross County back into the game in the 2nd half. And to round things off Paul Hartley saw a penalty saved 15 minutes from time. And with Falkirk winning against Clyde we're now 4 points off the lead putting more pressure on next weeks trip to Brockville.
September 20th -The only doubt for tomorrow's home match against Ross County is Tommy who after not training at the start of the week due to a groin strain had an operation yesterday to put a pin into a broken finger. Billy Stark said, "It is a relatively straightforward op and he should be OK but I would like to see how he is feeling before making my mind up about Saturday".
September 19th -The good news is that captain Jim Weir has got the all-clear from the London specialist over his knee although he's been warned not to rush things. Billy Stark said "Jim got on fine. The specialist thinks the knee is in good shape and that the problem is he has come back too quick. He has been told to take a couple of days rest then start jogging-and Ive said to him he shouldnt be thinking about anything other than building things up slowly again. The problem with Jim when he is coming back from injury is he is always setting himself targets and pushing himself to reach them. I am not knocking him for that. It is admirable that he has that kind of attitude. But sometimes players have to be restrained for their own good."
September 18th - Don't expect to see Chris Hay starting for Saints in the near future. The ex-TFOE striker played in the U-21 game on Monday night but is still short of match fitness according to Billy Stark. He said, "We were delighted Chris was able to play the full under-21 game-I believe it was his first since March or something like that."However, he will certainly not play on Saturday, although if things go to plan we hope he might at least be on the bench in the next week or two." . And don't expect any changes in the keeper situation either as the boss continued "Alan is getting there with every game and he played well the other night However, he is not yet 100% and is not at the level he can be. To say Kevin Cuthbert is doing well would be to understate the case and Alan will not be hurried back." . Tommy missed training again but hasn't been ruled out of this weekend's home match against Ross County yet.
September 17th - The U-21s hit
scoring form last night with a 2-0 win at McD over the Jambos.
Ryan Stevenson underlined his claim
for a starting jersey for the first team with both goals. Both
Alan Main and Chris
Hay played as they get their match fitness back.
The injury news was mixed yesterday. Tommy Løvenkrands didn't train due to a groin strain picked up in Ayr but Stuart McCluskey's wrist injury isn't as bad as first thought. And Jim Weir hopes to get the all-clear from a specialist in London today.
And speaking of Ayr, Billy Stark has hit out at ref's over the booking of Kiegan Parker at the weekend for diving. He said, "Keigan has picked up three bookings for diving in the time I've been here and they've all been harsh. He is in danger of getting a reputation he simply doesn't deserve. The way he is being treated concerns me and the football club. I'm genuinely concerned about the effect this could have on a young Scottish talent with his whole future ahead of him. He has genuine pace and we encourage him to take on defenders in the box. My worry is he might wonder if it's worth it because the end result might be another booking."
Off the park and it looks like the home strips will finally be out for this weekend with Perth retailer Campus Sports reportedly getting their delivery on Friday.
September 15th - Billy Stark was pretty abrupt with his comments on yesterday's draw. He said "It looked a penalty to me. But we had enough chances to win the game so we need to sharpen up."
Kevin the Cat knows that despite the
clean sheets so far and his Bell's Player of the Month award, he's going
to eventually make way for the return of Alan
Main. Speaking ahead of today's difficult trip to Somerset Park he
said, "I can only play my best in every game I get and make sure
that I dont let anyone down. If Alan comes back in I just have to
accept that. Its never been said in so many words that Alan will
definitely be back in the team when hes ready, but it doesnt
take a genius to work out that hes played at the highest level in
Scottish football for a long time. Its something I have to accept is
going to happen and I just have to be pleased that Ive had the
opportunity to play a lot of games in the first team and if I drop back to
the reserves Ill keep working away. Hopefully Ill take that in
my stride when it happens. It will be important for my career for the
manager to see that I wont go in the huff and Ill do my best
in whatever team I play. Keepers usually dont break into the first
team until a later age. Ive played 25 games and Ive only just
turned 20 so I have to be pleased with that. It really did take me by
surprise to get this award because its something that I would never
As for the clean sheets record (7 by Alan Main) the Cat isn't thinking too much about it as long as the wins keep coming. "Every keeper goes out looking to keep a clean sheet, but the team winning is the most important thing. Im not thinking about records, just trying to concentrate on winning games. Ayr are a team who, if they manage to string a few wins together, will be challenging at the top of the league. If we win it will be a very good result for us because its sure to be a very tough game."
Billy Stark meanwhile has obviously been to visit Cliches 'R' Us for his pre-match comments when he said, "Ayr are full of confidence just now and we will need to show the form and attitude which has given us a good start to the season."
8pm - Another afternoon in the sunshine ended in frustration with Saints drawing 0-0 at Somerset Park although sub Kiegan Parker was unlucky to be booked for diving after being hacked down in the box in the dying minutes - judge for yourself when we're on the STV Camcorder footage tomorrow. The only good news in the end was a late equaliser at Dingwall which saw Falkirk also drop 2 points.
13th- Saints will be missing 2 front men at Ayr tomorrow. As
expected, Peter MacDonald has failed
to shake off a groin strain but now Ryan
Stevenson has picked up a dead leg ruling him out of the trip.
Billy Stark has praised Kevin the Cat(right) for his player of the month award. He said, "Kevin has done far better than anyone could have expected. He might not have had a lot do in some games this season but his concentration has stayed the same when he's not been involved. Alan has a lot of experience and is the best keeper in the First Division. Apart from him, I don't see anyone else better than Kevin."
Charliegate is still in the background though and today saw Geoff Brown let rip in the PA regarding Sandy "2-face" Clark over the former manager's sudden switching of sides in the drugs scandal. The Saints chairman said "I find it very sad. Sandy should act as a man of honour and stand by the decision that was made. He could have stood back from it but he was 100% behind us, as was clear by the evidence he gave at the employment tribunal. At no stage did Sandy have anything to say in defence of the players actions and if he is now changing his view and saying we were too harsh then I think that stinks - it's nonsense. We had three options for dealing with the players - we could fine them a maximum of two weeks' wages, suspend them or sack them."
September 12th- The annual
navel-gazing of the SPL clubs over their finances takes place again today
with PriceWaterhouse publishing their financial report on the top clubs.
The report covers the 2000-01 season and surprisingly Saints come out with
some credit. Despite losses increasing from £300,000 to £700,000
we were the only club out of the 12 who were not operating day-to-day
using an overdraft facility.
The 2nd round of the CIS Cup was drawn today and Saints are set to make the long trip to Stranraer with the tie being played on Tuesday 24th or Wednesday 25th September. Unfortunately it looks like another game I'll miss.
Finally congratulations to Kevin "the Cat" Cuthbert whose clean sheets have seen him awarded the Bells Div 1 Player of the Month for August. The manager's award went unsurprisingly to Falkirk's Ian McCall.
11th- Saints have released their statement on the Charliegate
tribunal. It says that "we are obviously disappointed at the
decision to quash the decision taken by the Employment Tribunal. At this
stage, the club is taking advice from our legal advisers as to the way
forward with an appeal to the Court of Session a possibility".
They also take issue with the lawyer for Charlie
Two's statement that the tribunal decision clears his name. Saints
take on things is that "The judgement, however, states that the
finding of unfair dismissal be quashed on procedural grounds and it
remains fact that Kevin Thomas has been found guilty of gross/serious
misconduct by St Johnstone Football Club, the SPL Commission, SFA Appeals
Committee and the Employment Tribunal. "
The press release also hits out at Sandy "2-face" Clark(right) who seems to have had a change of heart about sacking the players and instead wanted them to be given counselling. The press release says, "Mr Clark, whilst Manager of the club, was fully supportive and in agreement with the decision to terminate the contract of Kevin Thomas and George O'Boyle and his suggestion that the club should have offered counselling is at odds with his evidence to the Employment Tribunal when he confirmed that Kevin Thomas was indeed offered counselling but refused. (page 11 of the written judgement he is quoted "Mr Clark confirmed the applicant (Thomas) had been offered counselling but had refused because there was no need for it")". . Expect this one to run and run
Meanwhile ex-coach John Blackley who arguably helped found the best Saints defence in recent years has been made redundant at Tannadump with the Arabs refusing to renew his coaching contract. Time for Saints to give him a call?
September 10th- Chairman Geoff Brown(right) has pledged that Saints will fight yesterday's Charliegate verdict even if it means taking on the SFA. He said, "Well not be stopping, make no bones about it. He has been found guilty by the SPL, the SFA and an industrial tribunal. There is no question of him being hard done by. Were now fighting on legal technicalities and that is not always fair. We decided Kevin Thomas was guilty of taking drugs and that wont change whatever happens. Everything was done within the contract of a footballer. It has been held that certain clauses in this contract were unfair in law and that is not St Johnstones fault. It is an SFA contract, which is a UEFA contract and which in turn is a FIFA contract. I dont know what the way ahead is. It may well be that St Johnstone have to challenge the SFA. They are the ruling body and we have to comply with their rules. There could be serious repercussions on football contracts." . And speaking of the matter of compensation and Charlie Two's comments he continued, "Nobody has said he was unfairly dismissed. I dont believe its a victory at all. All hes done is make use of the law. The player got paid in full from when he was sacked until the end of all the appeal procedures. Hes already had substantial payment."
September 9th- After 4 days
drooling over some of the more beautiful sights in Amsterdam (ie the Ajax
trophy room with 4 European Cups, a UEFA Cup, Cup-Winners Cup, Super Cup
and 2 World Club Cups, not the more salubrious sights) it's ironic that
drugs are the main talking point tonight. Yup Charliegate surfaced
once more with the news that Charlie Two
won his unfair dismissal claim at an Employment Appeal Tribunal. Whilst
the incident itself wasn't under scrutiny the player's claim centred on
the way the club treated him in it's aftermath. A tribunal will now
consider the matter of compensation, although it is open to the club to
appeal the latest decision. After the hearing the player (currently
clubless) said, "All I ever wanted was for it to be recognised
that St Johnstone treated me unfairly. The question of compensation was
not the issue for me. I am, of course, delighted that the court has now
recognised that I was unfairly dismissed." .....no doubt he'll
settle for 1p in lost wages then.
For Saints, chief executive Stewart Duff said, "We are obviously disappointed. The SPL commission found him guilty, the SFA found him guilty and the original tribunal found him guilty, but we will just have to wait until we see the written judgement before we comment or decide whether to appeal." . Fat-Bastard lookalike Tony Higgins also said something but as usual he was ignored.
Elsewhere and the Ayr game won't see Jim Weir return to action as he is still short of match fitness. The good news though is that a first team return for Alan Main has been described as "imminent".
September 6th- Bad news first
for Peter MacDonald who according to
the manager is struggling to recover from his groin injury.
Billy Stark said, "Even at this
early stage Peter is a doubt for our game at Ayr a week on Saturday"
Finally, no more updates until Monday as a footie-free weekend is another excuse for me to quit the country.
September 5th- Little to report today with Saints absent from the papers. All's not well at the lesser Saints though with the news from Love St seeing manager Tom Hendrie "relieved of his managerial duties", which is a polite way of saying he's been punted but the club can't afford to pay his contract off.
Billy Stark has tentatively pencilled in
next Monday's U-21 game with the Pars to mark the return of
Jim Weir. He said, "Its
early days in Jims recovery yet but we hope to have him training
with the rest of the lads by the end of this week. We have an under-21
match against Dunfermline next Monday and it would be nice to think he
could play some part in that but we will just take things a step at a
5pm - Not much else to report today other than confirmation from Falkirk that the league match at the end of this month at Brockville will not be all-ticket. After consultation with the police, they believe that there won't be enough travelling fans to warrant it with room for 1500 Saints fans in the away section.
September 3rd- Saints U-21s lost
2-1 at home to the Arabs last night. Ryan
Stevenson got the Saints goal. Alan Main
was in goal again as he continues his recovery.
Elsewhere Jim Weir should resume training this week but Peter MacDonald picked up a groin strain at the weekend. Billy Stark said, "Peter has a groin strain but with there being no game on Saturday I expect him to be OK for our next match. I said to the players before the Alloa game that we would like a good result going into the break and they achieved that. Now we can recharge the batteries."
2nd- Ryan McCann(right) believes
Saints still are't playing to their potential due to a failure to kill
teams off. After getting his first league goal at the weekend he said,
"Were still not killing teams off. Were playing
reasonable football and Im sure that once were a bit further
into the season the goals will come. For me, personally, its been
disappointing these past couple of weeks not to have scored more goals
this season. I pride myself on scoring from midfield-thats my game.
Im here until the transfer window opens again in January and I
believe I can help myself as well as St Johnstone in that time. Its
a better standard than playing reserve team football and theres
something to play for week in, week out."
Billy Stark praised Saturday's MoM saying, "Im hopeful Ryans the type of player wholl get a decent haul of goals for us this season. Hes been getting better in games, hes winning a lot of balls in the middle of the park and hes making good forward runs. I think we can play better than we did, theres no doubt about that, but Alloa fought hard and made things difficult for us. However, I felt we were well worth the win. You want every game to be free-flowing with lots of goals but the reality is that it isnt like that. Its another three points and another clean sheet and I have to be happy with that. The boys did their job well."
Finally - apologies for the lack of graphics on the front page but hits on the site at the weekend meant I've got to take some action to reduce the bandwidth.
September 1st- Little to report in the papers today with only a couple of Media Falsehoods to liven up the day. The U-21s are at home to their Arab counterparts tomorrow night - kickoff at 7pm.
Top Of News
31st- Paddy Connolly(right)
reckons it'll be harder for Saints today after Alloas defeat last week. He
said, "Falkirk will be absolutely delighted that theyve
given Alloa a drubbing because theyll know that will mean Alloa will
be fired up to make sure it doesnt happen again the following week
against us. We know what type of game is in store and it will be important
that we show patience and dont get frustrated. Hopefully our quality
will shine through in the end. There will be a lot of twists and turns
over the the season. I think Inverness will get a lot better, they gave us
a difficult game down here and I can also see Ross County and St Mirren
having a say. If it is ourselves and Falkirk who become detached from the
rest then Ill be delighted because that will mean well battle
it out with them and only have their results to worry about. Obviously
Falkirk are flying just now and theyve set the pace. Hopefully we
can hang on to them. "
7pm - Ryan McCann and Paddy Connolly(right) got the goals although both should have had more as Saints strolled to a 2-0 win over Alloa. Unfortunately another win for the Bairns still keeps us 2nd as the 1st Division turns into a 2-horse race.
30th-Chris Hay is looking forward
to getting back to playing football after 2 "nightmare"
years at Huddersfield. Saints latest signing said, "It all went
pear-shaped for me at Huddersfield and basically when Macari came in I
hardly kicked a ball there. Its lucky for me that the manager knows
me and what I can do and Im delighted to be joining St Johnstone.
You could look on it as a gamble for St Johnstone, but Im confident
that I can score goals and I just want to get back playing again. Ive
missed it. I should be at the peak of my career just now and I hope St
Johnstone will get the benefit. Im delighted to be at a club that I
feel is going places. Its all about looking forward and getting the
last two years out of my system." .
Whilst he's in the squad for tomorrow, Billy Stark feels he has to improve his fitness first and said that he wants the striker to play more reserve games before featuring in the first team although "circumstances can dictate" but with no new injuries expect an unchanged side against Alloa. Only Ryan Stevenson, Mark Ferry and Emmanuel Panther will be checked to make sure they came through their Scotland U-19 squad meet okay.
And despite Alloa being gubbed 6-1 by Falkirk last week, the manager isn't taking anything for granted. He said: "Terry Christie will have them well organised and we won't treat this game lightly. In fact, that defeat from Falkirk could make our job more difficult. I don't foresee anything other than a difficult game. Respect for the opposition and consistency of performances is essential and we have to keep it going. The arrival of Chris Hay will add to the competition for places and it will keep strikers looking over their shoulders. Hopefully that will provide the edge needed to play well and stay in the team."
August 29th- Chris Hay(right) has been signed on a short-term deal until mid-January (when the transfer window opens again). The 28-yr old striker has played a couple of reserve games and is in the squad for Saturday's home league match against Alloa. Speaking of the signing, Billy Stark said, "I'm delighted to get Chris on board as I know him from my time at Celtic and I am aware of what he can do. Once he gets a level of fitness Chris is well capable of scoring goals in the First Division and I am sure he will prove a real asset in the months ahead.". No doubt the thought of a player called "Hay" playing for some stereotyped farmers will have Paisley Panda writhing about in delight.
28th- Billy Stark has still to
make up his mind on trialist Chris Hay.
With the transfer window closing at the weekend he said, "We have
until the end of the week to make a decision and we are assessing him
daily in training. Its a difficult one as he has not been fit since
the end of last season."
Meanwhile, Ryan Stevenson, Mark Ferry and Emmanuel Panther all went through to Largs yesterday to link up with the Scotland U-19 squad.
27th-The U-21s drew 2-2 at Dens last night and the good news was
that Ryan Stevenson was able to take
part in the game after x-rays showed none of the suspected ligament damage
from the weekend. Saints goals came from Mark
Ferry and Ross Forsyth. Trialist
Chris Hay played 45 minutes.
Mark Reilly has also suffered no reaction to the stiffness which had meant he was a doubt for Gayfield.
26th- Ian Maxwell(right) was
pleased with the win at the weekend but like the manager (and the rest of
us) is slightly concerned about Saints failure to kill off the opposition.
He said, "This is a hard place to come to-as I know only too well
from last year-so weve got to be pleased at winning, especially as
even this early in the season it was a must-win game if we were to stop
Falkirk from pulling further away. The fact thats us now gone four
league matches without losing a goal is also encouraging. But we arent
going to keep clean sheets every week. And when, as we did today, we get
chances to kill games we are going to have to take them. We cannot always
be hanging on at the end of games we ought to have had wrapped up because
one day well get caught out."
Speaking of the result, Billy Stark said, "We passed the ball reasonably well and really controlled the game, but we should have been more comfortable on our lead. We gave their keeper a lot to do and he had a good day but we should be taking more of our chances and be able to better enjoy matches."
He also revealed that Ryan Stevenson, who left Gayfield on crutches, has ankle ligament damage. "Well get him x-rayed but he seems to be OK. Hopefully its not too serious."
24th- We made hard work of it in the sunshine but in the end a
first-half Paul Hartley goal was
enough as Saints won1-0 at Arbroath.
Unfortunately there was some bad news with sub
Ryan Stevenson stretchered off in
the closing minutes with a leg injury. The win still keeps us in 2nd place
though thanks to next week's opponents Alloa being slaughtered 6-1 by
Off the park and it's been confirmed that Kevin Thomas' employment tribunal hearing will take place this coming Friday.
23rd- First up this will be the last update to the website until
after the Arbroath game tomorrow.
On the park though and Billy Stark has said he won't bring in any unknown players before next weekends transfer window deadline. Chris Hay of course is known to him but as yet the manager is still undecided. Billy Stark said, "Chris hasnt trained let alone played since May so obviously he needs to work on his fitness. He is training with us and we are proceeding on that basis at the moment. The transfer window coming up is clearly an issue but I dont know if well do anything with him."
The manager also spoke on the goalkeeping situation and is in no rush to bring back Alan Main with Kevin Cuthbert still getting priase. He said, "Alan is coming on but Ive been delighted with Kevin. Since he came into the side towards the end of last season he has done more than anyone could reasonably have expected of him. And in bouncing back from the poor night he had in the Challenge Cup at Brechin by playing well against Queen of the South last weekend he passed another test. When Alan is fit we will be in a great situation in that well have one vastly experienced keeper to call on and another who despite his years has a number of first-team games under his belt both in the Premier League and First Division."
Saints have no new injury worries ahead of the trip to Gayfield with Mark Reilly expected to play despite not training all week due to a stiff back.
22nd- The trialist striker from Tuesday night's win over
Cowdenbeath has been revealed as ex-TFOE striker
Chris Hay(right). The 28-yr old who has
had spells at Swindon and Huddersfield was freed by the latter in the
summer. He scored on Tuesday night although the goal has been described as
a "header from a foot out" so perhaps not too much should be
read into it.
21st- The reserves got their first win of the season with a 6-0
victory over Cowdenbeath in a game which saw Alan
Main get his first 90 minutes for a year.
Peter MacDonald scored 2 whilst
Mark Ferry and a trialist substitute in
midfield also got on target.
Oh and congratulations to Brechin for beating Falkirk and shutting their smug fans up in the Challenge Cup last night.
20th- Jim Weir is going to be out
of action for another month after having cartilage removed from his knee.
Billy Stark said, , "The
cartilage has been taken out. Jims been to see the specialist again,
he found something and it was sorted. So Jims quite optimistic now
and should just be out for a few more weeks." .
The reserves are in action tonight at McD against Cowdenbeath kickoff 7.15pm with a lot of the fringe players set to play.
19th- Paddy Connolly(right)
says he's not worried about Saints blip in form. Speaking in the Sun
(which seems to be the only paper saying Saturday's game wasn't
entertaining) about the QoS match he said, "I've been through
this before so I know what it's all about. Seven points out of the first 3
matches is a reasonable start but it's going to be a long hard seadon.
Obviously we're disappointed not to come away with the 3 points but I
wouldn't say we were feeling the pressure. We want to go straight back up
so it's pressure we must handle. I try to make sure my teammates know that
in every game all the teams are going to be up for it because we're the
favourites. I think at the start of the season you find every team has
points to prove but by Christmas things settl;e down and hopefully we'll
be there to make our push to get back up."
Billy Stark though believes the pressure is on Saints. "It's difficult to quell this feeling that we should just turn up and win every single game. I don't know where people get that notion because it doesn't happen in any league in the world. Nobody's going to lie down for us, that's for sure and I think we've just got to roll our sleeves up and show we're up for the battle".
August 18th- Not much in the papers other than a totally vague report in the Sunday Mail that Alan Main is attracting the interest of 2 anonymous English 2nd Division clubs.
17th- Ryan Stevenson(right)
believes today's trip to Dumfries will show whether or not the Saints side
have what it takes this season. He said, "Ive never
experienced a match like Wednesdays before in my life when the ball
has been lobbed forward so much over the midfield. I lost count of the
number of times the ball flew over that hedge at the side of the ground
and I must have made about one pass in the whole game. I was speaking to
Craig Russell on the bus on the way back. Weve both been to the big
grounds in England and coming from Anfield to Brechin City is a big
change. Its the good players who can deal with that though and this
is what I wanted. The manager has told us that were going to
encounter games like the Brechin one at places like Alloa and Queen of the
South tomorrow. Weve got to treat it as a learning experience. We
have to make sure that we take on board what mistakes we made. Its
good that the match was in the cup. We want to send out the message to
other teams in this league that were winning week in, week out and
At least he's enjoying his football and is optimistic about the future. "Its been brilliant so far and I couldnt really have asked for a better start. I scored four goals in four games in pre-season and Ive felt good in the first few games of the season. I didnt actually feel that I played that badly on Wednesday and the good thing was I was getting into positions to score. I know Im young but me being me I want to be in the starting 11 and thats my goal for the season-to become a first team regular."
Billy Stark is expecting a tough game today though. "Were playing a team who won their league last year and theyll still have the confidence that comes with that."
8.00pm - No goals and precious little in the way of attractive football as Saints failed to break down a solid QoS team in a 0-0 draw at Palmerston with the only good news of the day being Ross County's slip-up at Ayr which moved us up to 2nd.
16th- It's finances and ex-managers dominating the back pages
today. Saints have finally cut the prices in the North Stand back to £15/£5
to make them the same as Falkirk but as chairman
Geoff Brown(right) points out "it's
hardly comparable with McDiarmid Park facilities".
More worrying is the news that Saints accounts show a loss of £715,000 last year and that's including the £400K made from the sale of MoMo Sylla to Sellik (more on that later) with the player and agent banking almost 1/4 of a million themselves. And the financial problems continue with Saints admitting that they only made £125 from the Accies Challenge Cup tie last week whilst Accies themselves received £6000 - the difference being due to the number of season ticket holders. Speaking of the finances the chairman said, "Financially my head says it would be good to get into a battle with the likes of Falkirk and St Mirren - beacuse they would bring in the crowds - in 1990 we had sellouts against Partick and Airdrie. But my heart says we could do without that and I wouldn't complain if we won it by 20 points!". If we do get promoted though he's optimistic especially after the last clearout and in a dig at a certain ex-manager he said, "We released several players in the twilight of their careers - and beyond. We had too many wimps sitting in the stand rather than play for a side that wasn't winning. Partick have got the right idea paying a basic wage topped up by bonuses. Every team in the SPL, with the exception of Partick, will post losses this season. But if we get back there next year I firmly believe it would be unlikely that we would continue to lose money. "
Meanwhile Sandy Clark has been bumping his gums about how hard done by he's been. Speaking in the Sun about MoMo's goal for Sellik this week he said "It would have made a big difference to us if Momo had stayed because he was such an influential player (hmm not going by some of the comments from Saints current squad). I've every reason to believe we could have stayed up and I would have kept my job." Aw diddums Sandy - of course being so good at your job you've been inundated with offers since being sacked.
For tomorrow's trip to Dumfries it looks like Ryan McCann,Paul Hartley,John Robertson,Mark Reilly and Paddy Connolly will all return to the side. And Tommy is looking forward to a run in the first team after his comeback on Wed night. He said, "I just want to be playing again. It's very frustrating watching the games from the stand when you would rather be taking part. The loss against Brechin was stupid. We made so many chances that we should have won the game but it's important now that we bounce back and don't make any mistakes. We want to win the championship and every match is important to us. The Saints fans in Brechin were brilliant and I hope they will not lose too much heart, and will travel with us this weekend." . He faces a fitness test before Palmerston but is optimistic saying, "The system we are playing suits me perfectly. The manager talked to me about it before I went home to Denmark for the summer holidays and I was really looking forward to a flying start. He wants me to play further forward and get up and down the park. Thats fine because Im a strong runner and I should be scoring more goals. But my knee injury has made it very frustrating. I hoped the problem had gone but now Im worried again. Hopefully Ill be ok, pass a fitness test and the gaffer will decide to play me against Queen of the South. I certainly want to be back playing regularly.
Finally thanks to Scotland playing Canada on October 15th, the CIS League Cup 3rd Round ties have been put back a week to the 22/23rd October. Of course that assumes that Saints manage to get past their 2nd round opponents.
15th- With the flak being directed back at the players and
management by the fans, Billy Stark was
blaming his strikers and defence for last night's defeat. He said, "Im
obviously disappointed as we lost some of the worst goals youll ever
see. Also, this game is about scoring goals and we missed too many chances
tonight, more than you can expect to miss in one game."
Anyway for those out there who think that results like last night's are the most important thing, it's sad to hear today of the death of ex-Saints manager Johnny Patillo at the age of 87. He managed Saints from 1953 to 1958 and the Temple sends our sympathies to his family.
All of which will be little consolation to present incumbent Billy Stark going by the reactions on the net to last night's defeat with any optimism amongst the fans well and truly gone and the manager being firmly placed in the saloon marked Last Chance.
14th- As usual the injury problems are still forcing team changes
with John Robertson,
Kiegan Parker, along withMark
Reilly, Paul Hartley,
Ryan Stevenson and
Paddy Connolly all suffering minor
knocks. Billy Stark is optimistic though
saying, "None of the injuries are serious and Id hope to
have one or two of these players available. I want to win this competition
as much as anyone and well be putting out the best, fit 11 that we
can. "But we wont be taking chances on people ". So
expect to see some of the younger players play tonight although
Alan Main will definitely not start, with
another bounce game fixed up for the end of the week for him. For Brechin,
new signing Justin Skinner is expected to make his debut.
11pm - Well so much for any optimism this season as one of the worst performances in ages, especially in defence saw us go down 3-2 at Brechin with you-know-who getting 2 of the Brechin goals. The only plus side for us was a couple of good goals from Peter MacDonald and Grant Murray(right). But on this performance we can forget about winning any bloody league. No confidence, no leadership on the park and a bunch of tacticless guys in Saints shirts punting hopeful balls up the park. All I can say is the pre-season and early game optimism has vanished and the shoogly peg is hovering on the horizon once more. Are you paying attention Mr Stark
13th- News on an ex-Saintee with Rachid
Djebaili signing last week for German 2nd Division side Union
Berlin. Best wishes for the future from the Temple.
Saints are scheduled to have their team photo taken this Thursday but the traditional fashion parade might not take place with strong rumours doing the rounds that Xara have failed to come up with enough of the new strip to kit out the entire squad.
The Legend meanwhile won't let old memories get in the way. Speaking of tomorrow's tie he said, "I have great memories from the spells I had in Perth and I like to think I have a great relationship with the fans. I hope that will continue on Wednesday night. Whislt I certainly have a soft spot for Saints I hope I can come away on the winnning side this time around. Saints are obviously a very strong team and look likely to win promotion this year. This week though I'm hoping to score against some old friends.". There's still some confusion over the kick-off time tomorrow night with 7.30 reported in some places and 7.45 in others but the official Brechin City site reports a 7.30 one. Saints look set to take around 500 fans to the game though which should make for a lively atmosphere.
12th- Mark Reilly realises just
how lucky we were to get the 3 points at the weekend. He said, "I
have to say that I expected a tough game from Caley Thistle. On their day
theyre capable of beating anyone as theyve shown over the
years against the likes of Celtic and Hearts. When I was at Kilmarnock we
were very fortunate to beat them in a cup game and they certainly had a
very good spell in the second half this afternoon. Its another three
points for us, though, another clean sheet and hopefully well be
able to maintain this run of wins."
Oh yeah and we're on Scotsport next week so expect another 3 minutes of footage that Jeremy Beadle would find hilarious.
August 11th- Billy Stark has said he was happy enough with yesterday's win at McD and believes the side has shown the fight needed for the season ahead. "The good thing for us is that we dug in and kept plugging away and I'm really pleased with the way it turned out . If we had scored early on and it all fell into place for us I wouldn't have found out anything new about my players. Now I know they are ready to get stuck in and fight for a place in the SPL. "I really rate Inverness highly and it was crucial we won."
10th- First up fi you can't make the game today, we're apparently
the main match on the Scotsport Camcorder Show tomorrow night when
no doubt STV's finest will miss all the goals again. And
Alan Main is rumoured to be a studio
Ryan McCann(right) meanwhile believes he's not up to full speed yet. He said, "Ive taken part in half a pre-season game and the St Mirren and Hamilton matches and Ive got two goals already, so from a midfielders point of view Ive got to be happy with that. Id like to think Ive fitted in quickly here, but Ill be honest and say theres still a wee bit of nervousness there. Against St Mirren, and even against Hamilton, I was a wee bit uptight, but I think as I get to know the guys a wee bit more things will improve big time. I think Im doing reasonably well just now but I think I can do better, much better. By September and October I should be flying. Ive definitely not had second thoughts about coming here. When you look at what was basically Celtics second-string pool, thats a hard pool to get into. Im not saying that I dont deserve to, but its all about chances and for me, this is my chance. It was a very easy decision for me to come to St Johnstone. There were other offers to go to England, but I thought St Johnstone would be best for me." . And whilst the current loan deal only lasts until January, it could be extended to the end of the season. And Tonto is impressed by his teammates. "When I came here I thought Ryan Stevenson was about 21 or 22. Hes big, strong and confident and I couldnt believe he was only 17. What a future hes got in front of him. Weve got experienced guys like Mark Reilly as well and I dont think the fans need to worry about any combination of myself, Mark, Manny Panther or Ryan. Theres a confidence in the squad which is just right, not arrogance, and a work ethic which is phenomenal. Im really confident well win the league."
Kiegan Parker is also keen to impress with Saints withdrawing him from an experimental Scotland U-21 squad against Killie on Tuesday so he can play against Brechin the following night. Good to see him getting some recognition and let's hope he gets another chance.
11pm - Saints had to fight all the way and in the end only a Paddy Connolly drive 10 minutes from time gave us the points in a 1-0 win over Inverness Caley Thistle. Still another clean sheet sees us stay 3rd in the league
9th- The injury worries are starting to ease at the club. As well
as Alan Main and
Tommy who managed 90 and 60 minutes
respectively on Wednesday night, Ross
Forsyth also took part in the game against Carnoustie on his return
from a knee injury. In addition Marc
McCulloch, Mark Reilly and
Paddy Connolly who missed the Accies
match are all back in training.
Meanwhile new cult hero Ryan Stevenson has been coming in for some criticism from the manager over his choice of lurid white footwear. Billy Stark said, "I was in half a mind to make him go back in and change his boots when I saw them. They can put a player under pressure. But he's a confident boy and you don't want to stifle him. He's a good type to have in the dressing room and he gives everyone a laugh with his fashion sense anyway. Ryan was wabbit near the end but I wanted him to get a feel for a full 90 minutes.". The question is though does Stevenson's fashion sense line him up to be the Mark Hately of Saints - expect the balding long-haired hippy hairstyle to appear next week.
8th- Despite the Courier's statement that the Challenge Cup game
has been moved forward a day, it's confirmed that the police have forced
the match to be played on Wednesday since Forfar and Montrose have also
been drawn at home. Speaking of the draw Billy
Stark said, "There is no doubt this is a difficult tie for
us. Even though I have been satisfied with our displays against Hamilton
in the first round and against St Mirren in the league on Saturday, we wont
be taking anything for granted against Brechin."
The good news on the injury side is that Alan Main(right) came through his first 90 minutes of action last night in a friendly against Carnoustie. Also taking part was Tommy on his return from injury.
The draw for the 1st Round of the CIS Cup was also made today but Saints have been spared until the 2nd round with our SPL status last season getting us a bye along with Ayr United.
7th- First up and last night saw the
Official Saints Site
relaunched with a new-look design and a new forum on the way.
On the park and Billy Stark was happy with the performance and goals last night. He said, "We had three different goalscorers so thats five players who already have goals to their name this season. Add another clean sheet and the fact that were through to the next round and Im absolutely delighted."
It's another 2nd Division tie next Wednesday in the Challenge Cup and a chance to say hello to several ex-Saintees as Saints make the trip to Glebe Park to take on Brechin in the 2nd round of the cup. Amongst Dick 'n' Bert's local heroes are the Charlie King and of coursethe Legend, both of whom played for Saints with a differing degree of success. Speaking on the Brechin City Website, the Legend said, "It's a great draw for everyone at Brechin and a chance for our players to show that some of them are worth a move to full-time football. I just hope I get the chance to play in the game. Because Chris Templeman and Graham Gibson have scored four goals between them in our opening two fixtures and there is obviously a lot of competition for places. I loved both my spells with the Saints and my relationship with the supporters was magnificent. I hope as many people as possible make the short journey from Perth next week to witness what will hopefully be a memorable game." . Admission is £10 for adults, £5 for concessions and there is also an adult and child gate at £12 - which is an increase on their usual league prices but still worth the dosh.
The full draw is Clyde v St Mirren, Berwick Rangers v Airdrie United, Montrose v Falkirk, Queen of the South v Morton, Forfar Athletic v Queen's Park, Dumbarton v Ayr United, Brechin City v St Johnstone and Alloa Athletic v Ross County
6th- Saints go into their first Challenge cup tie since November
1996 today but as you might expect there's a total lack of media coverage.
And with the Official Saints
Site undergoing a redesign there's little coverage. However from
what we gather Marc McCulloch,
Mark Reilly and
Paddy Connolly are all rated doubtful
with minor knocks so we can expect to see some of the youngsters play
tonight. However the left-back slot could be difficult to fill with
Ross Forsyth already out through
11.30pm - Despite some dreadful conditions on and off the park, in the end Saints cruised to a 3-0 win and in the course of things scored the first home goals since....wait for it.........16th February. Still let's hear it for man of the match Ryan Stevenson(right) who along with Ryan McCann and sub Peter MacDonald did the damage although to be honest despite Accies putting up a good show they were lucky the score wasn't doubled. Isn't life good though?
5th- Not much to report today - the
Official Saints Site still
has no comment on the forum being out of action or who was responsible for
the hack (currently it looks like a Russian job as Oleg Kuznetsov's pals
get their revenge).
On the park, Paul Hartley isn't getting too cocky yet despite the good start to the season. "We are not going to shoot our mouths off about what we will do."
Billy Stark meanwhile is looking for the Saints goal glut (Take note stats fans, that's the first time the words "Saints", "goal" and "glut" have appeared in the same sentence since 1994) to continue. Speaking of the Love St. Panda Slaughter he said, "I'm not fussed who gets a barrel load of goals, as long as we get them. It was good for Keigan and Paul to get a couple on the first day because it gives them confidence and in this game confidence is everything. And they are two players we are looking to contribute a great deal in the scoring stakes this season."
Oh and Asda have confirmed that the Perth branch has ordered in 2000 Saints tops and will sell them for under £30.
Finally anyone who thought Scumdee's "wacky" signings were over with the departure of Mr Cornetto - they've now been linked with Gazza !!!!!
4th- First up it looks like the forum on the
Official Saints Site has
fallen victim to some hackers - the "Give the unemployed a PC"
scheme is obviously working in Paisley.
Meanwhile it's back to normal for Saints fans in the papers with us being described in Scotland on Sunday as a "small but hearty band" of fans - despite us outsinging the home fans (and outnumbering them by the end). Still it's good to see the Media Falsehoods off to a start.
Jim Weir(right) has been speaking in the same paper about the Challenge Cup and our hopes for this season. He said, "With me living in Perth, I meet a lot of the supporters, and I can tell you the attitude is quite positive. A lot of guys who havent been to a game for years are talking about coming back because we are not in the Premier League. Fans like to watch a winning team. If it takes a year out to get that back and get the crowd enjoying it again, then maybe relegation might not be such a bad thing."
3rd- Ian Maxwell knows how
tough it'll be ahead of the opening game today. "Our fans will be
expecting us to go straight back up, and that is our aim, but St Mirren
did not manage it. They ended up near the bottom of the table and will be
keen to get some pride back this season. Facing them is a tough match to
start with but being one of, if not, the favourites will mean the pressure
will be on us from now on. And I know from my experience with Ross County
that victory is never a foregone conclusion. Everyone was capable of
beating each other last season and it was only late on in the campaign
that Partick Thistle pulled away at the top. So it wont be easy for
us but we need to succeed where St Mirren failed because the stakes are so
high. This club has spent the last five years or so in the Premier League
so maybe relegation came as a bit of a shock to some. It is suited for the
SPL and it is up to us to get St Johnstone back up there. The pre-season
has been really good and we have been unbeaten. Also, recently all the
lads went up to Aberdeen for a few days to have a laugh and get to know
each other better. So we have the platform, we just have to build upon it."
The good news for Saints who are looking for an opening day win since the days when the OF were fair, is that our Paisley opponents are apparently "decimated" with injury. Hmm using an injury list as an excused before the season starts? That's a good one...
Finally one interesting piece in the paper ahead of kick-off. Today's Sun has 5 out of the 8 pundits tipping Falkirk for the title. Of the others there's a vote for Ayr, one for St Midden and Iain King goes for Saints. Always said he was a nice guy.
7pm - Well that's us off to a decent enough start with a 2-0 win at Paisley shutting a certain one-shoed Panda up and leaving us in 3rd place in the league tonight. Whilst not 100% convincing in defence we looked a lot more solid in midfield and up front with goals coming from Kiegan Parker in the first half and an early contender for goal of the season from Paul Hartley in the second period.
2nd- Little in the way of team news with the only real Saints
mention being that despite suffering from an ankle injury this week,
Paddy Connolly is set to make the trip
to Love St although he's unlikely to play the full 90.
Billy Stark is clear on what the goal is this weekend. "The fundamental goal for us this season is promotion. There's no point kidding anyone on; that is our intention for the year ahead. The players all know this as well and whilst there will be ups and downs the long term goal is there for us to realise. I have faith in the ability of the squad we have here. I'm in a very positive frame of mind. I came to the club with the season well under way. But I feel completely bedded in now after getting a pre-season under my belt. I accept that myself and the players will be judged on how we perform. I would expect nothing different The players have worked hard in pre-season and they're in good shape. But now the curtain is going up and it's for real. This is a tough fixture but we will go into each and every game determined to win."
Stuart McCluskey(right) is out to ensure he has a better return to Love St than last season's so-called "friendly" which saw him red-carded. He said, "It was a learning curve for me. They were really up for that game and it was a mistake taking on a game like that before the season started. Their fans were aggrieved and they noised up a few players. But we,ve had a solid pre-season this time round and we're very positive about our prospects. It's a big season for myself and everyone at the club. We have the quality required. And we have to show the right attitude. That's the key to winning the First Division championship"
Meanwhile chairman Geoff Brown(right) has been giving his traditional pre-season message to the fans and troops and admits that for the first time in ages he's looking forward to the start of the new season. "I was one of the biggest critics last season - and deservedly so - but I don't want people to think I'm a negative person by nature. I'm very optimistic about the forthcoming season and there's a very positive mood about the place. It's the precise opposite of the mood I detected last term and team spirit is going to play a big part in what I anticipate will prove a successful season for St Johnstone. The manager has identified particular players for particular roles over the summer. There has been a fair turnover in personnel but Billy Stark is seeking to get the right balance in the team. Players have been signed with that in mind. The old enthusiasm is back."
And the long-serving chief has noticed the changes over the summer on the park. "I told the players when I became St Johnstone chairman nearly 16 years ago that it was a hobby. You're supposed to enjoy a hobby but I can't say that's been the case over the past two years. But I've seen enough in pre-season to feel upbeat about our prospects. No one wants to go to far-flung places like Dingwall and Dumfries and face the long haul back with our tails between our legs. So our attitude will be important. The manager has created a very good team spirit and the mood is very positive. You can detect it around the stadium. There's been a radical change in atmosphere. The manager has had a chance to bring his influence to bear and the players are responding. There are no prima donnas and I'm sure the players will show the passion needed for a memorable season. There's a freshness about the place. We are all realistic about the challenges ahead and our feet are firmly on the ground. But these players will graft for the necessary results. I felt it was important to talk to the dressing room to show them I'm not a negative person. I'm simply honest and up front with them. I tried to kick a few butts last season without much success. But I want them to appreciate that they will get all the praise that's going when things are going well. This is a club and we are all working together."
Recently departed striker Graeme Jones has gone on record with his appreciation of the Perth support. Tipping us for the title, he said, "It has been a great pre-season and the gaffer has instilled the winning habit. They will bounce straight back to the SPL. I'm sure of that. Billy is the most honest manager you could wish for. He tells it the way it is and players respect him for that. I've left St Johnstone with great memories. The fans were great to me and so was the club. The only downside were the injuries and it was frustrating not to play more games. The highlight was probably scoring the goal of the season against Andy Goram and Motherwell after superb team build-up play. Now I'm facing a fresh challenge but I'll always look back on my time in Perth with genuine affection.".
Finally for all the fashion trendies out there desparately awaiting the new strips some bad news. Whilst the lads will be wearing the new-look outfits in Paisley tomorrow, the word from manufacturer's Xara is that the fans shouldn't expect to see the tops in the shops until mid-September. They're blaming the late decision of the sponsorship deal but the Temple favours the re-sterilization of the factory after manufacturing the Scumdee strips theory as the real explanation for the delay.
1st- Billy Stark(right) is
looking at Saints pathetic home record of the last 2 seasons to be
drastically improved if we're to have a chance of being promoted. He said,
"I think weve won 19 games at McDiarmid in four seasons and
that includes the season we qualified for Europe. So theres a lot to
change and Im not expecting everything to fall into place from day
one. We need to change our mentality and become far more positive at home,
and weve been working hard on putting teams under pressure in our
pre-season games. If were going to have a successful season it goes
without saying that were going to have to have a good record at
McDiarmid. I hope people realise that were trying to turn round a
few seasons of poor records at home and well need the supporters
help in this. Teams will inevitably sit in when they come here and the
accent will be on us to break them down. You have to put up with that when
youre one of the bigger teams in a division and we have to learn how
to deal with that quickly."
He's also looking for a good start to the season (an opening day win would be nice). "Having a good start wont guarantee us anything but it would be a great boost if we could manage it. Weve got a tough opener away at St Mirren and after a home game against Inverness Caley we have to travel to Queen of the South and Arbroath, which will be hard games in first division terms. We need to get used to going to grounds like those straightaway." . As for our main title rivals he's being cautious saying only, "Every team showed they could beat everybody else. Ayr United and St Mirren started as favourites last season but Partick Thistle and Airdrie came through to dominate. With five games to go the team in third place was in relegation bother. I would expect St Mirren and Ayr to be strong this time and Airdrie have metamorphosised into Falkirk if you like, and theyll be tough opposition."
On the playing side Saints will definitely be missing Jim Weir, Darren Dods, Tommy Løvenkrands and Alan Main with their recovery from injury not soon enough for the opening game. And on the subject of the mighty Tommy a rumour doing the rounds is that Hibs, who should have money to burn after offloading their defenders, are interested in moving for him.
Meanwhile isn't it good to be out of the SPL now it's finally imploding - for those who get all their footie news here the 10 non-OF clubs resigned from the SPL today. Oh how we laughed.
Top Of News
July 31st - It's the calm before the storm with little news ahead of Saturday's league opener. Graeme Jones passed his medical and played an hour of Southend's game against Spurs last night (they lost 4-1). Interestingly his parting quote int he Retard today was, "I'm sad to be leaving because I had such a great time there. I didn't want to leave but injuries have taken their toll. I could have stayed but some-times you start to feel injuries are meant to happen to you. Southend look a good club but St Johnstone are the best club I've ever played for." . All the best Goalden
30th - At last the papers are carrying some comments from
Billy Stark on goings of the last couple
of days. He's happy to see a "high earner" leave the
club and went on, "Graeme was one of our high earners and thats
something which the club has had to look at over the summer. Im sure
he would have been a good player for us in the First Division if hed
stayed fit but from my point of view there was nothing really to suggest
that he would stay injury free for a long run of games. All in all, this
is a good deal for all concerned."
Meanwhile contrary to earlier reports Craig Russell hasn't left the club and after his trial appearance for Grimsby at the weekend has returned to Saints. All of which means that Billy Stark does not expect to bring in another striker saying he's got sufficient numbers in the squad to cover. So it also means a leaving for trialist Jerome Molinier has returned to France without a deal being offered.
29th -Graeme Jones(right) was
confirmed today as being set to move to English 3rd Division side Southend
Utd in a 5-figure deal. Whilst still subject to a medical and personal
terms being agreed, the official statement from the club stated that the
deal had been agreed to "the 31 year old was keen to return to
England to finish his playing days".
Signed in Nov 1999 as a replacement for Roddy, Goalden has been another signing whose Saints career was blighted by injuries although to be fair he gave 100% when playing and was respected by the fans with the end result being the reintroduction of Spandau-Ballet inspired terracing songs in his honour last season. For more on the move you can see his comments on the Official Southend Utd. He leaves with the best wishes of the Temple although looking back you can't help but wonder if he'd stayed clear of injury whether or not we'd be quite as keen to let him go.
Finally there were some apparently critical comments of Saint attributed on the Southend site earlier in the day - these have since been removed and the player apoligised for them - good to see a nice guy reputation being maintained.
28th - A report in today's News of the Screws says that
Craig Russell(right) has gone to
Grimsby on trial after being "released by St Johnstone".
No confirmation from the club yet (surprise surprise) although as recently
as last week they were still touting him for a sponsorship deal. However
given the media sources (it's on several sites) there's no reason to doubt
this. From the Temple point of view it's not totally unexpected with the
striker dogged by injury since signing and despite his popularity with the
support he won't have been on small wages - whether or not he's replaced
by another signings (or TFOE kid) remains to be seen. Anyway all the best
for the future Jack.
4.30pm - The latest unconfirmed report from McD is that Graeme Jones has also been released. Again no word from the club and at this time is still just rumour. If true though it leaves us lacking in a front man ahead of next week's kick-off to the season
Finally yesterday's scorers in the 2-2 draw were Ryan McCann and John Robertson
5.00pm - Latest rumour on Graeme Jones is that Southend United will unveil him as their new signing tomorrow subject to a medical.
27th - Billy Stark looks set to
throw new loan signing Ryan McCann(right)
into today's bounce game against Barnsley. The manager (who according to
the official Saints site might be a tad confused to who he's actually
brought to McD), sadi, "I'm very happy that both Celtic and Brian
have agreed to this deal taking place. Brian is just 20 so it's important
for him and Celtic that he plays regularly at this stage of his career. I
think he can do a great job for us and gain some valuable first team
experience in the process."
Meanwhile one ex-SPL "player" we're likely to face next season is ex-Well goal-blocker, The Flying Turd who yesterday signed a 1-year deal with Queen of the South.
5.30 Update - Saints drew 2-2 with Barnsley in this afternoon's bounce game. So that's the 100% record gone then !!!
26th- The mystery trialist has been named as 28-yr old Frenchman
Jerome Molinier(right). The striker
has played for Angers, Troyes and Nimes in the past and had a trials at
Dunfermline last season. Billy Stark
isn't being rushed into a decision though and said, , "He came on
for the second half. The goal was just a tap-in, really, but he was in the
right place at the right time. "The plan is now to have a look at him
in training and give him another run-out against Barnsley (also a
closed-doors match) on Saturday. He was down at Plymouth with Paul
Sturrock. Paul was looking for a wide left player but hes really a
striker. He played a game for them and scored but Pauls got plenty
of strikers. Paul recommended him and I thought it would be worth us
taking a look at him."
As for the pre-season, the manager said, "Theres nothing sinister in the fact that were playing closed-doors games. Theres a number of reasons.Weve played a few games in which our fans could take a look at us but I just felt that at home we dont need to be judged in games yet. Im happy that weve done the right thing. We needed to play a couple of games at McDiarmid and the way things have gone for us here over the last couple of seasons I didnt feel that we needed to be put under pressure in friendly games. Whether you like it or not, once you open the doors youre judged. I can understand that but I dont think you should be judged in pre-season. Weve had five wins out of five but I dont think that means anything on its own. If we can translate it into the season then well be able to look back and say it was a big help. Weve progressed with every game, scored a lot of goals against the teams we were expected to beat and in the tougher games weve stood up to the challenge and got wins. The Hearts game this week could have been even more comfortable because we created a lot of chances."
Off the park and tabloid bad-boyMarc McCulloch has finally completed his 200hrs community service for his drink-driving offence last summer. Having completed his sentence coaching kids in Edinburgh, he's resolved to turn over a new leaf saying, "This is a massive season for myself and the football club. I've been here six years and I know my job was on the line because of the court appearance. That's why I feel an enormous debt to St Johnstone for standing by me and giving me a chance to make amends. The one thing to emerge from the whole affair which was positive was coaching kids for the first time. They got something out of it and so did I. I've done a lot of growing up. I've done the community service but I intend continuing coaching the youngsters. I can't change the past and I have to live with what happened. But the past year is behind me now and I'm concentrating on building a future. I look around and see good players struggling to get a club right now. I believe in my own ability and with Tommy and Ross injured I've had a chance to show the gaffer I can do a job."
And this afternoon there was another new face at the ground as TFOE youngster Ryan McCann completed quarantine procedures and signed a loan deal with Saints until January. The 20-yr old is an attacking midfielder with the grand total of 1 appearance for the Parkhead bigots under his belt. What this means for Saints existing youth policy (especially given our midfields form in pre-season) remains to be seen.
Finally, if you ever wanted to see what the face behind the McD tannoy looks like check the latest addition to the Rogues Gallery. Temple of Saints Rogues Gallery
July 25th-Ryan Stevenson was singled out for attention by the management for his performance partnering Old Mother Reilly in midfield. An as yet unidentified trialist got the goal and Billy Stark was pleased with the performance "The signs are encouraging for me, even though there are still a few players missing from this team. Dodsy, Jim Weir, Alan Main, Tommy and Ross Forsyth all missed out today through their injuries so I'm happy with the result."
July 24th-Saints won today's bounce game 1-0 against Hearts. Meanwhile the club have announced that some sponsorship deals are still available - see the Official Saints Site for details.
23rd- Not too much to report today. Jim
"Burberry" Weir is hopeful of being back in action within
a month following his cartilage op with his first training session
scheduled for a fortnight. And Alan Main
who was on the bench for the last two friendlies is almost ready to resume
playing. Saints play their first bounce game of the week against the
Jambos tomorrow and he'll miss that but Barnsley at the end of the week in
a similar match is a outside possibility.
Billy Stark has said he's happy with the pre-season so far. "We have worked hard on a lot of things and the players are certainly trying to put these into practice. I have been particu-larly pleased by the battling qualities we have shown as these will be essential in the First Division."
July 22nd- Whilst it's set to be quiet at McD for the next fortnight as only a couple of bounce games remain to round off the pre-season, one ex-Saintee in the news is Callum Davidson who is currently suffering from a broken nose and jaw after a very public punch-up with Leicester soon-to-be-ex teammate Dennis Wise. The latter has been kicked out but reports suggest that Callum could be set to sue the thug. Oh yeah and good o see the Retard's report of the matter doesn't call him an ex-Saints player. Bet that wouldn't happen with an ex-OF mercenary.
21st- In the end it was an easy 4-1
win for Saints at Cove Rangers despite going down to an early goal
and some lazy defending on show in front of the large-ish travelling
support. With mainly reserve players making up the side the goals came
from stand-in skipper John Robertson,
Kiegan Parker from the penalty spot,
Craig Russell(right) marking his
return from injury and my Man of the match
Ryan Stevenson. After the game the
manager said, "That was a good exercise for the younger lads in
particular who found out what it was like to play on a tight pitch with
the opposition breathing down your neck - we can expect that in many of
the league games this season but they acquited themselves well and it was
pleasing to win another match. These games are all about building fitness
but if confidence and momentum can be added from a few wins then so much
So that's the end of the friendlies with Saints unbeaten and even better we've come through the fixtures relatively unscathed with no additional suspensions. Almost enough to make you feel optimistic!!
20th- Saints kept up their record of clean sheets last night with a
7-0 win at Peterhead although by all
reports it was a pretty poor Peterhead side. Still all credit to the lads
including Ryan Stevenson(right) who
got his first Saints goal. Speaking of last night's win
Billy Stark said, "I'm
delighted at the performance and at the high ratio of scoring chances
taken. The lads are having to work hard for their victories and their
attitude has been excellent. Most of them have now played three games in a
week so some of the younger boys will start against Cove Rangers on
One player definitely set to miss out is Darren Dods who picked up a minor shoulder knock last night.
And managerBilly Stark has spoken of the reasoning behind the choice of opposition for the pre-season games and found time to praise keeper Kevin Cuthbert. "We will play on a tight park against Cove. And we're playing teams from lower leagues because clubs will view us as the ones to beat, because we've just been relegated. There was no point playing SPL opposition at this stage because we'll be facing teams who'll prefer to sit-in and get wired in. We must show the stomach for the fight and refuse to be bullied. Kevin had a couple of good blocks after Paul scored his goal. Obviously I'm looking for an improvement in our goal scoring ratio this season. We're working hard on pressing the ball throughout the side. Everyone would like the energy and drive the North Koreans showed in the World Cup. I've had success with that style in the past and it makes sense to win the ball as close to the opposition goal as possible"
Elsewhere and Saint's Challenge Cup opponents Hamilton Accies yesterday sacked manager Ally Dawson after he criticised the clubs owners over the deal to rescue the club.
19th- Well today's bad news is that Burberry-wearing club captain
Jim Weir will miss the start of the
season. He's undergoing an op for knee cartilage today and will be out for
a month. The skipper who aggravated the inury during training said, "Im
gutted about missing the start of the season but Ive had plenty of
ups and downs in my career and Im trying to be positive about this.
Ive come through far more serious injuries than this one. Its
not a long-term injury and I should only miss a few games." .
Billy Stark thinks the problem is due to
Jim's commitment to Saints. He said, "Jims maybe paying the
price for his commitment to the cause and playing through injuries
throughout his career."
Saints head north for their game against Peterhead tonight and Cove on Sunday - a squad of 23 players is set to make the trip. Graeme Jones, Tommy Løvenkrands and Craig Russell are all set to resume training.
18th- Billy Stark paid tribute to
Forfar after last night's win saying, "It was a good test for us.
I knew it would be. Neil Coopers made a couple of good signings and
he has a strong squad with a good level of fitness." . He was
more than happy to get the goal though and believes that was the turning
point. "That gave us a wee grip on the game and a bit of
superiority. It was important to us because up to then there was not a lot
in it. Forfar tired a bit and I think over the piece maybe we just edged
it. Its only the second game and we know theres a lot of work
still to do."
Meanwhile Saints have announced that Sunday July 28th will be the date for this seasons Open Day at McD. Anyone that attends will be able to meet the manager and players and will be able to get free tickets for the first home game of the season.
17th- The niggling injuries haven't cleared up so
Jim Weir and
Craig Russell will all miss out
tonight. Billy Stark, who's planning to
take 18 players north on Friday for the remaining two games said, "Unfortunately
this is a part of pre-season, players picking up minor injuries. Saturday
was a good exercise and the level of opposition was OK. The Forfar match
will probably be more of a test though, which is good. Were looking
to pick up our level of performance as we go along."
11.30pm - Well we were spared the blushes as a Paul Hartley drive in the 2nd half helped us to a 1-0 win against Forfar who came across as a more organised and livelier side than Saints. On the plus side the youngsters again acquitted themselves well and we got another clean sheet. Even worse has to be the total fashion disaster witnessed in the stand as the club captain, and man voted best ambassador for the club 3 years running, yup Jim Weir was seen in a Burberry anorak. Please Jim, it's just not cool OK?
16th- Manny Panther(right) has
been speaking of his time in Spain with the Scottish Institute of Sport
select side. He said, "The time we spent at Barcelona was
brilliant. I think the boys here are maybe a wee bit jealous that weve
been doing our pre-season in Barcelona and theyve been up and down
Kinnoull Hill! We played games against the Catalan Institute, another
Spanish boys club and the Victorian Institute of Sport, which
produced the likes of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka. The match against the
Australians was the only one we lost and the heat had a lot do with that.
This is a totally new concept for this country and the likes of France and
Australia are further ahead than us. The Australian lads, for example,
have been together since they were 13-year-olds. Were going to be
looked at individually over the course of the year, with everyone having
their own individual programme. Its great to be amongst the first
group in Scotland to benefit from this. I felt fit during the games in
Barcelona, and training and playing in the heat can only have helped me.
Its my aim now to be in the managers plans for the start of
After picking up a dead leg on the trip the teenager only resumed training yesterday and Billy Stark says he'll make up his mind about their fitness soon saying, "The difficult part is marrying the club and the institute. Its something new altogether. The main thing is that theyre enjoying it just now. Over the next week well gauge whether they have to do a bit of catch-up or whether theyre fine."
The bookies have made their predictions for the 1st Division title and joy of joy we're favourites - The full odds are: St. Johnstone 11/4 , Ayr United 3/1, Falkirk 9/2, Ross County 6/1, Inverness C T 7/1, St. Mirren 10/1, Qn Of South 10/1, Clyde 10/1, Alloa Ath 14/1 and finally Arbroath 20/1.
Finally the Federation of Saints supporters clubs hold their first meeting of the season at the Jeanfield Club in Perth on Thursday night at 7pm.
14th- Billy Stark was happy
enough with yesterday's result. He said, "That was our first game
and it was a good exercise for us. The conditions were good for a game of
football and I think, with it being our first game, we got from the match
what we wanted to take from it. We were not expecting miracles today but a
couple of goals and a clean sheet makes a good start. We also had plenty
of the ball, and that does the confidence no harm. We must try and have a
positive season this year. We have matches to play against Forfar,
Peterhead and Cove in pre-season and these will be treated as serious
first team matches."
The 2002-03 fixture list has been updated with the dates of the Challenge Cup ties all the way to the final - who says I'm not an optimist?
13th- The pre-season games finally get underway as Saturday's
return to normality for most of us but as usual the manager has come out
with a beezer of a quote. Speaking about the build-up
Billy Stark said that results are not
a priority (try telling that to the win-starved Saints fans). "Attitude
and hunger are what were looking for in our early pre-season games.
This time of the year is all about building up the players match
fitness. Theyll get to the stage in this game where theyre
puffing a bit, then the next game theyll be able to go a bit
further. Winning matches is not paramount. Were looking to get a
shape to the team and build confidence in the way were going to
play. This match will be the usual pre-season game, with lots of
substitutions being made." .
No changes to the injury situation with the 3 definite absentees today set to return to training on Monday. Ryan Stevenson is set to possibly make his debut and the manager said, "Ryans had a cold this week but he returned to training on Wednesday. Well be looking to get him involved. I would have put him into the scheme of things at the end of last season if he hadnt picked up an injury. I would bracket Ryan with the likes of Mark Ferry and Emmanuel Panther. Theyll all get their chance during the season. Ryans maybe a bit more mature and assured than the others from being at a big club like Chelsea and hes got confidence in his own ability."
7pm - Well it was far from convincing but at least we managed a 2-0 win at Forthbank with goals coming from John Robertson(right) and a second-half tap-in from Kiegan Parker. No injuries, no sendings-off and a few missed chances but to be honest there's a lot of work left to do based on today's performance.
12th- Mark Ferry and
Emmanuel Panther are both due back
from their stint with the Scotland U-18 side in Barcelona today to finally
join in with the pre-season build-up. Billy
Stark said, "There will be advantages and disadvantages
from their trip. Ill get a copy of everything theyve done in
Spain and well assess what they need to catch up on and what they
need to slow down in terms of where the rest of the lads are at just now."
Meanwhile Forfar have pegged admission to next Wednesday's Station Park friendly at £6 for adults and £3 for kids.
Looking ahead to tomorrow and with Saints taking a 20-man squad through to Forthbank for tomorrow's opening friendly, we can no doubt expect a heap of substitutions. One player set to make his debut for the boys though is teenager Ryan Stevenson who despite being Stark's first signing 4 months ago, has still to make his first-team debut. There will be some noticable absentees though with Graeme Jones, Tommy Løvenkrands and Craig Russell all missing with minor injuries.
Finally a transfer rumour is doing the rounds that Saints are set to sign 22-yr old Scumdee striker Steven Milne(right) (who was one of many who scored against us last season) with a deal being concluded early next week. Milne is believed to be the target of a £100,000 bid by Saints although this is very much vague speculation at this time.
11th- First up some good news with the prices for Saturday's game
confirmed by Stirling Albion as being £5 for adults and £3
for the kids. And Billy Stark(right)
wants to get back into the winning way (hmm "winning"...that
conjures up distant memories). He said, "These games are
important as it gives the team a chance to play together before the league
itself starts. It's important to iron out any niggles or problems we have
with the formation or certain players before business starts for real. I
know in my mind what the mainstay of our team for next season will be, but
unfortunately with injuries it doesn't always go to plan. These matches in
the next week or so are really important as far as I'm concerned because
winning obviously brings on confidence in the team and the more we win
hopefully tthe more confident we will become. To some extent winning is
like a habit so it's important for us to get used to this habit as soon as
Meanwhile off the park, the club have announced another sponsorship deal with local glaziers Sidey pumping in a 5-figure sum to Saints over the next 12 months. Stewart Duff said "We're delighted that Sidey have chosen to support St Johnstone by way of this sponsorship package which involves a five figure sum over the next 12 months. It's good to see a local firm supporting the local football team especially on the back of a poor season. This is a further example of an affiliation with a local company and we hope to be in a position to announce another sponsorship deal in the next few weeks."
And finally the Challenge Cup draw sees us at home to Hamilton Accies on Tuesday August 6th. If they survive their current problems that is. Anyway the game kicks off at 7.45pm
10th- Some good and bad news on the injury front. As expected,
Tommy Løvenkrands is back in
training after his knee injury and the manager said, "It was good
to see him back among it today and he looked fine, so that is good news,"
It's not all good though and Graeme Jones(right) is apparently suffering from shin splints, whilst John Robertson and Ryan Stevenson both have a "flu-type bug" - who'd be a new signing. Billy Stark is optimistic though and said, "You inevitably get these things affecting players, even in the close season, but on the whole training has been going well." .
9th- OK so we don't know who we're playing in it yet but the Bell's
Challenge Cup (remember that) is being drawn on Thursday. Just in case
we'd all forgotten about it.
Ross Forsyth(right) is on target to return to action in August after his knee surgery in April for "jumper's knee" - which has afflicted Graeme Jones and Emmanuel Panther in recent times. Along with Alan Main he's aiming to be ready for the first league game of the season in a month and said, "Opting for surgery was the right decision. It's meant the toughest summer of my life but I might have been faced with an operation anyway, and three or four months would have been lost. This way, I expect to be ready to return next month. Alan and myself have been working with physio Nick Summersgill throughout the summer break and we're both progressing well. We've been in at 9am and often it's 4pm before we head for home (awww the poor dears). But the hard work at McDiarmid and at Livingwell and the pool at Norwich Union should pay off soon. I'm gradually building up the muscle again. Luckily there hasn't been too much wastage. I'm progressing quicker than expected. I spoke to Graeme and Manny about the injury and decided to bite the bullet and go for surgery. Mark Lynch opted for the rest. But my fear was that months could be wasted if I took a chance on Mother Nature's healing process. Last season my form dipped after Christmas but I'm not putting it down to the knee problem. Now, my aim is to get back to full fitness and play my part in getting the club back to the Premier League. Self-motivation has been important but Alan and I have pushed each other on. I hope to join the rest of the lads in training at some point next week and I'll build it up from there."
Billy Stark said, "I've never ruled out Alan or Ross from the first game against St Mirren. I'm not putting them under pressure. We simply assess their progress on a daily and weekly basis. Alan has come through some specific goalkeeping training. He has been working like a beast to get fit and then it will be down to restoring his confidence."
Elsewhere Tommy Løvenkrands has been resting his knee injury but should be back in training tomorrow. Saints have also fixed up bounce games against Barnsley and Hearts as part of their build up.
July 7th- Right after a suggestion on the Official Site Fans Forum, the Temple of Saints Rogues Gallery is now in operation - although if I don't get enough contributions this week it won't last !! Anyway the page is designed to allow Saints fans on the mailing list and forum to send in their mugshots and info so we can all laugh, I mean see what you look like. It's all just a piece of fun folks (as you can see by my mug). Send your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org - remember to give your name, email address and some info as well as a photo.
July 6th- Prices have been announced for the friendly next Saturday (not long now eh?) at Forthbank against Stirling Albion (who now have ex-Saintee Alan Moore in charge). If you want a seat it'll cost you £8 of you're well earned cash with kids getting in for a fiver whilst the standing area behind the goal is available for a quid less. Ah but it'll be worth it to see the new strips won't it? Won't it?
5th- The gauntlet's been laid down for Billy
Stark with Geoff Brown making
his feelings clear about the upcoming season for Saints and the manager.
"The honeymoon period is over for the manager and well be
going hell for leather to get back to the SPL. While good cup runs would
be financially beneficial, our main aim is definitely to get back to the
top flight in one season. The manager has strengthened his squad and feels
happy with the quality and numbers that he now has and Im very
hopeful that, come May, well be celebrating winning the First
Division championship." . He also revealed that season ticket
sales have remained healthy with over 1000 sold so far. "Im
sure more season tickets will be sold before the season kicks off and,
considering our performances last season, the response from the fans has
been superb. They have been incredibly patient and the players got an easy
ride last year."
And it's an early congratulations to the Waily Retard for opening the 2002-03 Media Falsehoods.
4th- Another day and we'll start with a couple of ex-Saints players
in the news. Kevin McGowne has obviously suffered major IQ
problems since he went to Rugby Park with the ex-Saints defender now
looking set to possibly move to Tannadump. And last season's veteran
striker Willie Falconer has just
signed a 1-yr deal with Clyde so guess who we'll be up against next
season. Oh joy.
Meanwhile, as expected the sponsorship deal with Citylink coaches was announced today. The 2-yr 5-figure deal means new strips for next season (see the pic on the right). Chairman Geoff Brown said, "It's good to get another big company involved. Football needs to get as many different sponsors into the game and this is a new one. It would not have been a disaster if I had sponsored the club, but I try to keep at arms length as much as possible and this deal allows me to still do that. I admire and share Citylink's faith in St Johnstone, especially during what has been a difficult period for the club and game in general. Their investment will boost our attempt to support Billy Stark's in getting the team back to the SPL and the fact that we have attracted a significant national organisation to become involved with the club off the back of a relegation season has given the whole place a lift."
The official description of the new away kit (worn by Ian Maxwell) is "aqua" by the way - so no more teale fashion disasters. No dates for when the new kit will be in the shops but manufacturer's Xara expect to have the home kit (modelled by John Robertson) out in the next few weeks. Expect the away strip to appear in December then. And if you're looking for an omen the home kit is suspiciously like the 96-97 promotion kit.
3rd- OK so there's not too much happening at Saints but at least
our smellier neanderthal neighbours from along the Tay have given us a
laugh today with the news that the encounter in the Dens dugout with our
own Jim Weir last season has finally led
to the Ice Cream Mafia quitting Scumdeeland and heading back home
to Mama. So it's black borders on the Courier sports pages as they realise
all these foreign phrases they were learning (ie the Argentinian,
Brazilian, Italian, Paraguayan etc versions of "Where's meh peh?"
have all been for nowt). As if that wasn't enough, their best players
being touted round in the way that a Hulltoon Pimp shows his goods on a
wet Monday night in Whitfield (overpriced and unwanted) means that at
least we're guaranteed some laughs between now and the first friendly.
Finally released defender Stuart Malcolm is to have a trial with Plymouth Argyle. The big centre-half has been out for 2 years with injury problems and goes with our best wishes.
2nd- Latest on the incoming players side, is that
Billy Stark has confirmed that he wants
to bring in a loan midfielder before the start of the season. He's already
identified the player (believed to be TFOD's Jamie
Smith) and said, "Im hoping to bring a player here on
loan for the start of the season. Its something I lined up at the
end of last season and with the new transfer windows it would mean he
would be with us until at least January."
The player's are back in training and the manager said "Ive been happy with their levels of fitness, their attitudes and the work theyve put in so far." (oops that'll be the first mention of the word "attitude" for the new season). Only Alan Main and Ross Forsyth have'nt been able to fully train. Meanwhile, Mark Ferry and Emmanuel Panther are also missing due to their participation in a tournament in Barcelona with the Scotland U-18 squad but their fitness should be OK.
1st- Well I'm back, tannded and rested from having spent 2 weeks
teaching drunken Mexicans the now legendary change of "We hate Jeemy
Heel he's a poof" whilst drinking lots of tequila. And what a joy to
watch World Cup games without the delights of Motty and Co (even if the
only word you could understand on the commentary was "GOOOOOOOLL".
Anyway it's all been happening in Sainteeland with a constant stream of major news items and rumours. Aye and that wee leprechaun Martin O'Neil is a die-hard Tim. Still there has been some news on and off the park. Behind the scenes first and it looks like the speculation over the new club sponsor is set to end with bus company Scottish Citylink set to sign a 2-year deal with Saints sometime this week. It also means the inevitable change of the home and away strips and expect preview versions of the new sacred robes to be on show at the same time.
On the park and the boys finally returned to pre-season training (check the level of effort on the right) today Jim Weir even managed to get back a couple of days early to work on his recovery from the achilles injury which kept him out towards the end of last season. And it wasn't going to be easy going either with Billy Stark setting the stage by undertaking the legendary Kinnoull Hill run before putting the squad through the same punishmenr. He said, "I wanted to see what was involved for myself. You have to know exactly what youre doing with the players. Back in my day as a player you would get some lads coming back after the summer needing to shed one and even two stones. That doesnt happen nowadays. Theres a more professional attitude. And, of course, the break isnt anything like as long as it used to be. Im glad weve got Ian, John and Mark signed up because it brings freshness and added enthusiasm. I wanted to get the new players in here for the start of pre-season. Well get the introductions done and work on the squad chemistry as we build towards the first friendly against Stirling in a fortnight and then the opening fixture against St Mirren"
Meanwhile a strange rumour on the net from the unlikely source of the League of Wales has 30-yr old keeper Matthew Griffiths(right) rumoured to be set to sign for Saints. Based in Edinburgh but travelling south to play for Caerws every Friday night, he's reckoned to be the best keeper in the League of Wales and could be a possible target as backup for our current depleted keeper list, especially with the latest news being that Alan Main is more likely than not to miss out on the pre-season friendlies.
Top Of News
June 15th - Good news and bad news today. First of all the 2002 TOSSA's are out. But the bad news is that there won't be any more updates to the Temple until the start of July due to yours truly needing to recover from the depression of relegation with a fortnight in the sun. In the meantime, both Blue Heaven and the Official Saints Site should keep all Saintee-starved fans up-to-date until I get back (no doubt to repeat last year and find we've signed some over-the-hill ex-OF star).
14th -Whilst we've not even seen the new shirts yet, there will be
a change of sponsor for next season after Saints turned down
Hydro-Electric's offer of a further year. There are still a couple of
companies apparently interested but chairman
Geoff Brown has said that if no
satisfactory offer is forthcoming then we can expect to see "GS
Brown Housebuilders" adorning the finely-honed physiques of the
Ian Maxwell(right) meanwhile is happy enough with the season's opener against the Paisley Sore-Losers. He said, "It would have been nice to have started with a home game and going away to Love Street is always difficult. We didn't win there last season so it will not be easy. But they look like losing Barry McLaughlin and Scott Walker, so we will be in with a shout. I'm glad we don't have to face Inverness at their ground, as they can beat anybody on their day. But they will be looking forward to playing here on the wide pitch as many teams will."
13th - Okay so it's been all quiet on the Saints front for a week
but as of now we can start the plans for next season with the
First Division Fixture List coming out. And in
time-honoured fashion, the Temple has set up next season's
Media Falsehoods, Referee
Charts and Prospects List.
Saints league campaign kicks off on August 3rd with a trip to the Paisley junkies so we can laugh in the face of their panda. And New Year's Day 2003 will see Saints head for sunny Arbroath - just think of smokies as a hangover cure !!
On the signing front the strong rumour is that Celtic wonderkid Jamie Smith looks set to join Saints on a 1-year loan deal. Whilst we've nothing against the lad, past experience of signing OF youngsters hasn't been great and when we're supposed to be developing our youth policy isn't it good to see Billy Stark backing the Saints kids to the hilt.
6th - Well surprise, surprise, Mark
Reilly(right) signed for Saints this morning. The worst-kept secret
in the land of Saintees finally went public when the ex-Killie and Airdrie
midfielder signed a 1-year contract. Mavis,
who has played under Billy Stark at
Killie in days gone by said, "There's no doubt that Billy being
here was an important factor in me deciding to sign for Saints. Not only
has he previously been my boss but I have played with Billy as well.
Saints have a fantastic set-up. The club may now be in the first division
but this is a premier division set-up. I'm really looking forward to
meeting up with the rest of the squad for pre-season training."
Looking forward to next season he said, "I haven't played with these players before but I know a lot of the lads from having played against them when I was at Killie and I know that if we play to form we will have a great chance of getting promotion next year. Naturally, being the relegated Premier division side, we will be favourites for promotion but the First Division is a very hard league and travelling ot the likes of Queen of the South and Arbroath will be new to a lot of the players here. It's just a matter of getting accustomed to the new surroundings as quickly as possible. I know I have been brought in to fill the role in the middle of the park and I'm looking forward to helping some of the talented younger lads here and playing along side them. We know we have to start the campaign well and if we do, we can gain some momentum and confidence to keep the ball rolling."
Meanwhile ex-Saint Nick Dasovic has signed wih Vancouver Whitecaps for the summer with reports suggesting it's a temporary move and he'll switch to Plymouth in the Autumn.
4th - First up mark Thursday June 13th in your diaries -
the SFL are set to announce the fixture lists for next season then so at
least we have an idea who we won't beat on the first game this year.
John Robertson finally became a Saints player yesterday and said, "Ayr were keen to keep me and Thistle did come in. But this is a positive move for me. Everything is in place here for Premier League football and it has always been my ambition to play at that level. The cup games last season really whetted my appetite. Having been in Perth and spoken to some of the players I know all about the level of expectation. The fans want to get back to the top level and everyone at the park feels the same way. I know players have gone but Billy Stark has a great reputation in the game as a coach and the guys that are left will have had their pride hurt by relegation. It doesnt reflect kindly on players when theyre relegated-as I know from a season with Oxford-and everyone will be desperate to put things right."
Billy Stark meanwhile isn't finished in the transfer market. He said, "John is one Ive had an eye on for some time. The right back area has been a problem for the club since John McQuillan left. Like previous signing Ian Maxwell, John is a six-footer and he has a desire to succeed which I want from my players. He is a good age for us. Having tied up two new players, Im looking to add a midfielder before pre-season training. And I hope to get another player here on loan. Theres been a positive response on that front."
June 3rd - John Robertson is expected to complete signing for Saints today. No word on the contract yet but expect an update later on.
2nd - Today's News of the World reports that
John Robertson(right) signed for
Saints on a Bosman free last night. No word on the contract details etc
and given the experiences of the last week with signings it's best not to
count too much into it. Billy Stark is
quoted though as saying, "Our target it to bounce straight back
up into the SPL at the first attempt. Adding players like John to the
squad can only help achieve this aim. He is a player that I have admired
for some time and can play at full-back or in the heart of defence if
required. I am delighted to have landed him because he is an experienced
lad who has enjoyed a good season at Ayr. I'm sure he will settle in
quickly and help us battle to get out of the First Division"
Meanwhile another ex-Saintee is making the tabloid front pages for all the wrong reasons. Let's hear if for Sellik sub MoMo Sylla who has been beating up female reporters about alleged love trysts with married WPCs. Can't beat the close season eh?
June 1st - Nothing in the papers today with only the news from some mickey-mouse tournament in Japan dominating the headlines. Meanwhile a quick reminder, if you've not done so already, to get the 2002 TOSSA Votes in by Next Saturday with the results to be announced on Sunday (assuming I manage to find the time).
Top Of News
31st - Despite all the denials and counter-denials going on, today
finally sees Billy Stark quoted in the
papers about signing target Mark Reilly.
He said, "Mark is a wee warrior and I hope we can get him. Weve
spoken once but nothing has been agreed. He does have another couple of
options, but hopefully the fact I had him at Kilmarnock will help our
4.30pm - Some Saints related stuff is making the news pages though with Page 1-3 of the Sun today featuring one of their usual "in-depth" articles on the saga of Charlie One with the shocking revelation that he's now working in the Perth branch of Safeway's as a shelf-stacker on the nightshift.
Whilst some folk might be charitable enough to feel a degree of sympathy for the ex-Saints star, personally I think he deserves everything he gets and hopefully a continuing reminder of his fall from grace will serve as a warning for those players lucky enough to have a chance at the club just now.
30th - Mark Reilly is not
a Saints player yet. Reports today confirm last night's story that whilst
talks have begun with the 33-yr old, no deal has been struck and talks
will resume when he returns from holiday next week.
5.30pm - The official site has finally put out confirmation that neither Mark Reilly or John Robertson has signed, although the manager confirms that there have been talks with "one or two players". Billy Stark said, "There's a lot of speculation going on just now, and whilst we have had talks with one or two players with a mind to signing them, no deal has been done. I can say that we will have a couple of new faces on board within the next week or so but it would be unfair to give any more details until the I's are dotted and the T's crossed. The Club has always used this practice and I don't see why that should change now."
Whilst that will no doubt settle the matter for now surely Saints have to realise that they need to be seen to react to such speculation more promptly - not just for incoming players but for when the usual "Player X is signing for the Pars / Jambos / Arabs for 50,000 / 3p / a bag of crisps" stories are doing the rounds in the tabloids.
Finally North Tonight has said we're expected to announce a new signing on Monday (and with John Robertson's contract expiring this weekend his name is the likely one on the registration document). Of course all of this should be taken with a pinch of salt until the Daily Record has announced it.
29th - Now we're no longer in the same league as the big boys loan
deals with SPL clubs can take place and Billy
Stark apparently plans to make use of it (never mind our experience
last season). He said, "The intention is to make two further
signings ahead of pre-season training then hopefully, before the season
starts, bring to the club on loan a young midfielder"
One experienced midfielder who has signed is 33-yr old ex-Killie and Airdrie midfielder Mark Reilly(right). A defensive midfielder his coming on board seems to go against the age rule that the manager had imposed but coming from the defunct Airdrie means he's another freebie.
Meanwhile John Robertson looks set to sign for us next week under a Bosman.
Also signing up today though were another pair of 16-yr olds. Midfielder Euan Hall (son of Henry) and attacker Daniel Noon both signed one-year deals. Youth coach Alastair Stevenson is optimistic about their future. He said, "They are quite a promising group of players and it's especially pleasing to have local lads like Craig Johnston(right) sign. In the team under them there are more Perth youngsters coming through which is excellent news for the club as they are good players. From the age of 13 upwards we have a healthy number of local lads. The youngsters who signed will play in the SFL reserve league, which is like the old Scottish reserve league and they will also get the opportunity to play SPL U-21 games. We will still play Premier teams at U-21 level for a year and can also blood the youths on a friendly basis when these teams have a spare week. With our all-weather pitch clubs will be looking for games in the winter and we can accomodate them here. We're all down about getting relegated but this gives us hope for the future."
8.30pm - There seems to be some confusion over whether or not Mark Reilly has signed with Stewart Duff denying any deal has been struck saying that Saints had only spoken to the player and nothing has been sorted out yet. If that's the case then it explains the lack of news on the official site regarding the player but surely the club should at least put some sort of statement out today (on the web at least) confirming or denying the move.
May 28th - Just in case you thought we'd missed anything, there is sod all happening in the wonderful world of Saintsdom with the only news since Friday being a comment by Stewart Duff on the Season Ticket sales. He said, "I would anticipate there being a slight drop but weve got a loyal core of supporters who I am sure will back us in our efforts to return to the Premier League".
24th - Stuart Malcolm(right) is
set to join Brechin City for their pre-season training with a potential
permanent move in the offing, although nothing has been done yet.
Meanwhile, 4 16-yr olds have signed up with Saints. The 2 full-backs and 2 midfielders are Craig Johnston from Perth, David Greenhill and Edward Malone of Edinburgh, and Neil Gibson from Inverkeithing.
24th - Legendary ex-player and current coach
Henry Hall(right) is set to leave Saints
as part of a cost-cutting exercise. Whilst Saints U-21 side are allowed to
remain part of the SPL U-21 league for 12 months after relegation, the
U-18's have nowhere to go and as such the side will be scrapped. Instead
Saints youngsters will be tried and tested in the delights of the SFL
Blaming a need to cut costs, Geoff Brown paid tribute to Henry, who had been a full-time coach at McD for the last 2 years. The chairman said, No one here wanted to lose Henrys services because hes a good guy and very professional. He has a string of qualifications and there are coaching jobs available so Im sure he will be snapped up. But the fact of the matter is that hard decisions have to be made right now to protect the clubs future and having effectively removed a team we had to trim the coaching staff.
The revamp of the reserve set up shouldn't impact the conveyor belt of youth talent though. If youngsters arent good enough to play in the SFL reserves they probably wouldnt be good enough to play for St Johnstone. Clubs traditionally take on a group of laddies to make up a squad, raising expectations among many youngsters who are very unlikely to make the grade as full-time professionals. By cutting back we dont need to carry a full squad of kids for U18 games. Its down to the numbers game. But we are sticking with the youth development structure. Hopefully we will get back to the SPL for next season, otherwise we will have to reassess the situation again. Sadly, Henry has been one of the casualties of relegation and the adjustments we have had to make for being fall guys. Its hard on him but St Johnstone would go under unless tough decisions were made. We have a management team, coaches and players paid on SPL status so cuts have had to be made to protect the club. Youth development is still important but in the post-Bosman days it has been devalued.
All the best for the future Henry from all at the Temple.
23rd -Saints have fixed up another pre-season game with a trip to
play Stirling Albion on Sat July 13th.
Emmanuel Panther is reported to be signing his contract today. And the reports are growing that John Robertson will sign for Saints when his contract at Ayr expires at the end of this month.
4.30pm - Emmanuel Panther signed his one-year deal this afternoon much to the relief of most fans after some comments by his agent last weekend. Billy Stark said of the deal, "We knew there was a lot of speculation surrounding Manny but at the end of the day we were happy with what was going on. The delay in Manny signing was due to a family illness but he has now signed and we can look forward to him featuring in the team next season."
21st - Emmanuel Panther looks
set to sign his new deal later this week. Stewart
Duff also finally rubbished the reports on Sunday about Panther's
contract stating "I spoke with Manny late last week and he has
accepted our terms. As far as the club is concerned, we have agreed a new
contract and it's anticipated that Manny will come to Perth to complete
the formalities.". Saints have denied any moves to sign Caley
Thistle striker Dennis Wyness.
Pre-season games are mounting up with Forfar on July 17th the latest fixture followed by Cove Rangers on Sunday July 21st. Both games are away
Injured keeper Alan Main(right). is still working his way back to fitness whilst trying not to be too depressed at seeing the end of his international career. He said, "Rab Douglas and I used to joke we were the oldest hampers boys in the business! I was on dozens of Scotland trips but never got a game. My loft is full of Scotland number 22 jerseys. It was frustrating attending so many squad get-togethers over the years without getting a game, or even part of a match. I'm not bitter about it. But looking back, I should have told Craig Brown it was pointless travelling the world if there was no chance of me getting a game. There were times when I wondered why I was bothering, particularly after two friendlies against Germany when I had been led to believe I would figure. But St Johnstone managers convinced me to be patient because they felt my chance would come."
"Looking back, I feel I wasted my time and it was my wife and kids who suffered. I was away an awful lot when they were younger and it was Ann-Marie who had to cope. For whatever reason, I was never given the chance to pull on a Scotland jersey and play. And there were times when the opportunity was there. I feel I could have had one or two caps for my country but, for whatever reason, it didn't happen. I wouldn't say I'm bitter and I certainly don't bear any grudges. Not at all. But I do regret being away from home so often, leaving my wife to bear the brunt of it."
He's well on the way back now though and said, "I'm in the gym, the pool and out on the track at various times. The gymnastics people have been great. They offered me use of the airbed for running and it's safer than jogging on a trampoline. I thought I might fall off that and break more than my leg! There's still a slight suggestion of a limp when I run full out but it's nothing to worry about and I'm confident I'll be ready for the start of the season. We're nearly there now. I've been working unbelievably hard - the hardest at any stage of my career. The follow-up op has been perfect. It was the tibia which was broken but they trimmed a piece off the fibula because it had acted like a splint in the healing process. I was getting real pain in my ankle. That's gone now and it was the right decision to undergo surgery again. Obviously I didn't expect to be injured and return to find Saints playing in the First Division. When you've played in the top division, nobody wants to drop their standards. But I have a year on my current contract and I'll take things as they come. There's no reason why I shouldn't reach previous standards when I get back playing."
May 20th - Another quiet day with the only real news being a statement on the official club website that the new Saints strip will be sold online in the summer.
19th - Not too much happening in the papers but there's a plea for
any Saints fans in the Scumdee, Montrose or Angus area (assuming tetanus
jabs are up to date) and who wish to help form a Supporters club covering
that area to contact Thetinyattic@aol.comand
register your interest. As yet they're just looking for numbers.
Apart from that the only news is the token tenuous link that Blackburn and Bolton are watching Emmanuel Panther. However more interesting is the news in the Sunday Mail quoting his agent saying that "We are in negotiations but at the present time we are still a bit apart.". This is despite the club saying that he has verbally agreed a new one-year deal? Someone's telling porkies.
17th - Ian Maxwell has been
speaking more on his decision to sign for Saints. "People will
probably think it strange me turning down Premier League football. But
Thistle may well struggle next season and with John Lambie saying hed
only stay in charge for one more year I didnt want to find myself
halfway through a contract with a new manager coming in. I see joining St
Johnstone as taking a step sideways to go forward. The attraction of
Saints for me is that they intend to go straight back up and have a great
chance of doing that.. My wife and I have a 10-month old baby and felt
this was the time to come back down the road. Im originally from
Moodiesburn and my wife from Stepps and well be looking to settle in
the Cumbernauld area. I really enjoyed my four years at County and will
look forward to playing them next season as Ive got some good pals
there. What I wont miss though is the travelling to away games.
Leaving Dingwall at 8.30 am and not getting back until after nine at night
was no picnic. Playing for a club in Perth will be some difference. I
certainly wont miss the trip from Dingwall to Dumfries. For one
weekend cup-tie there we set off on the Thursday, having to stop in
Glasgow to give the bus driver his required break, and were camped up in
the worst hotel ever, only for the game to be postponed on the Friday. Wed
then to go back the following Saturday."
Billy Stark explained his reasoning behind the siginging saying, "Obviously our problem last season was scoring goals, everybody could see that. But you cant just lay the blame for that at the door of the strikers. Distribution from the back is important, as is the need to show composure when in possession and Ian is a reasonable user of the ball. In the early part of next season well find teams coming here and sitting back. When that happens well have a lot of the ball and will have to be able to use it properly. I also feel his signing helps address another issue. When I arrived at the club the two things which struck me were the lack of legs and stature. The legs issue has been addressed (by releasing a number of older players), now Im dealing with the stature aspect. This guy is 6 ft 3 in, and even if wed stayed in the Premier League Id have signed Ian."
And while we're at it a mention for ex-Saints hero Vinny Arkins now at Portadown who's just been named Irish FA Player of the Year. No doubt he's still worth £5 million !!!
16th - Right with Zidane doing his Dasovic in a Cup
Final impersonation last night, the season is officially at an end
and you know what that is don't you? Yup it's time to
Vote in the 2002 TOSSAs - for the uninitiated
amongst you, that means you get to pick the best and worst moments of the
season over an ever widening range of subjects. As usual voting is open
until the end of June or I get bored when I'll spend ages working out the
In the real world meantime, the contracts are being signed all over the place. Emmanuel Panther hasn't signed a new 1-year contract but has agreed terms with the club reporting a family illness as the reason for the delay. Mark Ferry and Martin Maher have signed their contracts keeping them at McD for another year. Billy Stark said of the kids signing, "These players are the players of the future and all of them have done really well this season. Manny and Martin have had a fair bit of first team experience already this season and we will be looking for them to develop their game and improve further next season. Mark has been on the fringes of the squad this year but again he is a good young player who will get his chance next season. I am very pleased that they all see their imnmediate futures with the Club."
And as if that's not enough a new signing is Ross County defender Ian Maxwell(right) who put pen to paper on a 2-year deal this morning turning down Partick Fissel in the process. The 27-yr old said, "When I knew that Saints were interested I was very keen to tie a deal up here in Perth. I have been with Ross County for four years and I am looking ahead for my own career which I feel will do best at Saints. I know that Partick Thistle were interested also and there was definitely a lure of playing in the Premier League next season, but I believe for my own career's sake and my family that I have made the right choice and I'm happy to be playing for Saints who I believe will win the title next year."
And don't expect that to be the end of the signings with the rumour machine suggesting that Ayr Utd defender John Robertson is also set to sign today or tomorrow.
15th -Billy Stark has been
talking about what he wants from next season and is clear about making the
championship the main target along with trying to woo some of the fans
back to the club. He also took time out to praise those fans that have
stuck by the team for this season but knows what the expectations are of
the board and fans for the next 12 months. "There is an added
dimension because of that but managers have to deal with pressure to
secure results anyway. And gaining promotion would have been my own target
regardless of our circumstances. I am putting myself under pressure to
succeed in this job. I'm desperate to show people I can put together a
squad here which St Johnstone and the supporters can be proud of. The
championship has to be the aim of everyone here. I have a burning personal
desire to succeed here and get back in one season. Pride and hunger to win
are commodities I will demand from players, whether they are new or
"I want a more forceful team playing good football. And we all know we have to transform our home record. I'm well aware fans rolling up at McDiarmid over the last couple of seasons haven't exactly had an exciting time of it. We are grateful to everyone who has stuck by us and I'd like to think we will lure more people back to the ground next season because of results and the football we are playing. I'm not looking for excuses but I think the supporters here have been good to me and sympathetic over the situation. They could see it would take until the end of the season to do what was required. I think in the past two seasons home fans have only seen six wins and that just isn't good enough. You don't need a genius to tell you that wouldn't keep fans happy. It speaks volumes for the loyalty of those who have been coming to matches. Our home form will be important in winning back support."
On the signing side of things there are some rumours starting to develop with one saying that there will be at least one new face at McD for the end of this week. However the most depressing rumour is that Emmanuel Panther(right), Mark Ferry(right) and Martin Maher after their impressive displays this season look set to only be offered 1-year deals by the club. What that says about the board's faith in Stark to get us out of the 1st Division in one season is pretty obvious and it leaves the clouds of gloom and despair hanging over the whole club.
Saints have also announced that the old training ground in Florence Place is on the market with an expected £500,000 due to come into the club's coffers. Note that this isn't the club's training ground as certain Retard-ed tabloids would have us believe. Still at least we're not paying Coyle's wages from it. though.
Finally, and most importantly details of the Season Ticket Prices for 2002-03 are out. The bad news is that there is no reduction in cost this year however one almost-unexpected bonus is that the tickets this season will include all cup ties (remember that's 3 tournaments). Geoff Brown's comments in the accompanying letter lay out the reason's behind the decision. "There are probably a number of supporters who feel the club should 'gamble' in an attempt to gain promotion in one season but, regrettably, the club cannot continue to sustain ongoing losses. If such a 'gamble' failed, the club would be in a similar position to many other Scotting Football League clubs and the Directors are not prepared to stake the future of St. Johnstone in this manner"
14th - Despite being out of contract this summer,
Emmanuel Panther(right) is more than
happy to stay at Saints. He said, "I have been at Saints all
through the youth levels and the club have been good to me. I missed
nearly a year with injury and they stuck by me and I hope to get a new
contract so that I can stay. I am still learning all the time and playing
in the first team can only help me become a better player. The manager
Billy Stark has been very good with me, as he is with all the young guys,
and I hope that if I get a new contract I can keep improving."
Billy Stark is off to Largs to learn to be a coach today but had a meeting with the players yesterday morning. "It was just about putting in their minds, before they headed off on holiday, what well be looking for at the beginning of the new season. The main thrust of what I said to them was that well need to have the right mentality, by which I mean recognising how difficult getting out of the First Division is going to be and being ready for anything which arises." .
The manager also denied Pars rumoured bid for Paul Hartley saying, "Weve had no contact from them and frankly Id be surprised if, in the present financial climate, anyone in Scotland could come up with money for players" .
One worrying story in the paper is that Saints were one of the clubs "chasing" Celtic-daft Owen Coyle. Still thanks to the Celtic-daft striker now signing for Falkirk it won't happen. However stories suggest that Billy Stark had already spoken to him twice about a move to Perth. I'm not sure which is more worrying - the fact that we should even be considering signing Coyle or the fact that even after two attempts, Billy Stark couldn't persuade He Who Overflows With Daftness For Celtic to come to Saints.
Given his previous comments regarding the type (and more specifically the age-range) of players he was aiming for, the notion that he's apparently been so determined to sign one of the oldest strikers in Scotland, never mind the idea that the board might want to sanction this deal. It might be worthwhile someone pointing out to the club and management that a similar short-term exercise was done last summer which saw us end up with Falconer, Jackson etc. And we all know what happened from that don't we?
13th - As you might expect, Geoff
Brown's match programme interview in which he was less than
complimentary about a certain ex-manager's transfer record makes the news.
He said, "The last four or so years have seen too many clubs
paying too much money to players, some of whom in St Johnstones case
werent in my opinion properly checked out by the previous manager
before they were signed. In contrast, I was heartened to speak to
Billy Stark about a couple of players we
were looking to sign for next year. He said he had met with them the
evening before, because I like to look them in the eye and get a
real feel for them as people, as Billy put it to me. We backed
Sandy Clark with very good wages to
bring players here, but when you actually look at whats now left at
the end of this season its mainly Paul Sturrocks guys for the
most part who will be at the heart of next years squad-the likes of
Alan Main, Darren
Dods, Jim Weir,
Stuart McCluskey, Keigan Parker and
Paddy Connolly. Thats not to say
there arent others who are decent players but, in retrospect, if Id
been around over the start of the season I wouldnt have given Sandy
as much time as he eventually got." .
As for the new signings there are no names being mentioned yet, but the transfer window is now open until the end of August. One area being targeted is said to be a left-sided centre-half which indicates a possible 3-5-2 formation next season.
Of course all the transfer speculation isn't one-way with the latest report being a rumoured £75,000 bid by the Pars for Paul Hartley. No quotes from either Saints or the Pars on the matter although Billy Stark is said to be speaking to his "key men" (for that read the ones above school-leaving age) this week about the plans for next season.
12th - Surprise, surprise, the OF bigots are the main talking point
again despite the final batch of SPL matches scheduled today. Reports in
today's papers confirm that an English League meeting is set for this week
with the likelihood that the bigots will be invited to enter the English
First Division next season. What this means for the future of the SPL and
the Scottish leagues remains to be seen although it is a distinct
possibility that Saints could retain a place in the top flight.
For today's game, Billy Stark has confirmed that the kids will get their chance. He said, "It has been difficult for everybody since the season has dragged on after the cup final. The youngsters will be given a run-out and we want to end a poor campaign with a win."
8.30pm - Oh well what a surprise. A total lack of Saints goals for the 4th game in a row and the last game of a shite season ends with a pretty dismal attacking performance and a 1-0 defeat to Hibs. Afterwards though, Billy Stark saw things differently saying, "The young players got a taste of the action and that is very important for this club. Kevin Cuthbert played very well again and having guys through one-on-one is his main strength. He deserved a shut-out today but I can't criticise my players for their effort. I think there was no way in the world that we deserved to lose today's game. There are a few games this season that finished close that we can't argue with the result, but today was different. If you look at today's game, we put as much into the game as Hibs, created some chances and should have had a penalty. Scoring goals has been a major problem at this club for a while and this is something that we really need to work on ahead of next season."
Meanwhile on the injury side of things, commiserations to Graeme Jones who broke his arm in training on Friday. Yup apparently this training thing still occurs occassionally.
11th - Marc McCulloch is out to
show he's a reformed character after the drunk-driving escapades a year
ago and a period out with a groin injury. "It was as we were
getting into pre-season training that I started having trouble with my
groin area. I was on the bench against Celtic at Parkhead in the first
game but still wasnt right and went to the doctor. His diagnosis was
that I possibly had a tumour in the testicle area. Fortunately, it
transpired things were not to be as serious as that and they fixed me up.
"But from then on I seemed to get one injury after another in and
around the groin and its only now, with one game of the season left,
I am fit again. Between the injuries and what happened last May it has
been an incredible time and I count myself fortunate that the club have
looked after me. I just hope I get the chance to repay them now. They
would have had every right to give me the sack and it was always in the
back of my mind they might. Instead, they stood by me and that is
something I very much appreciate. The last year has definitely been
character-forming. All thats happened has changed me from a boy to a
man. I made a stupid mistake and what I did was brought to the attention
of everybody because sports people are always in the public eye. But one
plus to emerge from what occurred was the nature of the community service
I was required to carry out. Ive been coaching kids and helping out
around schools and Ive actually enjoyed that experience."
He's out to establish himself in the first team as well after the recent cull. "Most of my first-team games have been in midfield even though I prefer left-back. And in my situation you have to be willing to play anywhere. With Nick, Paul and John Paul leaving theres obviously an opening in the middle of the park and thats one reason why Ill be having a quiet summer. Im away with my girl friend for a week as soon as the season finishes then, hopefully, Ill manage a week away with my friends. But after that Ill be knuckling down and trying to ensure I get a good pre-season under my belt. We are back on June 18, which gives me two weeks to work on my fitness myself before training here gets under way. The gaffer wants us all fit and ready to go when we get together again and Im not going to risk not being in good shape by being stupid over the summer."
Billy Stark has called the players into a meeting at the club today to discuss his plans for the team for next season. Hopefully the word win will be mentioned occassionally.
10th - Another 2 names to add to the list from yesterday.
Brendan Crozier, whose been on loan at
Stirling Albion has been released along with
Barry Thompson. That is the end of the
youth clearout according to the manager and he's now concentrating on
bringing in 3 fresh faces. All he would say though was "We have a
few players in our sights. What we are left with is a group of 14
experienced ones-which is quite tight-plus some younger players, the likes
of Ross Forsyth and
David McClune, who are going to have
to start pushing to be regulars. "The need is there for us to bring
in two to four new faces and I am confident well have people in for
the start of next season."
Another not altogether unexpected departure also sees Sammy Youssouf heading home. With Saints unable to agree a longer-term deal he'll be out of this weekend's game and is now off leaving the striking berths looking a bit sparse once more. Billy Stark(right) believes he could have done a job next season in the First Division (never mind the boost for the Perth pub trade) but said, "There was a wee fitness gamble involved in him coming here seven or eight weeks after the Danish season had ended and hes been unfortunate in terms of his injury situation. I still firmly believe hed have done well for us but we never even got to the stage of making him an offer because I got the feeling he is of the opinion he can get something better back home."
For Sunday, Ross Forsyth misses out due to surgery and Craig Russell has a back injury. Marc McCulloch could feature again although looks set to play in midfield once more. Billy Stark said, "Weve been trying one or two things in the last few games and as we are well short of midfield players we gave Marc, who has played there before, a run against United. Hell certainly be involved again this week and quite possibly in that area. Everyone will be glad to see the back of this season and like every other premier club we could do without having to play on Sunday. But our players have kept their standards up in training which is encouraging and the fact weve won as few home matches as we have should be incentive enough to go and get a result."
Ryan Stevenson will also miss out with a knee injury.
Darren Dods(right) is looking forward to the end of the season and says Saints should be able to come straight back up. "I'm glad there's just 90 minutes left before the season ends. Since being relegated officially against Motherwell we haven't had much to play for. Now everyone is in the same boat because all the issues have been settled. After that Motherwell result we all wanted the season to end sooner rather than later. But it's been dragged out even more by the decision to delay the final games until after the cup final. But from a personal point of view it would be good to finish on a high by beating my old club. Our fans haven't had many home wins to celebrate so it would be very welcome, even if it is too late to save us. The last time we played Hibs was at Easter Road and it was one of the low points of my entire career. We went to Edinburgh to face a team which had been struggling. We had beaten Livingston and thought we had a wee chance of beating them and sucking them back into the relegation area. But Bobby Williamson had been appointed manager and they got a boost from that. It was all over by half time because we were two down and reduced to 10 men. That was the day when we probably realised we'd be playing First Division football next season."
But despite his old club being in the SPL he's no regrets about the last 4 years. "How can I have regrets when I've had so many great times at McDiarmid? We're on a downer right now but it wasn't long ago that we were in a cup final, making third in the league and playing in Europe. I had a dream start here and this has been the worst season of my entire career. But we just have to make sure we bounce back. No one wants to play lower league football after experiencing the SPL. But we have to make the best of it. I've spoken with guys like Allan Preston who played First Division football with Saints and they say we have to cope with teams singling us out as the ones to beat. If anyone thinks it will be easy they just have to look at St Mirren. They went down a year ago and looked a good bet to come back. But they were in trouble until recently. It was touch and go for them. Teams want to beat the side which is labelled title favourites. It won't be easy but our aim must be to win the championship.".
Finally let's here it for the wacky sense of humour those Teletext guys have with the following from their pages - "St. Johnstone legend Willie Falconer". Words fail me.
May 9th - Confirmation from the club today that 4 youth players have been freed - Peter Lynch, David Noble, Chris Conway and Kevin Welsh. Of the four only Chris Conway had any first team experience. Billy Stark is looking to strengthen the squad with 3 mysterious signings expected to turn things round in the summer. He said, "We always knew that we would have to make the squad a bit leaner whether we were in the Premier Division or not. At the same time it is important to bring in new faces because this always has the effect of spurring on the players, knowing that there is competition for their jersey."
7th - With Sammy Youssouf(right)
finally back in training and set to return to the side in Sunday's final
SPL game, Billy Stark is looking to
finalise the Dane's future before he's kicked a ball. "Sammy is
training away now and should be available for Sunday. But theres no
point playing him if nothing can be done so Ill be speaking with him
this week to see where we stand." . Meanwhile
Ross Forsyth looks set to go under the
surgeon's knife to cure a persistent knee injury problem.
Sunday's game will again see free admission to the under-16s with chief executive Stewart Duff saying, "This arrangement has been in place for the past two or three games in an effort to encourage youngsters to support St Johnstone on an ongoing basis. Hopefully those whove taken advantage of the scheme will return to back us next season."
Craig Thomson, yet another unknown referee will take charge of the last game of the season on Sunday.
The breaking news today though is on the transfer front. There are also some interesting transfer rumours doing the rounds with the latest being a joint move for Alan Main and Paul Hartley(right) to "Ambitious Meadowbank" with the fee being all of £300,000. Main's departure might not be that much of a surprise, given his high wage packet and age / injury record and a possible departure of Hartley has almost been expected by Saints fans after his performances this season. However, the fee involved for both players is nothing sort of shameful, especially after the Schemie-boys were allowed to steal a couple of our players last season. Both players will be difficult to replace (and our list of keepers on the books just now doesn't exacltly inspire confidence in the depth of the squad) and it has to be said that if Saints allow the pair to go for such a ridiculous fee then it shows more than a touch of the panic button being pressed. If this goes ahead then there will be a lot of unhappy fans at McD.
5th - Saints are rumoured to be interested in signing Ross County
defender Ian Maxwell(right).
Available under Bosman this summer, he's been with the Dingwall crowd
since a move from East Stirling in 1998 and is highly-rated amongst their
fans. However, SPL newcomers Partick Fissel are supposed to also be
targetting him (and were having talks with him yesterday) so expect us to
4th - With the first team regulars and fringe players now decided
on for next season, the latest victims of the cull are set to be the youth
players. Chris Conwa(right) has already
been released by Saints and the remainder will be told on Monday who's
staying and who's going.
Meanwhile the first friendly has been organised against Peterhead on Friday July 19th at Balmoor Stadium. The club also hope to play another team in the region on the Sunday.
2nd - Little news to report today but if anyone wants to see what's
wrong with Scottish Football all they have to do is look at the front page
of the Retard today. With Airdrie's demise dominating headlines everywhere
Scotland's main tabloid gives us a front page "exclusive" about
how Celtic and Martin O'Neill might be on Top of the Pops. Well done guys
- good to see you've got your priorities right.
Saints meanwhile look set to play their pre-season games away from home with Billy Stark saying, . "Were looking at going up north"
1st- Stuart Malcolm will be
given the summer to prove his fitness and get a new contract.
Billy Stark said, "Stuarts
contract is up in the summer and hes getting back towards fitness.
Weve told him that he would be welcome to do pre-season and well
take it from there."
Geoff Brown(right) has admitted that it's vital we get back into the SPL in one season. He said, "Debt is catching up on clubs and many clubs, St Johnstone included, have been guilty of living beyond their means. For the last four years in the SPL, there has been a lot of TV and radio money about. The clubs have spent it but have little to show for it. Players and agents have got the whole lot. If we dont come back up in one season, therell be serious repercussions. It will almost be a full-circle move to when I came into the club in 1986, but Im determined to ensure we wont land back in a similar situation. But if we dont come back up in one season, well have to seriously look at the full-time set-up. We have a manager, assistant manager, youth coaches and physios, all guys who dont kick the ball, as well as players and other staff. And we wont have many teams with big supports visiting us next season. So we must get up in one."
Finally it's bad news for Airdrie today with the club finally going into liquidation. No word yet on what their future will be but it's more than likely now that Falkirk will be allowed to stay in the 1st Division next season. As for the future of our one-time 1st Division rivals (how times change in 12 years) their assets including the name are all for sale but it's more than likely that they are set to be the first club to vanish since Third Lanark. No doubt the OF will be more than pleased with the extra business though.
Top Of News
30th - The waiting is finally over for the
Pope. Dropped from the squad at the
weekend, Billy Stark has confirmed the
player will be leaving Saints in the summer. Signed under the previous
management 3 years ago the ex-TFOE midfielder has failed to establish
himself in the first team and Billy Stark
said, : "I've told John Paul he is being released. I've got to
look at the bigger picture and moving on players going out of contract is
one way to freshen things up." . Never a favourite amongst the
supporters due to his incredible chameleon-like ability to fade out of
games, he never the less has some skill and talent if not the fitness or,
dare we say it, attitude to back it up. Anyway best of wishes for the
future Pope from all at the Temple.
Meanwhile Nick Dasovic has revealed he's set to head back to Canada saying that the situation with the UK clubs just now is too insecure. Billy Stark has also been talking about the younger players and the plans for next season. The squad is likely to be strengthened with further loan deals, possibly from the SPL. Speaking of some of the fringe players he said that David McClune is "learning from his past mistakes" , a strange statement to most of us since when he's played he's been out of position. And with Marc McCulloch returning to the first team on Saturday, the manager also had some words of praise saying his "attitude has been excellent".
April 29th - Midfielder Grant Murray(right), Saints only ever-present this season has revealed that he's already planning for next year. "It has been a difficult season and now we all have to work hard to make sure we get back into the SPL. The manager has let some of the experienced lads go so that could mean more responsibility for me. When a team gets relegated, though, everyone wonders about their future because it means a big financial loss for the club. You have to give 100% in order to persuade the manager that you deserve to be part of his plans. We have to rest over the summer then battle to get back up again. It will be tough because every team in the first division will be desperate to get out of it. Some people say it is a scrappy league and it could be difficult to adjust to playing at different grounds from those we are used to but we will give it our best shot."
April 28th - There's not much in the papers with the usual slagging of yesterday's game. And with Saints down the transfer rumours have started. First up injured keeper Alan Main is rumoured to be a target of "Ambitious" Meadowbank if Broto signs for the OF. Also set to move, if you believe the papers is the likely Player Of the Year Paul Hartley with Dunfermline, Hearts, Wigan and Norwich all said to be interested in the winger (or central midfielder if you're a Saints manager). Both players have another year to run on their Saints contracts though so money would be involved if they left.
27th - Sammi "Swally"
Youssouff has been speaking of the future. Ruled out today due to a
lack of match fitness, he's only got one game left to impress Saints
before his contract expires on May 31st. He said, "I started
training again on Monday but its almost eight weeks to the day that
I picked up the injury and I dont feel Im ready to play. I
made my debut for St Johnstone against Dundee United and, in fact scored,
but unfortunately we lost the game (4-1) and Ive only managed four
more games since. My contract is up on May 31 and, with my being injured
for a lot of my time here, it is difficult to say what will happen
regarding next season. Ive really enjoyed it here, the people are
nice, the manager has been good and there are lots of good lads on the
Looking to today's game, Billy Stark is praying for some luck, saying, "Weve performed reasonably well in the meetings with Dundee United so far, even although we dont have anything to show for it. In the 4-1 defeat at McDiarmid we did very well for the first 20-25 minutes before the roof fell in, and the two games at Tannadice, including the CIS Cup tie, were very close. Weve shown that we can match Dundee United, we just need a wee break."
7pm - Well a totally boring game ended with a 0-0 draw and a slightly more improved performance on the park. After the game, the manager said, "At least we managed to get a point, especially as we lost on other occassions at Tannadice. For next year's First Division effort, we need to be difficult to beat and we managed to do that against United. It's been a while since we kept a clean sheet and we were a bit more assured in our play."
26th - Under-fire boss Billy
Stark(right) has revealed that he's targeting Scottish players in
the summer. Set to disappoint those wanting some continental flair he
said, "You have to try and identify the market youll be
looking at in terms of bringing in players. The English market is a
difficult one in many ways and I would like to bring in Scottish boys if I
can. Wage levels are a factor but you also have to look at it from the
point of view of players settling quickly, which is what we need.
Pre-season is always a good help to players adjusting to a new club but
when youre bringing players in from abroad and even England
sometimes they take time to settle. If you can, you try to eliminate every
potential problem. Im not saying that we would never look outside
Scotland but Ill certainly be keeping my eye on the Scottish scene."
. Tomorrow sees the manager's 6th game against Coagie
opposition with the first win still to be registered. He said, Obviously
thats something I would like to put right this weekend. We have
handled away games much better but the bulk of our supporters have missed
them. Its our home form which we have to address. The last two away
games saw us perform very well at Tynecastle and it was the same for 45
minutes at Motherwell. At least the fans who travelled left feeling they
had seen something positive. That hasnt happened often enough at
McDiarmid Park and much of the problem is probably psychological. Its
our last away game and hopefully we can turn in a good performance for the
supporters. When we lost in the league at Tannadice,
Darren Dods was off the field changing
his boot when they scored. Looking back, that was a crucial game because
it was sandwiched between two wins over Kilmarnock. We didnt build
up the momentum we were looking for and you could argue we deserved three
points that day. We certainly owe United one.
Sammi Youssouff won't play this weekend, leaving him just one game to win a contract with Saints. Peter MacDonald has a bruised foot but is still in the squad. Speaking of last week's penalty miss he said, I had only been on the pitch a few minutes but I was confident. No one else was rushing to take it and the ballboy actually threw the ball to me! I scored against Clyde earlier in the season and Im not afraid of penalties. It wasnt a great strike though and I made it easy for Gordon Marshall. It was disappointing because it would have been back to 2-1 and wed have been in with a chance. But these things happen. The last time I missed one was against Man United U19s when I was with Rangers. If theres another penalty and Im on the pitch Id be happy to take it. Ask any striker and theyll tell you they want chances to score goals. Im no different.
Meanwhile Geoff Brown has come out in the papers to reassure fans of Saints secure financial footing in the wake of Wellgate. He said, Weve managed to balance the books despite taking into account the losses we have suffered over the past year or so. Obviously next season will have a major bearing on what lies ahead for the club and steps have already been taken to address the situation by releasing several players. This will be ongoing. But I would stress that St Johnstone FC is probably more robust in a financial sense than any other club in the SPL, without exception. Our rivals are all carrying substantial debts. In a football sense, however, nothing has diminished our resolve to regain our top division status and that has to be the target for next season. . He has confirmed that we won't return to the SPL for next season unless Well fold - a situation which seems unlikely.
April 25th - Latest team news for the weekend sees the jinx of the ankle continue with Darren Dods the latest to pick up a knock, although he's hopeful that he'll still be able to make the side for the trip to Tannadump. Joining him could be Craig Russell who has recovered from flu. Elsewhere and Stuart Malcolm has come through his recent workouts fine and is now back in London for the latest part of his rehabilitation.
24th - Good and bad news from yesterday. The U-18s were gubbed 4-1
by TFOD but apparently Stuart McCluskey
and Craig Russell could both be
available for Saturday's trip along the road.
And it seems that ex-boss Sandy Clark might be set to return to management with the papers linking him with the job at Carlisle Utd.
Meanwhile Motherwell are the latest club to hit major financial problems. As well as losing manager Eric Black to Coventry, reports today say that they have lost £3m for the 2nd year in a row and losses are running at £57,000 per week. They're applying to go into interim administration as Frankie Howerd prepares to sell up - what this means for their SPL status remains to be seen.
23rd - Mark Lynch(right) is
returning to Old Trafford today with Saints killing off his loan deal to
allow other youngsters to get experience in the remaining two potential
humiliations, sorry, games. Billy Stark
said, "Mark is a good, honest, willing boy who has given us the
legs we really needed. And he has enjoyed his experience here, which is
saying something given our circumstances. But we must use the next two
matches to look at players wholl be involved next season or might be
involved next season."
Sammi Youssouff meanwhile has apparently recovered from his groin strain and a good piss-up on Sat night when the rest of us were hurting to resume full training (that's 1 hour Monday, 2 hours Tuesday, Wednesday off etc). No word about a new deal for the striker who's failed to impress but the manager said, "I hope for Sammys sake he can put his injury behind him and if not become involved this Saturday then in our last game"
As for the rest of the motley crew to don the blue shirts, the usual "angry" warnings are being issued by the manager. Stark says that the "fans are entitled to be unhappy about the product on the park". Do you think he's perhaps noticed the grumblings of protest since the weekend? He has read the riot act though (as threatening as that sounds) to the players and said,"It is clear to me, as I'm sure it is to a lot of the suppporters that we need some fresh faces in the squad, and that is what I will be looking to do over the next couple of months. The team has not been gelling and it's not fair to blame the youngsters for this. There are players here who will still be under contract next season who are quite simply not pulling their weight. If this means that they will have to move on then so be it. There is no place in my team for anybody not willing to give 100% all the time. Some players have already left and I'm sure another couple will follow. But to balance the scales I have already identified three or four players in their mid twenties who I would like to sign up and who I feel will have a positive effect on them team as a whole and in bringing the youngsters up through the ranks." All of which doesn't sound like too good news for Pope. The problem of course is it's the sort of speech we've heard countless times in the last 18 months from whoever is in charge of the club and there's only so much the fans will take. Saturday's penultimate game of the season is taking on almost earth-shattering signifigance for the club and the fans.
Finally Mike Ritchie will be in charge of the Tannadump humiliation.
22nd - It's congratulations to the Courier who managed to turn
Billy Stark's entire 20 words of
post-match reaction into a report for today's paper. But the main news is
on the mailing list and web forums with the signs starting to show that
the fans are even more sick and tired of the "long-playing record"
which Stark's period in charge has
turned out to be.
Meanwhile there's a bit of a row going on about the arguing on Saturday over the penalty-taker. Some fans have reported seeing Peter MacDonald having a bust-up with Paul Hartley and Graeme Jones and snatching the ball to take the kick (which he then missed). Still it's good to see the side having a recognised penalty-taker on the park as well as maintaining our discipline until the end of the season.
20th - Graeme Jones(right) is
looking forward to today's game and the rest of the season with some
relish. He said, "This certainly isnt a meaningless game
for me, not for one minute. I can understand why people say that it is,
but from my point of view Im just delighted to be playing. I get a
real buzz before games because at one point I thought I was finished with
the game, thats the truth. Ive been fit for four months now
and that gives me a lot of satisfaction. Im feeling strong again and
now I feel as if I could play on past 35. Maybe its because I missed
18 months or because I didnt become a full-time footballer until I
was 23, but I feel as if I might get those extra years at the end of my
career. I have to say that Im already looking forward to getting
next season started." . He also reckons we need to get our home
form sorted before the end of this season starting with the strikers
getting more opportunities. "Against Dundee last week I had a
left-foot shot which their keeper saved well but that was the only real
chance of the match. We just dont seem to create many chances at
home. Away from home we seem to have got our tactics right now to do well,
but here its a different story. I cant tell you what the
formula is but weve got to find it because we definitely need to do
very well at home next year if were going to get out of the first
division. If we started to create a few chances it would be a step in the
right direction. I think my goal ratio is one in three right the way
through my career so Id like to think that if I get three chances on
any given day, Ill get a goal. At the moment were struggling
to create as many as three chances in a game and hopefully tomorrow will
be the start of things changing for us."
As for next season he's out to make an impact along with his fellow veterans. "There will be a few in our squad who know nothing but top-level football, but the likes of myself and Jim Weir have lifted championships in the lower leagues. Myself and Jim are the oldest two players and its up to us to set the standards playing wise next season."
Billy Stark meanwhile is looking for the players to show some motivation. "Were at the stage of the season now when you get fiery pitches and the sun on your back. If theres not a real edge to the game it can become a bit pedestrian. Well certainly tell them thats something that theyve got to guard against. That happened to an extent in the first half last week. Weve got to try and provide the edge to the game by being motivated to produce a good performance."
7pm - 2245 - that was the number that braved McD today. And you can bet that after the 3-0 defeat to Killie, the last home game in a fortnight will see a crowd a lot fewer in number. To say the least we were totally shite with only one or 2 youngsters able to take any credit from their performances. Meanwhile the management and coaching staff at the club have to get their act sorted out now - if they can't motivate the players into something resembling a team by the end of this season then they should make way for someone else to try. As for the post-match press conference Billy Stark said sod all and didn't answer any questions. Nothing like an open relationship with the fans then.
19th -Ross Currie will be
released at the end of the season according to Saints.
Billy Stark has decided to dispense with
the services of the ex-TFOD defender who joined the club at the start of
the season but has failed to do anything at all in the last few months. It
looks like Nick Dasovic is set to be
fixed up for next season though. The Arabs and Partick Fissell are said to
be interested but Plymouth (managed by you-know-who) are also in the
Meanwhile Bobby Orr will be the man in the middle tomorrow. Saints almost have a full squad to pick from though Martin Maher(right) will miss out due to an ankle sprain picked up in the U-21 game. Speaking of the game, Billy Stark said "I think we still need to find some sort of consistency even though we are already down. Against Hearts at Tynecastle and Motherwell at Fir Park we did well, but last week's game against Dundee was a poor game, although we should have got a draw at least."
18th- Confirmation came from Billy
Stark today that Mark "Gets a
game no matter what" Lynch will be on his way out with the Old
Trafford youngster no longer interested in a permanent move to Saints now
that we're relegated. The manager praised him for some unknown reason
saying, "He leaves with our best wishes. He's a very honest,
enthusiastic lasd who has had his ups and downs during his time here. But
he has done well overall". All we can say to that is "Huh?"
On the injury front Stuart McCluskey is suffering from an ankle knock which ruled him out of the Scumdee game and looks set to keep him out this weekend as well.
April 17th- Geoff Brown has said he's not just backing league reconstruction because of any hatred of the OF. He said, "The fact the clubs have declared their intention to resign is a clear indication to Celtic and Rangers that they arent happy with the present situation. There is no doubt that commercial work done by the SPL is being hampered by the present voting structure. And that has cost the 10 clubs quite a lot of money over the period. The Old Firm are the major contributors finance wise, I accept that, but there are areas of commercial activity which could be best exploited centrally by the SPL and that cannot happen at present. Its not just about getting a bigger share of the pot. I believe we could have a bigger pot if the voting structure wasnt so ludicrous. There have been certain contracts we havent been able to close because of exclusivity involving certain clubs. And Im not talking only of the Old Firm."
16th- All is not sweetness and light at McD with manager
Billy Stark reported to be more than a
bit pissed off with Saturday's defeat. He said, "We lost on
Saturday by a really stupid goal. I honestly feel we should have got
something out of the game and I am disappointed with the defending prior
to the goal." . Of the players on the park, only teenage keeper
Kevin Cuthbert(right) received any
The U-21s lost their final match 3-2 at home to the Arabs last night - Ross Forsyth and Peter MacDonald scored for Saints.
Geoff Brown is meanwhile warning that the youth setup will suffer with the cutbacks the club need to make after relegation. With costs of around £350,000 a year for the current system to be kept running the chairman said, "Difficult decisions have to be made. Season ticket sales will only bring in £200,000 next term."
Meanwhile Saints and the other 9 non-bigoted clubs in the SPL have formally given their notice to quit the current set-up in favour of a new organisation in 2 years time. What form this will take remains to be seen but obviously we can now expect the OF to either fall in with the majority of clubs or else head for pastures new - either way it's a good thing.
15th- First up there's a bit of a row going on about various
protests at the weekend against the OF's decision to black out SPL TV. One
banner telling the OF to "Get Tae Fuck" was taken down
at McD before the game, whilst a planned protest by 200 Livvy fans in the
form of waving red cards at their TFOD visitors was also stopped. Still if
anyone wants to sign theres a petition underway at
Finally Saints play their final U-21 game tonight at McD against the Arabs. Kick-off at 7pm.
13th- With only 4 games to go to win himself a new deal,
Pope(right) is out to ensure he doesn't
end up on the scrapheap this summer. "Ive just got to play
well in the last few games if Im picked and see what comes of it,
whether it is here or elsewhere. Ive spoken with the manager and hes
said well wait and see. I know there will be cost- cutting and well
have to see what sort of budget hes got and what the club offer me
but hes never said these are games where Ive got to prove
myself. But Ive got to prove myself to myself and its up to me
to do what I know I can and whether its here or elsewhere, well
just take it as it comes." . And with Sky covering the game he's
got a big platform to show off on. "There will be people watching
and its up to me to perform well but its fair to say when the
game starts Ill not be thinking of the cameras. With our position as
it is, it will be hard but it is a derby and youre playing for pride
which we have done the last couple of games and come out with some credit
from them. What were trying to do is go from now to the end of the
season unbeaten and build on that for next year. Players have left and
there is room in the midfield for me but the manager may bring in two or
three more players so things can change."
Billy Stark still believes theres a lot for the players to play for in the last 4 games. "These last four games will be important to us for next season because the players who have featured recently, pretty much to a man, will be involved next year so they need to get back the feeling of winning games. Weve had a difficult time but the players have acquitted themselves well against Hearts and Motherwell and we are looking to continue that in the last four games."
4pm - Oh God that was dire - no pride at all from the Saints players and we lost 1-0 to Scumdee in front of oooh dozens of armchair viewers. After the game Billy Stark said "I'm definitely disappointed to lose again especially losing a goal from a set-piece from which we should have defended better. In the first half not a lot of players on either side did well and we didn't do enough when we had the ball. In the second half we did better especially in the first 25 minutes but didn't get the breakthrough. I don't think there was a lot in the game and I think if we had scored first at the time when they did then it would have been us who won the game. It's another one-goal defeat and we've had a lot of them this season but we just have to continue to analyse and see how we can do better."
Finally and it looks like there will be transfer windows introduced for the first time in Scottish football next season with a UEFA ruling set to allow transfers only between May 12 and August 31st and during January 2003.
12th- Billy Stark isn't expecting
too much in the way of team changes for tomorrow's live game. He said,
"Sammi Youssouf is still
injured but Kiegan Parker is available
again after suspension." The manager also doesn't expect
Ryan Stevenson to get a chance
before the end of the season despite some decent performances for the
U-21s. "Ryan is only 17 and we will continue to see how he goes
before the end of the season to see if he gets a wee run out,"
Meanwhile the manager believes the uncertainty over the TV deals for the SPL will have a silver lining for Saints. He said, "The situation facing Scottish football right now might actually help us in one way. Clubs have no idea what they can budget for as they look towards next season and with so many players sure to be available at all levels over the summer they wont be too keen on finding money for transfer fees. Theyll want to avoid them. Ordinarily when a club is relegated you expect newspaper speculation over transfers and that has been happening with Paul Hartley, who has been our most consistent player. Well have to wait and see if that has any foundation but hopefully if any clubs do express interest in our players we wont be in a position where we have to grab anything thats offered for our assets. Our own finances have to be taken on board but I wouldnt want to sell players cheaply. Right now, Im looking at these players being part of the squad for the First Division campaign and having spoken to one or two theyre telling me theyre ready to do the business next season and make sure we are promoted. The feedback from individuals is very positive."
Kiegan Parker is out to prove a point to the manager after watching the agonies of last week. "I was sitting in the Fir Park stand last week and felt as gutted as anybody when it was confirmed we had been relegated. Id rather be going to places like Ibrox and Celtic Park because thats all Ive known since I broke through at 16. I know I could have scored more goals and, who knows, if Id managed another 10 like the previous season we might not have been relegated. Saints were good enough to hand me a three and a half year contract when things were going well for me and Ill be here next season, unless some club comes up with the kind of offer the club feel they cant refuse. I believe I can be a real threat in the First Division and my aim is to top the scoring charts next season. That would help get us back on track."
April 11th- Saints U-21s beat their Sheep counterparts 2-1 yesterday with Mark Ferry and Peter MacDonald getting the goals.
10th- Little news from the club today but one ex-Saints player in
the news is Kieran "321st choice at
Fulham" McAnespie who has somehow managed to blackmail
Berti "Picking English players worked for Craig Broon didn't it?"
McVogts into picking him for the Scotland 'B' squad who will play in a
bounce match against the Arabs this month. Good to see guys like Peaso and
Paul Hartley (who unlike
Moneybags McAnespie know how to put the
ball in the pokey) continue the long tradition of non-recognition for
Elsewhere Saints U-21s were due to play their Sheep counterparts in Montrose today.
9th- It's been revealed that the SPL TV failure yesterday could
impact Saints. As the relegated side we're due £250,000 next
season and £125,000 the season after if we don't immediately
get promoted. Stewart Duff said, "Its
not clear yet whether this will have a knock-on effect on the parachute
payment which is due to come our way following relegation but it could
Meanwhile Saints have announced that under-16s will be allowed into the East and Ormond Stands free of charge on Saturday. And John Rowbotham will be in charge so watch out Kiegan Parker
Finally the U-21s lost 1-0 to Celtic yesterday.
Billy Stark has been talking about the confirmation of relegation on Saturday. He said, "At no stage of my career had I encountered relegation before and it's a real disappointment. We've been brain-washed into anticipating it for a few weeks now but everyone was down after the game, despite a superb reaction from our travelling fans at the final whistle. It wasn't dramatic the way events unfolded at the weekend but it still hurt. And it keeps flashing into your mind. Nobody wants to have that on their record but better managers than me have been caught up in relegation. But we have to look at the bigger picture and bounce back from this setback. The important thing now is how we handle it. It's all about the group of players who will stay here, the youngsters we've been bringing through and any additions we can make over the summer. Then we have to instil the desire and spirit that will be needed to get the winning streaks that take you to a championship. We will be the team that everyone wants to take a potshot at next season. It's not arrogance to say we will be the biggest club in the First Division. It's a fact that we have the best set-up and facilities and have been a top league club for a few years. We will have to deal with that aspect and the last few games of the season were always going to be used to provide a springboard for next term."
Injury-wise JR apparently took a heavy knock when scoring the goal and it's been revealed that the Pope was suffering from a bug hence his substitution.
On the signings front Sammi "Hasn't even been seen in the pub" Youssouf(right) is apparently still somewhere in Perth, athough rumoured sightings of him at training have yet to be confirmed. Billy Starkk said, "It was always a gamble but I still think Sammy could score goals for us. He hasn't had a chance to do himself justice because of his fitness troubles. But his prospects are still wide open. I want to get him back for a few games before the season ends then we can sit down and talk with him, see how we are placed and what he is thinking." Mark Lynch though will be heading back to Old Trafford in the summer.
8th- Jim Weir(right) has spoken of
being relegated at the weekend. But he's also urging Saints to stick by
the wage policy to ensure the club survives. He said, "The way
things are in the game these days with the collapse of TV deals, you can't
keep pouring money in and allow your club to go into debt. I think our
chairman does it the right way now and I wouldn't want him to change. In
ten years time I want to see that St. Johnstone are still alive even if
that means sacrificing instant success. We'll never be able to pay the
wages of the top ten per cent of players in the country but it's so much
more important that the club is run well."
He's also sure that we'll be back in the top flight although how big a part he'll play in the longer term remains to be seen. "Now perhaps we all have to realise that with good times you also have to suffer bad times. I'm certain that Saints will play SPL football again whether that is in my time or not I don't know. I've got a year left of my contract and if I do help the club get straight back up they will have to decide about keeping me. All I know is that right now this hurts like hell. It has been embarrassing losing games all the time and we've never recovered our confidence from going on a horrendous run 18 months ago. I'm the captain of a side that's just been relegated but I have also skippered the club when we got out of the First Division. It's all about how I handle this from here. I'm sure the fans will support me so no doubt the good times will come back."
Meanwhile, Billy Stark has said that "in terms of a clear-out there will be no more high-profile names leaving." . Assuming of course the silly money bids don't appear.
Meanwhile let's hear it for Ewan Smith in today's Sun who describes Saints as having a "low-budget, threadbare squad". God knows what that makes the rest like then.
Off the park and the much-vaunted SPL TV Channel has been scuppered by the OF. Club managing director Stewart Duff commented: "St Johnstone Football Club were in favour of the proposed SPL TV Channel as it felt that this was the best option available to the clubs at this time. We are disappointed that the Old Firm clubs have again put their own interests before the greater good of Scottish Football." . Still at least we get Jim Delahunt next season instead !!!!
Finally and for some reason this Saturday's match against Scumdee has been made a 12 noon kick-off with the game live on Sky. No doubt an attempt to prevent us all drowning our sorrows before the game. Details of prices will be announced later this week according to the official site which means plenty of cheap deals methinks.
7th- With relegation now confirmed there's a lot of anger being
directed at Sandy Clark who yesterday
used his role as a radio pundit to stick the knife into a club that
obviously stuck by him a season too long and tried to distance himself
from the blame for any failings this year. Saying that he wasn't "sorry
for certain individuals that Saints are going down" the currently
unemployed SPL failure said that it was the club's fault that they went
down due to the lack of decent youngsters coming through. It's a wonderful
explanation for his tendency last summer to sign anyone with false teeth
and a zimmer frame but a simple look at the performance of the youngsters
he didn't deem good enough in the last few games makes a mockery of his
comments and personally speaking at least he's lost any vestiges of
respect or sympathy from this website.
And one final note - one of the best youngsters Saints have produced in recent years was sitting amongst the away support yesterday - yup the same internationalist Danny Griffin who Clark didn't deem good enough for a Saints jersey. Oh that one day he reaches the heights and standards of Willie Falconer.
2.30pm - Yesterday's goal hero Paul Hartley thinks Saints will be straight back up as long as they don't offload too many players in the summer. Believing that there's no real challenge in the First Division to Saints he said, "If we can try to keep a decent squad together we'll be confident of trying to come back up because I don't think it's a great standard in the First Division just now. I don't think anyone is spending money so if we can try to keep a few of the players together hopefully we can go up next season. We'll try to get out of it in one season - we're in it now and we've just got to build for next season. Maybe the manager will bring one or two players in over the summer and hopefully we can come right back up."
The midfielder, who's more than likely to be voted Player of the Year for Saints also says he's planning to stick around. "I've got another year left and I'm happy to stay. I'll probably just sit down with the manager over the summer and see what the plans are."
6th- No more team news ahead of this afternoon's game although
Paul Hartley at least will be free to
play after his suspension at Swinecastle.
7pm - That's it. The fat bird has finally belted out a chorus and Saints latest sojourn in the SPL is finally over. Thanks to a 1-1 draw at Fir Park we are now officially finally relegated and it's Dingwall and Arbroath next season. JR (right) got a first half goal and we hit the bar a couple of times but in the end an Elliot equaliser with 20 minutes to go sealed our fate. After the game Billy Stark said that he wouldn't be taking the First Division opponents next season for granted and said, "A number of players have left the club but we have a squad of players and there is a nucleus there. I'd also like to bring in two or three players and there are a few of the younger ones who have come in who have shown they have the ability to do okay. What we have to do is muster those three groups together into a squad with a collective desire to get us out of the First Division. But players can't be thinking that just because they have played at this level that they are too good for the First Division and that it's just a case of showing up and winning games - that just doesn't happen." . As for the game itself he said, "It's been hanging over us for a while now and we went into this game knowing that we needed five wins from our remaining games and for Motherwell to have five defeats. We have found it hard even to win a couple of games in a row this season so even a supreme optimist would have said it was going to be difficult. I'm obviously disappointed that we didn't win this game but we were going into the final six games in a very difficult position."
5th- For the second time in a week Geoff
Brown(right) is in the papers discussing Saints problems and he's
pinpointing the start of the rot on the Utd game at the end of last
season, but is still intent on rallying the fans for next season no matter
where we are. He said, "Had St Johnstone won-and we should
have-Dundee United would have been in real trouble and St Mirren would
have been left in the Premier League. We were cruising at 2-0, we got a
player sent off, and then we lost the game. That result changed our
financial position as well because theres no question that losing
that game drove away quite a number-I believe hundreds-of season ticket
renewals. That game really bothers me." .
And with us almost certain to go down he's already made it clear we don't have the 3 years it took last time to rebuild the team and rejoin the so-called elite with part-time football more than likely if we fail to get up. "I would like to think that St Johnstone will be strong bookies favourites to win promotion. You have to look at the quality of the league and who can afford to improve their squads and the simple answer to that is nobody. But we all know that its a different animal required in the first division than in the premier league. What the manager has to do is make sure he gets the balance in the squad right. Id like to think, and Id certainly like to get it over to our supporters, that its St Johnstones intention of making a real push for next season. The end of next season will determine the way the club will be going in the future. The difference between being full-time and part-time will depend on wage levels, which will be determined in the market place. It will also depend on the support we can command. If we have 2000 or 2500 people coming through the doors, theres no way full-time football can be sustained."
As for this season he's not mincing his words either. "Its been a complete disaster. We started badly and never managed to get a run going after that. There was a lack of passion. There wasnt a problem with ability but getting everybody playing well on the same day was the problem. When Alan Main got injured in many ways it was almost the last straw. Also, the number of broken bones weve had this season is the most Ive experienced in my 15 years in football."
8pm - On the park and goalscoring hero Tommy Løvenkrands(right) has said that Saints will go down fighting starting at Fir Park tomorrow. "All the players are really up for the game and want to keep the challenge going as long as possible. There's still a chance of staying up. Hopefully, it should be a good game against Motherwell and we will get out of it with a win." And the cult hero winger has also said he has no plans to quit the club despite the recent spate of departures and the introduction of several youngsters. "I'm not thinking of quitting. I know that the club is looking towards next year. We have to build now with some of the young players - it's more the older players that they've got rid of."
Rumourwise it's pretty quiet although there are some stories of Craig Russell and Graeme Jones moving house in Perth.
4th- Pope is in the papers today
and has 5 games left to make a good impression on the Saints management in
order to win a new contract. Despite a good performace at Swinecastle last
week, his form since signing 3 years ago has been erratic to say the least
and Billy Stark said, "I have
still to make a decision on John Paul."
Meanwhile the U-21s drew 2-2 with Livingston yesterday - Ross Forsyth and Craig Russell scored for the boys. Nick Dasovic also played confirming that the player is still at Saints and will be there until the end of this season.
Finally let's hear it for the SPL TV - something which looks doomed to failure already with the OF seemingly set to skive off and get their money-grabbing paws on their own deal.
April 3rd- With 3 days to go until the big game at the weekend though, Billy Stark is giving some hints as to the likely make up of the side. "We go into this game with a good deal of confidence following our win over Hearts. The team will not be much different from the one at Tynecastle with the young players still in the fray." was what he said although with players now back from suspension it will be interesting to see where he fits any changes in in the side.
2nd- Nick Dasovic(right) is the
latest departure from McD with the Canadian midfielder told he won't be
needed by Saints next season. Despite earlier plans to quit Scotland for a
coaching role in his native land in the summer it looked like he'd changed
his mind. But with Saints set to concentrate on youth and cutting costs
he's been left out of the side since returning from Gold Cup duty and is
unlikely to feature again before the end of the season although is still
under contract. Speaking of leaving McD he said, "Myself and Kano
have both played 153 matches. Weve had a really good partnership and
Ive enjoyed playing with him. Ive been here a bit longer but
then Ive had more injuries than him! I certainly wasnt
expecting to play as many games as that or be here for six years when I
arrived, given the way my career had taken me all over the world at that
point. This is the longest Ive been at any club and it will be sad
to leave, especially with the club being relegated. Its been a great
six years and Ive had the opportunity to work under three good
managers and coaching teams. Ive experienced promotion, years of
consistently doing well in the Premier League, playing and scoring in a
cup final, playing in the UEFA Cup and winning at places like Celtic Park.
Its gone full circle with relegation but theres been lots of
good and not much bad. Physically, I still feel as if theres
something left in me but the managers decided to rebuild the team
around youth and people still under contract. I respect that decision."
From my point of view he's been a bloody good servant to Saints and is another who will go down in history for scoring in the CIS cup final in 1998 as well as a cracking goal in the semi-final and the winner at Parkhead when Saints picked up their first win at the Wegie bog in decades. Best of luck in the future Nick.
Billy Stark has also acknowledged both the veteran midfielders saying , "Theyve been great professionals and really good players. I think everybody should appreciate what theyve done here. The teams struggled and theyve taken stick unfairly at times. People shouldnt forget the part theyve played in the successful times here." . It means though that the Saints squad will be a lot younger next season but the manager is still confident there's sufficient experience in the side. "Alan Main will be back and well have Jim Weir, Darren Dods, Graeme Jones and Paddy Connolly, among others, so theres a reasonable smattering of experience there. Im not saying that I wont be signing others, because its about getting the balance right. There will hopefully be three or four players coming in to bolster the squad for next season and weve got to look at the type of player who will get us out of the First Division."
Meanwhile Kenny Clark is in charge of the game at Fir Park on Saturday.
1st- There's some good news for some of Saints younger players as
well.Kiegan Parker(right) could be in
line for a Scotland call-up after Berti Vogts declared that the Scotland
squad to tour the Far East in the summer will be made up of the younger
players. Meanwhile two Saints players are set to join a "youth squad
of excellentcd" to play in Barcelona, Spain and Australia in a
tournament. Emmanuel Panther and
Mark Ferry have both been picked for the
trip to Spain.
Finally , so far there is no danger of Saturday's game being postponed due to the Queen Mother's death.
Top Of News
31st- Geoff Brown(right) has
appeared in the papers today with his comments on the season so far - "Ruddy
awful" is how the Scotsman politely phrases it although
you can be sure the language actually used was more than likely a lot more
The chairman also says that Saints made a mistake in not parting with ex-manager Sandy Clark last summer and criticises the ex-boss for "not having an eye for a player". He said, "The mistake we made was not changing the manager last summer, before embarking on recruiting players to retain our place in the SPL. It is not that we didnt have a big enough squad - we had loads of bloody players - but we did not identify the correct ones to do a job for us. We brought in guys to supplement the ones we had, and now we are moving out those self-same players. What does that tell you? We have five players who have suffered fractures this season, which didnt help, but neither did the fact that when it came to putting an XI on the park with the legs for playing in the SPL, we had 10 guys in the squad over 30."
Despite all this and his well-documented health problems he's still sticking with the club and he does believe it would have been different if he'd been at McD all season. "Im not on an ego trip, and being in charge of St Johnstone is not of financial benefit to me, quite the reverse. But I want the team to prosper for the sake of people in the area, who I want to give something back to. I cant say things would have been better, but they would have been different, Im sure of that "
Elsewhere in his comments he fully expects crowds next season to be "dreadful" with only the diehards following us regularly. He's also expecting Saints to lose over £1m this season although what angers him more than anything is how the club have been "sucked in" to paying high wages to players. "St Mirren went down last year with the lowest wage bill of an SPL side. We are facing that this season having taken over that mantle from them, and you can rest assured that the team with the lowest wage bill next year will drop out of the Premier."
30th- Paul Kane has said his
farewells to the club as he heads for Clyde. Speaking of his departure he
said, "I havent been figuring in the first team regularly
of late and at my age its all about playing. The managers been
playing youngsters recently with an eye on next season. This is an
opportunity to link up again with Alan
Kernaghan and the club agreed to let me go. Im looking forward
to the challenge and I know Alan has ambition for the club and himself. I
still love playing and this will be a new challenge because it will be the
first time Ill have played outwith the top league in Scotland."
Billy Stark also praised the veteran midfielder saying, "Pauls been a good servant to the club and he and Benito both leave with our best wishes. Were looking to the future and this suits both parties."
29th- Ryan Stevenson(right)
has been talking about signing for Saints. The 17-yr old said, "Ive
been at Chelsea since the age of 14 when they used to fly me down from
Scotland to London every Thursday. Id train with the youth team on a
Friday, play a match on the Saturday and then fly back on the Sunday. Ive
been offered a new contract at Stamford Bridge but Ive been involved
with the reserves for a long time now and its got to the stage where
thats no longer an achievement. I didnt feel as if the
manager, Claudio Ranieri, was watching the reserve matches with a view to
picking me in the first team squad on a Saturday if I did well. It was as
if Id come up against a ceiling. I now want to start playing first
team football. I was never going to play first team football at Chelsea
and I think this is the best decision I could have made. If I do well, Im
sure the manager will give me my chance here. I think my mind was made up
about moving on after I played in a reserve game against Arsenal. In their
team that night were players like Richard Wright, Edu, Lee Dixon, Francis
Jeffers and Ray Parlour and I remember we came in 4-0 down at half-time. I
want to reach that standard and I didnt feel that Id be able
to progress to that at Chelsea."
He was impressed with McD over Hibs he said, "I really felt at home in the few days I spent at McDiarmid Park. I know that the manager wont be frightened to play me because a club like St Johnstone relies on youth coming through. Bobby Williamson said that if I did well Id get a chance but I felt that it would be the case of a foreigner getting picked before me. Ive played the total football style of the game, if you like, at Chelsea and playing in the first division for one year (Im sure well go up) will help me learn about a tougher style of football, and can only benefit me."
5.00pm - More departures have been announced with Paul Kane(right) leaving Saints to join Clyde. He'll go down in history as the first player to take advantage of the Bosman ruling and will always be remembered with affection as the scorer of that goal against Scumdee which got us the UEFA Cup spot in 1999. Whilst age has gotten the better of him he always gave 100% for the club and for that he deserves our best wishes.
Also heading for pastures new is Benito Kemble who has been released from his contract. Meanwhile youngster Brendan Crozier who has been on loan to Stirling Albion since January has had his loan deal extended until the end of this season.
28th- Confirmation from Saints that Willie
Falconer has signed for Grimsby until the end of the season. As yet
Rachid doesn't have a new club but
Saints have given him training facilities until the end of the season. As
for other departures Billy Stark said
that it's "likely that one or two others will leave before the
end of the season".
One of the latest rumours doing the rounds is that veteran (as in bloody ancient) midfielder Paul Kane could be set to be offered another 1-year deal. Meanwhile other sources suggest that Jambos manager Craig Levein was seen hovering around McD yesterday although whether he was just there to pick up tips on how to score goals and play sexy football or just trying to offload Fatboy Fulton remains to be seen.
Today also saw the English transfer deadline with Saints making no further moves.
27th- There's mixed news from the long-term injury victim's.
Alan Main's op has been rated a success
and he'll definitely be back for the start of next season, although
whether he'll have dislodged Kevin
Cuthbert from the no 1 jersey remains to be seen.
Stuart Malcolm though is set to see a
London specialist about his persistent groin injury which has ruled him
out for the last 18 months, although the club believe he'll still make a
Emmanuel Panther has also been in the papers again saying how he wants to win a new deal. Out of contract in the summer the 17-yr old said, "Hopefully I'll get a few more first-team outings before the end of the season. My contract is up but I'm keen to stay - the club have been good to me and stood by me throughout my injury."
One player who looks like leaving before the end of the season is veteran striker Willie Falconer who according to reports in the Sun is set to join Grimsby after agreeing a deal to terminate his contract earlier than the end of the season. Another who has left is fan's favourite Rachid Djebaili(right) in a surprising move especially since "The Belly" hasn't exactly been given a decent chance to prove himself at the club. No doubt this will be another one of those decisions that comes back to haunt us.
However there are finally some permanent signings coming into the club with Chelsea's teenage midfielder Ryan Stevenson signing a 2-year deal with Saints with the club beating Hibs to the youngster's signature after a 2 week trial. Billy Stark said he was "Chelsea were looking to give him a contract, but he didn't really settle down there so he wanted to come back up the road. There were one or two clubs trying to get him, but we've managed to get him so I'm quite happy. He's got ambition to progress quickly and hopefully we'll give him that chance. I have high hopes for an extremely promising young player."
Some news on ex-Saints striker Nathan Lowndes who looks set to leave Meadowbank. Apparently the Ginger Tosser can't even make the shellsuit team and is set to head to Luton on loan. Aw diddums.
26th- There was more good news for Saints last night with the U-21s
slaughtering St Midden 5-0. Scorers were Martin
Maher, Paul Hartley,
Peter MacDonald and brace from
Emmanuel Panther, meanwhile has spoken of his excitement at breaking into the first team. "The match was amazing. I got told on the Friday that I would be starting and by the Saturday I was quite relaxed. I couldnt believe how well things went and to be 3-0 up by half-time was incredible. I wasnt expecting to play in the first team this season with the way things were going, but the managers shown faith in me and given me a chance. Hopefully now Ill get a few more run-outs in the side this season and then well see what happens next season." . Billy Stark(right) also praised the 17-yr old saying "I felt he had a really good debut. Hes nudging six feet, got a middleweight boxers physique, good legs to get up and down the pitch, and hes also got really good feet in terms of getting himself out of tight situations and getting passes away. There are key things that need to be improved but you would say that about all players of his age." .
The manager also praised Paddy Connolly and his comments suggest the comeback king might not be one of those out the door in the summer. "Connollys a cracking footballer. Having had a wee break he was really fresh and inventive. He did really well helping to bring other players into our attacks. All the players deserve credit for refusing to accept that Saturday was going to be their fateful day for going down."
25th- Star of the weekend's win, Tommy
Løvenkrands has revealed that the birth of baby Katherine on
Thursday night was his inspiration (no laughing now). He said, "I
talked to Billy Kirkwood before the game and said I had a strange feeling
that I would score a goal. Maybe the new baby made the difference. "I
was tired after the game but when youre scoring goals you always
find something extra." . As for the 2nd goal he said, "I
really hit it well. It was the type of shot that you can hardly feel when
it comes off the boot. It was a great strike. I should have been forward
more this season but the way things have gone Ive had to do a lot of
defending. In this match I just felt like going for it. The manager had
told us before the game that there was no pressure on us and to go out and
enjoy the match. Thats what we did and we played like a team."
The fixtures for rest of season see Saints head to Fir Park and all things Buckie-related a week on Saturday. Defeat there or a draw will see us destined for the drop whilst a win will keep our hopes alive. Otherwise it's been fairly nice to us with 3 home ties and only Fir Park and Tannadump likely to see our "handful of travelling fans" (c. Every bloody paper in Scotland this season) make their presence felt. The full list is -
Apr 6: Motherwell v Saints
Apr 13: Saints v Dundee
Apr 20: Saints v Killie
Apr 27: Dundee U v Saints
May 12: Saints v Hibs
All games kick-off at 3pm although there's a possibility one of the home games will be on Sky since we're the only ground the cameras haven't bothered to visit yet this season.
23rd- Billy Stark is set to play
more of the kids today as Saints look to score a goal, never mind take
some points from their trip to Swinecastle. A defeat for us and a point
for Hibs will end our spell in the SPL. Martin
Maher, Emmanuel Panther and
Mark Ferry(right) are all set to play at
some point. The manager said, "First of all were looking to
get a victory, but in our situation Ill be evaluating players for
next season as well. Were in a difficult situation where decisions
are being made about next season and players are in a state of flux, with
some knowing they want be here. Plus were introducing young players.
Mark Ferry will be added to the squad and Emmanuel Panther, Ross Forsyth
and Martin Maher will all be included again, so theres a nucleus of
youngsters there. Weve worked hard to keep the players going in
training over the last couple of weeks and theyve responded well."
. Saints will be missing Paul Hartley
and Kiegan Parker due to suspension but
Craig Russell is added to the squad
and Paddy Connolly will be given his
umpteenth chance to prove he can score in the SPL. The latter said, "Obviously
weve not done well in Edinburgh this season. "But to be fair,
everywheres been a terrible place for us. There havent been
many places where weve gone and got a result. Even Perths not
been great for us! You have to look at the season as a whole really and
say that weve been consistently poor. Its obviously been very
disappointing for everyone at the club but it would save a wee bit of face
if we beat Hearts-weve not managed to do much of that this season.
Well battle on and well be trying to get a few results before
the end of the season. We have to be professional about things and go into
our last few games as positively as we can. The Aberdeen game last month
was the last time I was involved in a game but hopefully now Ill get
back in the team and play for the last few games of the season."
7pm - Bloody hell. We drag out the torture for another fortninght thanks to a Tommy Løvenkrands(right) pair of rockets and a Pope penalty had us 3-0 up at half-time before we gave the Gorgie Gits (such sporting losers) a consolation in the 2nd half consolation in a 3-1 win at Tynecastle. Hibs won at Tannadump so only need 1 point for safety (although Well are back in it) but at least we've dragged it on until after the split. After the game the manager said, "I believe we're playing better now that we know we're likely to be relegated. I think it was one of our best performances of the season. We started well and I think we created more chances in this game than we've had in the last dozen. The pressure was off the players and they had a better attitude which helped them perform better."
Finally the split was sorted out today and it means the last 5 games will be against Hibs, Well, Killie, Scumdee and their Arab chums. The exact fixtures and dates have still to be announced.
22nd- Kevin Cuthbert (right) is
out to establish himself in the first team between now and the end of the
season. The young keeper isn't even bothering to get the fans' hopes up
for tomorrow and is looking to the future after being given his chance.
"It has been a disappointing season for Saints but we do not see
it as being finished yet and will be doing as well as we can in all the
remaining games. Things could go badly for us at Tynecastle but we hope to
put on a decent performance whatever happens. Personally, I am delighted
to be playing as it is not often that young keepers get the chance to
perform on a stage like the SPL. Hopefully, I can keep my place for the
rest of the season." . Billy Stark
has admitted he's not happy at having to use the teenager. "It is
not the type of thing you want to do but Kevin has handled himself well
and I couldnt have asked for more from him"
Meanwhile, long-term broken leg victim Alan Main is set to see a specialist about his injury and could face further surgery.
March 21st- The U-21s lost 3-1 to the Pars last night with little to cheer the small crowd. Craig Russell scored our goal. Martin Lauchlan also played after his return from being on loan to Dumbarton, whilst Paul Kane played 90 minutes at sweeper which probably means he'll be too knackered to do anything other than get booked at Swinecastle.
19th- Tickets for Tynecastle are on sale but you can buy tickets at
the ground on the day as well - this is all due to the Edinburgh club's
apparent total lack of trust of their own stewards. SPL dontcha just love
On the injury front, Paddy Connolly(right) looks set to play with Graeme Jones a possible absentee with a calf strain. And the SPL have announced that Alan Freeland will be the man in charge. Oh joy.
Billy Stark had the guys out doing double training yesterday and said, Ive told the lads that we are not going to put in poor performances - we have to show the required spirit in the games left.
Stuart Malcolm is one of those who could be in the running in the post-split games. He's been out for donkeys with a groin injury but with his contract up at the end of the season is looking to impress the manager. Its been a real slog, but the club has been fantastic to me. I wish I could have been out there trying to help the team. Watching them is really difficult - Im one of those players who kicks every ball! I was first told it would be only 12 weeks, then 24 and its only now that Im considering running again. The boredom has been mind numbing. I feel weve had no luck this season. People say you make your own luck but you definitely need some, which I dont reckon weve had. But the squad are in battling mood - were determined to fight on. All I want to do is get fit and hopefully renew my contract in the close season.
Off the park and a potential row is brewing over the youth league. St Midden have been allowed to stay in and compete in the SPL Youth League this season despite being relegated. However it appears that the same courtesy might not be extended to Saints. And a lack of competition such as the league gives us means that the number of youngsters on the books would be heavily cut.
Meanwhile, ex-Saintees in the news include Phizzy Scott whose 3-year stint at Sheffield Wednesday has ended with the midfielder, who hardly played a game for them, being released on a free. Meanwhile, Kieran McAnespie has been farmed out by Fulham on loan to Bournemouth. So much for the grass being greener then.
As for Denmark well let's say I drank beer whilst watching FC Copenhagen beat Esbjerg 6-0 in a 40,000 seater stadium which makes the Death Star look like Boghead with a brilliant atmosphere (even if most of the songs were in Danish with the exception of "You only sing when you're fishing"). And the cost - all of £8.50. Yup makes you wonder where the SPL dosh all goes to doesn't it.
Not that I managed to escape the SPL totally - Copenhagen Airport yesterday saw me catch sight of "Ambitious Meadowbank's" poet-in-charge Jim Leishmann in the Wunderwear Lingerie shop eyeing up a gold-coloured thong. Just perfect for those meetings with Penfold obviously.
15th- Little in the papers again. Despite no game this weekend (be
grateful for small mercies), the side have apparently gone through a full
week's squad training.....as if we'd notice the difference. One player
back in action though is Paddy Connolly
and Billy Stark said , "Paddys
been out for a while and it will be good to have him available for the
match at Hearts next weekend." . No doubt that will make all the
difference to the side.
With the threat of relegation looming ever closer this weekend, the I've has decided to flee the country and watch some games as a neutral. So there will be no updates until Monday night (although if I can be bothered then there might be a quick report on FC Copenhagen v Ebsjberg).
14th- Even with the total lack of news coming out of McD it hasn't
stopped Saints heading closer to the drop thanks to Scumdee's 2-0 win over
Meadowbank last night leaving them and Hibs needing only 1 and 4 points
respectively to condemn us to the drop. At least that means it'll all be
over soon and hopefully Saints can spend the rest of the season
entertaining the dwindling number of fans.
Meanwhile with another twist of irony our U21 scorers in the 2-1 win over TFOD were those trendy kids Paddy Connolly and Craig Russell. Football eh?
13th- With Billy Stark apparently
untouchable and blameless for our current position, he's been in the
papers today vowing to make Saints a force in Scottish football again.
"I'm totally committed and up for the fight and I'll be asking
players who come in to show me the same attitude. I have the enthusiasm
for the task which lies ahead. Any clear-out was always going to have to
go on hold until the end of the season. I hope people are realistic when
they look at the situation here. I don't doubt my ability. I knew the size
of the task when I took it on."
Oh yeah and if anyone wants a laugh the Retard pundits panel is at the Muirton Suite tonight - so go along, have a barney with Traynor and watch the farmer stereotypes appear in the paper tomorrow.
12th- Not too much in the papers today.
Stark is apparently hoping that no 1
keeper Kevin Cuthbert doesn't pick up
an injury since we're not allowed to take anyone else on loan this season
and he might even have to go and make a long-term signing ahead of the
March 31st transfer deadline. The manager has also been speaking about the
youngsters who have broken through to the first team but says that they
won't make up the backbone of the side yet with plenty of transfer moves
still to be made. "It's important that fans don't think I'm
playing kids like Martin and
Emmanuel with a view to making them
first-team fixtures next season. I wouldn't put that kind of pressure on
them. But there is an opportunity for them.When everyone is fit, we still
have a biggish squad, even in SPL terms. That would have to be addressed
in any case - but there will be a number of players coming in for the next
That also means that there will be a number of departures and already it looks like Benito Kemble, Paul Kane, Nick Dasovic, John Paul McBride and some of the other fringe first team players are likely to be looking for new clubs come the summer (or even beforehand if some rumours are to be believed). And one other rumour doing the rounds is of a possible move to Tannadump for Darren Dods (no 4 on our sellable assets list).
Meanwhile it's been confirmed that both Kiegan Parker and Paul Hartley(right) are suspended for the trip to Tynecastle on the 23rd when no doubt we'll all enjoy a really depressing day out.
Finally one small piece of cheer - the U-21s beat TFOD last night.
March 11th- Little happening at the club with the usual heads-down attitude which has been all too prevalent after a defeat this season showing through. And whilst it's going to take until the weekend at least (when we won't be playing and yours truly is getting out of the country to avoid further depression) before the inevitable relegation spot is confirmed, it's safe to say that there are likely to be changes at the club this week with several players likely to be told to leave early.
9th- Latests word on the tactics for today is that
Stark is likely to be extremely daring
and go for 2 players in the opposition half with
Peaso(right) likely to partner
Graeme Jones up front.
Meanwhile the manager has commented on the Curse of the Goalies saying, "Ludo caught his fingers in the ground and they bent back and broke after he put his weight on them. He was taken to Perth Royal Infirmary and it looks like hell be out for the season. The goalkeeper situation has certainly been difficult this season!" . As for the culling of the squad expect the departures to start next week. "It will be happening in the next week or so. There are lots of aspects of this job that arent nice but its part of being a manager and you just have to get on with it. When everybodys fit theres a reasonable sized squad in Premier League terms and obviously well be looking to cut it. Were looking towards next season and rebuilding, theres no doubt about that. We have to be realistic about our situation but we have to keep focusing on winning the next game. Thats the duty that weve got. The players are paid to be professional and we want to make sure that were seen to be giving everything weve got. Some players can rise to uncertainty and turn it into a positive situation. Some go the other way."
Nick Dasovic is also not looking forward to the end of the season, and possibly his time with Saints. "Id hate it to end this way.Theres a good number of out-of-contract players and obviously its the managers decision what hes looking to do. Im going to keep fighting, as will the rest of the team. If he doesnt want to keep me then thats football. But if he says were looking to keep you and I can help the club come straight back up, then great. We want to finish on a high. It would be nice to win this one because we should have beaten them here before when we lost 3-2 in the game that Alan Main broke his leg."
7pm - Ach well what did we really expect? Changes were rung today with the old guard stepping aside (allowing an SPL debut from the bench for Emmanuel Panther(right)) but that didn't stop a 2-0 defeat at home in front of a dire crowd most of whom weren't too slow to show the management and club what they thought of goings on on the park. And to that you can add Tayside Police who decided that a few kids in the East Stand were potential hooligans for the heinous crime of standing up. Pathetic when McD is the only ground in Scotland where more home fans get arrested or thrown out than away supporters. Expect repercussions from this.
After the game Stark said "You need to be an extreme optimist to think we'll stay up now. We need to win 4 or 5 games on the trot and have only won 4 all season". No shit Sherlock.
Finally and the rumours in the stand today suggest that the first two names on the cull list are Rachid Djebaili and Craig Russell who have both been told that they are surplus to requirements. This is still just unconfirmed rumour but expect the squad surgery to begin this week.
8th- Squad news for tomorrow sees the return of
Paddy Connolly after his calf injury
and Kiegan Parker after being a daft
wee laddie, although the latter will only be back for one game before
missing out at Tynecastle in a fortnight through suspension.
JR is another heading for a suspension
after his booking on Wednesday pushed him over the points mark. And kids
will be admitted free to the Ormond and East Stands tomorrow.
But the big news on the injury front is of the keeper jinx striking once more. In an attempt to keep our goalkeeper turnover rate up with the number of drummers used by Spinal Tap in their career, Ludovic Roy(right) has gone and broken his hand in training his morning. His season's over and Kevin Cuthbert will return to the side for the rest of the season.
Of course it's a meaningless game tomorrow and despite comments from the club earlier in the week Stark has admitted the clearout will start sooner rather than later as we face up to the 1st Division next season. He said, "In our situation we have to start building for next season. There are seven games left and this could be a difficult period. But I want the players to be utterly professional in their approach to them, regardless of where they're likely to be next season.". He has finally admitted though that tomorrow's game is "win or bust". So no excuses for a crap performance then.
Meanwhile the club have told the Gorgie Gits to piss off after media reports linked them with a move for JR with a rumoured £50,000 bid being made. Never mind the fact that the offer is derisory and an insult (and possible intending to upset the player ahead of the Tynecastle game in a fortnight),Stark insists he's not going to be one of those out the door in the summer. "We've had no approach whatsoever and he's under contract anyway. We want him to stay with the club because he's been one of our most consistent players this season. He has had a long run in the team and has shown that he can handle it and influence games so we want him to stay here.". And whilst 1st Division football is a near enough certainty, Stark also says he's sure JR will stay around for next season's campaign.
7th- First up anyone with misbehaving children have an excellent
punishment to dish out this weekend with Saints deciding to follow the
Livingston game's policy of free admission to under 16s with a similar
gesture for this weekends Motherwell game. So go on it's better than
sending them up a chimney !!
Back to last nights umpteenth defeat of the season and Billy Stark is blaming the timing of the 1st goal this time. Whilst losing yet another goal in stoppage time (no matter what half it is) has to be seen as careless by Saints the game hardly turned on it. Anyway the manager had this to say, "I would concede that we did not look like scoring but we had been defending with grit and determin-ation and had hoped to use that as platform for the second half. But to lose a goal as we did and when we did was demoralising."
6th- Martin Maher(right) has been
speaking of his emergence into the first team this season as one of the
few good things. And he's not worried about facing up to the bigots
tonight. "I have come up against some of their big names-Ronald
de Boer, for instance-when playing for the reserves but I realise this
will be a different thing altogether. I am looking forward to it, though,
and the good thing is there are a lot of experienced guys in our team who
can help me out if need be. And like the rest of the lads I am keen to
show there is still plenty of fight left in our team. We will not just lie
down and accept our fate. Saturdays defeat against Hibs was a sore
one but before that we had been doing not too badly. Also, it would be
nice to give the fans something to cheer about. We took 1200 supporters
through to Edinburgh and, according to a couple of my mates who were at
the game, there were hundreds more locked out."
Of the injury list, Cap'n Jim is apparently "determined" to play according to the manager and Tommy Løvenkrands(right) managed to resume training yesterday so could be set to take on his wee brother. Up front is where the problems lie according to Billy Stark "Graeme Jones' calf is giving him a bit of bother but hopefully hell be fine. Otherwise well have to look at pairing Willie Falconer and Peter MacDonald, who only returned from two weeks out on Monday night. Having so many players unavailable for a game like this is hardly ideal but its been a recurring situation for us and theres no point mumping about it." . Inspiring stuff isn't it?
Right time for a MINI-EDITORIAL (I know, I know, wait all season then 2 come along at once) :::Tonight's game is more than likely the last time we'll face OF opposition in the league for the best part of 18 months. Unfortunately form this season combined with the clouds of gloom and despair hanging over the club and players mean that this game is all but meaningless in the overall picture. The supporters know it, the players know it and I think everyone connected with the club knows it as well (even if they won't admit it). There's players likely to get their last chance tonight against the OF in their Saints or indeed entire playing career as well as some kids who might just get some inspiration from playing one of the "bigger" sides (in egos if not size).
So a small plea from me to the team - please, please just go for an all out hell for leather, arse-kicking, bigot-bashing, glory-hunting win - we'll probably get humped but from a fan's point of view it would be a lot more fun being humped and going down fighting than sitting back and watching another brain-numbing defensive-minded cautious performance. We're not bothered any more about the score or the league position or how many points we have to get etc - we just want to enjoy our football for the first time this season. It'll be a long time before we get another chance to show these bigots up so just go out and try and give us the memory of gubbing these so-called superior snobbish bastards - at least we'll have something to smile about freezing our arses off at Gayfield next year.
11pm - Aye well so much for the SPL with a headless chicken impersonation from another lackluster Saints side tonight as we lost 2-0 to TFOD. Even better was the massed crowd of 6300 that watched the debacle unfold. At least the club can't complain we'll miss the big crowds when we go down. Oh yeah and the manager's post-match comments almost bordered on criticism of the players. Almost. Still we got the usual laugh when he mentioned the "lack of leadership and fight in the team in the 2nd half." . And just to rub it all in the rumours of part-time football if we go down are building off the park.
5th- Saints have said they won't appeal against the red card shown
to Kiegan Parker(right) at the weekend.
Billy Stark said, "We are not
appealing because the decision was down to interpretation. Whether we will
be punishing Keigan as a club is an internal matter." ....no
doubt that doesn't mean a red-hot poker up the arse.
With Kiegan suspended for tomorrow's match against TFOD it's just another name who's unavailable. The injury list too is mounting up with doubts over Cap'n Jim (calf), Sammy Youssouf(groin), Goalden Graeme (calf) and Tommy Løvenkrands, who has a back injury. The latter two are hopefully going to make the game though. Still the manager has some faith (unlike the rest of us) and said, "The players have to keep going for a number of reasons, not least of all that our fans will be expecting them to battle on. Also, football can be unpredictable-you never know what can happen." . Unfortunately we know all too well what will happen......
And just to round the day off with some good news Dougie McDonald (he of the inability to tell the time until TFOE get the winner) has been put in charge of Saturday's game against Motherwell.
4th- Cap'n Jim has refused to blame
Kiegan Parker or Saturday. "It
was a wee bit silly. He is a young kid and he has to learn from this."
. He did praise the fans who made the trip to see that fucking
shambles though and told of his reason for throwing his shirt to the crowd
at the end. "There is no way we will be conceding anything. There
are eight games to go and we owe it to our fans to be professional and do
our best. The support has been fantastic. There was a father there with
his two young kids and it is great that he has chosen to bring them up as
St Johnstone supporters. That can lead to them coming to games with their
pals in a few years time and that is good for the future of the
club. It was just a small gesture of thanks on my part."
11pm - The U-21s did slightly better than their senior counterparts at the weekend. Tonight they only lost 2-0 to Motherwell.
3rd- As usual on a Sunday morning we've got the Saints manager
trying to remain upbeat. Stark said
after the humiliation yesterday, "I know that people will write
us off now but we have to and will keep going. There are a lot of points
still at stake but defeat has certainly made our task more difficult. I
still thought there were a lot of positives from the display today."
....he no doubt then went back to putting his head in the sand.
Anyone hoping to see what the future might hold can head along to McD tomorrow night - the U-21s are at home to Well with a 7pm kick-off.
2nd- Well the big game is finally here - to say that by 4.45 we
could make or break our season is probably an understatement. Something
which the on-loan Mark Lynch(right) well
understands. "Its obviously a massive game for us. We gave
ourselves a real lift a couple of weeks ago with that victory over
Livingston and we will be hoping to build on that. We definitely have the
players to do the job.Paul Hartley's
playing well, Kiegan Parker is a great
young player and Jim Weir has been there
and done it all. With the players we have here we shouldnt be in the
position were in. Since I came here Ive played in virtually
every game and have really enjoyed it. I love it up here-the lads are a
great bunch and theres some real quality in the team despite our
lowly position. My best position is full back, though Saints have been
using me in a defensive midfield role. I can do a job there but reckon Im
better at the back. The last two games have seen me at right back and I
feel a bit happier there."
Starkers has also praised the youngster saying "I was talking to Alex Ferguson and asked him if he had anyone who could do a job for us. He wanted Mark to get some first team experience, so it was agreed that he would come to us. Hes done really well. I thought it was unfair on the boy to pitch him straight in at full back, even though its his natural position, so I used him in a midfield role at first. Hes had a couple of poor games for us in the past month but the good thing is that hes bounced back from them and put in two great performances at right back in our last two games."
"Hibs-Daft" Paul Kane meanwhile is also in the papers today doing his emotionally-torn bit. "I wish this relegation fight was against anyone but Hibs. They're the last team in the league I'd want to be up against in this sort of situation. I don't want to see them relegated. But I'm a St Johnstone player and if it comes down to ourselves or Hibs going down, then I know who I want it to be. My family are all Hibs fanatics and I'm afraid there will be no great show of allegiance for me. They all want Hibs to win. My sole supporter at the game will be my dad Jim - and even he is a Hibs fan at heart. It's incredible the number of times these kind of things happen in football. I still live in Edinburgh and Hibs are my old club who I always supported. But that will count for nothing because I'm a professional and paid by St Johnstone now. I certainly don't want to get relegated." .
The U-18s drew 1-1 at McD with Killie yesterday. David Noble scored Saints goal.
7.00pm- Well thanks Saints. A totally pathetic performance (including a classic Kiegan Parker red card) saw us go down 3-0 to Hibs. The mathematics might not be finalised yet but for the 1200 Saints fans today it's plain we're going down.
EDITORIAL TIME - I don't write these too often but after today it's plain to me that Billy Stark just doesn't have either the savvy or ability to get Saints out of their current mess. When he took over we had plenty of time to get off the bottom spot but now we're in an even worst state. Even more disappointing from my point of view is the way Saints appear to be willing to accept relegation. Of the 14 players used today only 3 (Weir, Hartley and Jones) could in my opinion even hold their heads up and say they tried. There are too many players being given a run in the team who will either obviously not be kept on next season or who are such short-term signing that they're not bothered what happens to us next season. The blame for this must lie with the management. We had over 1200 fans there today - by far the biggest travelling support at a Saints game in a long time, but yet again we were let down by the players on the park and the management off it. Most of us can stand losing games, being a Saints supporter means it's the sort of thing you have to get used to more often than not. But what I and I'm sure my fellow fans will NOT stand for is watching players who are unwilling to put in the effort to at least make a fight of the relegation battle and even worse a management whose tactics seem to be to settle for not being humiliated.
It's a simple message for Stark, Kirkwood and the rest - GO NOW. You're not willing to fight for the club so for fuck's sake step aside - there are plenty of us out there who might not have the coaching skills etc but we'd sure as fuck make sure that any Saints side on the park will at least put up a performance that we're not embarassed to watch.
1st- Not much to report ahead of tomorrow's big game but the main
news is that Cap'n Jim(right) returned to
training yesterday. Whether or not that will be enough to ensure he makes
the starting line-up remains to be seen.
We do know some news about Saints' likely line-up tomorrow. Ludovic Roy will make his debut in goals for Saints and it looks like Goalden Graeme and Kiegan Parker will make up the strike partnership. The injury list is still pretty big though with Paddy, Russell, Peaso and Rachid all still unable to make the squad.
Off the park, and apparently the take-up of the subsidised buses for tomorrow by the Saints support has been good so expect a decent away backing for the boys. And if you haven't got your arrangements sorted out for travelling to the game why not? It's not often that the Temple makes a plea but please, please get to Easter Rd tomorrow and provide all the backing you can. This is probably one of our biggest games in years - certainly the biggest of this season and it's our chance to show the team how much support they have - it might just be all they need to get the 3 points in the bag.
Top Of News
27th - Cap'n Jim is reported to be
"making progress" in his bid to get fit for the next
episode of the Great Escape this weekend but he's still not likely to make
it. Starkers said, "Jim did a
wee bit of training on his own today and that was the first work hes
done since a week past Saturday. I am, by nature, quite an optimistic
person, however I would say that he is doubtful for the match." .
Another back in training after injury is Peter
Off the park and the first meeting of the Federation of Supporters Clubs and the inaugural meeting, attended by Saints vice-chairman Ian Dewar and Stewart Duff, was a success. John Kaylor, elected chairman of the Federation, said, "There was a good turnout of fans at the inaugural meeting and were keen for more Saints supporters clubs to join. The aim is to create a forum between the club and the fans. And any issues fans raise will be dealt with at regular meetings between the club and federation representatives. Ten supporters' clubs were at the meeting but one which couldnt attend was Saints In Exile. But this particular supporters' club, with fans as far afield as Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand, has joined the federation and its voice will be heard".
Meanwhile Luuuuudooo as he's destined to no doubt be known has said he's all out to avoid relegation for the 2nd season in a row after dropping with St Midden last year. "I have no worries about playing for a new team in such a vital game - I just want to make sure that the games that follow are just as big. It hurt a great deal last season and I don't want to suffer again. It was a huge blow and you can see the impact relegation has had on St. Mirren. But for now my focus is on Easter Rd. I want to help St. Johnstone stay up. It can be done.".
Finally the SFA have put John Rowbotham in charge for this Saturday's game. David Somers will be in charge of the TFOD match on Wednesday.
26th - Starkers is looking
forward to this weekends game and believes all the pressure is on the home
side. , "Were still an outside bet to stay up, theres
no doubt about that. Were still nine points behind and have got it
all to do. Hibs have everything to lose. I dont think the game would
have received the exposure its getting had it not been for Franck
Sauzee getting sacked last week. Our game is as meaningful a match as you
could look for in the SPL this weekend. That was always going to be the
case, but the profiles heightened with whats happened over the
last few days. Its given the game a spotlight which I hope the
players will relish."
"Diehard" Hibee Paul Kane(right) meanwhile is being trotted out like it's an OF game. He said, "Ill have family supporting Hibs on the day-99% of them probably. But thats the way it is, theyll be cheering on their own team. Hopefully Ill be the one happy with result though. Its not the ideal situation for me and if I could pick another team other than Hibs to be up against in this situation then I would. But this is the reality and Ive got to be focused on keeping St Johnstone up. We know well have a chance to keep it going if we get a win, but if we lose then 12 points with eight games left would prove to be very difficult. A draw wouldnt finish us off but it would give us one game less to fight our way out."
On the injury front Cap'n Jim is still troubled by the calf strain and is the only one in any real doubt of making the game.
25th - Well the keeper crisis has been resolved until the end of
the season with Saints rescuing St Midden keeper
Ludovic Roy(right) from the drug dens of
Paisley in a loan deal until the end of the season. Paisley Panda was last
seen throwing a tantrum and blaming Alan Main
(as usual) - in fact pissing him off is probably one of the few things
that have brought a smile to Saints fans faces this season.
The 24-year old Frenchman is easily one of the best keepers in the 1st Division just now and hopefully the signing can be turned into a longer-term deal. Whether or not he'll get a starting jersey ahead of Kevin Cuthbert for this weekend's big match in Auld Reekie remains to be seen as he's currently carrying a hamstring pull. Starkers said, "We only had Kevin Cuthbert for that position and he is only 19 years old. He has done well for us in that position but it would be unfair to ask him to take us through the rest of the season. That's why we decided to go for someone with more experience like Ludovic Roy."
And speaking of this weekend's game Hibs today confirmed Bobby Williamson as their new manager after closing off most of the road into the capital to allow for his massive bulk to be hauled from Rugby Park to Easter Rd. Rumours that the Easter Rd branch of Greggs has gone into overtime in the pie-making dept are as yet unconfirmed.
Saints have also announced that they're linking up with Stagecoach to provide cheap buses to the game on Saturday with the Dunkeld Rd Supporters club and the Jeanfield Club offering seats on the bus at £1 for members and £2 for non-members. Stewart Duff said, "This is obviously a big game for St Johnstone, and we're looking to take a big support. As such, we're providing subsidised coaches to ensure we take as big a crowd as we can, and we're delighted Stagecoach have come into partnership with us on this one. We hope it will help us get the big turn-out that the team needs." To book a place on a bus from Dunkeld Road phone 01738 442022, or Jeanfield Road phone 01738 561020.
Finally, this afternoon's U-21 game against Livvy was called off with the Ochilview pitch waterlogged.
24th - Whilst it seems certain that Saints will face up to a Blobby
Williamson Hibs side next Saturday there's not much else in the way of
news from the club. The search for a new keeper is continuing.
Off the park and the tickets are on sale for the home match against TFOD from the club.
22nd - Starkers(right) is in the
papers commenting on events in Edinburgh yesterday. "I am
surprised, but then nothing should really surprise you in football these
days. He was such a fabulous player and you have to feel for the man.
Every manager needs time in a new job and that especially applies to new
managers. I dont know if it will affect the game. We dont know
if they will have a new manager in place by then and its difficult
to speculate what effect this would have. Whatever happens between now and
then it will still be 11 players against 11 at Easter Road."
The hunt for a keeper to strengthen the squad goes on. Meanwhile, Saints have decided not to organise a friendly for their free weekend tomorrow.
February 21st - No major Saints news today but plenty concerning our next opponents. Lunchtime saw Hibs sack Franck Sauzee as manager after only 15 games in charge. No word yet on a new appointment although there are rumours that if a decent sized JCB can be found that Blobby Williamson will be squeezed through the Rugby Park exit and trundled along the M8. Expect a new manager in place for our trip there but as it stands, it's the first real sign we've seen that the nerves are showing at Easter Rd with the board obviously panicking at the thought of Saints coming to town.
20th - Cap'n Jim has been given the
all-clear after going off at the weekend with a calf-strain. He's now
preparing himself for Saints biggest match of the season a week on
Saturday. "We know whats at stake and so do Hibs. You have
to think that whoever wins this match is going to be favourites to avoid
the drop given the psychological advantage. The dressing room is a much
happier place to be after the 3-0 win on Saturday and there is definitely
a level of confidence that we have been badly missing recently. Im
confident we can make this count next weekend."
The U-21s lost 2-0 to Killie on Monday night with Graeme Jones missing a penalty.
19th - Starkers has spoken out in
the papers today saying that he expects more goals from the midfield,
especially on-form Paul Hartley. He
said, "Ive spoken to Paul and told him that with the
finishing ability he has he should be scoring more often. Playing-wise he
has done well for us but I feel we could be getting more goals from him.
That may seem a bit harsh when he has scored four times since I came to
the club and our top scorer only has five. But while in normal
circumstances youd be happy with midfielders pitching in with four
goals, in the longer term, because of his abilities, Im looking for
him to be more prolific." . The manager also praised
Martin Maher. "I am always wary
of talking about young boys because they dont need pressure put on
them. But there is no question he has added to the team. He offers us
something a bit different in that he is a really good dribbler and
crosser, his final ball having improved immeasurably in the past few
months. I hope people dont expect him to turn it on week in week out
because that isnt going to happen, but Ive been pleased with
As for the strikers he revealed that both Kiegan Parker and Sammy Youssouf have been suffering from tight groins. "This is a common problem when you are either lacking matches or coming back from injury. Sammy is fine now but Keigan will benefit from having a few days break."
18th - With a fortnight to allow the hype to build up for the
Easter Rd game, which surely is our most important match of the season,
JR(right) reckons we're in with a good
shout after getting that all-important win out of the way. "This
win makes our game against them a wee bit interesting. We needed that win,
it was crucial, and its all about confidence for us now. We played
really well against Livingston, scored three goals for the first time in a
long time and well go into the Hibs match thinking we can go there
and do well. Going in against my old club will make it even more special
and Ill be wanting to do well from a personal point of view. Win
that game and well have got the gap down to six points and then well
still have them to play here. Theres everything to play for. Weve
been written off from the start of the season but were going to play
our next nine games like nine cup finals and give it our best shot."
No word yet on Jim Weir's calf-strain.
As for Saturday, Starkers is as impatient for the rest of us for the Easter Rd game. "It is a shame that we now have to wait so long for our next match, coming off the back of a good win, especially when the next match is against Hibs! In football, it is usually better to keep the momentum going, and we would have been happy to travel to Edinburgh this Saturday for the match. But this is how things sometimes work out. The confidence is there after the win against Livingston, and that will not just disappear by the Hibs match. We all know that our future is in our own hands, and that if we do manage to beat Hibs in Edinburgh things may start to turn in our favour. I would like to thank the Saints support for their backing on Saturday afternoon; the fans have had a frustrating time of late, and it is nice to at last reward them with three goals and three points. Hopefully this is the springboard we have been waiting for, and now the only way is up."
Finally, there's a meeting set for Thursday night at McDiarmid for anyone wishing to register their supporters club with the new Federation. It's on at 7pm and 2 members from the club are required to attend. Anyone attending (or if you cant and still want your club to be registered), get in touch with John Kaylor. You can email him email@example.com
February 17th - One mystery was solved yesterday with Kiegan Parker admitting his pre-planned celebration routine went out the window when he scored Saints second against Meadowbank. Speaking after the game he said, "No, it wasn't what I had practised. The adrenaline just got to me and I ran as fast as I could and took my shirt off. It was probably the best feeling I've had scoring for the club because as time goes on, although you're still confident yourself, people must have doubts that you can score. And it was even better because I had been out for three months. Going through on goal I was just thinking about hitting the target. I had practised it lots of times in training, shooting across the keeper and luckily enough it went in. It was a bonus to get the goal because we had played well overall. It was great to get it out of the way and hopefully that's me back scoring goals now. The mental strain had been the hardest part. I suppose there was extra pressure on me because it had been highlighted this week but you've got to take it both ways. When you are doing well and scoring you're in the paper most weeks so you've got to accept it when it's not going well."
16th - Jim Weir had one simple
statement to make ahead of today's big game. "Ill not talk
about going down." . Well OK he then went on to say. "Were
running out of games to give ourselves a chance, but the good thing is
that its still there for us. If we believe in it and get that first
result, who knows what might happen. "heres no point in us
saying that the next spell of games are crucial because weve been
saying that all season and weve failed to get the points weve
been looking for. "hat we have to do is concentrate on getting the
one win which might give us the springboard to go and get a few more.
Theres obviously an element of doubt about things given the way the
seasons gone for us so far-playing well in games and getting
nothing. Thats been the story of our season. Theres a buzz in
training through the week, but players are possibly feeling the pressure
on a Saturday afternoon. Thats what happens when you get a run of
bad results, especially at home."
As for the keeper situation, Starkers said, "Weve been close to getting someone. We agreed a deal with a club but the player himself didnt want to go out on loan. After tomorrow we have a two-week break which will give us more time. Ive absolutely no fears about playing Kevin Cuthbert -hes already done well this season-its the back-up situation thats the problem with youth keeper Craig Devlin be on the bench." . The other team news is that Kiegan Parker(right) has a decent chance of making the side.
7pm - Well for the first time in ages it's big smiles (and an even bigger kebab once I've written this) for Saints fans on a Saturday night after we Slaughtered Meadowbank 3-0 in a game which finally saw our attacking play get the win we easily deserved. Goals came from a 25-yard Paul Hartley rocket at the end of the first-half and then Kiegan Parker and Graeme Jones rounded off a great afternoon with a couple of cracking goals in the last 10 minutes. Results elsewhere didn't go according to plan but with Hibs only drawing, we've narrowed the gap and left some hope. And after the game we had some positive comments from Starkers who said, "The players want to play tomorrow the way they are feeling but we don't even have a game next week. But we have to channel the confidence into the game in a fortnight against Hibs. Obviously I am delighted with the result but the first half was not dissimilar to some of the games we played in the last five or six weeks. There was not a lot between the teams but, this time, it was us who got the crucial break before half time. I had said to the players that we hadn't been able to defend our lead but, in the second half, Livingston had a go at us, which is what we expected. The way it panned out Keigan got our second goal and that settled us. After that, we started playing and Graeme Jones' goal was just icing on the cake. The good thing about those two scoring is that it will give them confidence. We hadn't been taking enough chances and weren't gambling enough but we were pushing up and we also had plenty of bodies in their penalty box."
Finally no word on Jim Weir who went off with a calf strain in the 2nd half.
15th - Starkers has admitted for
the first time that it could be Kevin
Cuthbert(right) in goal tomorrow as the search for a new keeper
hasn't turned anyone up yet. "The players we have to look at have
to be third or fourth in line at their club and a lot of these keepers
have been loaned out already. Plus, clubs are reluctant to let anybody go
at this stage of the season. Well keep plugging away but time is
running out. If young Kevin Cuthbert
does play then Ive every confidence in him because he has already
shown he can play at this level, most recently at Ibrox. But hes
currently our only full-time keeper and clearly that couldnt
continue for too long."
For the rest of the team Benito Kemble is set to still be left out despite sailing through the U-21 game on Monday night thanks to some sort of mysterious injury. One doubt though is Kiegan Parker who picked up a groin strain in training and faces a fitness test.
14th - The job of trying to get a new keeper signed for Saturday is
well under way with chief executive Stewart
Duff involved in the hunt. He said, "Blackburn have advised
us that they are recalling Alan because
they need him as goalkeeping cover. Obviously, this is dis-appointing for
us because we did not want to see him go. We fully understand Blackburns
position, though, and we thank them for being helpful to us in loaning
Alan here in the first place. Were
also grateful to Alan, who has done
well for us and enjoyed his time here. Billy
Stark(right) is already looking into bringing a new keeper in on
loan. He had one or two players in mind when we were discussing extending
Alans stay in December, but unfortunately theyve since found
Alan Miller said he had mixed feelings about going. "I was told last night Blackburn coach Tony Parks had phoned Billy Kirkwood to tell him I might be recalled, and the call came today to say that this would be happening. I always knew that there was an emergency release clause in the deal and that this could happen. Blackburn have got big games coming up, this Saturday in the FA Cup against Middlesbrough and next week in the Worthington Cup final against Spurs. While not wishing any ill on Alan Kelly, obviously it would be great if, suddenly, Im in a cup final squad. Thats two weeks away, though, and the frustrating thing is that I could quite easily find myself kicking my heels in the reserves for the rest of the season. Iwas hoping that wed get a few more wins than we did, but Ive thoroughly enjoyed my time here. The lads have still got to play Hibs twice, so its not all over yet and the atmosphere in the dressing-room is as positive as it was when I arrived." . One thing is for sure - he won't be returning on loan to Saints, the rules don't allow it. So from the Temple it's best wishes to Alan Miller and thanks for all the effort.
Elsewhere, Paul "Wage Fiddler" Hartley has warned his old teammates at Easter Rd that Saints are up for a relegation fight."The Press and so-called experts have already written off our chances of staying in the SPL and that has angered us. We are determined to prove everybody wrong by avoiding relegation. All is not lost for St Johnstone and we just need a result to give us some more belief and hope. Hibs are on a bad run themselves and that helps us as they are not out of sight yet. But it's not about what Hibs do. We have to start chalking up some vital league points to apply a bit of pressure. If we can narrow the gap to six or seven points before the top-six split then it really will be game on. Others could then get sucked into the dogfight and it is amazing how differently teams react when they are fighting for their lives. Hibs have to be our immediate target and the match at Easter Road has now taken on increased significance."
"St Johnstone are playing some good football but are just not getting the breaks at the moment. We are still optimistic about our chances and above all we are confident we can turn the deficit around. In fact the 'r' word has been banned from the dressing room and nobody has mentioned it at all. We still believe we are good enough to stay in the SPL and we have 10 games and 30 points to play for to prove it."
As for the manager he does have some sympathy. "I feel for the gaffer as he hasn't really had the chance to bring in any new guys to freshen things up and give everyone at the club a lift. With the exception of one or two loan players, he has inherited the squad left behind by Sandy Clark. There is a strong temptation to go for a quick fix and bring in a couple of experienced players. But everybody knows that St Johnstone aren't the biggest club in the world and we can't really afford to dip into the transfer market at this time of the season anyway. It is the current set of players that got us into this position and the boss has put every faith in us to get ourselves out of it. Nobody is panicking at the club. In fact it is quite the opposite and everybody remains upbeat and positive."
13th - Martin Maher(right) has
been coming in for praise from Starkers
after his MoM performance at Dens on Saturday. The manager said, "Martin's
performance was a real plus. He is strong for his age and in our squad on
merit because he offers something different."
The word on Peaso is that he's on crutches and is likely to be out for 3 weeks. As for the goalkeeper rumours there's been nothing confirmed so hopefully Alan Miller will be between the sticks on Saturday. And it looks like Livvy have managed to keep Culkin on loan until the end of the season. Ach well.
8pm Despite earlier press reports that Blackburn Rovers were waiting to see what the medical reports on their keeper Alan Kelly's knee injury is before making a decision, most websites in England are reporting that Alan Miller has been recalled to Ewood Park. Starkers has already said that with Alan Main out for another 6 weeks and Kevin Cuthbert not deemed ready enough (an opinion those of us at Easter Rd on Monday night might differ with) that he'll go out to get another keeper on loan. He's praised Miller's contribution though saying, "This eventuality was part and parcel of bringing Alan to Perth in the first place, and although this was highly unlikely to happen, unfortunately he has been recalled. Blackburn have been very good with us over Alan's loan spell and I think Alan himself has contributed a lot whilst he was here. I now wish Alan all the best with Blackburn, and turn my sights to having a new goalkeeper in place before Saturday."
12th - First up the TFOD match has been rescheduled for Wednesday
March 6th due to the bigots being in a Diddy Cup Final.
Alan Miller(right) meanwhile has warned all other players to keep out of his way in the box or else they'll end up like Juan "Jesus disnae love me" Sara. "It could have been a team-mate if he had been me and the ball. I certainly wouldn't fancy being bowled over by a guy my size. But it was a 50-50 ball and we both had to go for it."
Starkers has been speaking of the game as well and said, "There were three players between the guy that hit the ball and the goal which impeded Alan Millers sight of the ball. After the game people can be quite keen to blame the goalkeeper for such things but I refuse to do that having watched it again. It was a sclaffed shot and if it had just taken a touch from anyone it might not have gone in. Its unfortunate because we had a few of them but we didnt get the same luck. I dont like to put everything down to that but when you are down there you dont tend to get the breaks. In the fullness of time, though, these things tend to even themselves out and you break out of that type of run."
The U-21s play TFOE at New Broomfield tomorrow. No word on the Peaso injury but it's been confirmed that Rachid has a groin strain.
6pm - First up and it's not looking too good for Peaso with his ankle knock requiring an X-Ray today.Starkers' not hopeful and he said, "It looks a bad one, but we'll know more later".
Rumours are also doing the rounds that Blackburn Rovers have recalled keeper Alan Miller(right) due to an injury crisis at Ewood Park although nothing has yet been confirmed. Livingston have already lost their on-loan keeper for the weekend and look set to field their youth keeper which can only be good news.
Finally, the ref for the Livvy game has been named as Charlie Richmond. Yup we don't know who he is either.
11th - Nothing in the papers today with the main area of post-match
comments apparently being saved for Dario Bonetti's whinges at
Jim Weir who quite rightly went into the
Scum dugout on Saturday to retrieve a ball for a throw-in. Perhaps if the
Mafia were a bit more sportsmanlike in returning the ball in the first
place he'd have avoided any clash with the Saints skipper. Mind you I
suppose it's an improvement to their character that he just didn't
surrender to Jim when he approached.
9pm - The U-21 side drew 2-2 with Hibs tonight with the home side coming back from 2-0 down to score twice in the last 15 minutes, with the equaliser a penalty rebound 5 minutes from time. And that was after they missed a first half penalty. Saints scorers were Peter MacDonald with a lovely shot after running through 1 on 1 with the keeper in 9 minutes and then Jones with a header in the 2nd half (and several more chances missed as well). The line-up (and comments) is below:
10th - One interesting rumour doing the rounds yesterday was a tale
that currently-injured keeper Alan Main
could be one of the victims of cost-cutting in the summer with Saints keen
to cash in on any transfer value before his contract expires in 2003.
Meanwhile the U-21s are in action against Hibs tomorrow night at Easter Rd with a 7pm kick-off.
9th - Nick Dasovic(right) is
hopefully set to return to the Saints side today after helping the
Canadians to 3rd place in the Gold Cup and he's not taking any prisoners
at Dens. "It was obviously a bit disappointing after the
performance against Celtic to learn that we did so poorly against Dundee
United. Ive always said that you cant just blame the forwards
for our lack of goals. A lot of it should come from us as midfield players
who havent helped enough. Our success in past years has been built
upon the fact that everyone was getting on the scoresheet, whereas last
season if Keigan Parker wasnt
scoring then no one was. We have a good record at Dens but the last time
we played them, at McDiarmid, they beat us easily. If you let Dundee play
youre in trouble. They have equally as good a squad as Rangers or
Celtic on their day. However, we need a win and if we can get one at Dens
we can still salvage our season."
Starkers was his usual optimistic and upbeat self and refuses to confirm if the midfielder will start. "Dasovic arrived back in Perth on Monday and weve been watching him closely this week. We will weigh things up and decide on the day. Dundee had a bad result in midweek and are bound to be a bit down by the same token, if I was their manager Id be looking for a reaction. Its going to be a very difficult game because if theyve a mind to they have the ability to beat anyone in Scotland. We need to try and find a bit more adventure in our play. We need to be organised, make sure we compete, get bodies forward and hopefully, take the chance when it comes along." ....well that sounds confident then !!!
Paddy Connolly does look set to miss out with a calf injury.7.30pm - Well we're still favourites to go down thanks to losing 1-0 at Dens with a sclaff of a goal the cause. A much better performance though and after the game, Starkers, still refusing to give up hope, said, "I'm not talking in those terms like it's all over for us. We have to believe we can catch up on Hibs who are closest to us and are suffering a crisis in confidence. They have got good players but they are struggling like us. Today we were unlucky to lose and I think that's about 14 games we've lost by the odd goal. We had some good spells in the game, we hit the crossbar and had one or two other opportunities. But we never seem to have a spell when the other teams have to come at us. We just can't seem to get into the lead. But we have to hope we can eventually get a break. It's certainly not for the want of trying."
8th - Expect more changes and reshuffling of the Saints side
tomorrow for the trip to Scumdee. Starkers(right)
said, "Form and fitness is preventing me from giving anyone a
real run up front. Youssouf,
Parker and Jones
are all short of match practice but weve had to gamble in using them
earlier than should have been the case. Connolly
has been playing quite well without taking the chances hes had,
Djebaili has played a few games
without looking like scoring, Russell
has been in and out and is presently injured and
Willie Falconer has been playing at
the back. Ill only know what my best front pairing is when we start
to score goals." ......so you might be able to guess from that
who's in favour (well only Willie
Falconer deserved a mention of the Christian name) and who's out but
no doubt it'll be 2.30 tomorrow before we're all proved wrong again. The
good news is that Sammy Youssouf has
reportedly recovered from his knee knock and Nick
Dasovic is set to return to the side.
The manager also believes playing away will help the Saints cause. "We had a lot of home games during January without getting the required results so the wee change of venue is welcome. However, while Dundee have been very inconsistent this season, on their day they are capable of beating anyone."
7th - With Saints having their heads down beneath the parapets and
little in the way of news or rumour for the fans (although the
Paul Kane story seems to have been
nothing more than a rumour) there is some hope for Saturday. Last night's
Scottish Cup replay saw Scumdee look as bad as us with a 2-1 home defeat
to Partick Fissel with the Ice Cream Boyz apparently "raging"
after the game. So come on Saints, if Partick can do it can we have at
least some effort for Saturday?
One problem we will have is Sammy Youssouf who apparently picked up a knee knock against the Sheep last week and is rated "doubtful". This should mean a starting place for Graeme Jones(right) and he's got plenty to say about the lack of goals this season. "I don't think you can point the finger at the attackers. I don't see us missing any chances - our problem has been creating them."
Finally the McDiarmid SPL match against TFOD originally scheduled for Saturday March 16th will be rearranged after the bigots beat the other set of bigots to qualify for the CIS Cup Final on the Sunday. Also the club are to let all the kids in free for the match against Livvy a week on Saturday.
5th - The U-21s lost 4-2 to Hearts tonight with
Graeme Jones getting our goals. There's
also a rumour doing the rounds that Paul
Kane has been released although as yet nothing has been confirmed.
Billy Kirkwood meanwhile seems to be starting to accept some of the blame for the state we're in "Luck has a big part to play in any season, as has injuries to players-and we have come off badly in both areas, no doubt about that. But if you dont defend well or attack well as a team you end up a situation like this-and we are guilty of both. The number of games weve lost by the odd goal this season tells its own story. And you cant blame individuals or parts of the team. Its the whole team thats responsible. If you look at the stats for shots on target and corners youll find we are as good as the majority of teams in the league-the problem is we dont score enough goals and concede too many, too easily. Now it is going to be very difficult for us to get out of the position we are in. But with a lot of games left to play theres still a chance."
Finally Ian Fyfe is in charge of the match on Saturday.
4th - With the rest of the world giving up on us only captain
Jim Weir still seems to think we can avoid
the drop. He said, "Its the same old story. We put so much
into the game but we just cant hit the back of the net and a
defensive lapse costs us the match. We were probably the better side in
the first half but a wee mistake from Stuart McCluskey, tucking in too
far, and a good finish ensures we go in a goal behind. Then Jonesy has a
chance at the death which he doesnt take and weve lost again.
We are running out of games, thats obvious, but we have got to
remain positive and both ourselves and the manager firmly believe one
result might turn our season. The sooner it comes the better though."
Congratulations to Nick Dasovic who helped Canada to 3rd place in the Gold Cup with a 2-1 win over South Korea (don't ask). Nice to see a Saints player in a winning side.
As if the slagging of the support at the weekend in today's Sun isn't bad enough (let's hear it for the Barbour jacket stereotypes getting rolled out again), we also have an interview with Paul Hartley(right) in the A...Z of questions part of the sports section. And he really shows off with the witty answers. Check these out :-
Q: When was the last time you cried?
A: When I signed for St. Johnstone.
and even better -
Q: What's the biggest fib you've ever told ?
A: I lied about how much money I was on at Hibs when I was talking terms with St. Johnstone. I'm sorry but I did.
No doubt something that Saints and the fans will bear in mind when his contract is up for renegotiation and he's pleading poverty once more. He's been a good player in recent weeks but for all that perhaps needs reminding that nobody is bigger than the club. Wonder if our management team or board have anything to say about these comments?
February 3rd - Those of a nervous disposition should look away now but as if things weren't bad enough word from sources at the club has revealed that of the 4300 crowd yesterday, 2500 were Sheep fans. For the arithmetically-minded amongst us that leaves around 1800 Saints fans. Of that, 1000 were season ticket holders which means the numbers of paying home fans is vanishing as quickly as our chances of staying up. Even more worrying is the rumour that as many as 400 season ticket holders are no longer bothering to turn up.
2nd - Whilst the latest team news has it that
Tommy Løvenkrands will not
play today, one person set to line up at 3pm is Danish striker
Sammy "I haven't got a nickname yet"
Youssouf(right). After scoring in his debut in the gubbing by the
Arabs, he's out to make a name for himself starting tomorrow. He said,
"I'm naturally confident - it's the way I was brought up - but
that's totally different from being arrogant. I respect the people around
me and now that's my fellow players here at St Johnstone. That goal
against United was nice but it was just one game and I haven't proved
anything yet. I would rather have played badly and the team had won. I
don't know much about Aberdeen but I have seen that they like to play
football and come forward. Ebbe Skovdahl has a good reputation because of
his work with Brondby.He is a relaxed coach - like Billy Stark,who doesn't
shout and gesture too much at the players during games. Maybe that's what
Scottish supporters like but surely it's much more important to have the
respect of the players and be a good tactician. Look at Sven Goran
Eriksson. You could say he is a relaxed coach and he is one of the best in
the world. "
And he also revealed he spoke to Tommy's wee brother Peter (apparently plays with some diddy team in the West) before deciding to join God's Chosen Ones. "I know Peter well because we have the same agent and have met at dinners in Denmark. We had a meal together this week. I didn't know his brother Tommy until I arrived in Perth but he has made me very welcome. There is pressure on me to score goals but I can live with it. We have to close the gap on Hibs before the league splits. That's very important. There is quality in the team and the standard of play in the game against United was higher than I'd been told to expect. I thought it would be very physical and not very technical but that wasn't the case. It was a surprise getting through 90 minutes because it was my first game since October and I was very tired in the final quarter. It will take two or three games for me to reach 100 per cent."
He looks set to partner either (or both?) Graeme Jones and / or Kiegan Parker up front. Starkers said, "Sammy did remarkably well to last 90 minutes against United and Graeme is ready for anything now. Keigan was also lively when he came on. We are 10 points behind Hibs and we need to get wins quickly now. I can understand why everyone is writing us off because we've only won three games this season. But Hibs have only won five times."
7.00pm - It's time to give up with the Saints management making strange tactical decisions including the substitution with 20 minutes to go of Sammy Youssouf (to the disgust of most of the sparse crowd) as we lost 1-0 to Aberdeen and gave up the fight. After the game it was the usual comments from the manager (although it was good to here he's running out of stock cliches). "I have spent the last 15 minutes thinking of something different to say but it's pretty much the same script - it's like a long playing record. We allowed Robbie Winters to get the ball too easily, Dadi just peeled off and punished us. "I was quite positive going into half time but that goal lifted Aberdeen and deflated us. There was nothing in the game. We looked pretty comfortable defensively. You can see a lack of confidence and belief in the side. The players are acting professionally and are training well. All they are doing is failing to get the first goal." ...... Sorry Billy but in my opinion the big failing is getting any bloody goal.
1st - Latest injury news ahead of the next potential 3-points
dropped against Aberdeen tomorrow is mixed. On the plus side, it looks
like Tommy Løvenkrands groin
will finally have recovered to allow him to get into the side. The bad
news though is that Craig "Injury
Jinx" Russell has a calf injury and looks set to miss out while
Ross Forsyth is also set to be posted
Another player set to return and hopefully add some stability to the defence is Jim Weir(right). Starkers said "Jims been here a few years now and is known as a St Johnstone man and hes got the right fighting qualities which we are needing just now to win games."
Top Of News
January 31st - In a desperate attempt to find anything Saints related in the news the only interesting thing is that Canada went out of the Gold Cup 4-2 on penalties after the game finishing goalless. It means Nick Dasovic will be in the 3rd place play-off match at the weekend.
January 30th - Yet again there's hardly any news on Saints in the papers today. The boys played a closed-doors bounce game against Raith Rovers yesterday with some of the returning first team players given a chance to get their match fitness up a bit.
January 29th -Willie Young will be in charge of Saturday's game against Aberdeen. Nick Dasovic will be a definite absentee as Canada take on USA in the semi-final of the Gold Cup in Pasadena tomorrow and play in either the final or 3rd place play-off at the weekend.
January 28th - Tonight's U-21 match against the Pars at East End Park has been postponed.
January 27th - Brendan Crozier has joined ex-Saintee Raymond Stewart at Stirling Albion in a loan deal for the next month. The move is designed to give the Saints midfielder some first-team experience.
January 25th - No news in the papers today surprise, surprise - mainly due to it being a cup weekend and Saints doing their usual early exit. Personally, I'm still depressed so I'm off to Dublin to drown my sorrows until Sunday (and avoid any mentions of football) so don't expect any updates before then (not that there's likely to be much happening). Saints news can be found at the Official Saints Site and From The Terrace
24th - Early e-editions of the papers have the crisis headlines
being dusted down once more with the e-Retard first on the ball. Based on
the story that the Saints score was relayed to holidaying chairman
Geoff Brown in Tenerife and a one line
statement from the manager that "Everybody at St Johnstone
understands the financial implications of relegation." the paper
has us lines up for a "Summer clear out". Tabloids -
dontcha just love them.
And despite the bookies no longer taking bets on Saints going down, Starkers(right) is still preaching from the pages of the Optimist's Bible. He said, "The United game was a big one thats gone against us. Theres still a fair bit to go in the season though and nobody here is conceding anything. Well do everything in our power to keep battling on and see what we can manage to do. Generally weve been very well organised defensively. Our goals conceded column shows that, and thats unusual for the team at the bottom of the league. So such a poor performance defensively was difficult to foresee" . As for the performance of new signing Sammy Youssouf he said, "When you sign a new striker you hope that hell get a goal quickly so it takes the pressure off him. Its good that hes managed to do that. Sammy did remarkably well for us. It was his first competitive game in some time and it was a gamble playing him. I didnt think that hed last the 90 minutes, but we were desperate to keep him on because he was carrying a real goal threat."
The return of the moaners' favourite target, Nick Dasovic has been delayed as the Canada side have made the quarter-finals of the Gold Cup to be played on Jan 26th.
Finally with Saints trying to pull together all the official supporters clubs to form a Supporters Federation. As part of this there are moves afoot to form an Exiled Saints Supporters Association geared to including the fans on the net and abroad who might not have a local club. If you'd like to be part of this email David Low.
23rd - Well fucking thanks Saints. How to fucking well ruin a
holiday - coming back full of cheer having avoided the score last night
and pick up a paper and read about the Shambolic
4-1 defeat at home to the Arabs. Even the news that
Sammy Youssouf(right) scored on his
debut (and according to reports looks impressive) doesn't improve things,
especially since by the time he scored we were 4-0 down, well and truly
out of it and let's face it we're going down.
At least Starkers is finally facing up to some home truths and after the game said, "I think we did deserve it in terms of the way we defended because that's a fundamental part of the game. If you can't deal with a kick up the park then you are struggling and you don't have any base to do the hard part of the game - which is creating and scoring goals."
Mark Lynch has signed an extension to his loan until the end of this season.
20th - One small comment worth noting in the paper today from
Starkers. He's said that the TFOE 2nd
goal yesterday was "A goalkeeping error" . And in an
uncharacteristic display of semi-criticism after the game he says he's not
bothered about the plaudits we've received in the media for the
performance at Parkhead. "You can take all the positives you like
out of that. But the only positives for us between now and the end of the
season are points."
There's still some confusion about the signing of Danish striker Sammy Youssouf with the News of the World today saying he cost us £20,000 in a deal until the end of the season.
Finally this will be the last update until Wednesday night as I head out the country to be depressed. It also means no Utd report from me (at least until I get one on Wednesday morning) - no doubt the Official Saints Site and From The Terrace sites will keep everyone up to date until I return.
19th - For a change the media have spoken to someone who has
visited Celtic Park as a fan but is no "Celtic-daft".
Craig Russell believes we can take
something from the game and said, "There is no point even getting
on the coach if we do not think we can take something from this game.
Indeed, maybe we can be inspired by what Berwick did against Rangers the
other night. They showed the Old Firm are not indestructable, though
obviously it will be very, very difficult."
Teamwise it looks more and more like Graeme Jones will make the bench. Starkers is trying to be optimistic as well saying, "They have won all their home games and that just shows the magnitude of the task we face. But as a manager or player you do look forward to these games because the platform is there to impress and the media spotlight is on you."
7.30pm - A 6th minute goal from Darren Dods(right) saw Saints take the lead at Parkhead but within 5 minutes we were behind and went on to lose 2-1 to Sellik. Starkers said post-match, "I think we definitely need to win some games pretty quickly, I would conceded that. But Alex Ferguson not so long ago, after five or six defeats, said that any more defeats would be too much for them to win the title, but look at them now. A lot of things can happen that you wouldn't foresee and we'll keep battling away and putting pressure on the teams above."
Off the park and there's been some moves. As rumoured during the week, Darren Jackson has had his contract terminated "by mutual consent" with the player moving to Clydebank and surprise, surprise scoring for them today. On the incoming side though Sammy Youssouf has signed until the end of the season. The manager said, "We signed Sammi Yousoff this morning so that is completed and he has a good goalscoring record over there. We needed to get someone in fresh and we hope he can help us and he's signed to the end of the season. Darren Jackson has now left the club and I think he scored today for Clydebank so that's permanent." . There are some conflicting reports about the deal though with the Hvidovre manager saying he signed a 3-year contract and they received a transfer fee of £165,000
18th - Don't expect any new signings for this weekend 000with both
Sammy Youssouf and
Senor X heading home.
Starkers has said there will be no move
for the Spaniard but that he'll continue to "monitor"
the Dane. Things do look good for signing him eventually but it looks like
it all depends on the fee Hvidovre want.
Starkers said, "Sammy has done
well but there is still a bit of work to be done if he's to join us."
. As for Senor X, who has returned
to Barcelona he said, "He is a good standard but we're
looking for a mobile midfielder rather than another defensive type who
protects the back line."
Meanwhile let's hear it for ex-Saint Nathan Lowndes whose move to Meadowbank isn't all sweetness and light and media reports suggest he's off to Rotherham. Aw diddums.
Graeme Jones could be in line for a place in the Parkhead squad and the striker can't wait to get back into action. He said, I'm fit and raring to go so it would be great to be involved this weekend. If the manager wants me, I wouldn't shirk the challenge. I've been a substitute before at Celtic Park and it's a great venue to play football. It's been nine weeks since I hurt my ankle against Kilmarnock a couple of minutes after coming on as a sub. It's taken longer than expected to get back but I've been fit for a few weeks now and just needed a game or two under my belt. It was a good standard against St Mirren. Former Perth player Tommy Turner might be knocking on a bit but he's always fiercely competitive. Now, I'm just looking forward to playing again. If the manager decides the time isn't right for a return this weekend it won't bother me. I'm prepared to bide my time. That wouldn't have been the case before. But after these injuries I'm relieved just to know I'm fit."
Starkers is still trying to be optimistic about our chances and said, "Nobody outside Rangers is ever given a chance going to Celtic Park and they look likely to hold onto the title. Their confidence is high. But we deserved at least a point when we played them at Perth soon after I took on the job. And we also did well at Ibrox recently, despite losing an early goal."
17th - The club have announced that they're running cheap
hospitality packages for the Livvy game on Feb 16th. £35 for
season ticket holders and £50 for others gets you a 3-course
meal, match programme, drinks and a comfy seat in the West Stand. Full
details on the Official Site..
Looking ahead to Saturday and it looks like Pope won't make the game against his idols. He'll be joined on the sidelines by Ross Forsyth and Tommy Løvenkrands. The good news is that both Cap'n Jim and Graeme Jones have come through the St Midden game without any side effects.
Also expect to here today or tomorrow a decision by Starkers as to whether or not Sammy Youssouf and/or Senor X will be getting a deal offered to them.
16th - Little in the papers today with the major stories concerning
the SPL's decision to try and run their own TV channel.
The other big rumour is that ticket sales for Saturdays game are said to be around the 40 mark for Saints fans. Which means 40 of us and about 60,000 of the smelly bigots. Oh joy.
15th - Good news on the injury front is that
Pope's injury isn't as bad as first
thought and he could be fit for the trip to Parkhead this weekend. One
player set to miss out is Tommy Løvenkrands
whose groin strain is still causing a problem.
From yesterday's bounce game, Starkers has praised Danish trialist Sammy Youssouf and given us some clues as to the identity of Spanish trialist (Senor X) saying "We've had Sammy across from Hvidovre for a few days now and he has looked quite promising. The midfielder is 28 and he's been playing First Division football in Spain. We were keen to take a close look at him. I've been working on bringing players in since the day I took up the job here but it takes time." . The manager has denied any moves for either Nacho Novo or Owen Coyle.
One player definitely set to hang around after the summer is midfielder Martyn Fotheringham who put pen to paper on a new 2 year contract today.
There's also confirmation that Saturday's match against TFOE is a 3.00pm kick-off with the TV folk deciding we're not worthy of a live appearance. Kevin Toner will be in charge.
January 14th - In these dark times it's good to occasionally report some nice news. A bounce game today against St. Midden saw the real Saints run out 5-1 winners. According to the official site Cap'n Jim, Sammy Youssouf and Graeme Jones were amongst the scorers. The side also featured an unknown Spanish midfielder.
13th - Well plenty of praise in the papers today but let's face it
most of us would much rather be slagged off by the journos and have the 3
points in the bag. Plenty of criticism of the management on the web and
mailing lists as well so it's safe to say that the honeymoon is well and
truly over for Starkers. Even the
official site seems to have given up hope on him with
The Club Info page
referring to him as "interim" manager.
John Paul McBride(right) has been confirmed as suffering from a calf injury yesterday and it looks like he'll be out for a few weeks. One player returning from injury and hoping to get 30 minutes tomorrow night in the U-21s is Kiegan Parker. The 19-yr old is also featured in an interview in the News of the World today and has said that he has no plans to quit Saints if we go down and will see out his contract until 2004. Of course the likelihood of Saints being well enough off to afford to turn down any offers for the player is another matter entirely.
Finally one tidbit from sources within Saints is that an approach was made to sign ex-TFOE striker Tommy Johnson before Xmas but the player's demands of £5,000 per week were deemed a tad too much. As it is he's apparently getting £3,500pw at Rugby Park.
12th - With Ross Forsyth and
Tommy Løvenkrands both ruled out
it looks like the big change today will see Marc
McCulloch(right) get a chance to prove himself at his preferred
position of left-back. Cap'n Jim is
another who might step into the side.
Starkers meanwhile has responded to the chairman's comments yesterday saying, "The chairman spoke to me before saying his piece and I think he has done it for the right reasons. This is his club. He cares very passionately about it and he is the type of individual who would rather say what he thinks. We work in a harsh environment anyway in terms of criticism. I can bring in a player but we cant just keep adding and adding. We have a few lads coming back from injury in the next few weeks theyll be like fresh players for us."
6.30pm - Well there was plenty of fight and spirit on display. Unfortunately there was also plenty of defensive tactics as well and as usual we lost 1-0 to the Pars with the goal coming in the 80th minute. Worse for Saints was the stretchering off of John Paul McBride in the 2nd half. After the game Starkers said, "I should just bring a tape in here every week and play it back because it's the same story again".....aye that's cause we bloody lost again. Actually he also said "It was tight and maybe a draw would be fairer all round, but unfortunately a couple of things went against us and we had one cleared off the line. The referee gave a penalty and changed his mind. He actually admitted he had done that but was unable to tell me why. He said he couldn't see whose hand had hit the ball. I don't know whose hand hit it. It might have been a stroke of luck getting the penalty but if he changes his mind it makes it more difficult."
Rumour has it though that as well as Sammy Youssouf another striker is coming up for a trial on Monday from England. Not that we'll sign them though.
Finally the Dundee Utd game originally scheduled for Wednesday Jan 23rd has been brought forward to Tuesday Jan 22nd. Thanks to Saints giving their usual wonderful advance notice of the fixture change yours truly will miss the match (first one in 6 years as well). Still I suppose not being at a Saints game is something we might all have to get used to for next year - can't see us all making that trip to Dingwall.
11th - Saints have announced a Pro-Am football match to take place
on April 28th in aid of St Johnstone FC Youth Development. For £95
you get the following: - Pre-match tour of the stadium, Your own
personal kit, named and numbered to keep, Pre-match meeting with your
respective manager and team professionals, Match on McDiarmid Park lasting
thirty minutes each way, Post match buffet with all drinks included, Match
analysis with Stuart Cosgrove and Presentation of prizes to both teams.
Details are available at the club. Phone 01738 459090, email
Paul Fraser or check out the
Official Site.. Expect
Starkers to sign up the winning side.
Mark Lynch(right) is back in training for Saints although after 4 weeks out we don't know if he'll start against the Pars yet. Speaking of tomorrow's game, Starkers said "Every game is tough. Dunfermline have strung together a few results recently and have recovered from their mauling from Celtic. A few decent results and you can see their assurance returning. Theyll be difficult to beat. They change personnel quite often but the one thing they do is get the ball forward. Stevie Crawford is a good player and big (Lee) Bullen has done well for them. One consolation is that I hear Ian Ferguson is suspended."....so that's all right then.
Injury news for tomorrow sees Paddy Connolly suffering from a hamstring pull, whilst Ross Forsyth is suspended. Tommy Løvenkrands is still touch and go.
The really good news is off the park with the return of chairman Geoff Brown(right) to work. After watching the last 4 home games end with Saints not scoring he realises the problems at the club. In a rallying call to the club's fans he said, "To say I've been disappointed with the home performances I've witnessed since getting the go-ahead to return to the football would be an absolute understatement. I can well understand why the fans are disgruntled. Having seen the last four games at McDiarmid I can appreciate why they find it hard to keep turning up week after week. They can take it from me that this just isn't acceptable. Unfortunately, that's the way it has been going for about eight or nine months. The players brought here were signed to be either in the first team or the first team squad. We don't operate with a squad of just 15 or 16. In total, we have in excess of 40 players, although that includes kids. There should have been more than enough quality to provide cover. If they aren't pushing hard for a place there's something far wrong.
"The board acted earlier to dismiss the previous manager in the belief that someone coming in could alter things and motivate the players better than had been the case for much of the year. But that isn't happening. I certainly won't criticise the manager because he has been working with his hands tied to a certain extent. But the supporters can rest assured that I'm not going to sit back and watch things crumble around us after taking nearly 16 years to build up this club. The harsh facts are that we require a major overhaul. Some players are, in my opinion, not really contributing nearly enough. I certainly wouldn't go along with any suggestion that we have non-triers here. That is definitely not the case. But it is my opinion that we have several who simply are not of the class required for the SPL. We have to set about moving them on. That isn't easy but it has to happen, whether through transfers, loans or terminating contracts. The manager has been asked to identify players that don't figure in his longer term plans. We appreciate there has to be some changes in personnel. The manager is actively seeking players to come in and I certainly won't stop that happening because we want to remain in the Premier League. But we have to be realistic and if one comes in another will have to go out, sooner rather than later.
"Supporters are more important than probably at any time over the past decade. If fans vote with their feet that simply makes our task all the harder and hopefully they will understand that. The club's wage bill is well in excess of £2 million now and it has more than doubled over the past three years. That's the cost of trying to compete at this level. The task is made even tougher by the lack of television coverage we get, even in the days when we were third in the league. Our debt is increasing all the time but the man in the street probably doesn't understand that aspect. They're more concerned with results and performances on the park. But that's the level of wages which have to be paid in the SPL and we certainly aren't exceptional. And we are trying to make the sums add up on one of the lowest entry charges of any club in the league.Every player who has come into the club has been identified by whoever the football manager was at the time. As a board we have supported our managers and that will continue. No manager has ever been told he has X-pounds to spend but it has always been up to the manager to identify potential players. In general terms we ask the manager to do his homework and satisfy himself that the player will improve his squad. Managers here have not been handcuffed financially.
"Now we find that our squad isn't measuring up to expectations and there has to be a reason. There is quality and ability within the squad. Of that there is no doubt. But I would like to see more passion and determination than I saw during the cup tie this week. I'm challenging the players to show their hunger and desire to succeed - and I'll never be off the manager's back! Billy Stark won't be getting an easy life! Everyone knows I'm not the most patient of men and after the really bad year I've had on a personal level I certainly am not going to sit back and accept we are doomed. We all have to do our darndest to succeed. From a personal point of view, I don't want to see years of hard work going down the pan. We aren't kidding around here. This isn't crying wolf. We can't continue to sustain losses, losses, losses.
"Things won't be turned around quickly but we have to stick together and do just that." .....All I can say is welcome back Geoff
Finally for the really masochistic amongst us tickets for the Parkhead Sky spectacular next Sunday are on sale at the club priced £21
10th - More bad news for Saints last night with the Well v Scumdee
rearranged match ending in a 4-2 home win which puts us 8 points adrift
again and wipes out all the good done by the win at Fir Park on Boxing
Meanwhile in another case of state the bloody obvious Nick Dasovic(right0 has said all the players have to take responsibility to getting the goals we need. "At the root of the difficulties we are experiencing is the fact we dont score enough goals. And thats not a forward problem. Its a team problem. Looking back to the good years here everyone was scoring. But then last season if Keigan Parker didnt score we didnt score and its continued from there. Now I think everyone has to look at themselves and start taking pride and showing committment towards getting goals from every area of the park. Its been a long-standing problem. We dont have someone who is going to score 25 goals a season But we do have some very good players in the team. And if people can find a little self belief, carry that onto the pitch and have a go then things ought to improve." He won't be around to help out though as after the Pars game he heads off for the Gold Cup and misses both the trip to Parkhead and the home match against the Arabs.
There is some good news with on-loan keeper Alan Miller finally signing a new 3-month loan deal to stay at Saints until April 10th. He said, "Im really pleased. Ive now got time to help the team grind out some results and thats what were determined to do. Ive still got a 24-hour call back clause which had to be put in the contract. There are only two goalkeepers at Blackburn so that had to be included. But its good for me to play and also help out the club while Alan Main is out injured. Theres a big challenge ahead of us. We know were up against it but weve got to try and turn it around." .Elsewhere on the good news front both Graeme Jones and Kiegan Parker are back in training.
One good piece of news on the international scene is that Rachid Djebaili has been dropped from the Algerian squad for the African Nations Cup which runs from the 19th January - so at least he's available for the token 20 minutes or so Saints will let him play for.
Mixed reports coming in about trialist Sammy Youssouf. One Danish fan has said that the player has already had several trials with some of the other bigger clubs in Denmark but has failed to impress and that the majority of his goals have come against easy opposition. On the other hand Hvidovre fans have emailed the Temple saying that he's a great player (and the new Brian Laudrup). His strength, workrate and speed seem to be the main plus points. Either way, he's on trial at McDiarmid until the end of next week but the Danish club have already said that he won't be eaily sold. Hvidovre coach Jan Sorensen said, "If St Johnstone are still interested, then we will set a price-tag. But we won't sell Sammy, or any other player, for peanuts." How much of this is for the benefit of the Hvidovre fans remains to be seen.
Also to scare the kids today we've got the pix in the paper of Jim "Phantom Menace" Weir(right) doing his Phantom of the Opera impression with his new mask. Designed to protect his cheekbone, the skipper said, "I'm not ruling myself out if the manager thinks I can do a job and I feel I can do myself justice. I've been out for three weeks but the mask gives me a chance. It was made at Perth Infirmary and they've done a great job. I've been warned there's still a big risk. The surgeon said if I took another hard knock on it the mask wouldn't guarantee I'd be okay.But I've already missed something like 16 games this season because of injury and I'm desperate to get going."
Last piece of news for today is that Alan Freeland has been appointed ref for Saturday's game against the Pars.
EDITORIAL TIME - Unfortunately for most of us recent attention has focussed on events off the park and criticism is mounting against both the manager and the board. Recent performances on the park have been bad enough but there is an increase in the disquiet amongst even the diehard supporters. The number of season ticket holders who decided to boycott the cup tie is only one of the symptoms being shown but there is a greater feeling that the board and backroom staff at the club are resorting to ostrich-like behaviour in avoiding some obvious problems.
Added to that the PR image which after a brief glimmer of hope that it was going to surface, which has all but disappeared (including classic quoted from Stewart Duff bemoaning the number of pies having to go to waste last Saturday when the game was postponed. Some of us were more concerned at the number of fans who had their plans disrupted by the postponement) and it's easy to see that the club are in danger of alienating the support. Financially it might not be too important (and as we know finances dictate most of the announcements / statements from the club these days) but it's at times like this with, God forbid, relegation an increasing possibility that Saints *must* try to improve their standing within Perth and the surrounding area. If we do go down the club (and Mr Duff) will not be able to rely on the large travelling support such as the Dons which they seem all too willing to court (even at the expense of the home supporter's loyalty being tested by moving them willy-nilly to other parts of the ground).
In which case they will need all the backing they can get locally. And let's face it putting club loyalty aside can any Saints fan honestly say that a season ticket gives value for money in terms of cost, customer service or loyalty being rewarded these days. Precisely and if we can't recommend the club to other potential supporters then the club are going to lose out in the longer term.
Still no doubt the board have several business contacts in Inverness and Dingwall they can easily flog 1st Division corporate hospitality packages to. Right, rant over - Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.
January 9th - On top of the all-too-frequent feeling of despair Saints fans seem to have to suffer from the morning after a match it's been revealed that the attendance last night was all of 4070. With at least 2500 Dons fans there it means that there are a lot of season ticket holders and Saints regulars staying away from the ground. Maybe the club will learn from this and remember the crowd last night next time they want us to move stands. Apart from that there is nothing new in the papers so we can all go hide under a shell again until the weekend.
8th - Starkers(right) is dishing
out the positive vibes ahead of tonight's rearranged Scottish Cup tie
against the sheep. He's looking for the fans to keep on backing the side
no matter how bad it looks as well. "It has to start with the
individual players, but well only succeed through collectivity, and
that means supporters as well. If were going to get out of it
everybody has to have a more positive attitude. Looking back on our last
game against Hearts, the reaction of everybody after we lost the first
goal was expecting the worse. It was actually tangible. Thats not
good enough from the players, but I can well understand why the supporters
felt that way because theyve seen all the home defeats. At the end
of the day, though, it doesnt do anybody any good. Wed played
35 minutes of that game, things were even and wed had the better of
the chances, so I was feeling pretty good about the way things were
developing. Then Hearts scored-which is the sort of thing that can happen
in any game-and the whole place was affected. If thats whats
going to happen every time we lose a goal we can forget it. Its as
simple as that.Its my job to work with the players on this, but also
to get the message through to the fans. We could be in the situation where
we are playing the best football Perth has seen for years, not take our
chances, and the opposition breaks away an0d scores. Does that mean that
what went before just goes out of the window and everything becomes
negative? Thats the way it looks, which is ridiculous."
Teamwise and the only doubt is still Tommy Løvenkrands who faces a late fitness test. He said, "I'm still struggling. It will be a last-minute decision but I still haven't trained and I'm worried I could be out longer if we take a chance for this game. I've had a scan on the groin strain and the physio has ordered me to rest. I aggravated my strain against Hearts and there are important league matches coming up that I don't want to miss."
Goalkeeper Alan Miller could be playing his last game for the club tonight. His loan spell ends on Thursday and Saints have still to clarify whether it will be extended. One player keen to get into the action is Jim Weir. He's been told it'll be another two weeks before he's fit to play but said "I feel fine and the manager knows I'm available just now if needed".
Meanwhile the striker over on trial has been named as Sammy Youssouf from Danish side Hvidovre. The 25 year old was due in the country last night for a week's trial at McD.
10pm - Another dire performance in front of a dwindling crowd (even allowing for the stand moves and the charging for season ticket holders) as we lost 2-0 to an average Dons side. Same old story with only one or 2 shots on target as the defence crumbled and the midfield vanished. After the game the manager came out the padded cell to say, "I don't think we deserved to lose the game. I think there was an element of a wonder goal and a bit of luck about it as well. The boy's just on the pitch and he's curled one into the top corner. After the goal we had a really good spell. Craig Russell had a good strike when he was through in the inside right channel and maybe should have scored. But the pleasing thing is that we got plenty of crosses in the box which we've maybe been lacking. In terms of the overall performance, I think we matched Aberdeen. We got at them and contributed to a decent game. I'm obviously disappointed, but I don't think we deserved to lose."
7th - When Stewart Duff is quoted
in the papers you can be sure that the subject will be money and sure
enough today he's quoted as saying that "Taking into account the
costs we incurred for police, stewards, hospitality for the rearranged
fixture and the fact literally thousands of pies had to be thrown out weve
lost a good four-figure sum. And we just have to hope the fans who were
coming along on Saturday will still turnout come Tuesday night. We deeply
regret the inconvenience suffered by supporters, particularly those who
had travelled a distance, but fog is something completely beyond the
control of any club." - of course if the Sheep don't bring their
rumoured 5000 travelling support then it means we'll see the sight of the
home fans shifted out of their usual seats for no particular reason. Nice
to see the away fans being sucked up to as well. Another great PR move is
on the cards then?
One good piece of news from the postponement is that Tommy Løvenkrands(right) should hopefully have recovered from his groin strain to play.
5th - After fog postponed this afternoon's cup-tie at 2.15pm
the match has been rearranged for Tuesday Jan 8th. Neither manager could
complain and the ref did leave the call-off as late as possible but with
visibility reduced to less than a pitch length he didn't have much choice.
Starkers did take the opportunity to get
the players out for a training session this afternoon.
And assuming we get through the match on Tuesday night, we've got a home tie against the winners of the Albion Rovers v Meadowbank match. Not that there are any grudges to settle or that. Starkers was happy enough saying, "We're at home and it's probably going to be an all-Premier tie so hopefully it gives the fans something to look forward to if we get there."
4th - The clouds of gloom and despair are still hanging over McD.
has apparently got a Danish striker coming over on trial next week and
Starkers said, "He has been
recommended by a few people so I want to have close look at him. We've
been trying to strengthen the squad but it's not easy. We are keeping a
close eye on the English situation. Clubs didn't want to trim their squads
over the holiday period but that might change." . With only 15
goals scored in the SPL this season Saints badly need someone that can
find the back of the net. Graeme Jones
is apparently fit but lacking match practice and
Kiegan Parker(right) won't be back
before the end of the month from his broken ankle.
As it stands though we need the form to change soon and hopefully that can happen in the cup tomorrow. The manager said, "On the face of it we have a nice wee run of winnable looking games coming up in the next few weeks. However that only holds true if we can make better use of our home advantage to get points on the board. It is an accepted fact that you should always have a better chance of success when you are playing in front of your own fans and in familiar surroundings. For one reason or another though that hasnt been holding true for us in the last wee while and it is something that has to change. We have very important league matches as well as a big cup tie ahead of us - it is vital we perform to our full capabilities. The players are all very determined we do just that and I am sure we will see an improved performance against Aberdeen at the weekend. Confidence is a big factor in football and sometimes all it takes is a bit of luck to turn things around."
With Paul Kane possibly out with a neck injury the only other doubt is Tommy Løvenkrands' groin strain. Other team news for tomorrow has the Sheep also down to their 2nd choice keeper with Esson set tot take over from the injured Kjaer. Starkers is hoping to get the players' spirits back up tomorrow. He said, "The frustration of our fans was obvious during the Hearts game. You can feel it and that makes life more difficult for the players. But I know it's not about one game and their reaction is perfectly understandable because of the track record over the last 12 months. It was a lost opportunity as far as I'm concerned but no one here is getting suicidal. I was actualy quite happy with the first half hour because we made a few chances. But we're treading a fine line right now and the fragility of the team after going a goal down was disappointing. That's the legacy of the past year but I had hoped performances against Motherwell and Rangers would have meant we were better prepared to handle going behind. Instead, it seemed to knock the stuffing out of us. Now we have to pick ourselves up for a big cup tie and go for it. It's strange how Aberdeen have found it so hard to win away from home when their record at Pittodrie has been superb."
With the switching of home fans from the East to the Ormond and West fans to accomodate the estimated 4000+ Dons fans heading to Perth for the cup-tie still grating, the club have tried to appease the fans being moved by saying that the extra cash generated by allowing a bigger support in will be put towards new players - which probably means it'll cover the hotel fees of a couple of trialists.
2nd - Confirmation today that Mark
Lynch has signed an extension until the end of the season.
Meanwhile the goalie's shirt is still up for grabs today with Starkers saying, "A few more days rest would help Alan Miller" . Some more good news on the goalie front though with Alan Main finally getting the plaster removed from his broken leg.
7pm - - Surprise, surprise a wee bit of optimism in the side and we put on arguably the worst performance of the season as we lose 2-0 to Hearts. Even better are the manager's comments after the game - : "There was not much in the game until their first goal but we lost some confidence and they gained some and the second goal killed us off. Apart from the last five minutes we didn't look as if we were going to get anything from the game. The lack of confidence in the side is difficult to rectify - it might be a psychological thing but we will try and talk to them about it. We have had problems scoring goals and we had some good chances earlier in the game which I am disappointed we didn't put away. Our 'goals-for' column speaks for itself. We don't have somebody who can score one chance in three. But most teams outside of the Old Firm are in the same bracket." . Sorry Starkers but that's crap. We are one of the worst scorers in the league. Every other side has at least one decent striker which is why we've only score 15 goals all season. It's just getting well beyond a joke.
1st - Happy New Year to everyone. Main news today, ahead of yet
another vital match for Saints tomorrow is that goalie
Alan Miller(right) is still struggling
to regain his fitness from the groin strain and hasn't been able to train
since last week. Starkers said, "We'll
have to leave a decision on Alan until the last minute."
It's probably not as much of a worry as it could have been thanks to the performance of 18-yr old stand-in keeper Kevin Cuthbert at the Death Star at the weekend. "The Rangers game was good for his confidence and mine. It's good to know we have that quality here." said the manager.
The good news though is that Paddy Connolly has been able to train and is likely to come into the squad. Ross Forsyth is also available after sitting in the corner for a while cos he was naughty at Fir Park.
Off the park the latest rumour is that Mark Lynch is set to extend his loan deal from Man Utd until the end of the season.
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