December 31st - It's looking like Rudi Vata will sign until the end of the season with Billy Stark saying he's "reasonably hopeful" of landing the midfielder. There is a potential glitch in the offing though with the Japanese FA, who hold his registration not opening until January 5th - possibly ruling him out of Saturday's game.
30th - With it almost safe to look over the parapet following
Saturday's disgrace, it appears that Billy
Stark was just as angry with the Saints players ordered in for
training on Sunday and a public apology in the papers for the performance
Geoff Brown(right)Geoff Brown has given permission for the signings during the window. He said, "The manager has been trying to identify potential signings who will strengthen his squad when the transfer window opens up. I can assure our fans there will be activity and it would have happened regardless of the result and performance at Inverness. December has been a disaster. It leaves you wondering what happened to the team which played so well to knock Dunfermline out of the CIS Cup. Hopefully, Saturday was just a bad day at the office and the players can show what they're made of in the weeks ahead." As for Mark Robertson quitting the chairman went on, "We were paying out good money for Robertson and there's a gap there that definitely needs to be filled. The supporters should appreciate that he was on around £2000-a-week at Dundee and we simply can't afford to go down that road, no matter how desperately we want to get back to the SPL. While I can't promise promotion, I will assure our fans that they will still have a club to support in 2004 and 2005. Given the financial mess of Scottish football, I'm not sure how many Premierleague chairmen can give the same pledge to their supporters right now."
Rudi Vata is still in the frame but Saints don't intend paying over the odds to get their man. "We've done that in the past and we won't be doing it again. It proved very expensive when we got caught out with Graeme Jones, Craig Russell and other duds. We will go with what the manager advises and try to bring in his targets. But it's to his credit that he fully appreciates the price range we are operating in."
But Billy Stark's not holding back on the criticism at the weekend either. He said, "It was desperately disappointing. Unlike previous weeks when we played well enough to win but threw points away, this was a poor performance. I would be struggling to say we did anything well. The centre-halves didn't win headers and they didn't clear their lines, the full-backs didn't win enough tackles or get forward enough, the midfielders weren't adventurous enough in terms of going forward and pressing Inverness and the front two didn't keep the ball. Now we all have to respond in the right manner."
This afternoon the reserves romped home 8-0 against East Stirling with (surprise, surprise) Rudi Vata in the side.
Finally it's been confirmed that Paul Bernard misses both this weekend's visit of Brechin and the trip to Clyde a fortnight later thanks to breaking the points barrier.
27th - Ian Maxwell(right) is
the man who's making the understatement of the week with today's trip to
Inverness being described as a "massive game". The
defender said, "With the Falkirk against Inverness Caley game
being called off last weekend we knew that a win against Queen of the
South would have given us the chance of going top if we were able to beat
Inverness this weekend. So it was really disappointing to only draw.
Having said that, when you get a goal in injury-time it makes the draw
feel better than it has when weve let leads slip. Weve only
had something like one defeat in the last 12 but four of them have been
draws and, as the manager has said, we should have closed out most of
them. Draws are killing us and were getting to the situation we had
with Falkirk last season. When we went to Brockville in September we lost
to go seven points behind them. We know exactly how difficult it is to get
that back because we went on an eight-game winning run at one point and
still we couldnt catch them. The Ross County and Falkirk matches
were big, big games and weve done better in the big games this year
than we did last. Caley have been flying recently, especially at their
place, but if we win were level with them on points and very much in
the thick of things. As long as were in touch with the top at the
other side of Christmas, thats the main thing. Weve worked
really hard to get ourselves back into contention, so the last thing we
want to do is chuck it all away again. Thats what makes Saturday
9pm - Well so much for the massive game tag as a half-hearted amateurish performance by some alleged professionals saw us lucky to only lose 1-0 to Caley Thistle with the penalty winner also seeing Paul Bernard red-carded. Calls for the manager's head haven't been too frequent recently but a large Saints support who were cheated after making the trip north weren't slow to voice their criticisms.
December 26th - Saints have
finally given up on trying to sign Mark
Robertson with the ex-Scumdee midfielder heading south for some
trials in Ingerlund. Billy Stark said,
"Its dead in the water now. Hes going to take his
chances with the offer of a few trials in England. Its disappointing
because I think he was showing in this loan spell what he was capable of.
We would probably have lost him after this weekend even if he hadnt
been released by Dundee because if he was to come here permanently they
would have had to pay him some money, which wouldnt have happened.
Thats the way Im looking at it. "
Saints are planning to dip into the transfer market in January with a midfielder and a central defender the targeted positions.
For tomorrow's game, Saints have been boosted by Mark Reilly not requiring an operation and being able to train fully this week. The manager said, "He has trained fully and felt OK. I dont want to make too much of it but well see how he goes for the rest of the week. Even if he had needed an operation it would have been hard to fit him in at this time of year anyway, so nothing will be lost". And he also found time to praise Ryan Stevenson's stand-in midfield role over the last few games. "He has looked a determined boy in the last few matches and thats what were looking for from younger players who come into the first team. I dont like to hark back to the good old days because it probably wasnt that different then, but you did seem to see more hunger from youngsters. Ryan has looked that way recently and hes taken his chance to make an impression. We know he has ability and were looking for him to grow in confidence now."
December 24th - Not much news
today with the air of gloom still hanging over the Saints support. So
forget about the performances for the next 72 hours or so and from the
Temple, have a Merry Xmas !!!!!!
Rudi Vata meanwhile apparently trained with Partick on Tuesday and looks set to sign for them ahead of Saints. Oh dear, how sad.
23rd - It's looking more and more unlikely that
M-Ro(right) will sign for Saints.
Billy Stark said, "Mark is in a
difficult position in that he wants to get as close as he can to what he
was on at Dens Park, whereas we can offer less than half of that wage. The
situation isnt dead yet but it is still very much up in the air"
. Of course the more cynical might think he's just stringing Saints
along until the end of December to give him some money and training
facilities. He's rumoured to have been offered trials in England and
Belgium but no firm deals.
Meanwhile, Rudi Vata is still training in Perth and the manager said, "Having played his last game in Japan less than four weeks ago he is not a million miles away from being fully fit. But how we proceed with this one is undecided at the moment. There is interest in Rudi from elsewhere but he is still contracted to Yokohama until the 31st so its not as if we could play him now anyway."
Chris Hay has resumed training.
22nd - Craig Nelson(right), who
made his debut against QoS at the weekend, is hoping that Saturday's
repeat of the draw 12 months ago against QoS will act as a catalyst for a
resurgence in the title challenge. He said, "It didnt look
like we were going to take anything from the match until
Mixu popped up and got the equaliser. We
dug in and got the goal in the end, though, and when youre 2-1 down
with seconds to go in injury-time youre delighted to get a point.
Thats the only positive you can take out of it because we were
expecting to win, but thats how you have to look at it. Weve
got a massive game at Inverness next week which we know we have to win. If
we can do that then we will have put the pressure back on the teams at the
As for his own performance he continued, "It could certainly have been a better day and unfortunately we didnt get the right result, but it was good to get my first start. I knew when I came here that Kevin had played well last season and that it would be hard for me to get in the team but now that Ive been given my chance Ive got to attempt to stay in the team. Its important that I put in a few good performances now and well see what happens from there.".
Meanwhile word on the M-Ro saga is that Saints and Ballymena are the only clubs to offer him a deal but there's a chance of a trial with Swindon and it looks like the Aussie midfielder will be heading there.
December 21st - Media
Falsehoods galore today (well we are only a diddy league). Flak is
still flying from yesterday's draw as well - although the Saints players
were claiming handball at the Doonhamer's first goal - with the manager's
head on the block again. Speaking of the draw,
Billy Stark said, "We played
well in the first half and got into a winning position through the own
goal and then had the chance to make it 2-0 when we hit the bar but then
we go and lose an absolutely ridiculous goal to allow them back into it.
We had chances to clear the ball and failed to do so and were punished.
That knocked us back on our heels a bit. I talked to the team earlier this
week about the goals we are losing from set pieces and then we go and
allow a header from a corner kick to find the back of the net, its
incredible. We cant give away goals of the sort we did today and
expect to win games."
Meanwhile the 3rd round of the Scottish Cup sees us play host to Motherwell on Saturday 10th January.
December 20th - Paul
Lovering is grateful to be back in the squad for the first time
since August. "Im obviously dying to get back into the
team. The manager has stressed the importance of me being match fit before
he put me back in the squad so Ive taken my time and played four
reserve games and done extra running after training before being brought
back in. I actually got the injury in pre-season but played on, and then
it went in the Inverness game. Im probably one of the worst
spectators and my wife will probably tell you how tough its been,
with my bad moods! Its been all the more frustrating because Ive
just come to a new club, and I hardly picked up an injury in my years at
Ayr and Hibs before that."
As for today's game he knows the importance of it for Saints."Inverness have opened up a small gap at the top and its important we dont allow that gap to grow and make it tough for ourselves to claw it back. The boys were really disappointed to drop points in our last two games and we want to bounce back to winning ways tomorrow.". Billy Stark has already said that a repeat of last week's performance is "totally unacceptable". He said, "There have been five games which weve drawn this season and in four of them weve been ahead. You can live with that happening once, but four times is too many and we need to realise that we have to see a game through to the final whistle. You always take stock at this stage of the season and it has been brought into focus that weve squandered points, which we cant afford to do. Those squandered points have been what has stopped us sitting top of the league."
7.00pm - It took a 93rd minute blessed equaliser from the Mother Superior to salvage a point in a downpour as Saints drew 2-2 with QoS.. Not a classic game with all 3 other goals coming from QoS players despite Peaso hitting the woodwork. Results elsewhere saw the Falkirk v ICT game off along with Raith v St Midden whilst Clyde beat Ayr 2-1 to go top and Ross County got a similar victory over Brechin.
19th - Saints have confirmed that Cap'n
Jim(right) is set to be awarded a testimonial by Saints to celebrate
his 10th year at the club. Impersonating Darth Vader in Wegieland for the
Xmas party (see below), he says he's "overwhelmed" by
the tribute. "Having experienced Roddy Grants and Allan
Prestons testimonials I always hoped I would be here long enough to
get one, and Im absolutely thrilled that a committee has come
forward. I have to thank the club for sticking by me at times when I havent
been able to give much back in return because of injuries. And the
supporters here have been fantastic to me. When Ive been out injured
and times have been tough, the people of Perth have been the biggest
encouragement to me to get back to fitness." .
As for finally making this years Xmas night out, he said, "Last year I was just out of hospital in London and my leg was in a full-length plaster after an operation on a snapped knee tendon. The previous year I collided with keeper Kevin Cuthbert in training the day before the lads' night out. I fractured my cheekbone and wasn't in the mood for Christmas turkey especially the way my wife Susan cooks! Players look forward to their Christmas night out but it was a bit more special this year. We decided on a Villains and Super Heroes theme and the characters went into the hat. I landed Darth Vadar. Gaffer, Billy Stark thought he was doing Mixu Paatelainen a favour by drawing him out early. He got Wonder Woman but couldn't get a costume to fit. So he opted for an alternative nun's outfit! It was great being part of a squad night out again especially as I'm almost ready for first-team football."
He's getting closer to a comeback to the first team and said, "To return to the first team and help win the first division championship would be Roy Of The Rovers stuff. It would top everything. When we won the league before it was the greatest moment of my career and to have the possibility of that at the end of this season is what dreams are made of. Ive played four 90 minutes now for the reserves and behind closed doors and I still feel that I have a lot to give the club if I can get a wee run of luck and stay injury-free."
Meanwhile the soon-to-be-legendary Xmas party photo can be revealed (see below). Identified so far in the line-up we have Ross Forsyth as The Flash, Martyn Fotheringham as the Penguin, Ian Maxwell as the Joker, Mark Ferry as Robin, Peaso as Robin Hood, Ryan Stevenson as ?, Eddie Malone as Captain America, Darren Dods as ?, Paul Lovering as Skeletor, Paddy Connolly as Austin Powers, Craig Nelson as SuperSaint, Paul Bernard as Spiderman, Chris Hay as Capt Hook(?) and Mixu Paatelainen as the Mother Superior. In the front is Simon Donnelly as the Mask, Keigan as Superman, Kevin Cuthbert as Dr Evil, Cap'n Jim as Darth Vader, Unknown as Buzz Lightyear, Unknown as ? and finally Brian McLaughlin is Catwoman
And "Catwoman" McLaughlin has said that losing the goal at Ayr was more depressing for the team than the gubbing by the Bairns at McDiarmid. "That was the lowest the dressing room has been all season at the end of a game. We were in shock. The disappointment only kicked in later. We dropped two points. Basically it was a defeat. It was terrible and we had only ourselves to blame. Ayr should have been killed off. We thought we'd battled to a 1-0 win and taken three vital points. Now we have to bounce back against Queen of the South. That's twice we've failed to beat Ayr. But we seem to have a better record against the title challengers and we have to start winning again after a couple of draws. We've slipped four behind the leaders. For the past couple of months we've been looking to go top and right now we can't do it with one result. But that's the aim because I believe we will handle the pressure of leading from the front. If they keep their players fit and free from suspension, Queen of the South will be there all the way. But this is a home game for us and one we have to win."
The Rudi Vata saga is still on - his deal with Yokohama expires at the end of the month and he could move to Saints in a possible short-term deal. Another potential signing is M-Ro with a decision expected in the next few days (still) although the ex-Dundee player apparently has options in England as well. Elsewhere in the squad and Chris Hay should make the bench despite hardly training this week thanks to a hamstring strain. Billy Stark said, "We've played really well in both games against Queen of the South so we have to maintain those standards. We've drawn too many games that should have been wins - but the draw at Dumfries was acceptable. I've spoken to the players about going ahead and losing the lead. We're now searching for the x-factor that turns draws into victories. One draw now and then happens but four of these results have been unacceptable."
December 18th - Confirmation today that ex-Celtic Albanian star (well there are loads of them) Rudi Vata is training with Saints. The 34-yr old left-sided midfielder / defender played for the reserves and has been given training facilities by the club after being released by Yokohama a month early. Of course the ex-Celt connection is the main reason to give him loads of coverage but as a signing it's not exactly inspiring to the Saints fans. Billy Stark said, "Weve been having a look at him in training and its a case of seeing what happens from here.".
December 17th - Little happening at McD today. M-Ro has been offered a deal (believed to be financed by the Death Star receipts from a fortnight ago) but has still to give a response - the player will miss out this weekend anyway due to injury. Chris Hay still hasn't trained due to his hamstring strain.
15th - M-Ro's future at McD
looks like being settled soon. Whilst we can play him up to three times as
a trialist, Saints want things sorted out sooner rather than later.
Billy Stark said, "Mark is
feeling better now after his injury and if he were in full training by the
middle of the week it isnt out of the question that he might be
involved against Queen of the South on Saturday. But well need to
talk to him to see what he is planning to do.". He's also calling
on the players to stay calm amidst the flak they've been getting for the
last two performances. "Because we didn't win at the weekend
we've left ourselves open to criticism. We have to take heed of the
warning and be strong enough to handle it. But we've only lost once in 11
games and that tells you about the mettle of the players here."
The reserves beat Airdrie 2-0 last night and both Paul Lovering(right) and Cap'n Jim played. The manager said, "Thats Paul and Jim got four games under their belts now. But while Paul isnt far away from being ready for a first-team return, Jim will likely need another four matches before he could be considered.". Chris Hay missed training yesterday with a strain picked up at Somerset Park.
December 14th - Little comment from Saints in the papers although Billy Stark believed we should have wrapped up the points on Saturday but "failed to take our chances".
13th - Ahead of today's Ayr game, Ian
Maxwell(right) is one of the Saints players targetting the top spot
over the festive period. "We could be second right through to the
final game and then go top at the last gasp. But ideally I'd like things
to be a bit more comfortable. The players would be better off financially
by getting to the top of the league but that isn't the main incentive. We
want to get ourselves in front so our fate is in our own hands."
As for the last time Saints met Ayr, the central defender said, "That
was one of our most disappointing results. We didn't play well but we were
ahead until late in the game and should have taken all three points. It
was a poor one coming on the back of a great win at Falkirk. Ayr are
fighting for their lives. They're not giving up their First Division place
without a fight and we have to be ready for it. But if we can win this one
and beat Queen of the South it would set-up a cracker and a chance to go
top at Inverness on the 27th. But we have to take care of the first two
before thinking of that game."
Billy Stark is also under no illusions as the first half of the season draws to a close. "Everybody knows this is a crucial part of the season and Ive spoken to the players about that. They were as disappointed as I was to only draw last Saturday and we want to make sure we stay right in the thick of things over the four or five game spell during Christmas and New Year. In our last 10 games weve won six, drawn three and lost just one. I think that type of form would get us there, Id take it. There are some interesting fixtures coming up, but when six teams are involved it will inevitably be that way."
7pm - Paul Bernard's 65th minute goal looked to have us on easy street but a 93rd minute wind-assisted equaliser meant a 1-1 draw at Ayr and Saints now four points off the pace following Caley Thistle's win at Raith and Clyde's single-goal victory at Dingwall.
December 12th - There's been little happening at McD this week but the good news is that all the strikers are fit for tomorrow's trip to Somerset Park. Billy Stark said, "The striking position is one that demands sharpness and thats why its great to have choice. We have not been in this position since the start of the season." . M-Ro will miss out but should be back for the QoS game giving him a chance to make a claim for a permanent deal (or else impress the scouts watching depending on your degree of cynicism). And fellow midfielder Mark Reilly has had the protective boot removed from his ankle which means he should be back in training in the next couple of weeks.
December 10th - So much for the comeback with last night's reserve game at McDiarmid being postponed due to frost.
December 9th - Paul Lovering and Cap'n Jim are set to play for the reserves tonight and get another 90 minutes under their belts. The news isn't so good for M-Ro who is already quoted as "doubtful" for this weekend's trip to Somerset Park.
December 7th - Yesterday's draw was a fair result according to Billy Stark who reckoned Ibrox took it's toll on the players. Speaking after the game he said, "I thought we played a lot of good football in spells, particularly in the first half but as the game wore we became a bit stodgy and there were a few heavy legs. Ross County are probably not the side you want to be meeting after a Wednesday night match at Ibrox because they are full of running power and broke very quickly. There was a lack of sharpness in front of goal today and that can be crucial. Ross County showed today why they are up there challenging and whilst I would obviously have wanted a win, Im not too unhappy with a point. Weve lost only once in ten league games."
6th - Ryan Stevenson(right)
looks set to get another start today following the injury to
M-Ro. The Rocket believes that
Wednesday was the "best night of my life" and said "It
was a great experience to play against top players, and it was games like
that which were the reason for coming up to St Johnstone. It was probably
the best night of my life. Before I came on as a sub I was stood on the
touchline for what seemed to be about five minutes. The ball never seemed
to go out and I was looking about the stadium thinking please dont
give the ball away with your first touch!. Id certainly love
to get back there and play again. The manager said to us, 'make sure youre
going back to Ibrox and Celtic Park twice next year.'. "
Mixu Paatelainen trained yesterday after the flu bug and Billy Stark said, "Mixu should be OK. It would be disappointing if he wasnt available, after leaving him out on Wednesday night. Sometimes you find that players do well against certain clubs, like Keigan Parker who has a good record against St Mirren. Mixus playing well just nowhe made an impact when he came on against Rangersand he immediately has an intimidating presence on players because of the level hes played it.". And the manager is less than impressed with Alex "Dour Git" Smith's comments following our win at Dingwall earlier in the season. "Ive seen myself how things can come out differently from what youve meant, but I see that Alex has said that we caught them on three counter-attacks. Its a strange comment if hes made it because its certainly not what I remember of the game. Ross County are a youthful and vibrant side who have some good players. Theyre top scorers and have done well to come back from a couple of bad defeats. We need to get back to what we were doing at Raith Rovers last Saturday, creating chances and having a lot of efforts on goal."
7.00pm- Well Mixu Paatelainen got the early goal but a controversial equaliser from an ex-Coagie meant a 1-1 draw against Ross County. Results elsewhere keep us in 2nd with only Caley winning out of the top 6.
5th - M-Ro's thigh strain
which flared up again at Ibrox means he's almost certain to miss
tomorrow's clash at home to Ross County. Billy
Stark(right) explained his decision to gamble on the Aussie at the
Death Star saying, "I felt that after he trained on Monday and
Tuesday with no reaction Mark would be OK. The injury isnt as tender
as it was when he got it at Brechin but next Saturday is looking more
likely than this Saturday.". Elsewhere Mixu
Paatelainen and Brian McLaughlin
didn't train after picking up a bug and a tight hamstring respectively but
the manager doesn't think that will affect their chances for Saturday.
And he was also looking on the "glass half-full" side of things from the defeat at the Death Star. "We didnt play as well as we could and I felt that when we had the ball we gave it away carelessly. But in terms of workrate and the shape of the side, I couldnt complain. Also, at no time did the team panic or lose their discipline, and thats a positive factor." And financially it wasn't too bad either with Saints banking around £100,000 from the game.
December 4th - Billy Stark admitted his disappointment at Saints performance last night. He said, "Im a wee bit disappointed. We can do better than that but that tends to happen. We started the second half well but then we lost a goal just when we were starting to look like we were getting near their goal. We didnt start the game particularly well and they scored a good goal. It might be a big churlish, but the goals were preventable from our point of view."
3rd - Simon Donnelly(right)
came up with the understatement of the season yesterday discussing
tonight's CIS quarter-final tie After being presented with an award for
being the player of the last round he said, "The boys are quite
excited about this match. I think we can go there relaxed and try to play
some decent football. The onus will be on Rangers to get the win and
nobody will expect us to do anything. The team took a lot of confidence
from beating Dunfermline because if you take the scalp of an SPL team its
always a good result. Without getting carried away, we think we can do
something at Ibrox. It will obviously be very difficult but if you dont
think you have a chance there would be no point in going."
Peaso agreed saying, "I definitely think weve got a chance. None of the boys are scared of Rangers and were really up for it. Weve been concentrating on the league since the draw was made but now that we can think about the match were really looking forward to it. Id like to think we can get at least a goal at Ibrox. Weve won a lot of games well this season and there are four strikers fighting to hold down two places, so competition is good."
Billy Stark had some good news with Keigan Parker, M-Ro, Paul Bernard and Simon Donnelly all expected to be fit enough for the Death Star match. The manager said, "In a general sense weve been in a position where weve been expected to win every game in the First Division. Obviously that was never going to happen but the pressure is there nonetheless. The big thing tomorrow from our point of view is that we wont have that pressure and will be huge underdogs. I would qualify that by saying that it wont just be a case of us turning up there to enjoy ourselves though. Its about us believing we can play on that sort of stage, and going for us is the fact that we have a few players who have played at the top level and know whats required."
11.45pm - Well unfortunately we were never really in it although a spirited perfromance from Saints meant a flattering 3-0 win to TFOD (or 2-0 if you're amongst the hordes of home fans who left early). M-Ro played but only lasted just over half an hour.
Elsewhere there was some good news in the league as QoS went down 2-1 at home to St Midden blowing their chance to regain the top slot.
December 2nd - The good news is
that it appears that Mark Robertson
is still technically on loan to us because the SFA have not received his
acceptance of his contract being terminated. This means he's cleared to
play at the Death Star tomorrow night. Billy
Stark said, "We thought the loan was terminated by Dundee
terminating Marks contract but thats not quite true. It turns
out Mark has to sign something with Dundee which hasnt happened so
at the moment the loan is still in place." .
Having said all that the thigh strain might still keep the Aussie out and Paul Bernard and Simon Donnelly are also doubtful. The manager said, "Paul hurt a calf in training last Friday and although he managed to play at the weekend he couldnt train today and well just have to see if it settles down. Simon also has a thigh problem, although Id be hopeful both he and Paul will make it." .
As for the game, the manager said, "We are big underdogs and we dont find ourselves in that situation very often in the first division. As this game is different in nature to what we are used to it is one we can perhaps enjoy a bit more. But we want to go to Ibrox and show we can handle this match."
1st - Mixu(right) reckons the
scoreline flattered us at the weekend but is more than happy to get the 3
points on board. He said, "The three-goal margin suggests things
were more comfortable for us than they actually were. In fact, we had to
work really hard for a victory that was vital as we needed to put the
Falkirk result behind us.". Billy
Stark was a happy man as well saying, "I didnt think
we deserved our goal in the first half and we needed to step things up a
bit in the second. We got our reward when we did that and, while we had to
hang on a bit when they scored and played five up, we got a good third
goal and the fourth was a bonus."
No word on any injuries ahead of Wednesday's trip to the Death Star.
Billy Stark also revealed the reason for Keigan's absence on Saturday. He said, "I'm absolutely delighted, over the moon with Saturday's result. It speaks volumes for the players to go to Kirkcaldy on such a horrible day and get such a good result. It's worth pointing out that we managed that result without Mark Robertson and Mark Reilly who were injured and Darren Dods who was suspended. Added to that, Keigan Parker called off an hour before kick off with a chest infection and Paul Bernard played through with a calf strain. Although Raith don't have a tremendous record at home, Starks Park will be a very difficult place to go this season and I'm glad we've bounced back from last week and got all three points." There's no word yet from Mark Robertson on whether or not he'll sign a permanent deal with Saints but it seems as though the clubs aren't exactly beating a path to his door with offers.
Finally and Roddy Grant(right) has left Peterhead as his playing career in senior football appears to be over - the Legend is now playing for Linlithgow juniors.
Top Of News
29th - M-Ro has finally
spoken out about his contract situation. Whilst there is interest
elsewhere, it seems that only Saints have made him an actual offer
although the wage cut is something which he says he can't afford (strange
how the rest manage on these wages). The midfielder said, "I was
told going into the meeting on Monday to expect the worst and thought I
had prepared myself for that but as it turned out it was even worse. I was
expecting to be asked to take a wage cut to help the club, which wouldnt
have been a problem, but to come out without a contract or a penny in
compensation and effectively be unemployed was devastating. My contract
was terminated as of that moment and that meant my Dundee contract, my St
Johnstone contract and my whole income was gone. It is just in the last
couple of days it has really hit me. While I love it here, Ive still
to make sure the bills are paid more than anything so it boils down to
whether I can afford to pay the mortgage at the end of the month. But Ive
enjoyed my time here and feel Im playing good football and the
manager has total faith in me and has been really supportive this week."
Assuming he's passed fit he will play today even if we have to play him as a trialist.
7.00pm - Well we're back on form with a great 4-1 win at Raith thanks to goals from Brian McLaughlin(right), Chris Hay, Mixu Paatelainen and a brilliant finish from Peaso. With the Weans collapsing to Clyde and QoS match postponed it means that we're 2nd now behind ICT who put FIVE past Brechin.
28th - No more word on the signing of
M-Ro with Saints admitting that the
next decision is with the player. Billy
Stark said, "The problem is what we can offer him is only a
small proportion of what he was getting at Dundee and he has to decide
whether to sign here or try and get what he was on elsewhere. Wed be
prepared to go ahead with a short-term or trialist arrangement, but if
Mark wants to play against Rangers in the cup next week hell have to
sign.". It's also been revealed that Saints owe Dundee money for
the player's wages. Basically Saints paid a part of the player's wages but
did this via a payment to Dundee who passed the cash onto
M-Ro. However we're looking for a
guarantee that he'll receive any subsequent payment and that the money
will not become part of the general club funds before paying November's
wages. Complicated stuff this financial lark.
Meanwhile tomorrow's opponents Raith have expanded their Latin cheating quota by signing Dundee redundancy victims Jamie Langfeld and Beto Carranza - and to celebrate the fact they've put their away prices up £2 so it's £14 to get in. And looking ahead to the game, The Cat (right) is one player who believes he's already recovered from losing 4 goals last week especially since the last time it happened against Hibs it cost the manager his job. "While the Falkirk loss was bitterly disappointing, we could still go top of the table if results work for us this weekend. The circumstances are totally different. We'd only lost two goals in our previous seven games. One defeat in eight isn't bad going and we don't want to undo all our good work. That will drive us on to get a win against Raith Rovers at Kirkcaldy." As for last weekend's refereeing he said, "At first I didn't think Darren was going to be sent off. Then Russell Latapy followed it up with one of his classic free-kicks. But it wasn't as if Falkirk played us off the park, even when we were down to 10 men. It was painful losing four, especially at home in a big game, but it's only three points dropped. We can even go top if Clyde beat Falkirk this weekend, but we have to take care of Raith. We have to go about our business properly. They beat us in Perth and that was a poor team performance. But we bounced back with that undefeated run. We've faced tougher tests than coming back from this Falkirk defeat and we've passed them. There's a chance here to get revenge for the Raith defeat. If we'd won that day, we'd already be top and that's our target."
Team news for tomorrow sees both Chris Hay and Ryan Stevenson in line for starting jerseys with Mark Robertson doubtful due to injury / contract worries etc. With Darren Dods suspended the defence is likely to get a shake-up as well with John Robertson switching to the centre. Kevin Cuthbert said, "John is an experienced player who has filled that role in the past. There won't be any problem.".
Billy Stark realises the importance of this weekend's match. "This is a tough spell coming up for us with three games in a week, but we've already put the Falkirk result behind us and we're looking for another good run starting this weekend. That was the biggest defeat I've suffered since coming in as manager, but we could go top if things work out for us this weekend. That's how close it is in this league. We have to show our mettle again. The Rangers game will be blocked out of our minds. To be fair, I haven't seen any signs of the players contemplating that one. They all know that the Kirkcaldy trip is the immediate priority. But with three games in a week, our squad will be tested again. We will be making use of the available front players because they have the toughest job of all in terms of creativity and sharpness."
November 27th - Billy
Stark has confirmed that Saints would like to sign
M-Ro. Formal clarification is still
awaited from the SFA regarding the freed player's transfer status but the
manager said, "This weeks events have been a bit of a bolt
out of the blue so he is just getting his mind round it at the moment.
Effectively he is a free agent and SFL clubs can sign players outwith the
transfer window and he also knows we want him here and we would be looking
to keep him to the end of the season. Obviously the wage level may not be
the same as what he was on but I think that may be the case for all the
lads who were freed. ". The good news is that the Aussie has
restarted training after his thigh strain cleared up.
As for this weekend's game, the manager said, "We have the option of playing Mark as a trialist on Saturday but the injury is something that will be a big factor and we will have to wait and see how it comes on over the next couple of days."
26th - M-Ro (right) is set to
have talks with Saints today after being freed by Scumdee yesterday. He
said, "It a case of speaking to St Johnstone now and Ill
have a chat with the manager and see what comes of it. I would like to
think they are keen to keep me on but I dont know what will happen".
However given the stories of his wages at Dens it could be a stumbling
block in any move to McDiarmid. Stewart Duff
said, "He is now a free agent and will have to weigh up his
options but there will be interest in keeping him here."
Billy Stark said much along the same lines. "It is an unusual situationthe loan deal was due to run until January and we would not have been able to extend it beyond that. I would be interested in keeping the player here but at the moment he will just be trying to come to terms with the situation he finds himself in. It is a bit early to say whether or not we will sign him but I would certainly be hopeful that something can be sorted out. "
25th - First up apologies for anyone trying to access the WAP site.
The blokes at Wappy who I've been using
for the short URL redirection to the WAP Temple have informed me their
short links don't work with non-Nokia phones (the site was originally
built for a 7110). Have no fear though - all you have to do is use the
proper URL which is http://www.grange.demon.co.uk/saints/wap/index.wml.
Enter that as a bookmark and it should be fine. Any problems email me
to the address below (and let me know what phone you're using).
Meanwhile the reserves had a good 4-0 win last night with Paul Lovering and Cap'n Jim getting another 90 minutes under our belt. Goals came from Chris Hay, Keigan Parker and a double from Ryan Stevenson(right).
Elsewhere and the manager was trying to raise the spirits after the weekend's defeat. He said, "The players are a bit down as it was a pretty big defeat. However, that is part of football. We had gone on a good run but it had to finish some time. It was a poor day and now we need to pick it up again and start trying to put another run together. Of course 4-0 is a bad result but it is still very close and there are still a few teamsincluding uswho could see a good result on Saturday putting them top.". As for the red card he said, "We did not really give ourselves much of a chance, although I thought the sending-off was harsh at the time and, having seen it on TV, I still think it was harsh. Unfortunately that is just the way it goes sometimes and we will have to make sure we respond positively. ". Meanwhile M-Ro is still out and is unlikely to resume training before the end of the week.
5.30pm - And this afternoon the future of on-loan midfielder M-Ro was even more unclear as the Aussie became one of the first to be freed under the cost-cutting exercise being implemented as a consequence of Scumdee going into administration. His contract (along with a load of others) was terminated this morning so from what can be gathered he's now a free agent. Whether or not he's willing to sign a permanent deal with Saints and take what is rumoured to be about a 75% cut in wages to do so remains to be seen.
Finally the WAP bookmark this morning was wrong - the correct one is the one above.
November 24th - Despite
Scotsport's coverage giving more evidence in Darren
Dods favour yesterday, Mixu Paatelainen
was still a disappointed man today. Speaking of Saturday's defeat he said,
"Its only three points lost and we will keep battling away
because there is a long, long way to go. That has stopped the run of nine
unbeaten games we were on but if we do the same again starting next week
we will remain close to the top. The whole season isnt going to go
your way but we now pick ourselves up and produce another run. We were
threatening going forward and we got opportunities which we should have
done better with. We then lose a goal from a set piece and 2-0 with a man
down makes it very difficult. I was confident about winning the game
beforehand because of the way we had been playing but weve shot
ourselves in the foot and have to bounce back again."
As for the manager he kept his comments to "The defeat was self-inflicted. At first sighting, I do not think it was a sending-off."
22nd - It's the First Division game of the day today and Saints are
urging the fans to turn up early with a big crowd expected. On the park
and Peaso is hoping to continue his
goalscoring form but is expecting a tough match. "We have a few
injuries with Mark Reilly and
Mark Robertson out and
Paul Bernard hasnt trained much
this week, and we really need our strongest team for these games. Despite
the last game, Ive never doubted they would be up there with us
they are a strong side and it will be a difficult game. But we are
confident because were on a good run, and while thats got to
end sometime hopefully it wont be tomorrow."
Billy Stark isn't expecting a repeat of the 3-0 win at Ochilview in the first meeting of the clubs though. "You dont go into games like that expecting those scores, although we did play well on the day and took our chances. But they are on a good run just now, having gone to the Highlands two weeks in a row and taken six points and then beaten Raith. Its a pressure game, because we dont want anyone jumping ahead of us. It is important at the halfway stage to be in a challenging position, which we are in just now, but all the other teams are of the same view and its very cutthroat.". The manager has also praised the recent performances of the Saints defence. "Defending better breeds confidence throughout the team because if they know we wont lose a goal the creative players can work at their own game. Set-pieces especially will be important as the games against Falkirk last season didnt have much between the teams in open play but we lost every goal from a set- piece."
Elsewhere and it's congratulations to Henry Hall who's been named manager of Montrose.
6.30pm - Nightmare day with a red card for Darren Dods in controversial circumstances as we were beaten 4-0 by the Weans who proceeded to go to the top of the table leaving us in 4th place. One to forget....
21st - One definite starter tomorrow will be
Paul Bernard on his return from
suspension but Billy Stark is still
awaiting some tests before deciding whether or not to play
Mark Robertson(right) who has
suffered from a thigh strain all week. If M-Ro
can't make it then it will be Eddie Malone,
Ryan Stevenson or
Martyn Fotheringham who'll get a
chance. The manager said of the game, "We've already had a good
win against Falkirk this season so that certainly gives the boys a bit of
confidence straight away. We are in also good form going into this game.
Peaso's continuing to find the back
of the net and guys like Chris Hay and
Eddie Malone are knocking the goals in
in the Reserve matches so we definitely have options. We're all looking
forward to the match. Undoubtedly it's a big game for both teams but we
are 100% focused and looking to complete the job in hand."
Meanwhile it's bad news for Scumdee who look set to go into administration with a real possibility the club can fold. Capone is still trying to call everyone's bluff over the affair but things are looking bleaker than normal at Dens. Now we know how much we hate Dundee etc but let's hope they can survive this - possibly with relegation to the 3rd Division though.
November 19th - A strong Saints reserve side beat their Arbroath counterparts 5-0 last night in the Forfarshire Cup. Goals came from fit-again Keigan Parker, Chris Hay (2) and a brace from Eddie Malone(right). Paul Lovering and Cap'n Jim got another 90 minutes is as well.
November 18th - The bad news from Sunday's win over Brechin is that midfielder Mark Robertson is now rated doubtful for this weekend's visit of Falkirk after picking up a thigh strain. Billy Stark said, "At this point Mark would have to be rated as a doubt for Saturday". Meanwhile, Keigan Parker is back in training today after missing out at the weekend due to flu.
November 17th - - Billy Stark was realistic about yesterday's scrappy win. He said, "We were very poor in the first half and reasonably competent in the second. We worked hard and used our bit of extra quality in the one to one situations. Brechin are a handful and I am surprised they have not done better in terms of results. We showed determination and resolution to do enough to get a result. We can play a lot better and I am delighted to get the three points."
November 16th - It wasn't pretty but in the end a Peaso header just before the interval sealed the points in a 1-0 win at Brechin although QoS victory over Ayr by a similar margin means we're still 2nd ahead of the Weans on goal difference.
November 15th - Saints slipped
down to 3rd last night as the Weans went to the top of the table following
their 3-2 win over Raith. Elsewhere and Caley and County played out a 3-3
draw whilst Clyde beat St Midden 2-0. Still means we can go top tomorrow
if we beat Brechin and Queen of the South don't take all three points from
Tomorrow's skipper Ian Maxwell is expecting a tough game at Glebe Park. "I actually won the third division title with Ross County with a 1-0 win at Glebe Park. I know all about the slope and the hedge and the fact that the surroundings may not be all that luxurious, but Ive done pretty well in the past there. Theres no way well treat Brechin lightly. Theyre coming off a good home win, then an away draw against St Mirren last week. Theyre organised and they work hard. The leagues that tight and it wouldnt take many results for Brechin to get themselves into the pack Theyll be reasonably confident and they have some ex-Saints in Marc McCulloch, Marc Millar (signed this week)and Charlie King wholl be up for this game."
As for his own performance he's looking to start scoring some goals. "I seem to be hitting posts and bars this season. Ive had a few knockdowns which have resulted in goals for others, but even big Darren has more than me.". All three injury victims this week seem to have recovered and are expected to play.
Billy Stark is also expecting a tough game. He said, "Any time you go to Glebe Park youre in for a difficult game and I dont think their league position is a true reflection of their form. There are a lot of games they could have won, but defended poorly and lost a bad goal. After the two games we played against them earlier in the season we dont need any reminding of how difficult they will be to overcome. Were playing really well, though, and we pose a goal threat. I think were second top goalscorers and that was the big thing that needed to be addressed this year."
14th - The good news is that John
Robertson was back in training yesterday but the flip side was that
Ian Maxwell(right) had to skip
training with a "hip strain" and is in the doubtful
category for the weekend - sorry but how the feck do you strain a hip?
More good news is that Simon Donnelly
should train today.
Elsewhere in the league and the SFA have ruled that the SFL can have a similar exemption from the transfer window restrictions as has applied to the Nationwide League - this allows clubs outside the SPL to sign two players a season outside of the transfer window. However before you get all excited about it all, the deal is restricted to domestic transfers between the SFL clubs. So Zidane will have to wait a bit before coming to Perth.
Finally Ian Maxwell will be skipper this weekend, out to beat the curse which has recently befallen Cap'n Jim, Mavis and Paul Bernard. Billy Stark said, "It makes sense for Ian to captain the team; he's in a rich vein of form and he has previously captained Queen's Park and Ross County. We want to keep this good run going and of course that means coming away with a win on Sunday. That said, we are expecting a tough game up at Glebe Park so we know we'll have to be up for it."
Oh yeah and the Daily Record Fans Forum for Monday night has been cancelled - no doubt awaiting Jim Traynor swotting up on the names of the Saints youth team. Ticket refunds from McDiarmid.
November 13th - Whilst Paul Lovering and Cap'n Jim came through Tuesday's reserve game unscathed and are on the way back, Billy Stark has some worries ahead of Sunday's game. John Robertson is still suffering from a stomach complaint but is likely to start training today. It's not so good for Simon Donnelly who still hasn't trained this week after picking up a knee knock.
12th - The Reserves won their League Cup game 5-3 at Forfar last
night. Cap'n Jim(right),
Paul Lovering and
Chris Hay all got another 90 minutes under
their belts. The latter got one of Saints goals whilst the others came
from a Forfar own goal, Keigan Parker
and a brace from Mark Ferry.
Billy Stark said of the skipper's return
that he was "delighted with Jims progress so far.",
although he's ruled out a target for a first team return.
Meanwhile, next Sunday's opponents have their own troubles ahead of our visit. First-choice Brechin keeper Derek Soutar is for some inexplicable reason part of the Scotland U-21 set-up this coming weekend so is unavailable. Reserve keeper David Hay is set to play for the Glebe Park men but their reserve keeper will come from the junior ranks as a trialist.
November 11th - Billy
Stark has taken the positive view on the red card from the weekend.
Paul Bernard is out of this weekend's
trip to Brechin but has apparently been carrying a toe injury and the
manager said, "The ban means he will miss Sundays game
against Brechin so that will allow him to rest the foot.". He
also confirmed the midfielder won't be fined for his sending-off. Also set
to have a wee rest is 2-goal hero Simon
Donnelly with Billy Stark saying,
"Simon has a niggly knee problem so he wont be taking part
in training during the early part of the week but should be OK for Sunday."
As for the game this weekend he's not being over-confident. "We are on a good run at the moment and it is not easy to do that in this division. But we have a tough, tough game coming up and there will be no hint of complacency."
Meanwhile there's some good news for skipper Jim Weir. Yup Cap'n Jim is set to start another comeback tonight at Forfar in the Reserve League Cup tie. Without trying to tempt fate in the slightest he said, "Being out with a long term injury is incredibly frustrating, it's annoying for any player to be watching from the sidelines week in week out. I'm glad that the recovery period has been quicker than expected; originally I thought it was going to be into the new year before I got back to action but I have pushed myself and hopefully that determination will pay off."
10th - With Saints still full of the joys, you can see and hear
Billy Stark's thought's on the Clyde
game courtesy of STV at
Scotsport site where there's a 3 minute RealPlayer interview.
Speaking to the papers todayBilly Stark said, "We got our just rewards and the scoreline was a pretty accurate reflection of the game. Every other game between ourselves and Clyde has been tight but weve been playing well and I expected us to play well again today. I thought the sending-off might affect us worse because we were set up very offensively in midfield, but Simon Donnelly and Brian McLaughlin had to come in and play as proper midfielders. Paul Bernard has been a driving force for us recently and it speaks volumes for the players that it didnt turn out like that and we adapted well and at every stage we looked really threatening. We are on a good run just now but Ive been long enough in football to know that doesnt mean it will be happy ever after, so well keep working on things for next week because theres still a log-jam of teams at the top of the table."
And the man who scored the opener at the weekend was paying tribute to the manager. Peaso said, "We are going well, the boys are working extremely hard, especially at home, where results werent so good earlier in the season. We have been winning away and the gaffers asked us to work a bit harder and we have responded and done that and it shows in the results. It is a really difficult league because there are five or six teams at the moment looking like they could win it, so its probably the most difficult league of the four. We just need to keep playing well week in week out like we have been recently and hopefully the results will keep coming."
November 9th - Well given the recent form Sunday's are becoming dull with the worst post-mortem confined to "Just how shite were the opposition?" . So whilst waiting on Scotsport to wade through the rugger and bring us the extended (aye right) highlights of yesterday's one-sided display, I've stuck a new file on the website containing a theme for a Pocket PC (basically the results of some weird experimenting this afternoon). Works on a PocketPC2002 system so feel free to download the file from here. As usual I'm not responsible for what you do with it but if anyone does download it and uses it drop me an email to show that my time wasn't totally wasted........
8th - Mixu Paatelainen is the man
talking up the big game today (Christ even the Scotsport main camcorder
will be in attendance!). Speaking of his time at McD he went all
McDonald's advert and said, "I am absolutely loving it here and
really enjoying every game I am involved in. It is a very tight league and
wins at this stage are absolutely crucial. Promotion is the only thing the
team is focused on,. Obviously it is nice to score goals, but as long as
we are winning I do not mind who is scoring."
Looking ahead to today's game he continued, "The last few results have been really good but it will be difficult to beat Clyde. They are very aggressive and excellent defensively. However, we have beaten them once already this season and we have to look at that result and take something from it. The good run we have been on lately has raised confidence levels and long may it continue. However, we must not get carried away just because we have had a decent spell. What is important is consistency, and that takes hard work."
Mark Reilly will sit out the game but John Robertson will face a late fitness test despite missing training due to flu and Peaso should also play.
6.30pm - Despite both teams going down to 10 men as Fraser of Clyde and stand-in skipper Paul Bernard walked for fighting, Saints still went on to cruise to a 3-0 win over the Clyde Cloggers thanks to an early goal from Peaso and a couple either side of the break from Simon Donnelly(right). It could easily have been more though. Results elsewhere saw the Doonhamers win and Falkirk take three points at Dingwall meaning we're up to 2nd ahead of the Weans on goal difference.
November 7th - Tickets for the
quarter-final of the CIS Cup are now on sale at the club priced £17
and £8. The ticket office is open from 9am to 5pm
Monday-Friday and after the game on Saturday. Alternatively you can phone
them on 01738 455000.
John Robertson has been named as a doubt tomorrow after missing training yesterday due to illness.
November 6th - The bad news is
that Mark Reilly is set to be out for a
month after Saints got back the results from the specialist about his
ankle injury. However Peaso has
better news with his specialist giving him the all clear.
Billy Stark said, "Peter
MacDonald has been told he can continue as he is, but Mark Reilly has been
advised to rest for about a month" (didn't I just say that?)
Last night saw Saints exit the Youth Cup after going down 3-0 to the Arabs although we only had 3 full-time players in the line-up.
Meanwhile it was good news last night with Clyde/s solitary-goal win over Caley Thistle meaning we're still safe in third place.
November 5th - The CIS
quarter-final trip to the Death Star has been put back a date - the game
will now be played on Wednesday December 3rd.
Meanwhile the reserves have a League Cup clash of their own against Forfar next Tuesday at 7.30 with Paul Lovering set to make his comeback from his broken toe injury.
4th - Mark Reilly is set to see
a specialist about his knee injury. Billy
Stark said, "Mark is going to see a specialist about the
knee and we all have our fingers crossed that everything will be OK.".
As for the weekend draw, the manager continued, "In terms of the
performance it was as good as anything we have produced this year - and
that includes the win over Dunfermline last week. We played some really
good stuff and totally dominated for long spells."
Kevin Cuthbert(right) was disappointed at the weekend though, looking at the Palmerston draw in terms of the points dropped. He said, "When we saw the results we knew we would have been top if we had won. But we're not too downbeat. At the end of the day, we are still in touch, only two points off the top. We just need to bide our time. We have to put our foot on the gas as we have some important games coming up. We don't want to let ourselves down and throw it away. It's taken a while for the players to get to know each other, but they have now and it's important for us to keep this run going. I'm pleased with my performances, but we need to keep it tight at the back. I thought we looked the more likelier to score on Saturday and maybe on another day, the chances would have gone in. We're trying to forget about being labelled favourites and we know that no matter what happens the team will stick together."
Meanwhile the club have announced the not unexpected closure of the Official Saints Site . Whilst the main reason given is the potential for legal action against the club and posters (part of the general fallout on the net from the rape allegations in England), the degree of sometimes petty and infantile criticism aimed at the club and players as well as some of the more highly-publicised postings which caused ructions within the club have left them with no real choice in the matter. For anyone still wishing to keep a level of unofficial debate going, Blue Heaven has launched their own free forum
November 3rd - - Not much
happening after the weekend's games (even Scotsport deigned to give us all
of 1m 40s of coverage in between wittering on about the OF). There has
been a new addition to the Rogues Gallery (which
really needs a lot more names to be added so send the photos in.
Meanwhile, Off the Ball are set to broadcast live from the Muirton Suite on Saturday December 6th prior to the Ross County game. It's a ticket-only affair but the free tickets will be available from McDiarmid next Monday.
1st - Billy Stark isn't expecting
things to be easy at Palmerston this afternoon. He said, Its
going to be a very tough game and the players know that. It would be a
tough fixture even if Queens were sitting bottom of the league because
Dumfries is always a difficult place to go but given their league position
and current form we know what to expect. I dont envisage that theyll
be duly troubled by last weeks reversal at Dingwall. However, if our
attitude is right then we have a good chance of coming back up the road
with the points.
Keigan Parker is expecting Saints to continue their form though. "Even as short at time as three weeks ago the fans were booing us after that draw at home against Ayr United. It just shows you what can happen in the space of a few weeks. Everybody is beating everybody in this league at the moment and if we could put five or six wins together I think we could find ourselves a few points clear. Hopefully we can win at Queen of the South tomorrow and keep our run going. Certainly, if we play like we did on Tuesday night and in our last two away games at Ross County and Falkirk then we shouldnt have any fears. "
Expect some changes in the team - Peaso (right) is struggling after picking up a bug midweek (see that's what you get for being within 6 feet of a Fifer!). Mark Reilly is in contention for a return and we're unlikely to see Mixu Paatelainen sitting on the bench again.
7.30pm - Not a great game for Saints fans but a good advert for the First Division saw Saints draw 1-1 at QoS thanks to a deflected Brian McLaughlin shot 20 minutes from time. Results elsewhere mean we're now third on goal difference and 2 points off the leaders.
Top Of News
October 31st - Billy Stark knows it will be tough to upset the odds in the quarter-final but he's looking forward to it. "First and foremost we were delighted to be in the draw for the quarter-finals. We were the only first division team so in any game we would be underdogs, but this is the most difficult draw we could have been given. It will be a real test for us but we have to look to experience this arena and see how we handle it. We would all love to progress to the final, but this type of draw makes that a lot more difficultwe will clearly be rank outsiders. You have to categorise and say that the Old Firm are a different proposition, but we did great against Dunfermline and I think we will do well at Ibrox. They have a great record there and it will be a tough, tough task for us. However we will enjoy the underdog tag and look for our best players to step up to the challenge. The chairman tells me its 40 or so years since we won at Ibrox, but cups do throw up the odd shock."
October 30th - Saints are now
the only non-SPL team left in the CIS Cup following last night's
departure's of Clyde and the Weans. And Keigan
Parker is hoping to build on Tuesdays dumping of Dunfermline in the
forthcoming games. He said, "Everybody is delighted with the win.
It's a real morale booster for a First Division side to claim the scalp of
an SPL team. `There was no pressure on St Johnstone to get a result but we
went out there and proved that we were more than a match for them. It was
never a 3-2 game and a few of the boys were disappointed to concede two
late goals we ended up doing it the hard way. But we have quality players
and most of them have been in the SPL and this is the kind of opposition
you like to face. Our priority is to win the First Division and get back
to the SPL and this will do our confidence no harm.'' . Meanwhile the
Retard has "former Celt" Simon
Donnelly keen for a return to Parkhead in the quarter-finals the
draw for which is made at 2.30 today. Here we go again then......
Finally commiserations to youngster Neil Gibson who's picked up a couple of nasty leg breaks which will rule him out of the youth and U-21 side for several months.
October 29th - Billy
Stark has spoken more in this morning's paper of last night's win.
Speaking of the late Pars comeback he said, "It wouldnt be
like us to give ourselves a comfortable night! I thought we merited our
win and after Dunfermline scored their two goals we could have lost our
composure, but we didnt. Its great that the players showed
their mettle and Im delighted that were in the quarter-final
of a national competition." . As for
Sid's goal, the manager simply said
it was "pure class".
8.30pm - As we should have guessed the draw for the CIS quarter-finals has ensured that the old "hot ball and cold ball" trick worked beautifully - yup we're off tae the Death Star to take on The Forces of Darkness. The full draw is Aberdeen v Livingston, Hibernian v Partick or Celtic, Dundee v Hearts and Ginger McLeish's mob against Stark's Stormtroopers. Well at least it will keep the Retard headline writers in a job for a while.
28th - Saints have confirmed that there are some "walking
wounded" after Saturday and Billy
Stark said that "We might have to make one or two changes
to the team, but it will be the strongest side weve got available
which takes the field. Were clearly not the favourites for this
match. Dunfermline are an established top six SPL team with a number of
quality players. Well be tested far more defensively than usual but
well also get more room to play when we have the ball. Well
see how we handle a different, better type of pressure. It will be a good
test for us and hopefully well be able to enjoy the underdog tag. Im
expecting the players to work hard and do everything to try to get us into
the next round. They would enjoy the plaudits they would get for a win, so
its worth having a real go.".
The full list of injuries includes Mark Reilly's ankle injury which could leave him sidelined along with Mixu (knee), Paul Bernard (toe), Ross Forsyth (arm) and JJohn Robertson (calf).
Simon Donnelly(right) is happy going into the game as underdogs. He said, "Every week were expected to win. Well go into this match as the underdogs, though, and its a chance to show how good we can be against an SPL team. Weve got a lot of experienced players who have played at the top level at different times in their careers in our side and hopefully well give a good account of ourselves. I think it should be quite an open game. Its our aim to be playing against the likes of Dunfermline on a regular basis next season and this will gauge what stage were at just now."
Finally, remember as well that season tickets aren't valid tonight - you got yer moneys worth in the Accies game didn't you? Let's just hope that we don't take until extra-time to deal with the Plastic Pars tonight.
11pm - Well in the end it was almost an easy win. Despite a late, late comeback from Calderwoods Plastic Men, Saints ran out 3-2 winners over the Pars thanks to 2nd half goals from Darren Dods and Peaso following up a cracking Simon Donnelly lob over the keeper in the first-half. After the match a well-chuffed Billy Stark (who even waved to the fans tonight) said, "We thoroughly deserved the win even at 3-0".
27th - With the Official
Saints Site forum still locked, if you want to access a new
unofficial one, there is now a Blue
Heaven Forum which has been set up and will run until the future of
the official site is clarified.
Meanwhile Ian Maxwell was happy with the win at the weekend which stretches the unbeaten run in Perth against the Paisley tinks to 11 years. He said, "St Mirren are always easier for us to play against because they will come here and try to attack and give us a bit more space than other teams would. It was a big win and sets us up nicely for next weekend. We would take 1-0 every week and the gaffers said we will have seven or eight of them over the season if we are going to win the league. You always feel one is never enough, though, and we are always pushing to score more and kill the game off and we did have more chances like my header and a good shout for a penalty, but they never went in today. I seem to love hitting the post here but cant seem to score themmy three goals so far have all come away from home. But Im just happy with the zero at the other end because thats what Im really on the pitch to do."
Billy Stark was still unhappy with Keigan Parker(right) not being awarded what he thought was a penalty towards the end. The manager moaned, "Other than teaching him how to go down, I dont know what else to do. All the ones on him were fouls but when a player has pace like that its hard for the referee to distinguish but he again got nothing and Im getting fed up talking about it. It was a brilliant piece of play by him, beating four men and then he was going to shoot and there was definite contact made but luckily we were already in a winning position. It was a well-merited win and if Maxwell had scored the header, which he should have done, wed have seen the game out comfortably. Its a big, big win for us and, while wed have loved to have won by a bigger margin, St Mirren will make it difficult for teams this season, and it sets us up nicely for next week."
October 25th - Billy
Stark is looking for a big improvement today in Saints' home form.
"We should never be in a situation where we were as poor as we
were against Raith Rovers here and then show what we have shown in other
matches. Its not as if I havent mentioned the home form to the
players over a period of time, but this week weve looked at it head
on. Talking is all you can do until you get the chance to turn it around
on the pitch, and that chance is there tomorrow. To be fair to them, the
players have not made excuses. We know we cant sort it out in one
home match against St Mirren, but we have to begin to do it."
Paul Bernard is another one who knows it has to improve. "Weve proven we can do well in tough away matches and our away performances are the type of performances we want every week. Last season I believe it was home form which let the team down, and this season so far weve stuttered a bit as well, with one or two terrible results and poor performances. Although you dont want to dwell on it, its something were mindful of and something were looking to put right. Weve discussed it this week and a few things have been mentioned. With a few good results it will all be forgotten. I thought after our opening-day win over Queen of the South we would go on to establish McDiarmid as a difficult place to come to. The first quarter is over but we can still do that. In my own mind I think its a matter of time before we start to show our best form here, and hopefully that will start against St Mirren tomorrow."
7pm- In the end it was a good three points as we beat the Paisley Tinks 1-0 thanks to a cracking first-half goal from Mark Robertson. Not a pretty game but Queen of the South's defeat at Dingwall means we're now up in third place and with a chance of going top after next week's trip to Palmerston.
October 24th - Sid looks set to play tomorrow after recovering from his calf knock. Mark Reilly is also set to play through the pain barrier earning him some praise from Billy Stark who said, "Mark is determined to play and it's a great example to set the rest of the players. Simon Donnelly will also play on Saturday and up front I'm starting to look at Chris Hay also coming into contention. Chris has looked good in training recently but it's a lack of match practice that has kept him on the bench so far. He's now had a couple of run outs for the reserves and I know he'll do the job if called upon. It's important we get a good start in Saturday's game and turn around our home form which has been disappointing so far this season. If we can continue our form from the Ross County win, we'll be in with a great chance."
October 23rd - Chris Hay missed out on the reserve win after picking up a dead leg in training but should make the bench at the weekend. Simon Donnelly is back in training but Mark Reilly faces a scan on his foot injury. Billy Stark said, "Its just a precautionary move really because we are confident the problem Mark has is caused by wear and tear and playing and training on hard grounds"
October 22nd - The Saints reserves won the first round of their Reserve League Cup matches last night with a 2-0 win away to Queen's Park. Chris Hay missed out on more match practice with a calf knock but it didn't prevent a win with goals from Steve McManus and Mark Ferry although we also hit the woodwork twice and the latter saw a penalty saved.
21st - Billy Stark is now looking
for the home form to improve starting this weekend. "It is by no
means impossible for us to conquer the difficulties we are having at home.
Teams dont and wont make it easy for us here. But the way to
overcome that is by building confidence and results like weve had at
Falkirk and Ross County in recent weeks can only increase our self-belief."
He also found time to praise hat-trick hero Mixu and said, "I knew when we brought Miksu here that he would do lots for us but I had not anticipated that 14 games into the season he would have nine goals to his name. And I am delighted for him because players of his age are all too readily written off if they have a poor game. Miksu was excellent in his first few games for us and everyone was praising him. Then when he didnt do so well it was being said he was past it. People should remember that players can turn in below-par performances at any age. "
Injury-wise Simon Donnelly didn't train yesterday after picking up a calf strain at Dingwall whilst Mark Reilly's (right)foot injury is still causing him problems.
October 20th - Not much happening. Saints have confirmed that the Brechin match scheduled for Saturday November 15th will now be played on Sunday November 16th to avoid a clash with the Scotland play-off.
October 19th - Surprise, surprise Billy Stark has his smiley face on today after yesterday's win. He said, "We limited them to a handful of chances and they are not far off top scorers in the league. We knew that would be key today. It suits us better playing away from home when teams have to come out and attack us and have a go. The problems have been at McDiarmid Park where we haven't been managing to take an early lead and gain confidence from that. If we were playing Premier teams and showing the form we have in games against County and Falkirk I'd be confident of giving them a right good game and maybe beating them, because the onus would be on them to come at us. I know when everyone is fit and available we can come to places like this and win.''
18th - Saints still appear to be favourites for the title with the
bookies even if the rest of us are doubting their championship
credentials. And confidence is the key according to
Ian Maxwell(right) who said, "An
unbeaten run of say five or six matches would get us into good shape. That
would give us the confidence we need, because it is fragile just now. The
Falkirk 3-0 win was easily the best result in my time here, then we go out
against Ayr, dont start particularly well and everybodys
thinkinghere we go again. When you go 1-0 up and the other team is
reduced to 10 men you expect to be able to see the game out, which we didnt.
This will be the last game of the first quarter and if we win we should
make ground and be further up the table, and then we can hopefully kick on
As for his old side he continued, "Alex Smith has brought in a lot of players and I think theyre unbeaten at home this season, so it will be a really tough match. Weve been struggling at home but our away form has been pretty good apart from one game at Clyde. County will have a go at us, which should make it an open game and give us space which we can hopefully exploit. "
Mark Reilly faces a late fitness test as does Paul Bernard before the manager will pick his line-up.
Billy Stark has revealed that competition in the squad will improve soon as well. "Paul Lovering is expected to return to training next week and could play for the reserves on Tuesday and that would leave just Jim and Paddy. How long that will last remains to be seen, but if we get 90% of our players fit and available I would be very hopeful for the second quarter. I would say that the second quarter is a very important spell. Weve got a nucleus who have shown already they can score, which was always going to be a big thing for us this year, and we have also looked the part in a number of games. "
9pm - Well in the end it was a relatively simple 3-0 win at Dingwall courtesy of a Mixu Paatelainen(right) hat-trick in the first-half which sent a large travelling support home more than happy. Results elsewhere kept the league relatively unchanged although Queen of the South's win over Caley put them up into top spot.
17th - Paul Bernard(right)
missed training due to illness yesterday and is now doubtful for the trip
north, along with Ryan Stevenson who
also had the flu. Mark Reilly did train
yesterday and should make the squad along with
Brian McLaughlin and
Billy Stark is happy enough to play Reilly despite his lack of training this week. He said, "I wouldnt worry about that. Mark knows what his body requires in training and he knows what his role in the team is. Ryan Stevenson and Paul Bernard have had the flu so well wait and see what they are like tomorrow."
Meanwhile it's been confirmed that Mark Baxter has been called up to the Scotland U-19s and so will miss out on the St Midden and Pars matches next week. As for the Brechin game on November 15th that's still likely to be moved to make way for the Scotland v Holland game - currently the Friday night or Sunday are the preferred dates but no decision has yet been made.
October 16th - Not much to report today. But it's congratulations to the Saints u-19s who came back from 2-0 down at half-time to beat Preston Athletic 3-2 at Prestonpans in the youth cup on sunday to go through to the next round. U-17 star Richard Bowers got the winner.
October 15th - The good news from yesterday is that only Mark Reilly missed out on training yesterday with his ankle knock.
October 14th - Add another couple of names to the treatment table with Simon Donnelly and Mark Robertson's knee injuries keeping them away from training last week. The manager's hopeful of the pair making the trip north at the weekend though. Chris Hay is set to keep on gaining match fitness with a reserve runout tomorrow at Raith.
October 13th - Well a week away
and nothing important's happened in Saintee land. The away strips hit the
Asda store in Perth last Friday though so you can all get dolled up for
this weekend's trip to Dingwall. Saints have also confirmed the Pars CIS
Cup tie will take place on Tuesday October 28th at 7.45pm.
Admission to this will be £15 for adults and £5 for concessions.
On the playing front and Mark Reilly, Brian McLaughlin and Paul Bernard are in line for a return at the weekend. Billy Stark said, "It's obviously a blow having all three out at the same time, but we've landed lucky with having the Scotland game this weekend as this gives the players a wee bit more time to recover. Reilly has an ankle knock, McLaughlin a groin strain and Bernard a back problem but hopefully all will be available for selection on Saturday."
October 5th - Billy
Stark was his usual disappointed self after seeing Saints throw
another two points away. He said, "We failed to close out the
game with a second goal. They defended well but we were off the pace we
wanted to play at. I cant remember losing as many scrappy goals as
we have recently." .
Meanwhile let's hear it for Scotland on Sunday's report which has the classic mealy-mouthed sentence of The responses from some quarters in calling for Starks dismissal are not only insensitive and untimely but also imprudent and unreasonable. - sez who?
Finally last update here for a week or so as I get out of the country to avoid all the depression currently associated with Saints. Check the Official Saints Sitefor any Saints news.
4th - Mark Robertson(right)
is determined that Saints will show the same form today against Ayr as
last week. "You see it happen all the timeteams winning
against the bigger sides and then flopping against the so-called lesser
clubs. Being able to beat both is the mark of a good team and thats
what we have to show against Ayr United. Some of these matches wont
be the prettiest, but the most important thing at the moment is getting
good results. The confidence should now be there after the win at Falkirk.
Falkirk have been a thorn in the flesh of St Johnstone so for the boys to
beat them 3-0, with all three goals top quality, was a big psychological
boost. Its now a matter of us finishing off teams when we get the
chance. Theres a two-week break coming up after this match and it
would be good to go into it with things going well." . He's back
today after suspension but to prove he's not totally on Planet Earth he
said of the red card against Raith, "I didnt feel I
deserved to be sent off. At first I thought it would be the Hamilton cup
match that I was banned for but then it became clear that it would be the
next league match, which myself and the manager were both really
Paul Bernard meanwhile knows he's still got a lot to prove to justify his signing in the summer. "I know what's expected of me here. I know I've to play my part in getting this club back to the SPL. The fans are perfectly right to have those sort of expectations. Big things are expected from us and we have to deliver. I was warned teams come to McDiarmid and sit in against us but we have to cope with it.''
No more team news other than the chances of Brian McLaughlin playing are even slimmer than before. Craig Nelson has recovered from his ankle knock and will make the bench.
7pm - Saints blew it again although were perhaps a tad unlucky to end up drawing 1-1 with Ayr. That man Peaso gave us the lead with a spectacular overhead kick but Ayr equalised with two minutes to go. Apart from that the game was pretty poor and the only plus point from today is that results elsewhere saw nobody manage to draw clear.
Finally the Official Saints Site forum is currently locked until further notice. This has been done "on legal advice".
3rd - First up it's the chance for anyone wishing to get their own
back on our favourite media "personalities". Saints have
announced that there will be a Daily Record Football Forum in the Muirton
Suite, McDiarmid Park on Monday 17th November. Doors open at
7.00pm and it's a fiver a head to laugh at Traynor and Murdo. A bar
facility will be available on the night. Contact the ticket office at McD
for more details. Mind you when you think about it, it might be a bit late
in starting - I mean we all know how much difficulty the Scottish Mirror
journos seem to have in finding McDiarmid these days.
The prospect of another impatient home crowd tomorrow has got Billy Stark(right) pleading for some patience from the fans. "If were giving all we can and just havent got the breaks, then stick with us. When Celtic scored their first goal against Lyon in midweek it was the result of a long series of passes. If our fans can see were playing with a hunger and determination then their backing can lift the players that wee bit more. Well ram home to the players that they have to play a high-pressure, high- tempo game in these type of home matches. We didnt get that against Raith Rovers and it has to be there from the start. What got us the win at Falkirk was the determined approach we had from the off and defensive solidity."
He does accept the criticism about the inconsistency of form though. "People can genuinely level that at us, because we have been inconsistent since the start of the season. It comes back to confidence. What were trying to do now is put together a long enough run that produces a real collective confidence and self-belief." .
Team-wise and Mark Reilly and Brian McLaughlin will be late decisions although Mark Robertson returns from suspension.
October 2nd - Chris
Hay won't be rushed back into the first team from his hernia
surgery. Billy Stark said, "The
intention is to get Chris confident in his fitness and comfortable playing
90 minutes before we involve him at first-team level again. Thats
two full games he now has under his belt following the reserve match at
Montrose on Tuesday. But we have further reserve fixtures against Forfar,
Raith and Queens Park coming up this month and these are available
for him to continue this process. I am not saying hell play all of
these games before we reintroduce him, but if everyone stays fit then
Chris wont be rushed."
Mark Reilly looks set to play this weekend after getting an injection for his ankle knock. The manager said, "The problem is one of wear and tear and Mark has had a jag. At the start of the week he was struggling, but it now seems he has a chance of making Saturday. ".
1st - Chris Hay(right) continued
his comeback getting both goals in last night's reserve match against
Montrose at Links Park. Saints side featured a couple of under-18 players
and makes it 3 wins out of 3 for the season.
That's the good news - the bad is that Brian McLaughlin is set to miss out on Saturday after his groin flared up against Falkirk (ooer missus). Billy Stark said, "Brians groin is not as bad as it was, He is almost certainly out for Saturday but with a two-week break to follow hopefully thatll be the only match he misses.". Of more worry is the absence last night of backup keeper Craig Nelson who is also struggling for the weekend. Trialist keeper Joe Arnott played in the reserve match last night and the manager said, "Craig twisted an ankle when blocking a shot in training on Friday and is causing us a bit of concern".
Top Of News
September 30th - Confirmation
from the club that Peaso has
suffered no ill effects after Saturday's wee run out at Ochilview despite
going off just after the hour. Billy Stark
said, "Sometimes it can be difficult coming back and you get the
odd problem but thankfully Peter is fine and trained."
It's not so good for Mavis who has picked up a foot knock. The manager said, "He has played a couple of games with the problem but only really complained about it on Saturday." - what a brave wee soldier he is.
29th - Mixu has joined in the
chorus of players hoping that Saints are about to start a run of good
form. "The second half against Raith Rovers was very poor and
there was no hiding from that. We needed to show determination after that
and we did. This has been a massive week for us and now we have to look to
keep a run going and show more consistency."
As for Saturday the Finn was full of praise "They were fantastic goals from Peaso. He isnt fully fit yet but hes got a very good knowledge about how to play up front. Hes a goalscorer and Im sure there will be a few more in his locker"
The manager was just as happy with the quality of the performance. "This was a big, big game in so many ways and I would have settled for a scrappy 1-0 win. You can never budget for getting three goals of that quality, but I felt that the quality of the goals was in keeping with the quality of our play. In the last couple of games the players have done what I asked of them and have gone out and shown people what theyre made of. The test that was put in front of them on Tuesday night was as hard a test as theyll face as a group of players and they came through it with flying colours. They took that into the Falkirk match and in many ways improved on it. Im proud of all my players. Theyve shown the character that is in the team and now they need to show it on a game by game basis."
No word yet on Brian McLaughlin(right) who limped off on Saturday with what looked like a groin injury.
September 28th - What's this? Sunday morning and we're all upbeat? Billy Stark summed up yesterday's performance saying, The players did what I asked of them. They went out and showed people what theyre made of and answered the questions the critics have been asking. Two-goal hero Peaso was also happy. It was a great win because Falkirk are obviously one of the teams who will be challenging. The first goal gave me confidence and when we got the free-kick there was only one person going to take it. My calf muscles are a bit sore now and my feet are a bit tender but winnings a great pain-killer.
September 27th - Simon
Donnelly reckons we can get back in the hunt for the title today.
Were coming off some disappointing league results so its
important we get back on track. We are only four points off the top and a
win will out us right back in there.
Billy Stark reckons it'll be a different game from Tuesday night's cup win. Falkirk, by nature will have a go so it will be more end to end and will require different things from us which are more enjoyablethe defenders will not have to be on the ball all night, being invited to do something with it. Its not like Raith and Hamilton coming and sitting with 11 behind the ball, inviting us to break them downthere will be more room for the ones further forward to go and do something. . Let's just hope that the players realise how important a win today is - lose and we're 7 points behind the Bairns and the calls for the manager to go will no doubt be heard once more.
7pm - Well we didn't and instead won in style with a cracking 3-0 win over the Bairns at the shambles they call Ochilview. Two beautiful top-corner finishes from Peaso and a 2nd half beauty from Mixu combined with a great performance in defence saw Saints move up to 6th as the pressure definitely eased slightly on the manager.
September 26th - Billy
Stark doesn't believe we have anything to be afraid of at Ochilview
(shudder) tomorrow. The teams above us have won three to our
two, which is no big difference. Also, Falkirk were just a minute away
from penalties in midweek, so things are pretty even. Ive told the
players that this will be a better game for us in lots of ways. It wont
be a case of Falkirk putting 11 men behind the ball, which happens most
weeks. They will have a go and ask different questions of us, which could
be to our benefit. It might be a similar scenario to the Bells Cup
tie against Clyde where we fought our way to a win away from home. The way
we managed to fight for our win against Hamilton on Tuesday could be a
big, big swing for us, and Im hoping we take confidence from it into
There are no new injury worries but Mark Robertson is suspended after being an arse last week. Peaso looks set to be in contention for at least a place on the bench tomorrow. He said, "It's fair to say I've had a bit of an injury nightmare recently, but I'd like to think that's all behind me now. It was great to get a piece of the action against Hamilton, and now I want to make sure I'm part of the plans for the Falkirk game. They will be very tough; they're the champions and we'll need to pull out all the stops to get a win. We've got a bit of confidence back after the win midweek and hopefully we can carry that onto the park on Saturday."
As for the cup-tie the manager said, Well be able to enjoy the tag of underdogs for a change and well relish that
September 25th - Well it looks
like Billy Stark will be in charge until
the weekend at least with the Saints board apparently off abroad yesterday
for a golfing holiday. Mind you it's unlikely defeat at Ochilview will
keep him in a job.
Meanwhile Saints go into the hat today for the CIS Cup 3rd round draw which takes place at Hampden at 2.30 this afternoon. The draw is again seeded.
7pm - Well we didn't do too badly in the draw with Saints at home to the Pars. No confirmed date for the game but it's more than likely going to be Tuesday October 28th.
September 24th - "Saints
come back from the brink" - see occasionally even the headline
writers get it right. Billy Stark was a
proud man (and a very relieved one no doubt) after the winner. He said,
"Any way you want to analyse the game, it would have been a
travesty if we hadnt won. Im proud of my players and what they
did at the end of the match is worth a million words. They didnt
give up and got their just reward.". Whether or not he's done
enough to keep the P45 from the door remains to be seen.
Despite the extra-time exertions last night there is some consolation in that Saturday's opponents Falkirk had to go through a similar exercise at Gayfield before going through 4-3.
23rd - Mixu Paatelainen(right) has
admitted that Saints are under pressure to turn things round starting with
tonight's cup game. Whilst it's doubtful that a big win will do much to
change most supporters' opinion of the manager it might help the player's
confidence. The Finn said, We definitely need to work harder and
be more determined. Every player must take responsibility. If individuals
dont work hard enough and do the right things its very
difficult to win games. Its a case of standing up and being counted
and that wasnt the case on Saturday. I include myself, because I had
a quiet game. Its not good enough and it is nothing to do with the
manager if players dont have the willingness and desire to work hard
to win a game. It is only after hard work that quality will shine through.
He doesn't believe the players are guilty of over confidence in Division One either. There is no way that any of our experienced players looked upon it as coming to St Johnstone to coast along and walk through everybody. No chance. Anybody who believes that is under-estimating us big time. I saw this as a great challenge and I knew it would be difficult for us as favourites to win the First Division. Other teams will sit back, kick you and show high motivation, so we have to be even more determined to overcome that. The pressure is on but Ive been in this situation many times before. You need to get positive if youve had a quiet game and prove a point to everybody, especially yourself.
Billy Stark meanwhile still has faith in the players. He said, For us now, it comes back to old-fashioned words like character and spirit. The basic fundamentals that you need are grit and determination and we have not shown them consistently enough. We have not worked hard enough as a team in every game. Players maybe thought that because we had some players with pedigree everything would just fall into place. That isnt enough. Before you do anything you have to have everybody working as a unit. In terms of the criticism of me, I take solace in the fact that last year after not conceding a goal in six games and losing for the first time in our eighth game, I was getting stick. I didnt think it was justified then but any stick going about just now is. In football somebody is always getting it, and if its my turn now Ill accept that.
In terms of team news there's likely to be little change. Mark Robertson is available tonight but is out for the trip to Ochilview at the weekend.
11.45pm - It took a Mixu goal in extra-time to save Saints tonight as we went through 3-2 against Accies. Simon Donnelly opened the scoring before Accies hit back to lead 2-1 and start the calls for the manager to go. Only Brian McLaughlin's last-minute equaliser to put the game to extra-time arguably saved the manager's job. As it stands though even tonight's win doesn't look like being enough to stop the rot.
22nd - There's no sign of the debate about a new manager letting up
but the current incumbent seems to be losing patience with the players at
last. Billy Stark said of Saturday's
result, They need to look at themselves in terms of taking
responsibility in games. As far as Im concerned the squad of players
who are here are not doing themselves justice just now. Thats
something we have to address as a body and individually. Im not
going to have a go at the fans. Theyve just watched the second home
league defeat out of four. They expect better and they should expect
Mavis meanwhile seemed to accept some responsibility for the shambles which has left the fans on the net openly debating a managerial successor. He said in the dressing room that hes never before come out and individually or collectively had a go at the players. At the end of the day the manager can only do so much for us. The quality in training is really good and we prepare well but you cant legislate for a performance like that, it just wasnt good enough. Our second-half performance was especially terrible. With the type of player we have here we shouldnt be producing displays like that. Weve got four players who have played at international level and we should be doing so much better. Its just not acceptable.
September 21st - The flak is still flying with little or no support for the manager now. He's still got some friends in the media with the Sunday Mail's take on the game including the following quote "The home fans weren't helping their heroes as every stray pass or mis-timed tackle was greeted by a chorus of boos. Shouts of 'Stark must go'' began to fill the air as some supporters disgracefully turned on their manager while their players were being roasted. ". So just WHAT THE FUCK did they expect us to do - accept that performance? Arse.
20th -Mavis is one player set to
relish this afternoon's game against Raith. He said, "I played
with Antonio at Rugby Park and used to change next to him at training. You
could see the ability he had and he could read the game. Hes
obviously a bit older now, but he has good technique and is a good
dribbler. He is still a quality player.Even in those days I thought he was
management material, but I wasnt so sure hed get a chance in
this country. I thought he might have to go back to Spain. Hes doing
a decent job, too. At the moment Raith are a point ahead of us in the
league and, though Ive not yet seen them play, by all accounts the
players he has brought in are of decent quality. "
As for Saints form he went on,. It was very disappointing to lose last week and its vital we get back on track and, just as importantly, win our home games. Were only three points off the top so its important we go on a run. . No more word on any team news.
7pm - An utter shambles on the park with Saints losing 1-0 to Raith. Even better was the red card for Mark Robertson for being an arse. Billy Stark is under major pressure tonight after a shocker of a game - we're 7th in the league and there's no sign of any light at the end of the tunnel.
September 19th -Another slow
news week. Still even if Saints aren't busy McDiarmid is with the Scotland
U-21 game against Lithuania on Friday October 10th and the Bells Cup Final
both scheduled to be played there.
Not much in the way of team news ahead of tomorrow's visit of Raith Rovers. Mixu Paatelainen was apparently seen sitting out some training after a knee knock but that's just rumour whilst for the Fifers Martin Prest is apparently a doubt after picking up an injury in their midweek humiliation by Caley Thistle.
6.30pm - Ian Maxwell(right) is looking to tighten up the defensive problems ahead of tomorrow's game. After coming in for a fair bit of flak in recent weeks he said, "It's been disappointing to lose a few daft goals and as a defender you always go out with the aim of keeping a clean sheet. We've managed that against Clyde and St Mirren but those were cup games. Now we're intent on keeping the door closed in the league. It's not as if we have a lot of new players in defensive areas. It's the same guys in there apart from Grant Murray. We're certainly working just as hard but we seem to be getting punished every time someone slips up. Maybe last season we were getting away with mistakes. But we were going into games confident we wouldn't lose a goal and the strikers knew that one goal would probably be good enough to win games."
He's not even sure where the problems are saying, "It was disappointing to lose goals against Queen of the South and Brechin late in games even though they didn't make any difference to the outcome. It's not even down to one player. We all seem to be taking a turn at a costly mistake and we know that has to stop. We have to eradicate these errors. We've spoken about it individually and earlier in the week the manager had us together as a unit to talk things through.". As for tomorrow and the visit of Sutton Jr to Saints the defender said, "Sutton's style appears to be like his brother's which means he's bound to be a handful. But it's important we get back on the rails right away after losing at Clyde. Good teams don't lose two in a row (Oh boy that sound will be Lady Fate being tempted) so we're desperate to get all three points. "
Billy Stark watched Raith's defeat midweek and reckoned the Fife side's defence was the weak point. He said, "They've had a good start to the season and the manager has made use of contacts in the game to bring in a number of foreigners. We know they will be dangerous opponents. We also know we need to improve defensively - we had a grip on the game at Clyde before conceding a bad goal. We've lost too many in that category in the early part of the season. We've scored eight goals in three league games at Perth and that's not a bad ratio. We are getting forward and creating but we have to be building from a solid defensive base."
16th -Billy Stark has admitted
that there are weaknesses in the current Saints side but unlike last
season where the problem was scoring goals, he reckons he can sort these
ones out a bit more easily. This time last year we had won four,
drawn one and not conceded a goal which was just short of perfect. Even
then though, we were subjected to a bit of criticism for not scoring
enough and Falkirk were building up momentum. This year is a bit
different. Weve got a better squad and have more options in forward
positions. We know that we have to stop making silly mistakes defensively
but generally it is easier to sort out defensive areas and well be
working hard at that.
Chris Hay and Peaso (right) are both back in training which will hopefully give us some more options up front. The latter is looking forward to pushing for a first team place now he's back in training. "It's been really hard, day in day out. When the rest of the lads are away training those who are injured are left with a rehabilitation programme. I just can't wait to get playing again; Keigan has had a good start to the season and looks to have gained a bit of confidence from his goals. Hopefully it won't be too long before there's a wee bit of competition and I get back among the goals myself."
Finally 4 years ago tonight we were in Monaco. How times change eh?
September 15th -Billy Stark(right) was disappointed after Saturday's result. Yeah I know surprise, surprise and he wasn't the only one. With the calls for the manager to go starting to surface again he said, "You cannot legislate for losing a goal from a kick out by the opposing keeper. We were always chasing after that and yet should have been ahead before they scored."
September 13th -Billy
Stark is looking for Sid to
make an impact today. He said, "I'm happy with the start he's
made. Match fitness is coming on now and I'm looking for Simon to move to
a more attack minded role to take a bit of pressure off the strikers. He's
a more than capable player and we will look to him in the coming weeks and
months to add some goals." . Brian
McLaughlin is also set to take some part in the action this
7pm - A poor second-half performance saw Saints end up on the wrong side of a 2-0 defeat at Broadwood which sees us slip to 6th in the table with a team that was booed off the park.
September 12th -Ticket sales are
reported to be going well for the trip to Ochilview in a fortnight.
Billy Stark expecting a tough match at Broadwood tomorrow. He said, "Clyde showed last year just what a good side they are and we'll need to be on top of our game.". And he's reiterated that he won't be pushed into a rush signing. "Others are fit at the present time and while this may change there is no point in picking someone up just to have more bodies when another can fill in." Saints have no new injury worries. For the home team Alan Kernaghan is expected to return to defence.
September 11th -Billy Stark says there's no rush to cover the defence despite the loss of Stuart McCluskey. He's looking around but is happy enough just now and said, Something is going to have to turn up for us there will have to be a good free agent. Others are fit at the present time and while this may change there is no point in picking someone up just to have more bodies when another can fill this role. . There were no new injury worries out of the East Fife game.
September 10th -Saints have
announced ticket sales for the game against the Weans at Ochilview on the
27th. The official word is: From Thursday 11th - Wednesday 17th
September, Season Ticket holders will be entitled to purchase a maximum of
two tickets upon production of stub No. 30 from their Season Ticket book.
Thursday 18th and Friday 19th September: Federation of St Johnstone FC
Supporters Club should submit their requests for tickets (subject to
availability). Saturday 20th September (after Raith Rovers match), Monday
22nd - Friday 26th September: General sale (subject to availability). The
Ticket Office is open Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm. Tickets cost £12 and £6
for the terracing and £14 and £7 for the North Stand. Phone
01738 455000 for more info.. We've been given an alloction of 944
Meanwhile we've apparently given a trial to a Czech player who was over in Scotland picking berries. Don't expect a signing - the lad's not played enough games for his country so the red tape hassles will be too much. He did score in this week's 3-1 Reserve win against East Fife in Methil. Star of the match was Mark Ferry who scored two and made one goal.
And Jim Weir is continuing his rehab. Billy Stark said, Jim is back jogging and doing a bit of work. He is pretty close to a schedule which would see him return around the turn of the year.
September 9th -This lack of news is boring. Nothing in the papers today other than confirmation that Paul Lovering will be out for at least a fortnight.
September 8th -First up I know there's not been much in the way of updates but there's been sod all Saints news over the weekend. Ho hum
September 5th -Billy Stark is being Mr Cautious over the cup draw yesterday (probably more in light of the ignonimious Challenge Cup exit than anything else). "You never know when you have a good or bad draw because we have won away to Clyde then lost at home to Brechin in cup competition this season. So I will be taking the game as it comes."
September 4th -Billy
Stark was happy enough with the win on Tuesday if not the
performance. I feel it was a very good result, In my opinion St
Mirren will do all right this season and not many teams are going to go to
Love Street and win. It wasnt the best of games but we dug out a
result and I was pleased at the way in which we defended.
Paul Lovering has been told he's got stress fractures in two of his toes - no word on how long he'll be out for yet.
5pm - Today's CIS Cup 2nd round draw has seen us drawn at home to Hamilton (again?). The tie will be played on Tuesday Sept 23rd and season tickets are valid. And speaking of tickets, the club have confirmed that the Ochilview match against the Weans on Sept 27th will be an all-ticket affair. Details of the ticket sale will be announced later.
Apologies to Mark Ferry - apparently he was offered a loan deal at Montrose but has turned it down to fight for his place at McD.
Finally there is a Meet the Manager night scheduled for the Muirton Suite at 7pm next Thursday.
September 3rd -The good news
about last night's win is that Saints will be seeded in tomorrow's 2nd
round draw which in theory means we avoid the SPL and Falkirk, Clyde and
Queen of the South. So expect a nice wee trip to the back of beyond.
Meanwhile Stuart McCluskey apparently played for Partick U-21s on Monday night but there won't be any deal for him at Firhill.
2nd -John Robertson reckons
he's more settled this season which explains the upturn in his form.
Speaking ahead of tonight's trip to Love St he said, I wasnt
properly settled last season and I dont know if moving back home to
Kilmarnock has had anything to do with my form this season. I was
disappointed with last year and Im looking for more consistency now.
They say that strikers play on confidence but I think its the same
for every player, including me.
As for the change from right-back to central defence he said, With Jim Weir injured and Stuart McCluskey moving on weve obviously got less cover in the middle of defence than we had in the summer. I played at centre back a lot of the time when I was at Ayr and Im just happy to be playing. We couldnt have had a tougher draw than St Mirren away but to get anywhere in cups you have to beat the team put in front of you. We had a chance of silverware in the Bells Cup but shot ourselves in the foot and well see how far we can go in this one.
Billy Stark has been speaking of the decision to release Stuart McCluskey but he is still planning to bring some cover into that position. Reluctantly, I agreed to let Stuart go. He has looked stale recently and I couldnt argue with his views. I tried to bring someone in last night but we can still sign someone who was out of contract before midnight last night, and well have a look at who might be available. Ive got players like John Robertson and Ross Forsyth who can play centre half and if I didnt there was no way I would have let Stuart go. Johns game has been more composed this season. We would love all players to fit in straight away but that doesnt happen. I was confident he would show his qualities and thats what hes doing now.
11.50pm - Well it went to extra-time but a Mixu Paatelainen penalty following a Darren Dods(right) header (that the ration for the season then?) saw us though 2-0 at Love St. and into Thursday's 2nd round draw at Hampden.
1st -It's more praise for 2-goal hitman Mixu
Paatelainen in the papers today with Simon
Donnelly(right) doing the worship bit. He said Mixu has a
lot of experience and a physical presence and is going to be an
influential player for us. If we can get the right sort of balls into the
boxas we did todaywe know hell finish them off. Im
not sure about that celebrationthe ground was shuddering when he
landedbut he says he has a few more in the locker and we look
forward to seeing those!
Billy Stark meanwhile is happy with the capture of loan midfielder Mark Robertson with the Aussie in as cover for Mark Reilly. He said, "We now competition for places, not least in midfield, and I think this will spur the players on as we look to put together a run of results, that starts with the Cup game against St Mirren on Tuesday night. They had a good result against Clyde at the weekend, and with the players brought in over the summer, will prove I think to be a good team this season. Every game is important and a Cup run would benefit us all, so we're hungry for a win this week."
Injury-wise Paul Bernard is a doubt for tonight but otherwise Saints are at full strength.
Top Of News
31st -First up let's hear it for John
Robertson who's received a personal apology in the pages of this
month's Maxim magazine. Apparently they did an article on
hard-drinking Scottish footballers in the past and in the piece on the
similarly nomenclatured winger now at Parkhead they featured a photo of
our star. Best bit is that no one complained on his behalf and he had to
get the record set straight as a "Maxim reader himself". Aw
diddums. Next week, Paul Lovering
poses with Kelly Brook !!!
Meanwhile the fuss about last week's incident with a wheelchair-bound ICT fan's treatment continues with the Sunday Mail managing to get their 2p worth in although going by the article they've obviously not picked up on the club's side of the affair.
Back to yesterday's fun and games and Billy Stark was a chuffed man once more (so no jokes about relief at avoiding a P45 please). "I thought they were great goals today, all three of them and they were finished clinically. There were no failures today. The boys showed great patience and it was a good second half display which merited the points"
30th -Mixu reckons he's made a good
contribution so far to the Saints attack (and
Keigan's tally) despite a lack of goals
himself. Ive assisted in four of his goals. We talk a lot
in training and during the games about what were doing right or
wrong and so far its been working. We need to make sure we keep it
going. Keigans red-hot at the moment so hopefully he can get another
goal or two against Brechin. We need to get back on track after dropping
points to Inverness last week. Ive only got one goal myself at the
moment, but Ive always said I wont be the main goalscorer. My
style of play involves me knocking the ball down for the midfield or my
fellow-strikers. Very often my backs to the goal so its very
difficult for me to get on the end of things, but as long as I play my
part and were winning, thats the main thing.
As for the last couple of matches, the Finn said, Tuesday showed that any team can beat anybody else. They were well organised and caused us problems. We started brightly but when they went 2-0 up that really left us up against it. They defended well and we didnt manage to get a goal back until the last couple of minutes. Nobody should take Brechin lightly. On the evidence of Tuesday night I dont think theyll be sitting at the foot of the league with no points for too long. But today is a new game. You learn from past games and past mistakes and hopefully we can make amends. The league is so important for us. To be at the top of the league in May is the most important thing. The main thing is not to panic if a few results dont go our way.
And the manager doesn't have a lack of worries - Ian Maxwell is now a doubt after coming down with the flu yesterday. Mavis will be in the side and new loan signing Mark Robertson is set to take some part.
7.00pm - A much-improved and hungrier looking Saints romped home 3-1 winners over Brechin with two goals for Mixu and a cracking volley from Darren Dods(right) for the third. The result means we're now 2nd in the league and going by rumours at the club might be enough to postpone the removal of Billy Stark as manager - something which was being touted pre-match had we lost.
Finally Saints have today released long-serving defender Stuart McCluskey by "mutual consent". Billy Stark said, "Stuart indicated to me a couple of weeks ago that he felt a change would benefit him and reluctantly we have agreed to this. He has been a great servant to the Club over the years and naturally, we wish him all the very best for the future."
August 29th - It's a familiar
face from last season as Scumdee midfielder
Mark Robertson has returned to
Saints for a 2nd loan spell - this one set to last through until January.
Speaking of the move Billy Stark said,
Marks an Australian internationalist and he showed here
last season that hes a good strong midfielder. I felt that we needed
another player for that area of the team..
Elsewhere Mavis trained yesterday and should make the side as did Brian McLaughlin but he's only being considered for a spot on the bench. Paul Lovering's foot injury is set to keep him out again.
Finally, Mark Ferry has headed off to Montrose on loan.
August 28th -Well the flak and calls for the manager to go are well and truly flying now going by the comments on the forums. Saints were set to play a closed-doors game against the Arabs yesterday. Mark Reilly and Brian McLaughlin look set to return to action this weekend though whether that will make much difference remains to be seen.
August 27th -Master of the understatement Billy Stark was an unhappy man again after last nights gubbing. We shot ourselves in the foot and allowed Brechin to play to their strengths. We desperately wanted to win the Bells Cup but the main thing is the league and we know it will be a tough game again at the weekend .
26th -Martyn Fotheringham is
looking to put one over on his old teammates tonight after his spell on
loan at Brechin last season. He's had an excellent start with Saints this
season and said, I wasnt even on the fringe of things here
in January when I started my loan and the manager told me I would learn a
lot by being part of a first team on a Saturday. I can see that its
definitely benefited me. I got my chance in the last five or six games of
the season and to win promotion with Brechin on the last day of the season
was something Ill never forget. To go through a promotion chase at
such a young age was great experience. We needed a draw at Hamilton on the
last day and were 2-0 down but with 15 minutes to go got one back. Then
three minutes into injury time we scored again and I think we were all
celebrating that goal for about 10 minutes. Its something Ill
never forget but Id like to think promotion to the Premierleague
this season will top it. The manager has told me to go out and show what Ive
learned and hopefully thats what Ive been doing and can show
more of over the course of the season.
Billy Stark is just happy the team have a chance to put last Saturday's defeat behind them so quickly. Im delighted weve got a game so soon. We would have loved to have built momentum and not had any setbacks but that doesnt happen. Saturday has checked our momentum but we have to make sure thats all its done. Theres the chance to get to a cup semi-final and the biggest incentive should be playing better than we did on Saturday. Its as simple as that.
No word on any team news or injury worries for tonight. Mark Reilly looks like missing out again though.
11.30pm - Expect the flak to fly as a totally rubbish performance (see I can do it without swearing) saw Saints knocked out of the cup as we lost 2-1 at home to Brechin in a display which made the Caley game look like a World Cup winning performance. An absolute shambles from most ot the team - especially the so-called experienced players. Even worse when you realise that our goal from Ross Forsyth(right) didn't come until the 89th minute!EDITORIAL - Ochilview, Brockville, Broadwood, Glebe Park - the shite cup performances never used to happen on our own turf. Tonight Saints were a disgrace. Stark has 4 days to turn things round and get the team back to winning ways or else he may find patience has run out
Away from Saints and John O'Neil signed for the Weans as a player-coach today.
August 25th -No word on any team news for tomorrow night although expect some shake-up to the side. There's also a rumour we've got a foreign player on trial although no word on his identity / position.
23rd -It's Mixu's (right)turn today
to praise Keigan in the mutual
back-slapping stakes. Ahead of this afternoon's Caley game he said Ive
played most of my career with a quick striker who runs beyond defenders
and Ive been the one who links with the midfield and gets the
flick-ons. Ive partnered similar players to Keigan up frontlike
Kenny Miller at Hibs who was a great finisher and lightning quick, as well
as Stevie Crawford and Tam McManus. I believe thats the way it
should be, with different styles of strikers complementing each other.
. But the Flying Finn doesn't want any of the credit for the
turnaround in goalscoring of his fellow striker. Keigan deserves
all the credit. Weve been talking a lot in training about what were
trying to do and things like where he should be making his runs. Hes
a good listener and hes putting the effort in. Hes showing a
positive frame of mind and working hard and if you keep getting into good
positions you start scoring goals. I find it hard to believe that last
season Keigan scored only one goal. Hes on fire at the moment and
long may that continue.
Billy Stark is looking for backing from the stands today to help swing the game. The support was very important for us against Queen of the South. They got the players going from the start and I wouldnt under- estimate how important that was. We beat Inverness three out of the four games last season and the matches were usually quite open. Theyve lost Barry Robson and Dennis Wyness, but I dont think they were severely weakened over the summer and theyll probably be just as potent.
7pm - Oh dear. Saints slipped to 5th after our first defeat of the season going down 1-2 at home to Caley Thistle. Keigan was on the scoresheet again but too many bodies wearing the blue shirt were posted missing. Expect plenty of shoe leather to make contact with buttocks before the cup tie on Tuesday. Billy Stark wasn't a happy man after the game especially with the defending. He said, "The first half was poor and we never got into a rhythm at all but I spoke to the players at half time and got a good response. We started the second half well then lost a goal but we continued playing and got our reward with Keigan's goal. At that stage I thought there was only one team who would go on and win it but then we go and lose another cheap goal. Basically, we lost the game because we defended poorly for two goals."
August 22nd -Latest team news
for tomorrow's visit of Caley Thistle sees Chris
Hay set to take one of the places on the bench after coming through
Tuesday night's reserve match unscathed. Billy
Stark said, Chris could be on the bench. It would give us
striker options which we havent had so far this season. He obviously
isnt match fit yet but if he gets through the rest of the weeks
training I wouldnt rule it out. Hes desperate to get involved.
He did some really good things in the reserve match and had his usual two
or three efforts on goal which I think he would have scored if he had been
match sharp. . Mark Reilly
has been ruled out with a back injury. Paul
Bernard will play despite his back injury.
Billy Stark is still confident and said,
"We've got a lot of good young players here who are very
talented: Martyn Fotheringham, Eddie Malone, Ryan Stevenson, Ross Forysth,
Mark Ferry, Mark Baxter and of course Keigan Parker who has had a good
start to the season. It's important for us that when one or two of the
more experienced players aren't available that these young guys come in
and show us what they can do. I've got no hesitations about playing these
guys. They are the future of the Club and we already know they can produce
the goods." . Brian McLaughlin
won't resume training until Monday.
And half-time tomorrow will see a procession of 70 Harley Davisons going round the trackside as part of this weekend's "Thunder in the Glens" celebrations in Perth.
20th - Saints won their first match of the Reserve League East
campaign with a 1-0 victory over Cowdenbeath. In a game which apparently
was a lot more one-sided than the scoreline suggests a
Martyn Fotheringham free kick was
headed in by Eddie Malone for the
winning goal. Perhaps more importantly for Saints, the game also saw
Chris Hay(right) play a full 90 minutes
although Brian McLaughlin didn't
Off the park the club have confirmed that season tickets are valid for next Tuesday's cup match against Brechin.
August 19th - As if
Paddy Connolly's season couldn't get
any worse, news has been announced that the minor knee op he was facing
will in fact be major cruciate ligament surgery which could threaten his
career. As it stands he'll be out for several months.
Billy Stark said, I dont
like putting a timescale on injuries but it will obviously be months that
Paddy is out for. Its a bitter blow for the player and the club
because we need all our top players available to us. With
Jim Weir still out, thats two
experienced men who I wont be able to call on.
Mark Reilly is already doubtful for the Caley game this weekend after going off with a back spasm at Love St. Chris Hay is set to play in tonight's reserve game though as he continues his comeback.
August 18th - Not much in the
papers today. Billy Stark was happy
enough to take a point from Saturday's game and managed another dig at the
Clyde boss on Scotsport yesterday (and yes by some miracle the STV
cameraman managed to capture it unlike most of the game). "I
can't complain about the result. We could have played better, but when you
come to places like this it's a difficult game. We had a really tough game
last Tuesday and I think a few players were struggling for fitness.
Overall though I'm pleased. The other results back up what I'm saying - so
many teams in this division are capable of beating anyone on their day. ".
Keigan was a happy man at the weekend as well after another goalscoring performance (and despite having a new well-dodgy "Gangsta" style haircut). But he's joined in the Saints criticism of certain manager's comments during the week. Speaking in the Sun he said, "No one here said we were going to walk away with the league. Alan Kernaghan is trying to play stupid mind games. It's kid's stuff really but I thought he was old enough and wise enough not to try that kind of thing. We're not worried though, we'll do our talking on the pitch and let him do his talking in the papers". As for the goal he continued, "It happened really quickly. Sometimes flicks like that don't come off but thankfully that one did. I just tried to get my head down and get my shot in ealy and I was so pleased when it hit the net. We're unhappy not to win after taking the lead but a draw was probably a fair result." .
The one good thing from the weekend was the abundance of Media Falsehoods that surfaced.
Elsewhere in the Division and it looks like Clyde are the side leading the chase to sign John O'Neil in an attempt to boost their squad.
16th - Looks like a war of words is brewing after
Billy Stark hit back at Clyde manager
Alan Kernaghan's comments on our chances
of winning the league. The Saints boss insists that the team aren't
looking on themselves as favourites for the league he said. Somebody
showed me the quotes from Alan Kernaghan. Because one or two people have
made us favourites other people are trying to use that and Im not
having that. Nobody here is going to say were going to do this or were
going to do that. We know how difficult its going to be this season.
Weve got a lot of players who suffered and suffered badly last
season, and to suggest that they might think this is going to be some kind
of stroll is preposterous. Were not favourites in my eyes. Clyde,
Inverness and Falkirk will all be very strong teams and you can already
see that Ross County are a team to be reckoned with and Raith Rovers have
found their feet early on. The division will be at least as difficult this
year as last, possibly even more so, and dont think anybody will do
what Falkirk did last time. Its not trying to be negative. People
say weve made a good start, but weve only played one league
John Robertson(right) is set to return to the fray today after picking up a dead leg at Broadwood and he's looking forward to a good season after a disappointing first season with Saints. It took me quite a bit longer to settle than Id expected and I dont know why that was but hopefully thats me settled now. The team is full of confidence, were scoring goals and not conceding many, so long may that continue. .
Meanwhile in a rotten attempt to stir up old grudges the Retard preview has St Midden keeper Craig Hinchcliffe going on about that game 2 years ago when we lost to the Arabs and saw the Paisley Plebs relegated. Nothing like blaming others for your own failures boys eh?
7pm - Well yer man Keigan gave us the lead with a candidate for goal of the month today in a tough game at Love St but only for 2 mins as St Midden came back to get a 1-1 draw which was probably a fair result although has to be a wake-up call to a Saints defence that looked lethargic and slack at times. Both Ryan Stevenson and Mark Reilly limped off injured during the game. There is some good news with the result seeing Saints top the league on goals scored.
15th - Bad news for Paddy
Connolly(right) as he's set to undergo a knee operation. But
Brian McLaughlin and
Mark Ferry are both back in full
training although they'll face late fitness tests before they can be
deemed fit for the trip to Paisley.
One player who is fit and on great form just now is Keigan and he's relishing a chance to increase his tally for the season. "I'm obviously very happy with the start to the season. We've only played three competitive matches but I can't complain when I've bagged four goals. Last year was disappointing, not only for the Club, but on a personal level. As a striker you have to put the ball in the back of the net regularly and it just wasn't happening. The gaffer has brought Mixu in who has a lot of experience and he's a big influence to me both on and off the park. So far the partnership up front has worked well with Mixu and hopefully it will continue for some time."
Off the park and the draw for the Bell's Cup 3rd round sees Saints at home (at bloody last) to Brechin City and a chance to gain revenge for last season's exit at Glebe Park. The match will kick-off at 7.45 on Tuesday August 26th with admission pegged at £10 and £5.
John O'Neil meanwhile is reported to be in talks with both Falkirk and Clyde. And finally, congratulations to Tommy Løvenkrands who banged in a couple in Esbjerg's 5-0 UEFA Cup win this week.
August 14th - John Robertson's injury on Tuesday night was just a dead leg - he's expected to be fully fit for the game at Paisley.
August 13th - Billy
Stark was his usual happy self post-match last night. Speaking after
the win over the latest Cumbernauld Casuals gang of thugs he said, "Im
delighted to be in the next round. Keigan
played well and showed what he is capable of doing. He worked hard last
season and got the respect of his team-mates and this time round he is
Let's hear it for the in-depth coverage of last night's game as well. The Sun ("Dedicated to Scottish football" apparently) lumped all the games into one spiel with the Saints game mentioning the influential role of "ex-Celt" El Sid. Retard's not much better - a separate report but a similar concentration on ex-Celtic stars. Ach who cares anyway we won.
And off the park, the club are now selling Saints home tops online. The offer is only on until the end of this month though - see the Official Saints Site for details.
Finally, Ex-Saintee Ryan McCann is set to sign for Hartlepool today on a free transfer from TFOE - amazing how prices fall isn't it?
12th - Paul Lovering(right) is
ready for his competitive debut for Saints tonight. The left-back said,
"I'm fit and raring to go. It was unfortunate for me to be hit by
the food posioning which was a nightmare and kept me in bed for five days,
when I couldnt eat anything. I lost weight and strength so it was
important for me to get my fitness back last week before playing and I did
extra training to do that. You want to start the first game of the season
and it was hard watching the boys from the stand. The team have done
really well so far and so has Ross.
But hes suspended for tonight and I'm available, so obviously it
opens the door for me." And he's looking for a psychological
boost from a victory tonight over who could be our promotion rivals. "I'm
confident we can get a result and it would be good for the players and
supporters to get a good run. It's also important that we keep the
momentum going which we've got from our good start to the season."
Billy Stark said, "We would have preferred to be at home for this match, which is probably the tie of the round, and both managers in our quieter moments would tell you we would have preferred to play a team from a lower division. But we're looking to continue our good results. Clyde had a lot of narrow wins last season, most notably against us, and sometimes you get seasons like that. They're a big strong team based on a solid defence."
Injury-wise both Foxy and Keigan Parker have recovered from their knocks and should play. And remember it's a 7.30 kick-off tonight at Broadwood.
10.30pm - It took a 2nd half cracker from Keigan Parker to win at Broadwood tonight as Saints beat Clyde 1-0 in a tough game which threatened to boil over on several occassions.
11th - First the bad news - it's another away cup draw with the
League Cup (or Coop Trophy) seeing Saints making the trip to Paisley in
the 1st round. The tie's set for Tuesday 2nd September kick-off 7.45pm
(obviously allowing for the Paisley economics to boost the crowd - i.e.
Meanwhile, Paul Bernard was happy with his stint on Saturday. He said, "We felt we could have avoided the one goal that we lost but that was the only negative from the match. The main thing is we've scored four and played well at home, and hopefully we can go on to have a good record here. We couldn't really have asked for much better. Everything we talked about before the game we carried out during it. The manager's just said that he can't remember the last time we scored four goals at home. There are plenty of players here who can score and we want to become a free-scoring side."
And Billy Stark was just as happy as well despite Bernard and El Sid not being fully match-fit yet. "You could feel a real positive air about the place and we had a better crowd than we had for most home games last year, which suggests fans are looking positively on things. It's our job to produce performances like that at home and keep them here."
Finally, ahead of tomorrow's trip to Cumbernauld Foxy(right) is a doubt for tomorrow's trip to Cumbernauld after a lower back injury meant he went off on Saturday. Paul Lovering trained on Saturday morning though and he is in line for a comeback in place of the suspended Ross Forsyth.
August 10th - As you'd expect,
Billy Stark is a chuffed man today after
yesterday's opening performance. He said, "We kept our patience
after hitting the bar and were rewarded with a couple of good goals. The
new boys did well but you could see Simon Donnelly and Paul Bernard are
still a bit behind in terms of fitness. The class is there though and they
will only get better. I can't criticise my players because that was some
heat they played in."
And 2-goal hero Keigan Parker was also pretty happy praising his new striker partner. "The gaffer has brought in a few big names and obviously their experience rubs off on the other boys. Mixu takes a lot of pressure off you and that is something I have missed since Graeme Jones left. I felt confident - that's important. I've scored three in two games and have to build on that."
And even ex-Saints player and QoS manager John Connolly reckons we were unlucky not to make it more. "I would definitely put them down as favourites to win the league. Paatelainen won a lot of high balls and if they can keep him fit then I can't see anyone else winning the league. We are a part- time side but our fitness in the heat and against the favourites was tremendous. The goals we lost were avoidable but Billy Stark will be delighted and probably say it should have been six or seven."
9th - Well it's the first game of the season and the Retard has
started up it's match previews fo Saints v Qos with as many TFOE-related
cliches as you can get. Brian
McLaughlin is today's "old Bhoy" (don't you just love
Weegie wit?) and, once you get past the hoops jokes says, "This
is the strongest squad in the First Division.". The Courier
meanwhile is concentrating on Keigan Parker.
He said, "I have to try to make this season my season. Ive
got my head right and fitness right so its just about applying
myself on the pitch. I feel really good about this season. Pre-seasons
gone well and I got on the scoresheet last week, which is always good for
the first game. Its got to be the aim to score every week and if Im
playing well and scoring Im confident of staying in the team. It was
frustrating playing out wide a lot last season and if I can get a run up
front with Miksu Im confident I can get goals."
As for the rest of the team he said, We were lacking leaders last year. Falkirk had the likes of John Hughes and Owen Coyle. Now weve got Paul Bernard and Miksu. He passes good tips on and hes a big guy who does well holding the ball up. Ive been surprised and pleased by the players the manager has brought in during the summer. Our squad might not be as big but its probably stronger and Simon Donnelly can see a pass earlier than anybody else when you make a run and that can only be good for me"
As for the manager he's continuing to preach the same mantra he has all week, "I can detect a far more optimistic feeling this year and that will help everybody. There will be fans who will come back if were doing well and theyre the ones were aiming at. If they come to the game tomorrow because they have been buoyed by the signings weve made its up to us to make sure we keep them. A manager is only as good as his players and with the players Ive got now theres no reason why we cant produce regularly on our own pitch. We enjoyed the bulk of possession in games here last season but if you dont have the cutting edge when youre dominating games you suffer. That for me was what let us down most. I feel were better placed this year and Im far more optimistic." There's no changes to the injury situation although the club has confirmed that Simon Donnelly will start.
7pm - A good opening day saw Saints romp home 4-1 winners against QoS with goals from Martyn Fotheringham, a brace from Keigan Parker and a late finish from Eddie Malone rounding off an excellent performance. The only cloud was a momentary lapse in defence which allowed Bowey to fire home a late consolation - but we're 2nd in the league and it looks like a rosy season ahead.
8th - Today's big news is that the Saints home strip is in the
shops today. Asda's in Perth are doing the deal with adult tops for £25
and kids for £23. Some of the squad will be along at 2pm for the
Paul Bernard came through training yesterday and goes into the squad for tomorrow but Brian McLaughlin is ruled out. Billy Stark is confident though and said, "Well just have to wait and see. You get a feeling that everybodys quite optimistic and positive so thats always a good sign. We need to see them playing, but theres a number of them with a good pedigree and that's promising."
Off the park, Geoff Brown(right) has been making his annual "State of the Nation (well club)" address ahead of the new season. He's looking forward to an entertaining and ambitious side this season. He said, "We are pushing the boat out to try and get promotion this season and the manager has made the sort of signings which will excite and entertain the fans. Good housekeeping and stringent cost cutting reduced losses from a projected £1.4m last season " (to £985,000) "Unlike many clubs, we remain financially sound because we invested in property in previous years. That's allowing us to ride out the financial storm. But reality is biting in, in terms of the salaries paid to players. When we were in the SPL the average wage for top division players in Scotland was about £1500. Over the summer we managed to bring in 5 players whose wages will total what our highest-paid player was receiving 12 months ago. We'll lose money again this season. But last year there weren't many highlights for Saints fans and I'd like to think we'll entertain, score goals and win the title this time round. We're committed to regaining our SPL place"
Finally, the Official Saints Site has launched a Sponsor a fan campaign where for just £20 you can get your name on a cardboard cut-out fan who will sit in the Ormond stand for the season.
7th - Billy Stark is happy enough
with the build-up to the QoS game at the weekend. Pre-season has
gone alrightnow we need to translate that into a good start. The
fact Queen of the South beat us and drew with us here last season, though,
tells you this could be a difficult game.
There are still some injury problems. Paul Lovering and Chris Hay look like missing out whilst Brian McLaughlin's (right)knock picked up at Accies also means he's doubtful. The good news is that both Paul Bernard and Paddy Connolly are in line to return.
Longer term Peter MacDonald has finally been given the clearance to resume training.
August 6th - Mark
Ferry is out of this weekend's league opener with an ankle injury
picked up in the pro-am match at last Sunday's open day.
Kick-off for the cup tie next week is 7.30pm on Tuesday night at Broadwood.
August 5th - The 2nd round of
the Bell's Cup sees us heading off for the delights of Cumbernauld and an
away tie against high-flying Clyde - sure to be a tough game. Match is to
be played on Tuesday 12th August. Ross
Forsyth will be suspended for that one after his red card at Accies
but the good news is that he can play this weekend. Although there's a
pretty good chance he'll be replaced by Paul
Lovering this weekend anyway with the left-back having recovered
from food poisoining.
Billy Stark is looking forward to the league opener. He said, "I'm very encouraged by the atmosphere in the dressing room - the lads really are up for this game and the season as a whole. We know that there's an expectation for us to do well this year and hopefully the confidence in the camp will stand us in good stead. There's a lot of talk about what the competition are doing and how we'll measure up. I'm confident we have the right personnel and the right attitude to make a mark on this league and I know the players want success as much as I do."
August 4th - As you'd expect the
main focus on the match reports (at least in the Retard) is on new boy
Simon Donnelly. He said after netting
the winner on Saturday, "It's great to be back in Scotland. I
really enjoyed the game and I could not have asked for a better start than
to score and see Saints win. I really didn't expect to play as long as I
did because I'm short of match fitness. The boss didn't intend to
introduce me as soon as he did but when Brian McLaughlin pulled up with an
injury, I supposed that forced him to throw me on. Playing on the left
side of midfield is something I'm not used to but I'm happy to fit in
anywhere as long I'm playing. My fitness is not too bad considering I've
only done a bit of pre-season training and I have not played for over a
week and a half. We showed a tremendous amount of bottle to fight back
from the early setback of having a man sent off and going a goal behind to
win the game."
Billy Stark said, "All of our plans went out of the window when Ross was sent off. I'm pleased how the lads fought back and despite the early setbacks they didn't feel sorry for themselves. I was delighted with Donnelly's contribution. The plan was to give him a run-out for half an hour but circumstances meant he got longer."
The draw for the 2nd round takes place tomorrow at 11am.
Meanwhile Billy Kirkwood is set to join Meadowbank as a coach.
2nd - Billy Stark was running
about with a big smile on his face if you believed the reports on his
comments after signing Simon Donnelly.
The manager plans to use the former Sellik kid on the right side of
midfield and said, "Im thrilled that Simons agreed to
come here because I know that a Premierleague club wanted to sign him. He
knows me, knows the club and knows it will be a good platform for him to
show people up here what he can do. The right of midfield was a position Ive
been looking at and Simon had a terrific run at Celtic in that position. Im
very grateful to the chairman for allowing me to get him after wed
already got our squad together in terms of numbers.". Oh and
guess what? For the first time all summer we're getting some decent
coverage in the Waily Retard. Wonder why?
No word on whether or not the new boy will make his debut at New Douglas Park today but given the injury situation it's more than likely. Paul Bernard is due a fitness test before a final decision is made. Billy Stark is taking the game seriously though. "Everybody wants to win their first game of the season. Ive had them watched and they looked quite lively so this will be a difficult game"
8pm - Well we won through 3-2 (aet) at New Douglas Park despite being down to 10 men from the 4th minute onwards after Ross Forsyth(right) was deservedly sent off for a last man offence. And we went behind by half-time but Mixu Paatelainen pulled us level and Keigan Parker gave us the lead. Accies drew level again but sub Simon Donnelly slotted home the winner to round off an impressive debut performance.
1st - Well the season starts in earnest tomorrow and as you might
expect the injuries have mounted up already. Ruled out of the Accies
cup-tie are Paul Lovering thanks to
some food poisoning, Chris Hay,
Paddy Connolly and
Paul Bernard is still a slight doubt
after an ankle injury in training but should play.
Billy Stark said, "We do have
cover for the lads wholl be missing but these injuries are taking us
to the limit.". A move into the transfer market hasn't been ruled
4.30pm - And no sooner did Billy Stark make mention of moving into the transfer market than he signed ex-TFOE striker Simon Donnelly(right) on a 1-yr deal ahead of reported interest from Hibs and Dundee Utd. The 28-yr old striker, who had a summer trial with Coventry, has worked with Billy Stark at Celtic before heading off to the delights of Sheffield. The manager said," Simon is player of great quality and for him to come to St Johnstone, especially given the competition from other clubs for his signature, is a great boost for me. He can play in midfield or up front and I feel he will be a valuable addition to the squad.". The player himself said, "I just want to get back to playing regular football again. That's the most important thing at this stage of my career and if it works out for me with Billy Stark and St Johnstone, I will be delighted. It didn't work out with Coventry, but the positive aspect of it was that I spent three weeks training and playing with them, so my fitness level is good. I need to get match sharpness back, but I'm optimistic I can get my career back on track this season.". To say the least the news has been met with more than a bit of optimism amongst the fans.
Top Of News
July 31st - Edinburgh Evening News reports that ex-manager Sandy Clark been appointed as coach at Dunfermline with responsibility for coaching their strikers. Monday - Friday only which means we still have his wisdom on the BBC at weekends. Bummer.
30th - Just when it all looked rosy, Chris
Hay(right) has has a minor reaction to his run out last weekend - no
word yet on whether or not it will rule him out of the expected spot on
the bench at New Douglas Park on Saturday but the situation is "being
monitored" according to the club. No other word on team news for
the weekend but you can probably expect the line-up to be along the same
lines as the winners at East Fife. Paul
Bernard has gone over on his ankle but is expected to be fit.
July 29th - Plug time for the
McDiarmid Open Day this Sunday. It starts at midday and if you go along
you get a free ticket for the QoS game on the 9th. There will be a penalty
shootout, for kids, karaoke (God knows what the songs will be) and as
usuall the players and manager will be out so you can get photos and
Billy Stark is optimistic about the season ahead. Speaking about the forthcoming First Division battle he said, "We were playing really well at the start of last season and I couldnt really ask for any better at the time. We were dominating games and did win four and draw two of our opening six, but Falkirk were still able to stay ahead. The trouble was that we could not put the ball in the net when it mattered most and a shortage of goalscorers eventually cost us. What we need is a striker or strikers who will score goals on a regular basis. That is why I signed Mixu, an experienced frontman who has found the net at every club he has been at. As well as his coaching duties I am sure he will contribute his fair share of goals. We will have Chris Hay back fit and others like Keigan Parker and Peter MacDonald challenging, so I am optimistic."
"Had Motherwell been relegated they would have found life difficult, mainly because they were used to losing games. We suffered like that when we were relegated and it is not easy to get into a winning habit. Their predicament would not have helped either so, if anything, Falkirk staying down has strengthened our league. But it is not just Falkirk who will be challenging as the likes of Inverness Caley Thistle, Clyde, Queen of the South and Raith Rovers will be in there. Raith could be a team to keep an eye on as Starks Park is never an easy place to visit and they traditionally played at first division level or even higher. But, while during the summer you do think about how other sides may fare, it is what we do that really matters. And I am quite confident and positive about what lies ahead for St Johnstone."
July 27th - Despite the average
performance yesterday from certain areas of the team,
Billy Stark is happy going into next
week's Accies cup-tie. Speaking after the win he said, "I was
happy with the team's overall performance and was glad to see
Mixu get on the score sheet. The First
Division will be every bit as hard to win this year as it was last season."
Still at least the game got a mention in the papers with the associated Media Falsehoods.
July 26th - Looks like today's
line-up at Methil will pretty much be the starting line-up for the Accies
game next week. Chris Hay,
Paul Lovering and
Stuart McCluskey will all be on the
bench and Mark Baxter (just back from
Scotland U-19 duty) could also play.
6.30pm - In the end it was a good 3-1 win for Saints at New Bayview with the goals coming from Martin Fotheringham, Brian McLaughlin and Mixu. As expected all of the injured boys except for Paddy played although Paul Bernard was also missing. Keigan Parker also went off in the 2nd half with an ankle knock but this looked to be more precautionary than anything else.
Saints have another bounce game midweek against Stirling Albion before the real action started at Hamilton next Saturday.
25th - It's not looking too good on the injury front for the
strikers. As well as Peaso missing
out the start of the season it seems the earliest
Paddy and Chris
Hay will play will be the league opener in a fortnight against Queen
of the South although a place on the bench is the best they can hope for.
Billy Stark(right) said, "If
they are available a week on Saturday they will be well short of full
match fitness, so there would be no possibility of them starting the
That means that Keigan Parker (who was forcibly subbed on Wednesday after clashing with a Meadowbank Schemie thug) and Mixu will be the strike pairing for tomorrow and the trip to Accies next weekend.
Finally another ex-Saintee has got a new deal with Kieran McAnespie signing a 2-yr contract with the Weans. Wonder if he's still making the massive wads of cash he boasted about at Fulham?
July 24th - Billy
Stark was happy enough with the performance yesterday despite losing
2-1. He said, It was a good game for us and we can take quite a
bit out of it. The players got better as the game went on and finished the
stronger of the two teams. Theyre showing that their fitness is
getting there and we just need to work on sharpness now. . He's
not ruled out another bounce game next midweek after our last "official"
pre-season game at New Bayview on Saturday.
Ex-Saintees Roddy Grant and Stuart Malcolm have both won 1-yr deals at Peterhead and Ross County respectively.
July 23rd - There's going to be
a new newspaper out at the start of next month with the
P.A. publishing a 16-page "Saints
Times" supplement ahead of the start of the new season instead of
the usual wee pullout fixture list.
The Official Saints Site has been given it's makeover for the new season.
6pm - Meadowbank won today's closed-doors match at McD 2-1. Keigan Parker got Saints goal.
July 22nd - Not too much happening with the only piece of news (bad obviously) being that Peaso is expected to miss the start of the season as he tries to recover from injury. Oh well.
July 20th - Another fine performance, especially from the younger fringe players saw Saints romp to a 5-0 win at Inverurie. Goals came courtesy of a double from Keigan Parker and the rest from John Robertson, Mark Ferry and a spectacular shot from Martyn Fotheringham(right). Mixu missed a penalty and Ryan Stevenson hit the bar in a game which could have seen us double the score.
July 19th - Last night's
North-East Scotland tour got off to a reasonable start with a
2-2 draw at Huntly with goals from
Mark Ferry and
Mixu with the Highland League team
grabbing an equaliser in the dying seconds thanks to a free-kick.
New signing Paul Bernard meanwhile is hoping to put his 18 months of injury behind him and get us back to the SPL. He said, "It seems an eternity but it's only two years since I left Aberdeen. Barnsley seemed like a good opportunity but the injury scuppered me. I'm only 30 and, while I've had many highs, my biggest regret is that instead of being at my peak as a footballer I've been trying to regain my fitness over the last 18 months. My wife Kim and the family helped me through the dark times. We had our son Sam and that helped keep me strong. It's been tough. There were times when I thought I'd never kick a ball again. I must have discussed the options with Kim a million times and thought about doing something else apart from football. But the PFA were supportive and when I finally got the right treatment things began to fall into place. I'm hoping for a change of fortune. Personally, I've played at a high level and I'm striving to get back there. It's the same for the club. It's a shame to see Saints in the First Division because they were in Europe not so long ago. But everyone is striving to get back to the top division. This is a fresh start for me."
18th - Paul Bernard(right)
signed a 1-yr deal with Saints last night. Billy
Stark was happy to make like a Mountie and get his man. He said,
"Im delighted to get Paul. When youre looking at a
player of his pedigree the things you want to see are general fitness and
hunger and desire. Getting to know him over the last week or so and from
speaking to others, its clear he has those qualities. Hes
missed a lot of football in the last few years but hes still only 30
and he feels that he has a lot still to give. Hopefully, this season will
be a big one for Paul and for the club."
Ex-Saintee Marc McCulloch has signed for Brechin so expect to see him line up against us next season.
July 17th - Speaking of
Tuesday's performance a chuffed Billy Stark
said "Pre-season games are there to get match fitness-we don't go
overboard about it, but I could not ask for any more tonight.".
No more news on Paul Bernard but
expect a decision on his future by the weekend.
It looks like we're unlikely to see any of the injured players this weekend. The four, Stuart McCluskey, Peaso, Paddy and Chris Hay will travel north with the squad this weekend to continue receiving physiotherapy but are unlikely to feature in any of the games although Billy Stark hasn't ruled out a possible "15 minutes on Sunday".
15th - No major team news ahead of tonight's first friendly but
expect a strong squad to appear at Station Park with
Paul Bernard a certainty to play.
11.30pm - A Mixu Paatelainen (right) penalty and a brace from the impressive Paul Bernard in the first half was followed up by a neat Ryan Stevenson effort and a Ian Maxwell header in the second as a competent team display from Saints sailed through the first friendly of the season with a 5-1 win over Forfar and looked much improved on this time last year.
Off the park though and it's sad news for former Saint Phizzy Scott who has had to retire from the game at the young age of 28. One of the successes from the youth system, the midfielder is now set to do a sport science diploma at York and the Temple wishes him all the best for the future.
July 14th - Saints have confirmed another friendly on July 26th away to East Fife which gives us all a chance to see what New Bayview is like. This was the planned home friendly date for an English side to experience the delights of McD but instead we get another trip away. Admission for the game, which has a 3pm kick-off is £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.
July 13th - Fairly quiet on the
news front but the new team photo is on the Fixtures
page so you can pick yer choice of sacred robe for next season.
One interesting piece of news from the 1st Division is that ex-Saintee Ryan McCann's move from TFOE to ICT has fallen through thanks to the Irish folk-singing tattie munchers exorbitant transfer fee demands.
11th - With the first pre-season match drawing near, new signing
Paul Lovering(right) believes theres
a lot of similarities between the current Saints side and the Hibs side he
helped take to the SPL. He said, "We had a lot of experienced
players and they helped guide guys like myself through the season. I think
weve got that this season-a mixture of guys who have been over the
course and some good young boys. I got a taste of the Premier League with
Hibs the following season-now Im desperate to get back there and
hopefully we can achieve that this season. I was at Ayr for three years
but when I heard St Johnstone were interested I only wanted to come here."
The defender has already been warned by Billy Stark to keep his aggression under control. The manager said, "Supporters take to his type of player but maybe his temperament has caused him problems in the past. He knows, though, that at this stage in his career he should be experienced enough not to be silly."
No major news on the signing front but Paul Bernard has seen his trial period extend into a 2nd week. Stark said, "Hes looked good in training and seems to be enjoying it here. Well try to have him back next week because weve got a game at Forfar on Tuesday and Id like to see him in a competitive game." . Our other target John O'Neil has apparently gone south to Rotherham for a weeks trial.
Finally Craig Nelson has resumed training.
July 10th - Scottish
Citylink have signed a new 1-yr sponsorship deal with Saints which
means new strips for all (white being this years preferred away colour),
with the kit out at the end of the month. The bus companies managing
director, Neil Wood, said This is the second year we have been
the official sponsor for St Johnstone and we are delighted to continue
this partnership which has worked very well for both the team and
ourselves. We wish St Johnstone well for the coming season and hope that
we will help them to gain promotion to the SPL next season.
And our own Stewart Duff said, We are extremely pleased that Scottish Citylink has chosen to extend their sponsorship of St Johnstone FC for a further year. Our partnership has proved beneficial to both parties and it is always gratifying for St Johnstone to be involved with such a high profile, quality company as Scottish Citylink.
Ex-Saintee Kieran McAnespie has apparently headed off to Eastern Europe with the Weans on their pre-season tour. No doubt he's being paid enough to do so. And Stuart Malcolm is up at Dingwall trying to win a deal with Ross County.
July 9th - Billy Stark is reportedly pretty chuffed with trialist Paul Bernard saying "I am keen to sign a midfielder and Paul has done all right up to now" . If there's going to be any deal done though expect something to happen by the end of the week.
8th - With little happening on the John
O'Neil side of things, it's been reported that ex-Aberdeen and
Oldham midfielder Paul Bernard(right)
is on trial with Saints this week after a spell at Plymouth last season.
Billy Stark said, "I spoke to
the Plymouth manager and he told me that Paul had done a really good job
for him. Hes been unlucky with injuries in his career but hes
a versatile box to box midfielder who has got a proven pedigree at the
highest level and well have the chance to assess him over the coming
week. He trained today and his fitness looks good." . Rumour has
it both players could be offered deals.
Good news for Chris Hay who rejoined the squad for pre-season yesterday. And finally, young midfielder Edward Malone has signed a new 1-year deal with Saints despite stories of Blobby Williamson's mob sniffing around.
July 5th - Not much news today.
Mark Baxter might have to pull out of
the Scotland U-19 squad. He's short of fitness after a summer op and
Billy Stark said, "Although
Mark is a fit boy he is slightly behind in his work at the moment and its
a question of whether hell be ready to play come July 18" .
Former Saints Craig Russell has signed a 6-month deal with Carlisle Utd. And Marc McCulloch has trained with Brechin but is off for a stint with Clyde who could offer him full-time football.
July 4th - Today's bad news is
that Jim Weir could be out of action until
the New Year. Injury-plagued doesn't even begin to describe the last few
years. Billy Stark said, "We
spoke to the surgeon again and it looks as if it will be December or the
end of the year before Jim gets back training. Because of his general
fitness, it shouldnt be too long after that before he is playing
And as for the John O'Neil transfer rumour there's not much happening with the manager saying, "Im trying to get ONeil and move that forward but am keeping my options open and looking at other players as well"
July 3rd - Another ex-Saintee in
the news is Marc McCulloch who is
training with Brechin just now.
Saints have fixed up a closed-doors pre-season friendly for July 23rd at home to Livvy but the much vaunted home friendly against an English side for Sat July 26th is more difficult to come by. Billy Stark said, "We are investigating the possibility of playing either a Premierleague or English side here on Saturday July 26 but so far it is proving difficult to get anything fixed up."
Looks like the season ticket sales are going pretty well. Stewart Duff has said he's encouraged by the level so far. He said, "There's still a month to go until the season begins but, already, we have sold just coming on to 90% of the amount of season tickets we sold last season. So we're hoping to equal or beat last season's total.".
Elsewhere and the manager is also a happy chappy after the first few runs up the hill. He said, "I was pleased with the way it went. Those here last season improved their times." . And he's also been speaking about new winger Brian McLaughlin saying, "I'll use Brian as a winger. His strength is in beating people and creating things and I'm looking for him to set up chances for others."
July 2nd -New keeper
Craig Nelson has been paying tribute to
Billy Stark for signing him. As he
joined the rest on the Kinnoull Hill slog he said, "Negotiations
with Ayr weren't getting anywhere. I enjoyed my time there but they were
asking me to take too big a cut in wages. Billy came in for me and I
signed for Saints 24 hours before heading for Australia. I didn't even
take time to look around. It was great to know I was coming back to a club
with ambitions to return to the top division. There would have been a real
panic if I'd started married life looking for a job. I've been playing in
the First Division for years and my aim is to get back to the SPL with
Saints. I'm only 32 and I've been producing the best form of my career in
the last couple of seasons."
Meanwhile the Legend who was freed by Brechin has been offered a deal with Montrose next season.
1st- Pre-season training got underway yesterday with a run up
Kinnoull Hill. Billy Stark said "It's
good to be back in training and it's nice to see all the lads again.
Already we can see a real sense of commitment from everyone and it's very
pleasing. There's a couple of players who are a wee bit behind the rest of
the squad; Peaso,
Paddy and Chris
Hay have a bit of catching up to do due to previous injuries but I'm
sure that by the end of the week they'll all be at the same level"
The bad news though is that Jim Weir(right) is going to miss the start of the season after undergoing another knee op last Friday. Billy Stark said, "Jim had an operation last Friday and will miss the start of the season. Its his knee again. He went in to get some fluid drained but a bit more work was required. We are now waiting for an idea of the timescale that will be involved. Jim has been unlucky with injuries."
No moves on the transfer front either with the manager saying, "It would be fabulous if we could get John O'Neil but neither ourselves nor any of the other clubs wanting him can be particularly confident at the moment. Everything is up in the air at present." It's believed the ex-Saintee is still trying to thrash out a deal with Blobby W to get him out of Easter Rd early.
Top Of News
June 30th - Pre-season training
gets underway for the Saints team today. Not much else happening although
ex-Saintee David McClune looks set to
sign for Forfar.
Finally the postman delivered the season tickets this morning. Deep joy
June 28th -Not much to report in
the papers - the Weans lost their SFA appeal so now look set to play in
the 1st Division next season.
And ahead of pre-season training on Monday, Billy Stark has confirmed that not all of the players who underwent surgery close season will make the start. No word on the names but pick any from the following 5 - Mark Baxter, Peter MacDonald, Chris Hay, Ryan Stevenson and Paddy Connolly.
Finally to prove the youth policy isn't dead, local midfielder Steve McManus has signed up for the YTS scheme.
27th -Go away for a week and .... well not a lot happens really.
The first Media Falsehood is in and as you
might have expected the Alastair Stevenson
departure to return to teaching seems to have been a smokescreen with the
former Saints youth coach in talks with Hibs to join their coaching staff.
On the park and with pre-season training starting on Monday, Billy Stark has been discussing his close season acquisitions (with ex-Saintee John O'Neil the latest media rumour for the vacant midfield spot although wages could be a problem). Otherwise the manager is happy so far and said "Craig Nelson gives us real competition because I think he is as good a goalie as you get in this league. And Kevin Cuthbert proved what he can do by his performances. With Tommy Løvenkrands and Marc McCulloch gone we needed somebody on that side of the park, and Paul Lovering brings us something a bit different in terms of his never-say-die attitude. Brian McLaughlin's a winger and there's not many of his type about so he will add to the squad. He's 28 and still has plenty of years in front of him. He did well against us last season and then looked good whenever I saw him. I know him and know what his capabilities are, so I need to try and get the best out of him."
And as for the expected cult hero? "Everybody knows that Mixu is the type of player we needed up front so it's obvious what he will bring to this club."
Looking ahead to the fixtures next season and he's looking for a good start at home. " Last season we had the opposite with three away games and one home match, and ended up winning three and drawing one. That's a good start in anyone's book. But our home games proved to be a problem for us so I don't see this start as an advantage. We have to improve the confidence in our performances at home and we have an early opportunity to do that."
20th -Congratulations to Mark Baxter
who's been called up to the Scotland U-19 squad for their appearance in
the N IReland Milk Cup which runs from July 19th to 25th meaning he's out
of the pre-season friendlies. And of course any further call ups in his
international career could mean he'll miss out on some games next season -
still it's nice to see him get some recognition.
Now all the fixture lists etc are known and preparations for next season are underway it's time for another holiday at the Temple - so no more updates until next Friday the 27th.
June 19th - Well the
2003-04 Fixture list is out with Saints at
home to Queen of the South for the league opener. Some tough games
including a post-Xmas trip to Inverness (and we're there for the season
closer as well) and Brechin as the new local derby.
And with the new season plans underway there are new pages for the Transfer Rumours, Referee votesand all the Media Falsehoods.
18th - Okay time for the fanfares and tuxedos as I've finally
managed to wade through the 50-odd votes (thanks to all who took the time
to slag off Stark) and the 2003 TOSSAs are now
Meanwhile former loan star Ryan McCann has quit TFOE and gone to Caley Thistle
June 17th - Today is the last chance to get your TOSSA Votes in - with the results probably out tomorrow or Thursday. At least that will keep people interested with sod all else happening at McD.
June 15th - With little happening at McD just now the only real piece of transfer news interesting Saints fans is the possible move of John O'Neil (currently frozen-out at Hibs cos they can't afford to pay him) to the Bully Wee. You just know if that goes ahead there's at least one Clyde player who will score against us next season.
June 11th - Not much in the
papers today with Billy Stark's holiday
killing most of the transfer talk.
Meanwhile there are reports that Saints will have another two new strips for the coming season. Let's hear it for the PR-friendly "one new strip a year" mantra that the club came out with last summer.
10th - Looks like some ex-Saints players will find a home today at
Firhill. Emmanuel Panther and
John Paul McBride signed for the
Maryhill mob yesterday on one-year deals and Grant
Murray looks set to sign today.
6pm - The other big news is that CHARLIEGATE is finally over. Charlie Two(right) yesterday won his compensation battle, but it was a hollow victory. The sacked junkie was only awarded £3569 by the employment tribunal but when you compare it to his claim of £75,958.69 . Saints were criticised over their procedures in the incident but apart from that the majority of the blame was laid at the player. A club spokesman said it was "moral victory, enhancing the reputation of the club. When you consider that this is less than 4% of his original claim, then this backs our decision to dismiss Thomas. And I'm sure that the fans will be pleased with this outcome, after declaring their backing for our stance since this first occurred."
June 9th - After another quiet weekend, the transfer rumours have started once more. Latest seems to be that the Pars have rekindled their interest in both Keigan Parker and Peter MacDonald with weekend reports suggesting that one or possibly both could be on their way to East End Park over the summer. Both will command a fee although that is more likely than not to be no more than £50,000.
6th - It's changes behind the scenes at the club now with the
surprise announcement that Alastair
Stevenson(right) is set to return to teaching after turning down the
new contract from the club. Arguably our best youth coach and having been
involved at McD for the last 10 years, his departure is bound to cause
The club haven't been slow to replace him though and former youth coach Tommy Campbell is now back at McD as "Youth Development Officer". In charge at the club in the early 90s, he left to take over as manager of Arbroath and Montrose before taking a break due to ill health for recent years. What the long-term impact of this will be on the youth set up remains to be seen.
Speaking of the changes in staff, Geoff Brown said, "Alistair came to the Club and set up an organised youth structure. He has done tremendously well for us, bringing through the likes of Danny Griffin, amongst others, who have brought in a good deal of money to the Club. I'd like to thank Alistair for all his hard work and wish him the best for the future."
"Tommy's task will be to identify youngsters who will make the grade at top team level and bring them through. He's the man who spotted Callum Davidson and once tried to sign him as a youngster at Forfar. I'm not expecting him to find us another £2 million player but hopefully we'll keep bringing players through for the benefit of the first team."
Stevenson himself was quick to wish the club all the best after his departure. "It is all very amicable and I wouldn't have it any other way. My contract was up and I'm looking for security. That may involve a return to teaching or another job in football - or a combination of both. I'll just wait and see what comes up. I'm well aware things have changed as far as the financial climate in football is concerned. Players have come through into the first team and Kevin Cuthbert and Mark Baxter are progressing very well. We have a number of other good local prospects right now."
Tommy Campbell will be part-time in the new role with the 53-yr old combining his work with running the Almondbank Inn. Despite a health scare a few years ago he's looking forward to returning to Saints again. He said, "I was first invited to assist with the kids by Alex Rennie when he was the manager at Muirton and was back in under Ian Gibson and Alex Totten. Things have changed dramatically since those days. The only reason I left Saints was when Forfar gave me the chance to be a manager in succession to Paul Hegarty. I'm looking forward to being involved again."
June 4th - It's not good news
for some ex-Saintees today. Both Kieran
McAnespie and Keith O'Halloran
have been freed by their clubs (Plymouth and Swindon respectively). And
another ex-Saintee from the Totten era, Sean McAuley has been
appointed assistant manager of Halifax Town.
Billy Stark meanwhile is away for a fortnight's holiday so don't expect too much transfer movement until he returns.
June 3rd - Little in the papers
today with no real coverage of yesterday's signing either.
Chief executiveStewart Duff has been speaking about the season ticket sales though. He announced that the Perth club are extending the age limit for season tickets after an increase in demand. Fans are responding to the various discounts on offer, which augurs well for next season. He said, "We have been very encouraged by the number of adult and children applying for season tickets and as a result of this we've decided to expand the age limit from 16 to 18. And we have also increased the age limit for both the East and West Stands from 16 to 18. We hope this will led to even more supporters purchasing season tickets for next term."
June 2nd -Paul Lovering signed today in a 1-yr deal. The ex-Ayr and Hibs defender will strengthen the left-side of the park.Billy Stark said of the new man, "I'm delighted to get Paul to sign for us. He's a left sided player and with McCulloch and Lovenkrands leaving the Club, I felt it was important to have cover in this area. Paul's a natural winner and is very enthusiastic. He's previously won the first division with Hibs and I think he's a different type of player than we've had before. I look forward to him doing well for the Club."
June 1st -No major mentions of Saints in the paper. However, reports suggest that Paul Lovering will sign sometime this week with Ayr resigned to losing the defender.
Top Of News
May 31st -Not too much to report today. Geoff Brown was elected vice-president of the SFL at their AGM yesterday. And as well as the Bell's Cup games, the league announced that the full fixture lists for next season will be out on Thursday June 19th by which time hopefully the Well / Weans issue will be resolved.
May 30th -Billy
Stark says he's happy with the transfer deals so far. Despite losing
out on David Hannah (something no one
is really depressed about), Paul
Lovering is still expected to sign soon. But the manager is happy
enough and said, "Im delighted to get all the players weve
signed, and they were pretty much the ones I had targeted. I wanted to get
them in as soon as possible, because it lets me plan ahead for pre-season,
but I wasnt budgeting on getting the work done as soon as this."
. A central midfielder is still the main priority though.
Fixture wise and Saints will be off up north for a couple of games in July. Huntly on July 18th and Inverurie on July 20th are the main games although the club are planning to arrange a home friendly on Saturday July 26th.
6pm- More fixtures of a more serious note - the Bell's Challenge Cup draw sees Saints away to Hamilton Accies with the tie pencilled in for Saturday Aug 2nd. Betcha can't wait eh?
May 29th -Confirmation that David Hannah signed a 3-yr deal at Ross County yesterday so forget about him shoring up the Saints midfield.
28th - Ross Forsyth signed his
1-yr contract this morning. And Another surprise signing today.
And also signing today is 32-yr old ex-Jambo / Partick and recently Ayr keeper Craig Nelson(right) who's joined on a 1-yr deal to give Cuthbert some competition. Speaking of his latest acquisition Billy Stark said, "I'm delighted to get a goalkeeper of Craig's calibre and experience. Kevin Cuthbert has done really well for us and has done enough to start the season in pole position. But it's important to have competition for places in the squad and Kevin will benefit from having an experienced keeper like Craig pushing him for his place and in doing so getting the best out of Kevin."
26th - Confirmation today that Martyn
Fotheringham has returned to Saints after his loan period with
Brechin. There's plenty of praise for the midfielder from the Brechin boss
Dick Campbell but the papers report that Saints are unlikely to
allow the move to become permanent.
Not much else to report with the Weans apparently considering legal action to get into the SPL. Should that fail they'll be playing their home games at Ochilview next season with a 3000 capacity which means all-ticket matches.
And with not long to go until next season, the draw for the first round of the Challenge Cup will be made at the SFL AGM on Friday with the tie set to be played on Saturday August 2nd.
5.30pm - Saints have unveiled another new signing and surprise, surprise it's not someone we've been linked with. 29-yr old ex-Celtic and QoS left winger Brian McLaughlin(right) has signed a 1-year contract. Billy Stark said of the deal, "Brian has a good pedigree and with signing Mixu and having Chris Hay also playing up front next season, it's important that we have a player in Brian's mould to provide the ammunition."
23rd - It may be a few weeks away yet but the first pre-season
friendly has been announced with Saints travelling to Station Park to play
Forfar on Tuesday July 15th. See not long now......
The big news is that Grant Murray(right) has turned down Saints offer (which had meant a 50% cut in wages). Billy Stark said, "In effect Grant has turned us down and while there is a bit of interest from elsewhere he tells me there's nothing concrete. He is taking a gamble because he is trying to get a deal closer to his current wages - and like every player he wants to play in the SPL. Of course, it's disappointing because, like Paul Hartley, he freely admits he has improved as a player during his time here. He was our most consistent player last season and he hardly missed a game for Saints after coming to Perth. I felt there was always a chance he would move on because of the circumstances facing the club and the rest of Scottish football. But there are many other players in similar situations this summer. I wish Grant well for the future because he has done well in his time here." . Easily in the top 3 of Saints players recently and one of the most consistent players of the last couple of years it's sad to see him leave the club like this but the Temple wishes him all the best.
The manager also paid tribute to Ross Forsyth who signed a new deal this week. He said, "Ross has been improving and addressing parts of his game which we had identified. He has the ability and there's an opportunity for him to give it a real go next season and see if he can force his way into the team." ...surely he means BACK into the team?
Meanwhile Mark Baxter has undergone a minor op on his heel and Paddy Connolly a similar op on his knee. Both should be fit for pre-season.
Some ex-Saints are in the news. Martin Maher looks set to sign for Forfar whilst Colin Strickland is being lined up by Hearts. And Roddy Grant has been freed by Brechin.
Finally it's bad news for the Weans today with the media darlings being frozen out of the SPL. Never mind guys no doubt you'll have a fun time ahead at Airdrie next season.
May 20th -Further to yesterday's
announcement Billy Stark has been paying
tribute to Jim Weir. "Jim will
help out with the younger lads, but the most important thing for him as
well is still playing."
Meanwhile the club have announced that Ross Forsyth has agreed a new 1-yr deal whilst a decision from Grant Murray is "imminent".
Off the park and Geoff Brown is standing for vice-president of the SFL. The first league games will be on August 9th with the preceding week seeing the 1st round of the League Cup.
5.30pm - And it's changes at Falkirk with Oweny Coyle jumping ship for Tannadump and Yogi Hughes taking over as manager.
19th -Expect a lot to be decided today. A rumoured press conference
is likely to announce the signings of Mixu
Paatelainen and Paul Lovering.
David Hannah is rumoured to be the
subject of a late bid from the Sheep.
And Grant Murray is also expected to give an answer today to his contract offer.
6.30pm - Well not only did Mixu Paatelainen sign a 1-yr deal today but along with Jim Weir he's joined the coaching staff. Mixu is set to be First Team Coach next season whilst Jim will be Reserve Team Coach. Speaking of the move the Finnish striker said I still want to be playing as long as I possibly can; I feel I have at least two years left in me and Ill be looking to fulfil that. There are still goals to come and if I didnt have this enthusiasm both on and off the pitch I wouldnt continue to play. I know there have been some people questioning my age perhaps but I dont see this as a problem atall. I know I am very fit and perhaps Ill surprise some people and prove some wrong. I know at Hibs some team mates wondered how such a big lump could have so much stamina and a high level of fitness but I topped the pre-season fitness chart at the beginning of last season; hopefully I can do that again this year; Arthurs Seat is good practice for what Im told lies in store for me on Kinnoull Hill!!!!"
" Seriously though, I do feel good, I know the expectations from this Club and I want to play my part in getting the team promoted. St Johnstone Football Club are a premier league outfit; the facilities here are second to none. I also realise how tough the First Division can be but I already have four promotions under my belt twice with Bolton and also with Hibs and Strasbourg so I hope I can make it five with Saints. The coaching role is also something which made me decide to sign for Saints. There were options; at home in Finland in Ireland and in Scotland but I had a good feeling about Saints and after speaking with Billy Stark my mind was made up and I know Ive made the right choice. Im really looking forward to the coming season. It will be a big challenge and there will be a lot of pressure on us because were the biggest Club in the league but Im sure that with a lot of hard work we will get promotion.
May 18th - First things first then and the 2003 TOSSA Voting has now started. Click on the link and send in your answers to the 50-odd awards for the season. Results will be out in about a month (or when the voting responses dry up) and we'll see then if Sandy Clark has managed to get the Best Pundit Award!!!
17th - More on the transfer front with a Monday press conference
expected to unveil Mixu Paatelainen and
former Arab / Tim midfielder David
Hannah(right). Paul Lovering
of Ayr is also being touted for a possible move to Saints.
As expected the season ticket letters have dropped through the doors. All the prices can be found here but the upshot is that the Ormond stand is closed for next season since crowds don't justify it and all Saints fans will be located in the Main and East stands. This also means that should we draw the OF in a cup or have another big all-ticket game we won't be punted over to the West Stand. Prices have been held for the most part although some have been reduced. In addition the applications include a wee Customer Satisfaction survey - be interesting to see what the results of that are.
May 16th - Latest transfer
stories have Mixu Paatelainen linked with
a move to the Weans but McD still looks like a real possibility given he
was seen at the ground on Wednesday.
And the new signings won't stop there with chairman Geoff Brown keen to refresh the squad. Still no word on Grant Murray with the defender still to reply to an offer on the table but the chairman is standing firm. "The manager wants Grant and he had a good season for us. He has been a consistent player. We've offered him a deal which is down on his current terms but which I can't see being topped in the First Division. It's now down to Grant to decide." The new wage-capped policy is being pushed by the board with low basic wages topped with decent bonuses. Geoff said, "In this league Saints should be rewarding players for topping and winning the league, and luring more fans. Supporters want to see their team with a will to win and if financial incentives whet the appetite that's fine by me anything to get the necessary bite and determination. We know we have to encourage more supporters along to games to get right behind the team. And that means producing the goods at McDiarmid Park."
New signings though will more than likely be free agents with the club unwilling to pay out transfer fees. The chairman is backing Billy Stark though and said, "He's getting towards his own team at last and even critics would agree he had more positives than negatives in his signings last summer. We didn't bounce back right away under Paul Sturrock but given time he got his own team together albeit with more resources than Billy Stark has at his disposal. The manager has identified players and irons are in the fire."
Finally the letters to season ticket holders for renewal were being put in the post today.
May 15th - Mark Ferry signed a new 1-yr deal today. Having been given the chance to play in midfield towards the end of the season, Billy Stark said, "Mark's a very talented young player. There have been severe cuts made already and I've identified Mark as a player who will do something for us next year. He's still a young player and I'm sure he'll continue to develop and improve."
May 14th - Well
Ian Harty can be ruled out as a
prospect for next season - he signed for Clyde yesterday.
One name being linked to Saints is ICT's midfielder Ritchie Hart.
Geoff Brown meanwhile says we will be full-time next season. "With crowds of just over 2000, including 1200 season-ticket holders, we're not covering our costs. After we've paid for police, stewards, VAT and all the subsidiary things that are necessary to put on a football match, the average crowd only pays for about four players. We shall be full-time but it's been made clear to Billy Stark that we need to trim our squad."
Finally ex-Saintee John Paul McBride has apparently left Derry City after only 2 months citing "personal problems".
6pm - Rumour update has reports on the Caley Thistle forums that Richie Hart is heading to Saints. The 24-yr old midfielder has scored 6 goals in 18 games this season.
13th -Jim Weiris chuffed to get a
new 1yr deal. "Im thrilled to get another year. Four or
five months ago I didnt think it would be possible, even a couple of
weeks ago I didnt think it would be possible. Ive got to thank
the club and especially the manager for sticking by me at a time when the
financial strains on the club are difficult. Im confident my knee is
100% now. The surgeons delighted with it and he cant foresee
any problems. Ive got to play next year and its now pay-back
time for the games I missed last year. The manager needs experience and
leaders, and certainly I can fill that role. The way the clubs been
going in the last couple of years people have been negative about the
club. This is a good time to shut them up and to get our supporters back
through the turnstiles. We need to get this club back into the
Premierleague where it belongs and hopefully doing that will be the best
way to thank all the people who have been fantastic to me over 10 years."
Only Grant Murray is still to sort out a new deal which means the manager's attention is moving to signing new players and Billy Stark said, "Ive got a few irons in the fire. Ive got 15 players just now and the task is to bring in four or five others.". One of those seems to be Mixu Paatelainen with the manager saying, "I spoke to Bobby Williamson recently to see what Mixus availability was and things have moved on since then with the player now available. I dont want to comment on things which are only potential at this stage but we will see what the next step is."
It looks like some of the freed Saints players are set to find new clubs. Marco is said to be in talks with Clyde and Livvy whilst Emmanuel Panther is speaking to East Fife.
5pm - Paul Hartley(right) has confirmed he's heading for Swinecastle and assuming he passes his medical will sign a 3-yr deal with the Gorgie Gits tomorrow.
Finally in a twist to the Mixu Paatelainen saga it looks like the Weans are apparently also interested in the Finnish striker.
12th - Billy Stark has said that
our 6th home defeat of the season at the weekend isn't good enough (and so
say all of us). Speaking after the latest shambles he said, "It
was a really poor end of season game, but the worst it should have been
for us was 0-0. Kevin Cuthbert didnt really have another save to
make. I told them at half-time it would be 1-0 or nothing each. The onus
was on us as the home team, but we just didnt play well enough. We
must have had half a dozen headers from set pieces and after Hartley got
into the groove we should have been dangerous. We had a succession of
corners and really should have made better use of his deliveries."
. Apart from that the usual stuff is being turned out from the
management and going by the forums the fans aren't settling for this any
Cap'n Jim (right) who most of us have tipped for a coaching assistant manager role at the new streamlined backroom staff at McD, has signed a new 1-yr playing contract with Saints.Billy Stark said of the deal, "I'm very happy that Jim has decided to stay in Perth. He's got a great relationship with the Club and our supporters and we're all pleased that the captain will be here for next season."
10th -Confirmation in the papers today that
Mark Ferry(right) and
Ross Forsyth have been offered new
contracts.Billy Stark has been honest
about the state of the club though and losing the youngsters. He said,
"In terms of the youth side, we cant have a full-time squad
of youth players next year. There will only be four or five kept
full-time. Well still run an under-18 set-up on a couple of nights
of the week, and Id like the boys who have been with us a year, and
cant give another year full-time, to train on those couple of nights
and play for us. But effectively theyre free to get another club if
they want to. I would have liked them to get the second year to see them
progress, but its the financial situation were in. Its
difficult but decisions have to be made on the back of that. Well
still have an under-14, under-16 and under-18 set-up. Thats positive
As for the ones leaving the manager has some sympathy for Colin Strickland. He said, "He is one who, because of numbers, just misses out. We would have liked to keep him full-time. Edward Malone, Neil Gibson and Craig Johnston are being kept on and maybe one or two others. David McClunes been here a number of years and has a bit of first team experience but hes not been able to hold down a place. There comes a point where you have to make a decision and it will be a fresh start for him. Marco's been here six or seven years and Ive involved him quite a bit this season. Hes another who I think will benefit from a fresh start. Emmanuel Panther hasnt progressed this season as we would have hoped and it came down to numbers. If we were able to have a bigger squad he is one we would have kept. But with a first team squad of say 18 to 20 next season I need a squad which will have experienced players who can come in when we have injuries."
Of the remaining regulars answers to new contract deals are expected in the next few days from Grant Murray and Paul Hartley (although the latter seems 99% certain to quit).
Looking ahead to today's game the only expected change from last week is the omission of Ian Maxwell(right) who's suspended.
7pm - It was end of season time today at McD with a poor 2nd half goal from Lyle meaning Saints lost 1-0 in front of a poor crowd hardly able to muster a "Stark Must Go" chant at the end. It means we finished 3rd and Paul Hartley probably played his last game for the club although on today's performance he won't be missed. One thing's for sure, Saints have a lot of work to do over the summer.
Finally congratulations to Brechin who join Raith in the 1st Division next season with Alloa today confirmed as heading down.
9th - The first big squad cull of the summer was announced today.
First team fringe players Simon Miotto,
Martin Maher and
Emmanuel Panther have all been told
their contracts with Saints won't be extended,
Marco possibly being the only real
surprise. Also out the door are youth players Euan
Hall, Daniel Noon,
Colin Strickland (2-goal scorer in
Wednesday's cup final), David Greenhill,
Steven McIntyre and
Steven McDonald. Whilst it's been
expected it's still sad to see some of these players go and the Temple
wishes them all best of luck in the future.
One other transfer rumour doing the rounds is that Jim Weir has apparently been offered a 1-yr deal.
Meanwhile Billy Stark is already looking beyond tomorrow to next season with his usual optimistic take on things. "It won't be any easier next season there are good teams like Falkirk, Inverness and Clyde and even Ross County have some good young players if they stay up. Queen of the South have had a terrific season and Raith Rovers will strengthen the league in my opinion. They have a good support and some tricky foreign players. I don't know if the experience of playing this season will ease the pressure but I'm sure it will be just as difficult next time, if not more." ....doesn't that just cheer you up.
May 8th - The
Mixu Paatelainen transfer story is in the
Retard today but nothing from Saints yet. Speaking of being punted by the
Hibs, the Finn said, "I have to say I was surprised when I was
told I was being let go. I felt I still had a role to play with Hibs. My
style of play is not something the club has a lot of. No disrespect to any
of the other strikers but I felt I offered something different. You need
experience in a team and leadership. Age means nothing as long as you are
performing on the pitch and I felt I had done that this season. Still, I
have to respect the manager's decision. My aim now is to stay in the game
at the top level and it would be great to remain in Scotland."
Meanwhile other rumours have the Pars lining up a move for Peaso although the Fifers have denied this,
Finally injury has meant that Mark Robertson has now returned to Dens.
Some good news this afternoon though with Kevin Cuthbert signing a new 2-year contract. Billy Stark is chuffed at keeping one of the few good things to come out of this season and said, "Kevin is a fantastic young goalkeeper and I'm really pleased that he's signed to Saints for another two years. He has made tremendous progress for a keeper his age and I'm sure that this will continue and he will realise his great potential."
7th - It's the Reserve League Cup Final tonight at McD as Saints
take on Ayr. A 7pm kick-off means I won't be there but hopefully there
will be a decent turnout. Admission is £3 for adults and £1 for
kids with season ticket holders in for free. Billy
Stark knows what he wants though. "It would be great to win
this cup final, especially as the match is being played on our own park"
. Several first team players including Martin
Maher, Emmanuel Panther,
Maloneand Marc McCulloch should
Looking ahead and it seems that the chances of Ian Harty joining Saints are slim with the Stranraer striker now in talks with Clyde. One name mentioned in connection with a move to McD though is apparently Mixu Paateleinen according to rumours in Edinburgh.
9.30pm - Congratulations to Saints who beat Ayr 2-1 tonight at McD to win the Reserve League Cup Final. 17-yr old striker Colin Strickland(right) got both goals in the 2nd and 85 minutes.
May 6th - - Not too much happening. The U-21s went down 3-1 to TFOE yesterday. Keigan Parker got the Saints goal.
May 4th - Despite the whinging
protests of the opposition managerwho claims Barry Robson was elbowed
prior to Saints first goal (aye right), Billy
Stark was pleased with the result. "It is never easy to
take points up here. Our players showed a great attitude, although there
is no getting away from the fact it was an end-of-season affair."
As for the selection of Paul Hartley the manager said, "Paul had a wee injury before the game but, despite not being fully fit, was keen to play and proved his useful influential self." (spot which part of that was bollocks).
3rd - It's not just current Saints players who look like being
forced to hunt for new clubs over the summer. Down in
Kieran McAnespie and
Stuart Malcolm have been told their
surplus to requirements.
Kevin Cuthbert(right) looks set to sign a new deal next week. The keeper said, "I think something will be sorted out in the next week or so. Its looking likely well be agreeing terms. A club like St Johnstone gives young players a chance and thats not the same at a lot of clubs. There are a lot of young players who have had their chance in the first team here. This past season has been good and bad. Its been great for me personally to get a lot of games but as a team its been such a disappointment not winning the league or pushing Falkirk harder. Hopefully, next season I can continue to prove myself and be part of a winning team challenging for the league title."
9pm - In the end goals from Ian Maxwell and Mark Reilly gave us a 2-1 win at Inverness meaning the worst we can now finish is 3rd. Not a brilliant game especially for some under-performing so-called stars but at least we got to see a decent 2nd half performance with both teams playing attacking football.
2nd - Billy Stark(right) has made
his first comment about Billy Kirkwood's
departure. He said, "Im disappointed and sad for Billy but
its a financial decision and theres not a lot we can do about
that. I would like to thank Billy for the job hes done here. Hes
put in the hours for the club. Hes a very well respected coach and Im
sure hell find something new." . The manager has admitted
that he might not even have an assistant next season. "Well
have to look at what is best in the restricted circumstances were
operating in. We have Atholl Henderson
who helps out when he can and everything will be done in the context of
our overall budget. Its not a case of me just going out and looking
for a new coach."
And the manager has said that it may take a bit longer than usual before it's clear whose staying and whose leaving the club. "Some players will be offered less than theyre on just now so its only fair to give them time to think about things and assess their options."
Kirkwood himself said, "Im disappointed for me personally and for the club. We all knew the consequences of the team not getting promoted because the chairman has said there would be drastic cuts. The club will be looking at everything from the coaching situation to the youth thing and to the amount of players there will be here. Unfortunately thats just the way the game is now. This club is geared for the PremierLeague and from living in Perth and getting to know the hardcore fans, who are worth their weight in gold, I know how hard theyve taken not going back up as well. Personally, Im obviously disappointed that I wont be staying here because Ive enjoyed some really good times. The financial state of the game has cost me my job and will cost others no doubt. Im confident of doing a job as a manager or coach but its a case of somebody asking me to do a job. Sometimes you get off the merry-go-round and never get back on it but sometimes you can get back on straight away like Maurice Malpas has at Motherwell."
Elsewhere with the contracts, the good news is that Kevin Cuthbert is apparently close to signing a new deal to keep him at McD. So that's one worry hopefully taken care of.
Tomorrow's side looks like it might be along the same lines as last week. Mark Robertson, Grant Murray and Chris Hay are definitely out whilst Paul Hartley is rated as extremely doubtful. Mark Baxter has a knee knock but should make the squad. He's expecting a tough game tomorrow. "They are strong in attack with Denis Wyness in particular one to watch. When you play against them you have to be careful. We need to win our last two game to finish as high as we can. We're obviously disappointed in not gaining promotion, especially after our eight game winning run."
The manager is looking for an improvement tomorrow though. He said, "The lost games against Falkirk and Clyde have ultimately been the damaging ones. If you looked at it over the season in terms of our competitors, if those matches had been drawn then we would be going for the championship. The one thing for people who saw those games is that we know where we went wrong, but we didn't deserve to lose them all. We weren't well beaten in any of those matches. There's one or two things that have let us down this season, like putting the ball in the net and defending at set pieces. We were flat against St Mirren who had something to play for, but we want to get through the last two games with good performances. You want to finish as high as you possibly can as do Inverness and Clyde, so that's the carrot for these matches."
1st - - OK so we're not being promoted this season but we still
have a cup final to look forward to - Wednesday May 7th at McDiarmid with
kick-off at 7pm.
Off the park and reports in the papers suggest that Saints failure to return to the SPL will result in the wage structure for new signings (see there will be some) being revised. Emulating the Weans successful policy this season players will be on a low basic wage (£500pw has been mentioned) but with high bonuses to give the 11 on the park a wee incentive to actually win some games.
5pm - The big news from McD is that Saints have announced that Billy Kirkwood(right) has been "released from his contract" which was due to expire at the end of the season. The official statement from the club via Stewart Duff reads "St Johnstone Football Club has been conducting financial reviews for some considerable time and it is evident that major cutbacks and savings will require to be identified. St Johnstone coach Billy Kirkwood's contract was due to expire at the end of the season and in view of the foregoing the Club is not in a position to extend this further. We wish to thank Billy for his services to the Club and wish him the very best for the future."
Of course the rumour mill has gone into overdrive but the smart money is on captain Jim Weir being offered a player/coach contract at the club. It looks like the first team squad will be around 20 or so next season so expect the departures to mount up in the next few weeks.
Top Of News
April 30th - Some good news last
night with ICT losing 1-0 to Ayr which means a win for us on Saturday will
guarantee at least 3rd place this season.
And we beat Brechin 2-1 last night to make it to the Reserve League Cup Final. Keigan Parker and Stuart Noble got the Saints goals.
April 29th - Peaso won't play again this season as he's got to have surgery on the stress fracture on his foot which caused him to be taken off against the Paisley mob at the weekend. And it looks like Mark Baxter might join the casualty list for this weekend's trip to Inverness. Billy Stark's said, "We are still keen to finish second in the table and need to win at Inverness, but the team will be depleted, no doubt about that. However, we must still go about our business in a professional manner."
April 28th -
Keigan Parker, one of the few to have a
decent game on Saturday reckons the strikers have to do better or it'll be
another long hard campaign next season. "It has been a poor
season for me and for the whole club
Everybody has got to do better.".
And it looks like we'll be doing it without loan star
Stuart Noble who's reported to have been
offered a professional contract by Fulham and looks set to stay there next
Billy Stark's comments were restricted to the usual "We were a bit flat in the first half but a lot better in the second and definitely deserved something from the game."
And finally (on the match at least) St Midden keeper Kris Robertson is apparently being reported to the procurator fiscal after "an altercation with a Perth ballboy during the game".
5.30pm - Latest news is a vague rumour doing the rounds that Grant Murray and Jim Weir are apparently set for a summer switch up north to ICT. Take it with a big pinch of the old sodium chloride though.
April 26th - Good start to the
day then with the first Falsehood courtesy of
the Daily Record.
On the park and despite 2nd place still up for grabs Saints are starting their preparation for next season today. Ian Maxwell said, "Obviously, if you cant finish first, you want to finish second. In the last couple of games weve taken a dunt with defeats to Falkirk and Clyde but we need to get back into the winning habit for the start of next season. The first dozen or so matches probably killed us in the end when you look at how this seasons gone, so it shows how important the first couple of months will be for us next season. We definitely want to be starting things on the back of a few wins. Weve got some players injured for the St Mirren match so the lads coming in will be motivated. I scored one of my two goals for the season against them at Love Street and hopefully I can get another couple before the end of the season." . And there won't be a repeat of the shocking defending that cost us last week. "They were horrendous. Weve still got the best defensive record in the league though. We had a team meeting on Monday and the manager told us that weve only lost 11 goals in open play, which is amazing. The other side of the coin though is weve lost 12 or 13 from set-pieces, which isnt so good. "
Playing wise and it's not looking too good for Mark Robertson whose foot injury means he might have played his last game for Saints. Mark Ferry, Martin Maher and Emmanuel Panther are all set to be on the bench at least today.
7.30pm - Stuart Noble saved the blushes today with a 2nd half equaliser to cancel out Gillies' first period penalty (although he missed another) in a drab 1-1 home draw with St Midden which saw about the lowest crowd of the season. Edward Malone made his debut for Saints as a 2nd half sub.
25th - As you'd expect with morale rock-bottom at McD the injury
worries have started over tomorrow's visit of the Paisly junkies.
Mark Robertson misses out again
whilst Chris Hay is out for the season.
Grant Murray and
Paul Hartley have both also picked up
"foot injuries" and might miss out whilst
Mark Baxter was playing for the
Scotland U-19s last night in their 2nd match against Iceland and could
miss out as well.
As it stands it'll be the youngsters who'll get a chance tomorrow including Emmanuel Panther(right), whose contract is up in the summer. Billy Stark said, "Guys like Manny will get a chance against St Mirren due to there being some of the more experienced players missing. The onus on them is to prove what they are capable of . They are talented players and I'd like them to make the most of their opportunity."
April 24th - Aye well leave the
country for a few days (Irish pub in Amsterdam with Madrid fans watching
them beat Man Utd is fun!!!) and there's been plenty happening (including
some strong opinions on the manager on the forums / mailing lists.
First up is the news that Mark Reilly and Chris Hay have signed new 1-yr deals in keeping with Billy Stark's philosophy of getting some experienced players on board. Of course Hay's fitness problems of late have been a problem and he's headed off for surgery to his hernia problem this week. With a recovery period of 6 weeks required during which the manager assures us he'll be "strictly monitored" (cue visions of Billy Kirkwood doing a Hattie Jacques impression), the striker will be ready for pre-season training for the real work.
Elsewhere and Mark Baxter made his Scotland U-19 debut on Tuesday night at Forthbank and played the 90 mins.
Saints U-21s drew 1-1 with the Sheep on Monday - Edward Malone got the goal.
20th - Going by the official forum reaction it looks like the
Billy Stark's coat is once more on the
proverbial shoogly peg - at least if the fans had their way. Positive as
ever all the manager would say was "We were the better side but
gave away stupid goals. It's been the same all season - we've gifted teams
too many goals from set- pieces." . Aye right......Despite
Geoff Brown's continual backing for
the manager it's fair to say that the lack of passion in the side
yesterday more than pissed off a few fans - no doubt the fallout and
recriminations will be doing the rounds all week.
And to round things off nicely the Bairns are being linked with a summer move for Grant Murray. One of the few successes in the last couple of years most of us will be more than a tad disappointed should the ex-Jambo piss off to another 1st Division side.
By the way, there won't be any updates until Thursday - two bad defeats so it's time for me to leave the country.
19th - Foot injuries seem to be in vogue just now ahead of today's
game at Broadwood. Paul Hartley has a
gash in his but should play as will Peaso
who has a stress fracture on his foot. Mark
Robertson is still suffering from his foot injury and looks like
With Billy Stark saying that decisions will be made over next season's contracts in the next couple of weeks, Mark Reilly(right) has come out with a plea to be allowed to remain at Saints. "Ive really enjoyed my time here. Obviously, our aim was to win the league and that hasnt happened, so in that respect its been a disappointing season. But Ive thoroughly enjoyed being at Saints. Im sure the manager will want to sort things out in the next wee while and Im hopeful. He was talking about another year and hopefully that will happen. Theres definitely a lot to build on at the club from this season and hopefully the manager can put together a squad which will be able to win the league next time round."
7pm - So much for the professional attitude requested by the manager with Saints losing 2-1 at Broadwood with a poor performance in a fairly scrappy game. Stuart Noble got our goal but there wasn't much to smile about. Unlike at Brokeville where the Weans condemned Arbroath to the drop and clinched the title for themselves. So a pretty shite day all round.....
April 18th - More praise for
Mark Baxter from
Billy Stark today with the manager
quoted in the papers as saying, "Theres always a danger
that a young lad gets excessive praise, and Im conscious of that.
But hes come into the side and held down his position, which I think
tells you everything. Hes a versatile player who would be quite
happy to do anything you asked of him on a football pitch. In the youth
side last year positionally he was horrendous, which was partly down to
his keenness to be involved all the time, but he was at the coaching
course in Largs as a runner in the summer and thats been a big
factor in him coming on leaps and bounds positionally. Its also a
big bonus that hes a Perth lad. It can work the other way and local
players can get stick, but because he is a wholehearted type of player
punters will always take to him."
As for the youngster he's just happy to get a proper first team deal. He said, "Straight after matches Ive been getting changed then going and doing my jobs, like washing the kit and cleaning the changing rooms. I know Ive got a lot to learn but hopefully next season will be as good for me as this one has been. Im looking forward to it already. My aim for this season had just been to play for the under-21s regularly, so when I got my first-team debut I couldnt believe it. The highlight has probably been scoring the last-minute equaliser in the Scottish Cup at Airdrie, and getting selected for the Scottish youth squad was totally unexpected." . He also paid tribute to Alastair Stevenson, saying of the youth coach, "He was the one who brought me to Saints in the first place when I was 11 and if it wasnt for him I probably wouldnt be here."
17th - Not much to report today - the U-21s went down 1-0 at
Firhill last night with a young Saints side apparently deserving of at
least a draw.
Off the park and the summer transfer rumour mill has started. Hearts boss Craig Levein is quoted in today's Evening News as saying that the mob from Swinecastle are "very close to agreeing a deal" to sign Paul Hartley - wonder how much he's ripping them off with his wage demands?
Saints have also confirmed that Martin Lauchlan and Tommy Løvenkrands have left the club - spoiling the chance for the fans to give the cult trialist a decent send-off. Best wishes to both from the Temple for the future though.
It's not all departures though - Saints are linked in today's Sun with a move for Stranraer's highly rated striker Ian Harty(right) whose scored 18 goals this season (yup a striker in double figures) and about 60 in the last 3 years. Just turned 25, he's also being chased by Raith and ICT. He's out of contract in the summer so would fit in with Billy Stark's current policy of looking for free signings.
Even better news was that Mark Baxter today put pen to paper on a 2-yr extension to his current contract. The teenager has been one of the real successes of the season and Billy Stark said, "Mark really is a tremendous prospect. He's shone for us this season and given the fact that he is still only 17, I can't praise him enough. I'm happy that he has been recognised at international level for the under 19 team and I'm delighted that he sees his future at St Johnstone Football Club."
Finally, Craig Thomson is in charge at Broadwood on Saturday.
15th - Good news first with teenager Mark
Baxter(right) called up to the Scotland U-19 side to face Iceland
later this month. More than overdue recognition for someone who's arguably
been our best player recently.
Elsewhere and Billy Stark has been laying out his plans for the start of next season. Whilst not giving up the title until it's mathematically impossible for Saints to catch the Weans (Managerial Cliche No. 345 there then), he's planning for next season and the summer clearout of the squad. "There are a couple of issues Ive still to settle in my mind but I do have a good idea just what I want to do for next yeae. This summer, albeit working within the financial restrictions at the club, Ill be looking to bring in my own players. In addition there will be a number of the players still at McDiarmid Park, on contracts signed before I arrived, who I am happy to have the services of. However, there are others whose deals are up Id like to keep but might lose. As far as adding new faces is concerned I feel that with the waygoing of Alan Main and Graeme Jones we are a bit short of experience. And having not scored as many goals as our play has merited, particularly earlier in the season, I feel we could do with bringing in a big target man type up front."
Mark Reilly and Chris Hay are two he wants to keep but the future of skipper Jim Weir has to be in doubt. The manager said, "Thats a difficult one. Jim is now back training but hasnt reached double figures for appearances in my time at the club. An added complication as far as wanting to re-sign players is concerned-and I will not be the only manager in this position-is that we wont be offering people as much as theyve been on. And that could lead to them wanting to hold on to see if they can get closer to the kind of money theyve been getting, from another club."
14th - With the First Division looking set to have the pleasure of
Saints presence next season, the fallout from Saturday's defeat is
starting. Despite comments earlier in the season,
Geoff Brown(right) reckons the club
can still stay full-time although the squad will be cut. "I am
not entirely ruling out going part-time to some extent but it is more
likely we will cut the squad quite tight and stay full-time. At the moment
39 players are being paid by St Johnstone and that is not sustainable-not
when despite trimming costs and selling off certain assets weve lost
£1.2-£1.3 million this year! The manager will be given a budget
for next season and it will be up to him how that is spent. I am sure hell
have players he wants to bring in-but there will be quite a few guys going
in the opposite direction also."
He's also made it clear that Billy Stark still has his backing. "I, like most of our regular fans, think Billy has done well as the season has progressed. The squad he inherited wasnt to his liking but he has gone about his job in a quite way which has impressed me. The problem weve had is that although we had a squad that ought to have been good enough to win the league we didnt adapt to the First Division and certain members of that squad, who were being paid a lot of money, thought it was beneath them to be playing at this level. The second quarter of the season (during which they collected just 14 points out of a possible 27) was a disaster for the club and it is galling that despite winning eight games in a row promotion still came down to yesterday."
It also looks like the youth system will be affected with Saints unable to play in the U-21 league next season. Instead only the Reserve League East will give the players a chance to work their way into the top side. "If we can we want to keep the youth set up on the go. But you have to ask if it really worthwhile. Youth development involves a lot of money and effort and because of the transfer situation nowadays there is no reward for that. It used to be you could subsidise your youth programme by selling one of its products-Danny Griffins transfer to Dundee United for example brought in £480,000 which paid a years youth development-but those days have gone."
As for his own presence, he's more than willing to jack it in. "You can put the For Sale sign "£1 or nearest offer" up if you like. Ive had more than enough. Having said that Saturday, seeing 4000 Perth folk turning up for the game, reminded me why I stick with it. Its just a pity we havent been able to attract them in those numbers all season. We are extremely grateful to those fans who do turn up week in week out but disappointing gate income has contributed significantly to the loss weve made."
As for the players, Paddy Connolly summed it all up. "Im absolutely gutted, we all are. Its a helluva way for our run of eight straight victories and our hopes of the title to end. We just hit a brick wall today."
April 13th - Reaction to
yesterday's defeat on the
Website Forum has seen a return to the calls for
Billy Stark to go with most of the
criticism aimed at his tactics and team selection yesterday.
As for the man himself he's in no doubt that the Weans goal was a fluke. "I'm feeling crushing disappointment as this was a massive game for us. We had the upper hand during the first half and I can't remember them having any decent chances. We took the game to them at the start of the second half but once we lost the goal we just didn't look like getting it back. It will be hard to lift the players this week. It's not so much losing the goal as the way we lost it. Four times we have played them. They've scored four goals and managed to win three of those games and draw one. The goal we lost was cheap and had a bit of luck about it and, just like the other three times we've played Falkirk, we just didn't get the breaks. It's not over yet as they still have a few points to get - but if we are to have a chance the we simply must win our remaining four games. But they've done brilliantly over the whole season and I certainly won't hold a grudge if they are promoted.".......the problem for the Saints fans is that it's not so much losing the game, but the fact that we didn't look like coming close to getting the convincing win that was required. Too many players obviously have their eyes on summer moves as it is and didn't show the heart and fight that was required. The management aren't exempt for criticism but it's perhaps time for a major shake-up in the side.
Finally, let's hear it for the bleating ex-goalie who was apparently going for the sympathy vote on Scotsport yesterday and despite several texts and emails to the "forum" nothing was read out from the Saints point of view.
12th - Well apparently there's a wee football game on today. And
we've been set up nicely with Billy Stark
picking up the Bells Manager of the Month award and to make it a
nice double, Paul Hartley(right) got
the Player of the Month as well.
And the midfielder, tipped for Swinecastle in the summer knows just what the 90 minutes this afternoon means for the season. "Weve got to make it nine wins in a row, its as simple as that. It would have been a massive gap if Falkirk had won their games in hand, but weve clawed their lead back. Eight games ago everybody had written us off, but this is now the biggest game of the season and its the type of match you really want to play in. Theyll be happy with a draw, but weve got to force the issue and make a really fast start to the game and take the confidence that weve built up over this run on to the pitch. The guys have been relaxed this week and its been a good weeks training. Were up for it. Well be hoping for a big support because its the game of the season and we want all the backing we can get."
He knows exactly why Saints season has been turned around as well. "Theres tremendous team spirit and everybody has stuck together. Weve been given stick - probably rightly so because we werent winning games we should have earlier in the season - and the managers taken stick as well. Weve all pulled through together, though. The players have been right behind the manager. His coaching and man-management is excellent. Just because he doesnt jump about doesnt mean he lacks passion. Youve seen through the years that when players arent behind their manager they just chuck it, but we werent going to do that."
7.30 - In the end it was a 1-0 defeat to the Weans which has all but ensured Saints will be playing First Division football next season. The game itself was fairly even but all things considered there was no real sign that we were going to dominate and beat the Weans on the park and psychologically a la Airdrie in 1990.
11th - Tomorrow is the big one for Saints and even allowing for the
Weans being chucked out of the cup on Wednesday night,
Billy Stark(right) is expecting a tough
game. They may have lost midweek there, but thats no
matter of ours. Whats most important is the display on the pitch
this weekend. We have had a good run and I would like to see that
continue. At the same time we know what were up against. Falkirk are
leading the league on merit and we know that. There is a great deal of
confidence in our camp though; something that was maybe missing earlier on
in the season. The boys know whats expected of them and Im
sure theyll deliver the goods. It promises to be a great game for
the spectators so I would urge all Saints fans to come along to the game
and get behind the team - who knows, it may just help enough to us getting
promotion in a few weeks time!?
Mark Robertson should make it and otherwise Saints should be unchanged. The midfielder did manage to train yesterday for the first time this week. Kevin "Lanky Shite" James missed out for the Weans.
And one of the past heroes of a crucial 1st Division match is urging the fans to turn out and back Saints tomorrow. Yup the Legend has emerged from Glebe Park to preach his words of wisdom. He said, "We were drinking in the Last Chance Saloon and it's the same story this weekend for Saints. It's a massive game for the club. The players know it's one they must win. No other result will be good enough and that's precisely the same situation we faced in 1990. It makes life simple. We were a point behind Airdrie and they had a game in hand, in days when it was two points for a win. There was a full house for that one and I'd love to see a big crowd cheering on Saints against Falkirk. It makes a huge difference if the fans are right behind you. They were really up for it against Airdrie and that sort of fervour is needed again, especially with Bairns fans hoping to tie up the title themselves."
"Everyone expected Falkirk to wrap up the championship and Saints were being counted out but they've come roaring right back into contention with eight wins on the bounce. That's a superb record in anyone's book. They have to be full of confidence. Airdrie came to Perth prepared to settle for a draw and Falkirk will probably look at this game in much the same way. That would be good enough for them and they could fall into a similar trap but I really do believe Saints can win this one and set things up for the run-in. Billy Stark and Billy Kirkwood will be important because games can be won and lost in the dressing room. But they've done a great job over the last eight and I'd love to see them make it nine in a row. Falkirk have had a tough extra-time cup tie against Dundee to contend with this week and after losing that seeds of doubt might be sown in their minds if Saints can win this weekend. There's certainly a massive incentive for the Perth players. A return to the SPL wouldn't be out of the question with four games left. It's the first result I'll be looking for after my own game against Stenhousemuir"
Billy Stark meanwhile knows the pressure is building for the players. "My players deserve all the credit going but now the day of reckoning has arrived. The mood in the camp is relaxed and they're all looking forward to this one. It's what they've been working towards for weeks. They're hungry and want to show what they can do. It's our biggest game of the season and I detect a feeling in the city that our fans will be up for it just as much as the players."
On a more sombre note there will be a minute's silence before the game on Saturday in memory of Perth soldier Barry Stephen who was killed in Iraq.
April 9th -
Mark Robertson isn't getting any
better and is a big doubt now for the Big One.
Billy Stark said, "We thought
Mark would be OK but he is still struggling a wee bit. At the moment he
isnt even walking properly and well have to wait and see with
As for the game, the manager is confident. "Weve come through a really difficult period-in which we knew we had no margin for error- brilliantly. To ensure we got to the stage of meeting Falkirk no worse than six points behind them has been a terrific effort. But we still have a mountain left to climb. If you said to Falkirk now that they could have the draw, I am sure theyd take it. They are a team that likes to go forward and I would expect that is how theyll set out to play. But you never know how players will react to the circumstances they find themselves in, and while Falkirks plan might be to play their normal game it is always possible the players might get caught in two minds. Well find out on Saturday."
Meanwhile the Retard carries an interview with Weans keeper Allan Ferguson who's doing his usual bleating about how badly Saints treated him after his injury. Not even worth commenting on.
And finally the reserves rounded off their league campaign with a 1-0 win against Cowdenbeath. Tommy Løvenkrands got the goal.
8th - Mark Robertson has had
his foot x-rayed after he took a knock on Saturday. The good news is it's
not broken but he's now a doubt for Saturday's big match. He's apparently
"hobbling, but unable to walk" according to
Billy Stark who said, "Hopefully
it will settle down within a couple of days and hell be OK for
Stuart Noble(right) has his eye set on a championship medal despite the changes his employers Fulham are undergoing just now, including manager Jean Tigana being told his contract will not be renewed in the summer. The teenager is being tipped for a deal with the Premiership side but said, "It's the youth coaches who talked about a new contract so the change shouldn't make any real difference to me. But obviously everyone will be interested to see who comes in. My priority is St Johnstone right now. I've never won a medal in professional football so that's the aim in the games remaining. I haven't lost a league game since coming here and hopefully that will continue through to the end of the season."
"If we beat Falkirk on Saturday it will be an enormous psychological result. The gaffer has been telling us each week to focus on the game coming up and that won't change. We weren't looking at Falkirk before. Now we can prepare for a big, big game. We all know how important this one is. But we've been under pressure to win every game since I came here so there's no change for us. Eight wins in a row is a brilliant run but we have to keep it going. Confidence has been growing in the camp with each result."
7th - Mark Robertson(right)
is looking for his employers Scumdee to do Saints a favour tomorrow in
their cup replay with the Weans. "Hopefully Dundee will take them
to extra-time. Ill be at Dens to watch the match because its
always good to sit and take in the opposition before playing them. The cup
match is a big game for Falkirk, obviously, and if Dundee can wear them
down, all the better."
Speaking of Saturday's win he said, "That wasnt the best of games, but beating Ayr was all that mattered. It goes without saying that everyone is really looking forward to the Falkirk match and its just a matter of getting our training right through the week. The gap was obviously much more substantial back in February but weve closed it up and the players can see the end in sight now." . The midfielder has a minor knock from Saturday but should be ok for this weekend. "Having to win the match will be nothing new for us because its been our attitude for the last eight games, and its shown. We havent played well in them all but weve ground out results and thats the main thing. It would be harsh to throw it all away now, and the guys have shown that we can do it."
Billy Stark is just happy to concentrate on the game for the next week after worrying that thoughts of the Falkirk game would affect the performance against Ayr. "It was a worry for me, I must say. You can understand everyone wanting to talk about the Falkirk game but the plain fact was that if we didnt win today the ball would have been burst in terms of next weeks game. It was always a dangerous match in that respect. Weve got the win, though, and in that respect it has set everything up well. Next week will be very different and well be ready for it. We obviously know we have to win, whereas Falkirk will have a dilemma about how they approach the match. If we do win then, with the lead down to three points, it really is all to play for. There would also be the factor that Falkirk would be deflated."
Finally commiserations to ex-Saintee Alan Miller. The Blackburn keeper who enjoyed a loan spell at McD last season has had to give up the game due to a back injury.
5th - It's Ian Maxwell's (right)
turn to do the morale-boosting pre-match speech today. He's urging Saints
not to blow it now and said (not tempting fate in the slightest of
course), "It would be nice not only to beat Ayr but to put on a
performance after they beat us here earlier in the season. However,
winning is an absolute must if we are to set things up for the Falkirk
game. There is no point doing what we have done over the past few weeks
then, with Falkirk on the horizon, letting all the good work go to waste.
We are still hanging in there and a win over Ayr will at least give us the
opportunity to cut the deficit at the top in a weeks time. People
can point to this draw or this defeat in the earlier part of the season
but the fact is neither ourselves nor Falkirk were ever going to win every
game and the only difference between the teams, in effect, is their having
beaten us twice. Normally 65-66 points would win the first division. This
year we could end up, if we won our six remaining games, with 78 points
and still not be champions. Were that to happen, though, wed just
have to say fair play to Falkirk because to beat that total would
represent an unbelievable season."
No more team news but it looks like any changes will be minimal with the manager not wanting to tinker too much with a winning side.
7.30pm - A good 1-0 win at home to Ayr courtesy of a first-half Peaso goal was enough to secure the points today although we should have scored more. Elsewhere and the Weans thrashed Ross County 3-0 to leave the gap at 6 points and if it was possible, put more importance on next week's match between the top two.
4th - Billy Stark's has issued a
rallying call for the Saints fans to turn out and get behind the boys
against Ayr. "I am appealing to the supporters to come along and
help us in any way they can. If we win on Saturday the crowd for the
Falkirk match will take care of itself. But at this stage this is an even
bigger game than the Falkirk one and I am asking the fans to turn out-in
bigger numbers than was the case at the recent match with Arbroath when
the attendance was only just over 2000-and get behind us." . No
more team news but the manager is expecting a tight game.
Stark knows it's another must-win match tomorrow though. "We know we have to win it's as simple as that. People talk about what the other teams in the league are doing but we have to win our matches first and foremost. Tommy Løvenkrands and John Robertson(right) are both back in contention following injury and that leaves me with the pleasant problem of having to choose from the largest pool I've had all season."
Teamwise and John Robertson is back in the squad for the game against his old side (although given the form of Mark Baxter you'd hope the teenager will keep the right back slot). He's keen to return to the side after his groin strain. "I've come through a couple of reserve games without any problems and it would be good to be involved against my old club, especially as I've missed two previous matches against them through injury and illness. The lads have done really well and we have to keep the run going. We've only lost one game since November. The manager is always stressing how vital it is that we keep winning. We all know the Falkirk game is round the corner but it's essential we take care of our business this weekend. There's no point looking any further than the Ayr game. Win this one and then we can think about Falkirk ". He's also hoping to get his name on the scoresheet at some point. "I scored four last season for Ayr and managed three in pre-season. The rest of the guys have been weighing-in and Darren Dods has scored three times in the last five games. I'm under real pressure now to break that duck!"
David McClune will miss out with a calf strain but Tommy trained yesterday after a midweek virus.
April 3rd - After having almost
48 hours of a full squad, it's bad news today for
David McClune who has picked up a calf
injury in the reserve game and is ruled out of proceedings for a couple of
weeks. Tommy Løvenkrands though
has recovered from his virus and is back in training.
Enigmatic as ever, Billy Stark's only comments about Saturday were "Its a big game for us but were calmly building towards it at the moment"
April 2nd - Mark Ferry scored the only goal last night in what was apparently a poor reserve league match against East Fife at Methil with several first team players getting a run out.
April 1st - Interesting comment
from Billy Stark today after the
announcement of Tommy Løvenkrands
departure at the end of the season. The manager said, "Other
players here wholl also be out of contract shortly may have done
something similar and just not said anything" which reading
between the lines sounds like something has happened with other players
already - a dig at Paul Hartley
The Dane himself is set to feature for the reserves against East Fife tonight as he recovers from his back injury and tries to get back into the squad for the Ayr game on Saturday.
Top Of News
March 31st - Still no
confirmation over Tommy Løvenkrands
from the official site. The only comment is that the player is due back
next week after returning to Denmark for a "family illness".
Instead we have Billy Stark warning the players to concentrate on next weekend's game against Ayr instead of the Falkirk game in a fortnight. Speaking on the official site the manager said, "We have a big game against Ayr next week which we must win to keep up the pressure. Falkirk are sure to bring a big travelling support and our fans will respond to that. In fact, I'm calling on them to come out in force against Ayr on Saturday."
6.25pm - Despite this morning's denial, Saints today confirmed that Tommy Løvenkrands will be leaving in the summer after signing a pre-contract agreement with Esbjerg. Billy Stark said, "The scenario of pre-contract agreements is now a common thing in football. Tommy knew he was going to be out of contract in the summer and that any offer coming from Saints would be significantly reduced from what his current deal is. As long as he remains focused he will continue to play for Saints this season. Thereafter we wish him all the very best for his future career."
29th - There's reports in the papers today that
Paul Hartley has signed a pre-contract
agreement with the Jambos. And in a similar vein there's reports that
Tommy Løvenkrands(right) has
signed a 3-yr deal with Esbjerg back home in Denmark with "family
considerations" being the reason for the move with the transfer set
to take place officially on 1st July 2003. Whether or not Saints
would have extended his current deal which runs out in the summer anyway
remains to be seen but he's failed to produce the expected form this
season and arguably hasn't lived up to the promise shown in Roddy's
testimonial. Never the star we all hoped for but he always gave his best
for the club and was one of the nicest guys off the park. It's unclear yet
whether or not he's played his last game for Saints (my Danish isn't that
Today's Division One fixtures saw the Weans regain the 6 point advantage at the top thanks to a 3-1 win away to Alloa. Elsewhere Arbroath and St Midden drew one apiece.
Finally ex-Saintee Paul Kane has announced his retirement from the playing side.
March 27th - A strong Saints U-21 team drew 0-0 against a similarly strong Jambos side at Swinecastle last night - and we missed a penalty.
March 26th -John Robertson is set to play in tonight's U-21 fixture at Tynecastle along with several first team regulars. Apart from that nowt's doing.
March 25th - With Saints now
having a break for a couple of weeks, Billy
Stark is taking a breather and concentrating on topping up the
fitness of the squad. He said, "The lads have done brilliantly,
to be fair to them. Not only have they won seven matches in a row, theyve
actually picked up 35 points of the 42 available from the last 14 games.
Now the chance is there to regroup and prepare to push on for the last six
fixtures. At this stage of the season rest is as important as anything and
it will play a part in our preparations for the upcoming matches. We will
also be working on our fitness as well as one or two football things."
It's also a chance for the injury victims of Saturday to recover. Mark Baxter picked up a broken finger and Darren Dods twisted his ankle.
Saints beat Cowdenbeath 2-1 after extra time in the Reserve League Cup 1/4 final last night with Tommy Løvenkrands and Mark Ferry getting the goals.
March 24th -
Peaso is definitely claiming the 2nd
goal from Saturday despite hardly having to touch the ball to stick it
into the net. "I was making sure I claimed that goal. It wasnt
the best goal Ive ever scored but they all count. I had a wee dig at
the defenders last week but they came up with the goods this week with
both Ian and Darren scoring. They both timed their runs brilliantly to get
on the end of Pauls crosses. Were treating every game like a
cup final. And were still confident of catching Falkirk. We take
things game by game and after it we look to see whats happened
elsewhere. We have to depend on other teams, but the main thing is that we
have to keep winning ourselves. We expected St Mirren to come out and have
a go at us. They did that and got their goal but we tightened up at the
back after that."
Billy Stark is just as happy saying (note for effect here read the following in the Monty Python-esque Spanish Inquisition voice), "The ingredients vital to a team that wants to challenge at the top of the league are good organisation, determination and most importantly, a belief in themselves. Weve had a huge task to get back in to it and we know we still have a huge task ahead of us. We may have to win our last six matches but well continue to approach them in the same way, which is the next game is the only one that matters. We get a break now before our next game and its maybe a good time for me to give the players a real pat on the back for the seven game unbeaten run theyve put together."
22nd - Stuart Noble looks set to
get another start today and he's looking forward to it. After hitting 2 at
Dingwall last week, the teenager said, "Its been a
brilliant experience for me. Ive never been in a situation like this
where weve pretty much got to win every game, but Im really
enjoying it. Things have gone better than I could have hoped. Ive
had a few games in the first team and scored a few goals. Hopefully it
will continue. We know that Falkirk are still favourites to win the league
but were going to do everything we can to win all our games to the
end of the season and hopefully that will be enough."
"I dont know much about St Mirren but its another game that we just have to win. Any type of win will do but wed really like an easy win for a change. All the matches have been hard work and pretty close."
No new injuries to worry about for Saints whilst the Paisley Pickpockets have ex-Saintee Scott McLean out.
7.30pm - Saint put on a poor performance but thanks to 3 goals from set pieces courtesy of Ian Maxwell, Peaso and Darren Dods(right) (with his 3rd goal in 5 games!!) got us the 3 points despite Gillies pulling one back for the home side in a 3-1 win at Love St which narrows the gap at the top to 3 points. And Billy Stark was happy with the 7th win on the trot for Saints. He said, "We've been particularly good away from home. It was a difficult pitch for playing passing football but we've been a threat from set pieces. The first goal was vital because this match was one which a lot of other clubs thought we might drop points. But apart from the set pieces I thought the game was fairly even. The players are showing the sort of determination now that was missing earlier in the season and we now work harder to hold onto the lead in games."
21st - Billy Stark(right) is
hopeful that the gap can be narrowed this weekend as Falkirk don't
play,whilst we head for Love St. But Saints are resting next Saturday
whilst the Weans play Alloa so any gain might be short term. The manager
said, "Id probably settle for the gap being six points
still by the time we face Falkirk at McDiarmid next month. But Saturday
gives us the opportunity of bringing the gap back down to three points and
turning the attention on Falkirk winning at Alloa next Saturday, which wont
be easy for them. We know we have no margin for error and thats how
well be continuing to approach our games."
He's expecting a tough match though. "St Mirren have got a few players back and a lot of experience in their team. Along with the likes of Ayr United and Ross County they are capable of beating anybody on their day with the squad that theyve got. Theyre in a situation where I think theyre quite comfortable in the table and can just go out and play, so its a really tough one. Its a good pitch and we have a good record against St Mirren, though. Well go into the game with the optimism that a good run brings. Support will be a big factor in the last seven games. Brockville has been the biggest single factor in terms of Falkirk being at the top of the league. Im absolutely convinced that if they were playing in a new stadium they wouldnt have won 12 out of 14 games. Were certainly looking for all the help we can get in the last few games and more fans will definitely help us. The Falkirk game will probably be the biggest crowd of the season but weve got two difficult games to win before we can think about that."
In terms of team and injury news, Tommy Løvenkrands trained yesterday but is likely to miss out tomorrow along with John Robertson who has resumed running. Mark Reilly is fit. Keigan Parker also sits out due to suspension and has an unhappy manager as well with Billy Stark saying, "I've defended Keigan on one or two occasions when I believed he was unfortunate but not this time. He usually does well against St Mirren and he would have been in my plans. But his disciplinary record is poor. It's not good enough. And until he recognises it and sorts it out there's no chance of him taking his career forward. Keigan has to accept it's not always someone else's fault."
March 20th - With the Weans set
to go to the SPL with their plea to ground-share today, the Retard reports
that Saints chairman Geoff Brown has
come out against the Weans gaining admittance due to a rule change midway
through the season. He's quoted as saying, "Falkirk's submission
should be thrown out. The SPL has clear rules laid down and if these
aren't enforced we certainly won't be sitting back watching - we'll be
taking action. And clubs like St Mirren and Raith Rovers, who are also
struggling financially after improving their grounds, might be in there
with us if we had to go down the court road."
And commiserations to Kevin Cuthbert who has again been overlooked for a place in the Scotland U-21 squad. His time will come though.
March 19th - Some good news last
night in the Division with Clyde preventing ICTfrom overtaking us with a
4-1 win at Broadwood and QoS all but relegating Arbroath with a 3-0 win at
Palmerston. Saints reserves were in action at Brechin and lost 1-0 (aye
and he got the goal).
Not so good news for Keigan Parker who has been fined for Monday's sending off. The red card came for stamping on his TFOD opponent and means he's banned for this weekend's trip to Paisley. And just to add to the fun he's now a yellow card away from another suspension. Billy Stark said, "What occurred wasnt vicious but it was stupid and petulant and you could not argue with the decision the referee took. Keigan will be fined and I have also told him that his disciplinary record isnt good enough and needs to be changed. He accepts that is the case."
Finally on the injury side theres been good news for Jim "My wife calls me James" Weir. He's ahead of schedule in his attempt to make a comeback from knee injury and there is now a chance he could play again before the summer.
18th - Last night's U-21 match saw Saints go down 4-0 at home to
TFOD. And just to round things off nicely, Keigan
Parker(right) picked up a first-half red card.
There's not been much else happening in Sainteedom - even Paul Hartley's transfer talk has died down!!! One ex-Saints player in the news is John Paul McBride who has apparently signed for Derry City.
Billy Stark has said he's more than happy for the players to slaughter teams rather than have to sweat out a comeback like Ross County managed at Dingwall. He said, "Maybe that's a luxury we aren't going to have this season. Sometimes that's the way it goes. We deserved to win at Dingwall, where it's never easy, but we did lose a psychological edge after letting Ross County back into the game. But that's a six game winning run the players have created and that's impressive in any league. It's a terrific record and one we're determined to keep going. Four of the wins have been away from home. Last month we could have been looking at a 14-point deficit and now it's just six points. We haven't been so close to Falkirk for months. We've managed to make a real dent in their advantage. If nothing else we're making a few people sweat a bit but our main concern is trying to win the championship. The players are doing everything in their power and I can't ask any more than that. It was a tremendous result at Dingwall."
The manager was also out to praise the contribution of two-goal Stuart Noble saying, "Stuart is a youngster but he has handled himself superbly here. His strength is terrific and he has scored crucial goals. He and Peter MacDonald are making a valuable contribution." The youngster himself was happy with his goals and more importantly the 3 points. "We got a bit complacent in the last 30 minutes and took our foot off the gas. They got a break with their first goal and when the second went in the pressure was on us. We could have been four or five up after an hour, but we missed a couple of chances at the start of the second-half. We had to work really hard but it was our own fault. The most important thing was to get the points that's all that matters to us. We're looking to win every game, not worrying what other teams do. We must keep winning that's all we can do. We've won our last six games so we're expecting to do well."
Injury-wise, Mark Reilly and Mark Baxter have recovered from their head and groin knocks and both managed to train yesterday.
15th - The "Images of Sport" book on Saints by
Alastair Blair is out soon priced £11.99. Half the royalties are
going to the club so you know it's a worthwhile purchase (ideal for a read
on next season's long trips to Ross County!!)
For today's match Mark Reilly looks set to return to midfield. Out with a calf injury recently he said, "Id been struggling with my calf injury since the Falkirk game at the start of last month and then in the cup replay against Airdrie it just seized up totally. That must be about five weeks Ive been out now." (as in 5 weeks we've not dropped a point? hmmmmmm.....) "Since Ive been out the lads have done well and got the results required, which is the most important thing at this stage of the season. Weve got wins even when we havent played well. Its not been easy missing out. Im not a great spectator, especially in games like last weeks against Arbroath where the match looked like it was going to drift away to a draw. It was a great relief when the boys scored their injury-time winner. If the manager selects me for the team tomorrow Ill do my best and hopefully with the boys being on a winning run it should be easy to slot back into the side." . Meanwhile Tommy Løvenkrands missed out again but this time due to a back injury picked up in training.
9.30pm - Well despite allowing the home side back with 2 late goals, Saints got another deserved result with a 3-2 win at Ross County thanks to a couple of early goals from Stuart Noble(right) and a cracking 2nd half free kick from Paul Hartley. A goalless draw at Broadwood means Falkirk's lead has been cut to 6 points. Speaking of the result and performance, Billy Stark said, "At 3-0 I thought the scoreline flattered us. We seemed to stop pressing after the third goal and let Ross County back into it. Overall it was a decent performance but again we didn't capitalise on our chances. The players have been magnificent in recent weeks. But there's a long way to go yet and we'll keep trying hard for promotion."
14th - John Robertson looks
to be the only Saints regular who'll miss out this weekend.
Billy Stark will stick with
Chris Hay in the squad despite the
striker's groin injury. The manager said, "Hes actually
felt OK in the last week or so and well certainly be continuing as
we have been with Chris for the next couple of weeks.
Mark Reilly's trained all week and is
back to his usual self shouting and bawling on the training pitch!"
Billy Stark is keen to keep the 5-game run of wins going though, especially with Falkirk at Broadwood tomorrow. He said, "Ross County have had a disappointing season by their standards and they will want to finish strongly so by no means will be in for an easy ride up there. I had them watched against Falkirk and despite being down to 10 men after 30 minutes, he felt they should taken something from the game. The breaks didn't go for them, so I think that will make them more tricky. They're still in relegation trouble so they need to be careful. They will want to secure a position in the middle of the table. We have a situation where players are pushing to get into the squad. Tommy Løvenkrands has not been involved the last couple of games and that's what we are looking for at this time of the season. There are players who are available and champing at the bit to get into the team. What we have to concentrate on is winning every game we play. We have to, it's as simple as that. We need to keep the pressure on Falkirk and the only way that will happen is if we keep getting the three points."
Meanwhile the speculation about Paul Hartley(right) continues with the player tipped for a move to Swinecastle in the summer. He's not confirming anything but said, "It's just speculation. This always happens when you've had a good season and you're out of contract in the summer. I don't know what's going to happen. It's out of my hands. I want to concentrate on the next eight games for Saints and then see what occurs at the end of the season." (maybe he should have a word with his agent then and stop him telling all and sundry that the player is leaving Saints in the summer).
He's expecting a tough match tomorrow but is enjoying the stand-in skipper role he's been given for the last few games. "It's great that the manager has given me the captaincy. Overall I've been happy with my form, apart from last Saturday. Last week was a flat performance but we're not going to play well in every game. We played better earlier in the season and didn't get the results. We have dug really deep recently and scored a couple of late goals in injury time. That shows we keep fighting and battling for each other. There's a belief about the squad that we can win every game. We all want to do well for each other and there's an excellent team spirit - we need to stick together. But it's important to get results at this stage of the season. We know it will be difficult at Ross County, we will have to be at our best if we want to take anything from the game."
March 13th - Billy Stark believes that the results on Tuesday night make the title run-in a two horse race. "It was a good result for Falkirk up at Ross County on Tuesday. I kind of expected them to go up there and get a win and it probably helped that they were playing against 10 men for a long spell. It will be a very tough match for us this weekend, there is no doubt about that. It will not be easy but we have to try to keep our wee run going."
March 12th - Last night's
results almost went our way. Clyde and Alloa finished 2-2 and it was
goalless between Queen of the South and ICT. The bad news though was a 1-0
win at Dingwall for Falkirk leaving us 8 points off the pace.
Saints head to Dingwall on Saturday and latest news is that Mark Reilly could return but John Robertson will miss out again. Billy Stark said, "If Mark manages to put in a whole weeks training he should be available on Saturday."
March 11th - Last night's U-21 game saw Well beat us 1-0 at Fir Park - apparently a pretty crap game overall.
10th - Despite the win on Saturday, Billy
Stark reckoned only Mark Baxter
earned pass marks. He said, "I just couldnt see a winner
coming, but we kept going despite a poor performance. We threw everyone
forward and put as many forward players as we could on the pitch We took
the gamble to win the game-and it was a gamble as Arbroath were were very
threatening on the break. I think the only player I could give pass marks
to was young Mark Baxter. His form has dipped in the past few games and I
had thought of resting him, but he got the award during the week and took
a lift from that and he was by far our best player."
Peaso wants Saturday's matchwinner to chip in with a few more goals though. "Grant is still running around the dressing room celebrating and it's about time he started to come forward for corners a bit more now. After I scored I thought we could go on and score a few more goals but that was far from the case and Arbroath defended so strongly."
Grant Murray(right) himself has described his goal as "easily the best of my career" (hmm) but Arbroath have been complaining to the media about what they reckon were 5 and a half minutes of injury time. Strangely enough they don't mention how often the referee pointed to his watch to indicate he was adding time on for the timewasting Arbroath managed to indulge in for most of the second-half. Funny old game innit?
8th - Billy Stark has been
praising his transfer window signings today ahead of the visit of
bottom-placed Arbroath. "Theyve brought not only their
ability, but a wee bit of freshness to the side. Theyve both chipped
in with goals and assists. Marks not a natural goalscorer but Stuart
Noble definitely has goals in him." As for today's game, he said,
"We cant possibly treat Arbroath lightly. Theyre
going to fight hard. Theyve been a bit unlucky losing late goals in
the last couple of games and theyll be very difficult to beat. "
Injury-wise, Mark Reilly is the only player who might not be risked today with the other midweek injury worries all cleared up.
7.00pm - Well we left it late but a Grant Murray header well into injury time added to Peaso's (right) cracking opener in a 2-1 win over Arbroath. Again it was a scrappy performance but the 3 points kept us in touch with the Weans who along with ICT and Clyde recorded wins as well.
7th - Congratulations to Mark
Baxter(right) who's been awarded the Bell's Young Player of the
Month award for February. The youngster doesn't even turn 18 until next
month but is now regarded amongst most of the faithful as first choice
right back. Speaking of the last month he said, "Celtic was the
best game of my football career so far, playing against the type of
players I want to play against and in such a big stadium. Id like to
think I can do that regularly and I just have to work hard and make sure I
stay in the team and see how things work out. It feels very good to get
this award. I didnt expect it because I am so young and I wasnt
expecting to get any kind of award. I hadnt been expecting to play
so soon in the season. I was thrown in at the deep end a bit against
Falkirk when I made my debut but it was a good experience. Its up to
me to just keep playing away and make sure I achieve other things in my
career." Billy Stark praised
him as well saying, "Im delighted he has got the
recognition he deserves. He has come in and handled himself really well.
The worry when young guys get an award so early in their first-team career
is how it will affect them but I dont have those worries with Mark."
Looking ahead to tomorrow and Grant Murray looks set to play whilst Mark Reilly resumed training yesterday and could also come into contention.
6th - Well with the players and fans on a bit of a high with some
decent form of late the bubble has begun to burst with the inevitable
summer transfer moves being discussed. And chief piece of gossip is a
report suggesting that Paul Hartley is
set to sign for the Gorgie Gits in the summer even if Saints go back up.
According to the Evening News, his agent "has already
told Saints boss Billy Stark that he will not be signing a new deal
regardless of whether or not the club wins promotion back into the
Premierleague". Nice to see the player sticking by the club after
Saints arguably saved his career.
Billy Stark(right) is in a good mood though after Tuesday's win. "It was a fantastic result achieved in difficult conditions. The match could easily have been drawn, but I spoke to the players a few weeks ago about how there would be times when they would have to overcome the fact they werent playing well and produce 1-0 wins and I was absolutely thrilled with their efforts at Ayr. The players deserve credit for the run they are on. For the past month or two theyve been more positive, played with greater freedom and benefited from getting the odd wee break. Weve not lost away from home since October 26 and suffered only one defeat since the end of November. But for that to continue, which it has to, we must focus on the next game and just take it from game to game rather than do what others are doing and consider how this result or that result might alter the situation at the top of the table. "
The manager also revealed Grant Murray played through the pain barrier with a swollen ankle to get through the 90 minutes. "Grant was hurt at training the day before the game and had to be strapped up to play. Despite that he was excellent.". Keigan Parker is also suffering from tight hamstrings after his performance but the good news is that Mark Reilly is back in training.
4th - The U-21s were in action last night but lost 3-2 at home to
Livvy. Colin Strickland and a
Mark Ferry penalty has us leading before
Livvy drew level and then won the game thanks to a penalty which also saw
comeback man Stuart McCluskey
Tonight's big game sees Saints head to Ayr and the hero from Saturday, Paddy Connolly(right) is determined to narrow the gap on the Weans. He said, "Ayr will only be out to do themselves a favour and its going to be really tough for us. The league is tightening up now and with 10 or 11 games to go it is great that we are closing the gap a bit. We have not beaten Ayr yet this season and when they beat us 2-0 at McDiarmid they really deserved their victory-they are a very decent side. Obviously if it all goes well for us against Ayr we could be just two points off the top but if we lose and Falkirk win at home to Clyde we could be eight points off the pace again. There is a bit of a buzz about the squad at the moment after Saturdays results and we certainly still have a chance to win promotion. Of course we would rather be in Falkirks position right now but we believe we can go up this season. The next couple of games are vital and I just hope we can keep our wee run going."
Billy Stark is expecting a tough game against United who are on a decent run of form. "Ayr showed good character to come back and win 2-1 against Arbroath on Saturday and also performed well against Rangers and Falkirk recently. This is a part of the season when teams do drop points here and there and it is getting quite tight-no team has much of a margin of error. All the games are very hard fought-that is the nature of this league-and it will be the same against Ayr."
Injury-wise, Stuart Noble has trained and is in line to play tonight and Keigan Parker returns after suspension but John Robertson, who is apparently suffering from a groin strain looks like missing out again.
11pm - It was that man Darren Dods with a header 15 mins from time who got us the points in a 1-0 win at Ayr after the home side missed a first half penalty. Chances were few and far between though in a tough game in windy conditions. Unfortunately it didn't go our way elsewhere with Falkirk beating Clyde 3-0 and ICT notching up a 2-0 win over Arbroath.
March 3rd- After his comeback to first team action on Saturday, Peaso reckons Saints are finally showing belief in their chances of catching the Bairns. "As soon as we were told the Falkirk score there was a huge roar in the dressing room and shouts of come on, we can do it. The belief is there in the team now. Its taken Falkirk to lose these two games back-to-back to get the belief up, but now its up to the maximum. We know we can win the league. The Premierleague teams at the bottom of the league will be getting a fright now and we want to make sure that they cant rest."
1st- Ian Maxwell(right) is
hoping our rivals slip up today so Saints can narrow the gap at the top.
He said, "Obviously, the way things are, everybody knows we need
Falkirk to drop points, so it was good to see them lose at Ayr. Theyve
been on a quite unbelievable run but theyre now in the middle of a
busy spell where theyve got three midweek games. These
Tuesday-Saturday matches are OK if youre winning, but it can be a
lot harder and more tiring if youre not. We have to win this one if
were going to get close to Falkirk. Then, if we keep on winning, you
never know how things might work out. I would say that if were still
as we are by the time Falkirk come here in April well still be in
with a chance. Obviously that game will be the big one and there will be
four games after it when things can really start to happen."
7pm - In the end it was a rotten performance but a 2-1 win for Saints at Alloa with Darren Dods and Paddy Connolly in the 2nd half giving us the 3 points. And elsewhere the media are backing Saints to make a run after Falkirk slipped up to allow the gap to be narrowed to 5 points. And the media seem to be willing to back Saints now with the possibility of relegation from the SPL now looking more likely. To quote Richard Gordon on Radio Scotland "We're all St. Johnstone supporters now" to which a certain pundit ex-Saints manager said "Speak for yourself".......not a bitter man is he?
Meanwhile Billy Stark said after the game, "We deserved the three points. We were sluggish in the first half but in the second half the performance was much better and we were the better side overall. Paddy played some super football and is industrious and if he could score a few more he'd be the best player in the division. At half-time we told the players to pick it up. We're being more positive in our outlook now and it's paying off - they say that Fortune Favours the Brave".
Top Of News
28th - Latest team news for tomorrow has
Paddy set to start up front with
Peaso on the bench.
Stuart Noble has been ruled out and
Chris Hay is struggling to be fit.
Midfield looks better though with Mark
Robertson(right), Grant Murray
and Marc McCulloch all set to come
back into contention (and likely starting places).
Mark Reilly will again miss out though
Mark Robertson is looking forward to his first appearance at Recreation Park (you can tell he's never been there before). "I don't care about the surroundings, all I want is to play first team football. The lads have told me it will be a culture shock, especially coming so soon after the Celtic game. It will be totally different but hopefully I'll be playing this week. It was frustrating missing out on Celtic because I was cup-tied. When you're out of the SPL you know you'll be visiting grounds like Alloa. And I'm here to play football. What the ground looks like doesn't bother me. Falkirk still have an eight point advantage with a game in hand but they won't be popping champagne corks yet. We were delighted they lost at Ayr but it's vital we keep taking care of our own business. That's what will step-up the pressure on Falkirk. They have to lose games but promotion is still a real possibility for us. We certainly aren't in a negative frame of mind. We've talked about it and know how important it is not to slip up. We don't want to be thinking "what if" at the end of the season."
27th -It looks like Stuart Noble
won't make the Alloa game with his back injury reportedly getting wore.
"I would have to say Stuart is really struggling to make it."
said Billy Stark.
Meanwhile the manager is also in the Retard with his reaction to Tuesday night's results. "I really did have a gut feeling that Falkirk, Caley Thistle or Clyde would slip up and not win their matches in midweek as they were all difficult games. I wasn't surprised that something gave but I was totally shocked to find out that NONE of them had won. I got home about 9.30 on Tuesday night and flicked on Teletext and I just couldn't believe the results. I'm not a betting man so I would never have put money on the three of them not winning but I had a sneaky feeling points would be dropped. We're right back in the hunt but it's no use being handed a lifeline like that if we don't take care of our business and win our remaining games."
"The sequence of results will have given everyone a huge lift at the club. Of that there is no doubt When your direct competitors in any league competition lose or drop valuable points then I'd be lying if I said that I or the team wouldn't be greatly encouraged by it. There is a pressure on us now to win games and eight points is still a lot to make up but the lead is down to single figures and we will just have to keep chipping away at it."
"Everybody knows when they are playing now, including midweek fixtures. We are at the crucial stage of the season when every game is a pressure game and the next match is of huge significance for all the teams who are involved at the top and bottom ends of the table. Tuesday night's results have brought everything into sharp focus once again. If the race gets any tighter then we will have a real championship on our hands and the issues of promotion and relegation will be back on the agenda and in the mix. There would be massive interest created in the First Division in the closing weeks of the season and that can only be healthy for the state of the Scottish game. Every team will drop points between now and the end of the season and it will be a real test of nerve and bottle. That's why there is always talk of leagues and titles being thrown away. Nothing is won midway through a season and everything will be decided in the coming weeks. Ironically I feel it is teams like Queen of the South, Ayr United and St Mirren who will have a major bearing on the destination of the First Division championship. I'm just glad Saints are still in the position to be challenging to get back up to the SPL at the first time of asking."
Elsewhere in Europe and there's a report in the Sun today about Attila. The ex-Saintee has been sacked by Austria Vienna's youth academy after his U-17 side were apparently seen drinking alcohol at a Christmas market in Vienna. Dino said, "The kids weren't drinking regular punch but non-alcoholic punch. The incident was just an excuse to sack me". Strangely the Austrian pundits reckon Attila was "never much liked at Austria Vienna which was the reason he left for Scotland. He also came under pressure after his U-17 side knocked a full Austria Vienna side packed with superstars out of the Austrian Cup - it was very embarassing". - Classic.
February 26th - Well just for a
change the luck went our way last night in the 4 Division One games
played. The Bairns lost 1-0 at Ayr, ICT were gubbed 5-1 at home and Clyde
only managed a draw at Palmerston which, whilst not changing anything at
the top of the table does mean that the number of games in hand is being
Latest on Stuart Noble is that he's now moved into the "extremely doubtful" category.
25th - Last night's U-21 match saw Saints draw 0-0 at Kilmarnock.
Ryan Stevenson and
Marc McCulloch played and
Peaso got another 90 minutes in.
And the injury problems are mounting for the weekend Stuart Noble's back injury is "causing concern". Chris Hay is still struggling with his groin injury and Keigan Parker is suspended for the trip to Recreation Park.
Meanwhile Kevin Cuthbert(right) has been talking about his performance at Parkbog on Sunday and he paid tribute to the fellow teenagers in the side. "I was pleased with my overall display but it's always disappointing to lose three goals, even if two came from the penalty spot. It wasn't an intimidating atmosphere - in fact it would have been dead but for our fans, but we can take a lot of positives from the game. Celtic made plenty of changes from the side which beat Stuttgart but still fielded a very strong team. Guys like Steve Guppy, Momo Sylla, our best player a couple of years ago and he hardly gets a game for them, and John Hartson are quality players. The game proved our youngsters are ready to come in and play to the required standard and that's down to the coaching.We;ve come through the ranks together and everyone really wants to be part of the first team squad. When they get their chance they want to stay in the team. Look at Mark Baxter - he hasn't played many games but he and a few others will benefit from the experience. We have the makings of a good young side here."
The keeper's contract is up in the summer but he wants to concentrate on the remaining games first. "My priority is to play well and let the contract take care of itself. Obviously every player wants their future sorted out but at the moment we still don't know if we'll be in the First Division or make a late run to take us back to the SPL. It's a difficult situation for the club at the moment. I want to prove myself and the contract is just an added incentive to do well. I'm getting games and that's not something many 20-year-old goalkeepers can say. It's all about gaining experience and I'm thankful to Billy Stark and Billy Kirkwood for having faith in me." As for the support at the weekend (note to the Scotsman / Retard reporters there was almost 1000 of us), he said, "Our supporters were brilliant and made themselves heard. Sometimes they don't go to the Old Firm grounds but their backing was appreciated by the players."
Billy Stark also praised the Saints fans and said, "They were really up for it and rose to the occasion. They were a credit to the football club.". And the manager was also full of praise for Cuthbert. "Kevin took that hefty knock but he was composed and assured in the second half, when he had a bit more to do. He is as good a young keeper as there is in Scotland right now. He is ridiculously young to be a first team keeper but the opportunity is here for him to play in the top team and gain valuable experience. He has handled Ibrox and Celtic Park now - but equally important, he has handled places like Queen of the South."
February 24th - No real word on the injury Stuart Noble picked up at Parkbog yesterday but most papers suggest the play will need a scan. Apart from that there's the token praise for the Saints fans with the exception of the Retard which is it's usual patronising self ("A Saints team which if truth be told was just happy to be here" - bollocks). As for the travelling support, we sold 1000 tickets but the papers vary from 400-800 Saints fans. Nothing like a bit of accuracy eh guys? Still now we're out the cup at least the patronising comments about our player's names will vanish.
23rd - Paul Hartley(right)
(with no hint of Celtic-daftness about him) is in the paper today praising
Billy Stark for reviving his career in
central midfield. Jr said, "For most of my career I had been a
winger and thought I'd be in that role for the rest of my playing days. A
few years ago I was too lazy and didn't work hard enough. I didn't ever
deliberately go out not to graft but sometimes you end up in a comfort
zone. I ended up at St Johnstone and the gaffer started to play me in
either the centre or just to the right of a midfield three. It's worked
brilliantly and I have to thank Billy for spotting something in me that
gave him the idea I could operate there. But the boss is like that - he
has a fine knowledge of football and I owe him plenty. Being in the
midfield means I'm involved heavily in every game and I enjoy getting up
and down the park. It's a great feeling when you really enjoy your game on
As for today he said, "The Celtic game is a huge one. We won't be expected to do anything but you just never know. It's important we don't get a thrashing but I'd be surprised if we did and it might be a tight one. Remember Partick Thistle took Celtic to penalties in the CIS Cup earlier in the season. However, I've played at Parkhead six times and never managed to get a draw, never mind a win."
7.30pm - Well in the end it took 2 penaltied for the Evil Ones to feel comfortable as in the end Saints lost 3-0 at Parkbog although the scoreline more than flattered the Leprechauns side - although the so-called "best" fans in the world were more than outmatched by the Saints travelling support who outsang their opponents for the 90 minutes. Kevin Cuthbert was in excellent form but Saints suffered from losing Stuart Noble in the first half through injury. Billy Stark said after the game, "The scoreline more than flattered Celtic and I though the young lads in the team did very well. If anything we suffered from showing too much respect to the opposition".
22nd - With Saints being quoted at 20-1 for a win tomorrow,
at least Darren Dods(right) remembers
what it's like to beat TFOE on their own bog. The only remaining player
from the 1998 1-0 win he's looking forward to trying to repeat the
experience tomorrow. "I remember that match when Nick Dasovic
scored the winner very well. It was a Wednesday night and we got the goal
fairly early on and that got their fans on their backs. We were going
through a good spell at that time and were to end up reaching the League
Cup final two months later and finishing third in the league. So I know
what it feels like to go there and win, even though that was a wee while
ago now. More recently, I scored at McDiarmid last season and I also
scored an own goal in the same match, but the less said about that the
better. Then I gave us the lead at Parkhead later that season before we
again lost narrowly. So although like almost every other team in the
country we have suffered at times in games against Celtic we have also
acquitted ourselves well."
Unfortunately tomorrow is likely to see a weakened Saints side with several youngsters taking the pitch. "With there likely to be a few young lads in the side the likes of myself will have to take on more responsibility but that is not a problem. And the young guys should be looking forward to a match like this-it is a great place to play and a great chance to show they can play. If we can score early like we have done in the past then that will give us a lift and perhaps unsettle the crowd."
Team-wise Chris Hay looks like missing out as he's been confirmed as needing an op for his groin. Keigan Parker will be fit enough though so is likely to start up front.
Saints have sold around 700 or their 1000 ticket allocation for tomorrow's game - so there's still time left to get a ticket.
21st - It's looking more and more like a young Saints side,
especially in midfield that will be asked to get us past TFOE on Sunday.
Speaking of the team selection problems yesterday
Billy Stark said, "Manny
Panther, Mark Ferry, David McClune, Ross Forsyth, Martin Maher and Ryan
Stevenson all played for the under-21s on Monday night and again in the
reserves last night, because they were disappointing on Monday. They did
far better last night. At least one of them will definitely start on
"oing to Celtic Park to face the league champions with a weakened team isnt what you would want, but the nature of the game is that nobody expects us to get anything from the game. The match will tell me a lot about the players. Its a short-cut, if you like, to making judgments, which is good in a way. I dont like saying were here to enjoy ourselves and things like that, because thats not the case at all. Ill be putting pressure on the players to do as well as they possibly can ... Obviously if Celtic are right at it and 100% well find it very difficult, but there are a lot of things we can make sure we do right."
Marc McCulloch(right) has trained but isn't expected to be fit enough for the game. Keigan Parker is back in training and should be fit enough but the manager wants to see the consultant's report on Chris Hay before making a decision on him.
February 20th - Saints youngsters went down 2-0 last night at home to an experienced Brechin side (featuring you-know-who). Apart from that there's nothing happening.
February 19th -Nothing much to
report today. Peaso has shown no
ill-effects after his comeback match and managed to train yesterday.
However the bad news is that Chris Hay
(groin) and Keigan Parker(ankle) are
both doubtful for Sunday leaving us with a major problem up front.
Billy Stark said, "Chris had a
hernia operation when he was with Huddersfield last season. They weren't
planning to keep him and he didn't have rehabilitation at the club. I
suspect his troubles date back to that period and he can't do himself
justice because of the problem, although he showed against Caley Thistle
he can still put away chances. We'll wait for the specialist's verdict and
then think about his chances of playing against Celtic. Keigan went over
on his ankle and the bruising is just starting to come out but we're
hoping he makes progress as the week goes on."
Sunday's ref has been confirmed as Hugh Dallas - although with not TV cameras there he might concentrate on the game instead of showing off. Mind you there's always the last-minute goalline controversy to be involved in eh Shug?
Elsewhere in the league, the Weans are attempting to subvert the SPL rules by renting New Broomfield for next season to give them a nice capacity ground and allow them to sneak in.Finally, the SFA in their infinite wisdom have put in charge of the cup-tie.
February 18th - Bad news last
night was that the U-21s went down 2-0 to Hibs. However the one good thing
was that the game marked the return from injury of
Peaso who managed an hour of action.
But if you're looking for some more bad news the club found out yesterday that new midfielder Mark Robertson is cup-tied on Sunday. Despite only being on the bench as an unused sub for the Scum at Partick he's now out for the rest of the competition. The player said, "I think its a shame because if you havent played then I think you deserve to be eligible to play for a team you go on loan to. I would have relished going to play Celtic again. My debut for Dundee was there when we won 2-0 against them. Its probably the best place to go and show that you can play." . Still he's optimistic about our chances. "Its possible. Recently Livingston came close to winning at Celtic Park and proved that anything can happen on the day. If you work hard then you have a chance."
February 17th -
Chris Hay has been speaking of the groin
injury which is limiting his match fitness these days. Speaking after his
double at the weekend he said, "Ive been struggling with
the groin problem for a while now and Im just trying to get through
games. Thats why Ive been struggling a wee bit in games lately
and been left out for a couple of them. Its the type of injury that
if I rest it through the week Ill usually make it for the game, but
you lose a bit of match sharpness. I think thats shown on a few
occasions, but if I score two goals like that every week, thatll do
Saints are still waiting to see the extent of Keigan Parker's injury with the player maintaining he was tripped off the ball on Saturday.
February 15th - Chris Hay(right) scored a couple of late goals to round off a dominating Saints performance as we ran out 2-0 winners over Caley Thistle despite some of the worst refereeing of the season. Bad news was sub Keigan Parker having to go off after 3 minutes with what looked like an ankle injury (although he was also booked in the process).
February 14th - Well the bad news is that both Mark Reilly and Marc McCulloch haven't trained and don't look like making the ICT game forcing a change of midfield. Billy Stark said "Neither player has trained and they would have to be rated extremely doubtful now. I suppose we have that extra wee bit of motivation because we know a victory will move us up the table but really we need to go out and try to win every game at the moment. We have been doing not too badly of late and we really need to sustain that kind of form."
February 13th - No word on any
more team news for tomorrow but Saints have confirmed that the Ayr Utd
game will be on Tuesday March 4th at 7.45pm.
Little in the papers today although Billy Stark has had a go at the players over penalty kicks according to the Retard. After Saturday's debate prior to the missed kick, the manager said, "It's never a good thing to have a debate about it. Missing a penalty can have a psychological impact on the team and this is something we must eradicate." So there.
12th - First up some news that programme editor Alastair Blair
has another new book on Saints coming out in around 5 weeks (check the
cover on the right).
Elsewhere on the park, the good news is that Peter MacDonald is continuing his comeback is back in full training this week. The U-21 game last night was off but the Billy Stark is hopeful of getting him back soon. "Peter has had to abort a couple of previous comebacks so we arent going to push him. But he is at least back training with the rest of the squad, which we are taking as an encouraging sign."
But the bad news is that both Mark Reilly(calf) and Marc McCulloch(shin after that stupid header at Palmerston) are still out and are now highly doubtful for this weekend's big match at home to Inverness.
11th - The main news today is that season ticket holders can get
their briefs from McD today for the cup tie at Parkbog. Originally priced
at £17, the club are offering £2 off to the season ticket
holders (no doubt trying to make up for the disappointment we'll all
suffer from making Henprik cry at going out of the cup.
And with their usual level of morale-boosting pre-cuptie confidence, Saints have also announced that the postponed St Midden match at Love St from before Xmas will provisionally go ahead on Saturday March 22nd (or cup 1/4 final day to the rest of us). If we manage to upset the media and be otherwise engaged that day then the game will be played at the international weekend towards the end of March. In addition the Ayr game has been provisionally confirmed at Somerset Park on Tuesday March 4th
On the park, Billy Stark is more than happy that the new signings are chipping in with goals. Mark Robertson(right) and Stuart Noble got us the points at Palmerston and the manager said, "Obviously I brought in what I thought were quality players but to get a return so quickly is a real bonus. You would hope Stuart (a striker) would be a goal threat. He has a good record and we are delighted with him so far. He is a strong boy with a good left foot. Goal scoring was not really something we expected from Mark so again that is a real bonus. We have shown really good resilience of late - not just on Saturday but over the past few weeks. The lads have been fighting right to the end and it is very important to show that kind of spirit from now on."
February 10th - Bad news first
of all is that we look to be deprived of seeing the skills of Henprik
Larsson on show at Parkbog in the cup after the Swede suffered a
double fracture of the jaw yesterday against Meadowbank.
Back in the 1st Division and the Doonhamers are still raging about the Saints winner on Saturday, accusing Cher Noble of holding the defender back although even Jim "Rhyming Slang" Delahunt on the Scotsport Camcorder Highlights show yesterday reckoned it was a 50-50 ball. Ach well who cares - it's about time we got some luck that way.
Billy Stark was happy enough with the result. He said, "It was a vital win and one we needed-weve got to set out to win every game now. I knew it was going to be a difficult game at Palmerston and the others have still to visit Queens and theyll struggle to get three points there. So, Im absolutely thrilled and delighted, particularly with the nature of the game, that we came back against a good, solid, strong side." . And speaking of the controversy he said, , "I didnt see anything wrong with the goal. Big Jim Thomsons a big rugged centre-half, its a mans game and Stuart Noble muscled him off it. Hes a young lad and did really well in the situation and hes run through and scored."
8th - Keigan Parker looks set to
be given a starting jersey at Palmerston today after getting the winner on
Tuesday night. Mark Reilly and
Mark Baxter are both set to play after
passing fitness tests.
Billy Stark is looking to start a winning run. He said, "If we were to win every game from now until the end of the season we would win the league. Ive absolutely no doubts about that. It rolls off the tongue and is easy to say but difficult to do. But if you think about it like that you suddenly think positively." Of course to get this magical winning run off the ground, we've got to beat a team we've drawn with twice (and were lucky to get a point last time). "It was the third game of the season when we played them first and we dominated totally but couldnt score. I wouldnt expect it to be the same tomorrow because theyve found their feet in the league, but I would still expect us to win the game. Were still hoping to challenge at the top of the league."
7.30pm - Well most of the game was dire but in the end a Mark Robertson deflection and a classy finish from sub Stuart Noble(right) saw us come from behind to sneak a 2-1 win at Palmerston with Chris Hay missing a penalty at 1-0 as well. Not a great afternoon and even Caley Thistle couldn't do us a favour as they lost 4-3 at home to the Weans.
February 7th - Latest news is that both injury doubts Mark Reilly and Mark Baxter should be fit enough for tomorrow's trip to Dumfries, the latter trained yesterday. Both Mark Robertson and Stuart Noble are also in the squad. Speaking of the teenage striker, who scored a brace on Monday night, Billy Stark said, "I wouldnt say hes quite at full match fitness yet but hes done well in training this week and is looking good." - whether that means he gets a chance ahead of the other unfit striker Chris Hay remains to be seen.
6th - Keigan Parker(right),
scorer of the deciding penalty against TTFKAC. is looking forward to an
unexpected trip to Parkbog in a fortnight. He said, "When youre
in the First Division you obviously dont get the chance to enjoy the
big games like those against Celtic. These are the matches you look
forward to and we can go into it as the total underdogs with nothing to
lose and make a day of it. Clearly its going to be very important to
the club financially as well. It should have been finished off in the
first half. If it had been a boxing match the referee would have stopped
the contest. Theres always a chance of an upset against a lower
league team if you dont put the match out of their reach, as was
shown in the first game at. The most important thing, though, is that we
And speaking of the pressure at the spot-kick he went on, "When it went to penalties some players volunteered and others were picked. Billy Kirkwood told me to take the last one. There was obviously a lot riding on it, but the pressure would have been greater if Id been in a situation where a miss would have put us out. I picked my spot and when I saw the keeper go the other way I knew Id scored."
Congratulations to the Retard as well for doing a 5 line interview with the striker and managing to mention that he and all his family are mad Celtic fans. Looks like the old Altar Boy syndrome has struck again.
The bad news for Saints is that thanks to the bookings on Tuesday night, both Grant Murray and Mark Reilly are suspended for the Celtic game. And the latter his apparently only 3 points off the 18-point mark which will see another suspension loom.
February 5th - Well we worked
for it but in the end Saints were well-deserved winners in the
Cup replay with Airdrie, despite
the game going to penalties after finishing 1-1 courtesy of
Paddy Connolly in the first half and a
very dodgy offside decision for the away team in the 2nd. The
penalties saw Saints run out 4-2 winners with
Keigan Parker getting the crucial spot
kick to set up the tie against TFOE on Sunday Feb 23rd.
Speaking of the win, Billy Stark said, "We dominated the first half and should have been 2 or 3 up. Airdrie came back but in the end I thought we fully deserved the win."
4th - First up the U-21s lost 4-2 at home to the Pars last night.
Saints goals came from Stuart Noble
although we were down 3-0 at half time.
Looking ahead to tonight's game, Kevin Cuthbert(right) is more than happy to get a chance at being the number one keeper again. He said, "I believe I cant take anything for granted, even though Alan is away and I am back in the side. You may say I am number one, but the way I look on it is I am just the man in possession of the jersey at the moment and have to fight to keep it. I am just focusing on playing well and not getting over-excited about being in the team again." . And he's not expecting it easy tonight. "I watched the first game from the bench and although it wasnt the best of cup ties, they made it difficult for us. It is important we focus fully on this match and we will because we are aware they have already beaten Kilmarnock in the CIS Cup this season and gave Dundee United a tough game before losing. So they can produce against the bigger teams. We will put all thoughts of Celtic to the back of our minds and will be 100% committed to winning this one." .
Injury-wise it looks like new skipper Mark Reilly will miss out due to a calf-strain. He didn't train yesterday and is rated "very doubtful". Weather-wise the undersoil heating has been on so the club are hopeful the game will go ahead.
February 3rd -
Mark Robertson has been talking
about his debut on Saturday. He said, "I hadnt played at
Brockville before. I was injured when Dundee came here in the cup and I
sat in the stand and watched. It was certainly an in-timidating atmosphere
to play in. My debut for Dundee was at Celtic Park and thats just
the way it goes sometimes, getting chucked in at the deep end, but I
thrive on that sort of stuff. Ive got to be honest and say theres
more to come from myself. Its been a while so it was good to get out
there. The last time I played 90 minutes must have been early December. I
was a bit slack in some areas but that will come with match sharpness. Its
the first time Ive met the boys so things will pick up in training.
A win would have been perfect for us, but conditions out there werent
the best and we had to battle in the second half."
Billy Stark was more disappointed though. "I was disappointed not to win the game. We handled Samuel and Miller pretty well and I thought we played like a team today. Everyone gets intimidated coming to Brockville, but the pleasing thing for me was that the players did everything I asked of them. Falkirk had a lot of free kicks and corners and we know theyre a threat from set pieces because they got three goals against us in three games and every one has come from a set piece. At the end of the day Ive no complaints. I think Falkirk would be better pleased with the point than we are."
1st - Today's game will definitely go ahead although the Clyde v
ICT match was called off at 2.30pm yesterday. No pitch inspection is
planned. Looking ahead to the game and it seems that
Mark Robertson will be a definite
starter for Saints. Speaking of yesterday's move he said, "I
still thought that I had a chance to get in the team in Dundee, but 20
minutes off the bench doesnt really suit me at the moment. This move
suits all parties and Im sure Dundee fans will appreciate that I
have to get more games just now. I dont know much about Falkirk, but
hopefully I can add something to the squad here and we can get a result
today. The club has still got a chance of getting promoted."
Stuart Noble meanwhile, spoke to ex-Saintee, Kieran McAnespie before his move to McD. "I spoke to Kieran before I came. He wished me all the best and said it would be brilliant for me here. He said he really enjoyed his time here and he was kind of jealous because he enjoyed his time so much at Saints. John Collins knows Billy Stark and said Saints are a team who like to play football. There are plenty of strikers at Fulham ahead of me at the moment, like Luis Boa-Morte and guys who are a bit older, so this will be good experience. Ill give it 100% and hopefully get into the first team."
Billy Stark(right) is more than happy with his signings. He said, "The thing that impressed me about Mark was that he is ambitious and he feels he should be playing in Dundees first team. He wanted to fight for his place but we managed to convince him to come here until the end of the season. Marks an Australian internationalist who is combative and two-footed. Stuart comes highly recommended and hes scored at every level so far at Fulham. Theyll be offering him a full-time contract at the end of the season. Im impressed by his enthusiasm to come up here and get involved. I felt it was important that we got a physical striker through the middle. I would have preferred an experienced one but they werent gettable. It was also important that we had another experienced goalkeeper at the club. I wanted new faces here to stimulate the players and Im happy with the calibre weve got."
As for today's big clash the manager said, "I would expect everybody to say that its a must-win game and I can understand that. I dont think its right for me to talk in those terms because if we lose Ill not be giving up. So, from my point of view, its not. Weve handled Falkirk quite well in the past. Kevin James (who scored the winner on both occasions this season) has been patched up and rolled out for the matches against us and hes been the difference, but I dont think theyll be able to do that this time."
7.00pm - Paul Hartley gave us the lead at Brokeville but a 2nd half equaliser saw the game end 1-1 whihc was probably a fair result and puts us up into 3rd spot. For the new boys, Mark Robertson was impressive in midfield whilst Stuart Noble came off the bench for the last 10 minutes and showed some potential.
Top Of News
31st - Billy Stark says he can't
be sure how the game will go tomorrow after McCall's flight to Tannadump.
Speaking last night, he said, "There are so many different ways
you can look at it. Theyve still got everybody at the club who was
there on Saturday, apart from their management team, so it might not make
that much of a difference. You never know really. I dont know the
minds of their players and at the end of the day thats what makes
the difference. You only have to look at the two games between us. We lost
them but as far as Im concerned you could quite easily have made a
case for us winning them both, let alone drawing. Looking at their game
against Hearts, if anybody had defended as Hearts did they would have been
Meanwhile we're finally set to sign someone today with Scumdee midfielder Mark Robertson set to sign on loan this morning following the usual quarantine procedures.Kevin Cuthbert will be in goal at Brokeville tomorrow with the manager backing him. "Kevin didnt lose a goal for six games and it was only because of Alan Mains quality that he was left out. Everybody at the club has great confidence in Kevin."
5.30pmThe signings didn't stop there with Billy Stark bringing 3 players into the McDiarmid fold today (just like a win at McD, don't expect one then 3 come along at once). As well as Mark Robertson(far right), a midfielder, signing this morning on loan until the end of the season, we've also pickec up 18-yr old Fulham striker Stuart Noble(left on the pic), also until the summer. The 6-foot tall Gala-born player scored 27 goals last season for Fulham youths and has 19 so far this season including a goal for their reserves last week. And finally Saints have brought in some goalkeeping cover for Kevin Cuthbert. 6ft 1", Aussie-born former Raith keeper Simon Miotto has signed up until the end of this season. The 34-yr old was their coach and no2 keeper last season but left last summer. All three players are eligible for the trip to Brokeville but will miss out on Tuesday night due to being cup-tied.
Elsewhere in the team, both Kevin Cuthbert and Mark Baxter have been told they'll get starting jerseys for the big match at Brokeville. As for the rest Ormond only knows, especially if Stark doesn't want a repeat of last week's performance.
January 30th - Not much to
report today although the Retard has speculated on the "nominal fee"
- believed to be around £5000!!!!
Meanwhile TFOE have announced ticket prices for the 4th round tie - so in the vague hope that we manage to beat TTFKAC at the 2nd attempt expect to cough up £17 / £5 for the privelige of heading to Parkbog. Note that thanks to Martin's Miracle of keeping the Tattie Howkers in Europe beyond the annual edition of Only an Excuse, the game will be played on Sunday February 23rd.
6.pm - The big news in Scotland today saw ex-Saintee Paul Hegarty has been turfed out of the Arabs managerial hotseat, with Weans boss Ian McCall taking over despite the Bairns board refusing his resignation. He's on a 3 1/2 year contract there. All of which is wonderful timing for our trip to Brokeville this weekend.
28th - Billy Stark(right) has
banned all talk of a 4th round cup tie against TFOE until the replay is
out of the way. He said, "I dont like to talk about
prospective ties-Airdrie is the only cup match that concerns me at the
moment although its true that its a tie both clubs would look
forward to. From the players point of view it shouldnt be an
extra incentive at all-they shouldnt need one. Financially, for any
club that gets one of the Old Firm on their own patch its a bonus,
but thats not what were looking for at the moment. We just
want to get through to the next round and it shouldnt matter who we
are playing there. It was a difficult cup tie and we tried to make sure
the players were aware of that and started the game properly. We did that
but but then made life difficult for ourselves by not capitalising and
missing chances before we lost a goal on what must have been Airdries
first attack. We got the break late on and we have to accept that people
will look at that as being lucky but the game should have been done by
half time. Its difficult to correct what is happening. The appetite
for the games is good and we are playing well enough but not being sharp
enough in the penalty area."
The manager also confirmed he's still looking at signing someone before the transfer window closes at the end of the week with 2 deals already having fallen through. Latest rumour has it that the player in question is an SPL player.
6.30pm - The big news today is that Alan Main has donned the gold shellsuit and moved to "Ambitious" Meadowbank for a "nominal fee" with his debut being pencilled in against Partick tonight. Whilst interest in the Saints keeper was known, the actual move has come as a surprise although to be honest it will make a big dent in the weekly losses Saints are making just now. This was echoed by chairman Geoff Brown in his press release where he said, "We have agreed a nominal fee with Livingston for Alan's transfer. Alan's contract was up at the end of this season and it's no secret that he was one of the Club's biggest wage earners and this is something which St Johnstone Football Club , and indeed most other Scottish Clubs, could not afford to sustain. We should remember that it was with Alan's assistance that the Club has enojoyed reaching a Cup Final and success in the UEFA Cup. We wish him all the best for the future". Something echoed by the Temple. Of course it now means that the transfer shopping list has just had another item added to it as no doubt Saints will move to strengthen the goalkeeping position ahead of Friday's deadline.
Elsewhere and the U-21s drew 0-0 last night with the Arabs. Pretty dull game by all accounts but it meant that Ryan Stevenson continued his comeback from injury.
January 27th -Billy
Stark admitted after the game on Saturday that the second-half was
"as poor as weve been in terms of play, shape and
organisation. Well accept our good fortune at the end-which weve
not had much of this season-to keep us in the cup, and Im delighted
that Mark Baxters got his name on the scoresheet at such a young
Paddy Connolly was just glad to get a replay. He said, "I thought it was going to be one of those games where we werent going to score, then Mark comes on and does the business for us. Hes put over a cross to the right area and if it wasnt going in I was there to knock it in at the back post. We really didnt play well at all. Ive played in the Scottish Cup often enough now to know it was going to be a difficult game because they were always going to be up for it, and at times we didnt match them. We had the best chances in the first half, but after we went in at half-time one down it was a battle from then on. Weve now got a chance in the replay to do better."
25th - John Robertson has
come out with the "Quote of the week" today ahead of the trip to
Airdrie. Speaking of the cup-tie he said, "Its not been any
different in training this week. We put pressure on ourselves to do well
every week, no matter the competition. Our mental attitude will be exactly
the same. " - so expect a total collapse after we lose a goal. He
but at least there are no new injury worries this morning.
7pm - Well weren't we bloody lucky today with only a Mark Baxter(right) goal two minutes from time sparing the blushes in a 1-1 draw in the Cup with Airdrie Utd. Replay is on Tuesday Feb 4th. And it means we're still in the draw for the 4th round tonight. Post-match comments from the game were delayed with Billy Stark keeping the players in the dressing room for 45 minutes after the game, with sources saying that the players were "sheepish" when they finally emerged.
And if we get through all that we get the delights of a trip to play TFOE in the 4th round.
24th - It looks like the transfer merry-go-round has kicked off.
Following Broto's move to Sellik, "Ambitious" Meadowbank
are being linked with a move for Alan
Main(right) with a fee of £25,000 being mentioned. If
he does leave it's a big step to reducing the Saints wage bill and
hopefully preventing the return of part-time football next season.
Meanwhile, reports say that Stewart Duff has denied any Saints interest in Ross County midfielder Steve Ferguson.
Meanwhile it's all the romance of the Cup tomorrow (although where we're going it's more like a date with an old slapper who'll give you a dose of the clap if you're not careful). Anyway Billy "Knives out for me" Stark is hoping to avoid the sort of upset that could end his reign at McD. Speaking of tomorrow's tie he said, "People like to say that the Cup gives you a wee break from the rigours of the league week in week out but I don't necessarily believe that. Right now we're trying to win every game and we'll approach this one as we would any fixture. There's no doubt in my mind that this will be tough. They have a few experienced players there and will be happy to go into this tie as underdogs. They have already proved their abilities by beating SPL opposition in Kilmarnock and we know they won't be pushovers by any means." . Teamwise Paddy Connolly has had the all-clear but Chris Hay is described as "struggling to be fit"....which beg's the question What else is new?
2pm Update - Latest is that Jim Leishmann has denied all reports linking Meadowbank with a move for Alan Main
January 23rd - First up and the
admission prices to go see the 3rd round cup-tie against the Team Formerly
Known As Clydebank have been set at £12 for adults and £5 for
the kids. No word on any discount for empty Buckie bottles though.
Elsewhere and yesterday saw the U-21s go 3rd in their league (God a Saints team moving up in a league - how novel!!!) when they beat their "Ambitious" Meadowbank counterparts 2-0. Goals came from Mark Ferry and Martin Maher (whatever happened to him?)
Finally, we're still waiting on official confirmation but Tuesday March 4th looks like the date for the rearranged trip to Somerset Park to play Ayr Utd.
22nd - Billy Stark has warned the
Saints players not to take Airdrie (or the Team Formerly Known As
Clydebank) for granted. Speaking of TFKAC he said, "I saw Airdrie
beat Threave in the last round and they looked nervous and edgy and did
not play well. But the roles are reversed for them this time-they are
taking on the bigger team -and you have to respect what they did in the
CIS Cup this season, going to Rugby Park and winning a tie and making it
tough for United. That said, we wont be finding ourselves in an
unusual situation on Saturday because weve been the team expected to
win 80%-90% of the league games weve played this year."
And he's forced them to watch the video of the Clyde game as well. "We did so many things well, but were undone by getting one or two things wrong. We dominated the game, but I accept that if you do not defend set-pieces you get what you deserve. Five of the six matches weve lost this season have involved us conceding a goal from a set-piece and thats got to be corrected.". Well at least we know when to worry on Saturday.....
7.30pm - Saints have been linked in the papers (along with Ayr Utd) with a possible move for Ross County's transfer-listed midfielder Steve Ferguson(right). County manager Alex Smith has said he expects something to be done in the "next few days".
21st - Not much happening at McD just now although there is a
rumour going round the net that youth coach Alastair
Stevenson(right) could be set to up sticks and leave Saints for
Liverpool or Rangers (depending on who you believe). No official word on
this yet though.
On the playing side Billy Stark has come out and identified the area of the team he wants to strengthen with surprise, surprise a target man being seen as the answer to all our problems. Speaking in the papers he said, "We need a centre-forward with a bit of presence. Our strikers have done well in recent weeks but we need someone to go in and challenge the centre-half. I have a couple of people in mind but it's very difficult in the current circumstances in Scottish football. Wage levels have come back into line and people that are on good contracts are not moving.".
January 20th -
Tommy Løvenkrands is still
wondering where it went wrong on Saturday according to today's papers.
He's quoted as saying, "In the first half we were all over them.
I thought, I dont believe this. I think they only had
one chance. Alan Main had only one save to make. We are desperately
disappointed to lose that one. We had a lot of chances, a lot of crosses
into the box, but we didnt break them down. We made two bad mistakes
that cost us goals and we let ourselves down."
Meanwhile, Billy Stark hit out at the referee's booking of Keigan Parker for diving. He said, "I was disappointed to see Keigan booked. It seems to me its Keigan Parker so he must have dived. Its really unfair. In my time here hes been booked three or four times for that and I cant say many of the bookings were merited."
January 18th -
Alan Main, Chris
Hay and Paddy Connolly will
undergo late fitness tests for their injuries.
Speaking of today's game, Billy Stark said, "Clyde are looking to stay up at the top end of the table just as we are. What we're finding now, with the top four teams in particular, is that points are going to be dropped as we all have to play against each other. We've got Clyde, Inverness and Falkirk all to play in the next few weeks and it's crucial that we take points off all these matches if we're to keep riding high and climb the table. There's no doubt in my mind that Clyde will be thinking along the same lines so this will be a tough game.". And speaking of the injuries, all three are apprently now in the "doubtful but hopeful" category according to the manager.
John Robertson meanwhile believes the original dip in form came from getting too down about the first defeat to the Bairns. He said, "Thinking back we definitely let our heads go down after the Falkirk defeat. Losing that goal and the game affected us much more than it should have and it took us some time to recover. Fortunately things have started to turn again and after beating Ross County last week the chance to get right back in the hunt is there." . And with the Bairns heading back to Gayfield where they dropped points before he's hoping their poor form there continues. "First and foremost weve got to take care of our own business but obviously we are hoping that other teams will take points off the top two as well. Falkirk have struggled against Arbroath already this season and everyone knows Gayfield is not the easiest of places to go to."
7pm - A couple of bad mistakes saw us lose 2-1 to Clyde despite a Paddy Connolly goal giving us an early lead. Elsewhere Caley Thistle lost but the Weans won and we slipped back to 4th, 8 points behind the leaders. Billy Stark wisae happy after the game. He said, "We really lost the game because of a lack of concentration. We pushed back but their keeper was on top form."
17th - Saints have plenty of injury worries ahead of the visit of
Clyde tomorrow. Alan Main is the latest
victim. Along with Chris Hay(right) he's
suffering from a groin complaint and is doubtful. Also doubtful is
Paddy Connolly following his injury
last week although Ian Maxwell has
recovered from his ankle knock. Billy Stark
said, "Paddy is feeling better but we wanted to get him checked
out properly. If everything is OK then he could restart training in the
morning, but at this stage there has to be a question mark over his
availability. Alan Main hasnt trained at all this week and it would
be a big blow for us if he were out. We are fortunate in that Kevin
Cuthbert got a number of games under his belt when Alan was out long-term
last year. However, Alans experience as well as his will to win is
important to us." . And as for Chris
Hay, the manager said, "Chris has had this problem for a
long time and thats why we have been careful with him training wise.
With his not having had a pre-season, this sort of injury was always a
possibility and, despite our nursing Chris along, the groin has become a
bit sorer. It would be a pity if he didnt make it for Saturday as he
has done exceptionally well in terms of getting goals. His stats are
comparable with anyone in the division including Dennis Wyness and Owen
Coyle ... and that when he isnt fully fit."
Saints have also denied any moves for Brechin's Chris Templeman.
January 16th - McD will host the
Scotland v Lithuania U-21 game on Friday October 10th as part of the SFA's
attempt to take the game round the country a bit more.
Not much else to report. Craig Russell is apparently set for a trial with Carlisle United. Closer to home and it's looking unlikely that there will be any further moves in or out of McD during the transfer window.
Saints reserves went down 3-2 at home to Raith Rovers yesterday. Peter MacDonald and Mark Ferry scored for the boys in blue.
15th - Last night saw Airdrie win their 2nd round tie in the
Scottish Cup with a 1-0 victory over Threave Rovers. That means we play
them on Jan 25th at New Broomfield.
At McD there was some good news with Ryan Stevenson(right) now back in full training and declared fully fit by Billy Stark. He said, "Ryan rejoined the squad for full training on Monday. Obviously, after being out for five or six weeks now, his fitness will have to be worked on. Thats something we want to improve with him." . For the other injured players, both Stuart McCluskey and Peter MacDonald are reported to be a week away from full fitness.
Saints should know tomorrow if Paddy Connolly and Ian Maxwell will be able to face Clyde at the weekend but the club are optimistic. Billy Stark said, "Ians had the ankle injury before so he should be OK, and were hoping Paddy (a twisted knee) will be fine as well."
January 14th -
Billy Stark is in the papers today
talking about how difficult the remaining games will be despite our recent
good form. "We had to work hard psychologically to ensure our
season didnt drift away when we fell off the pace. It could easily
have gone that way, but instead weve begun picking up results and,
hopefully, are running into form. Were not yet in a challenging
position but we are getting there. With our still having ground to make
up, I recognise that if we are to win promotion it will almost certainly
come down to the second last or final game of the season. And we have next
to no margin for error. Alex Ferguson used to say you could only afford to
lose between five and eight matches if you were going to win the
championship and, as weve already lost five, its clear we
cannot afford many further defeats. There are of course no absolutes in
football. A team might be beaten nine times, but only draw a couple of
fixtures. However, I think if you look down the years youll see
Fergie was right and I reckon we can suffer only another couple of
reversals and still finish first."
Injury-wise and it's decent news with both Paddy Connolly and Ian Maxwell set to recover from their twisted knee and ankle knocks respectively in time for Saturday's match at home to Clyde.
January 13th -
Mark Reilly has summed up the
improvement in form over the last few weeks as due to Saints cutting out
the fancy football. Speaking after Saturday's win he said, "The
last few home games we have looked a lot better, a lot more positive and
that has followed the manager having a chat with us and our changing a
couple of things. We have pushed three up front and tried to get the ball
forward quicker and it has worked for us so far. Earlier in the season we
were conscious of trying to play football from the back. But now we are
squeezing the game up a bit, we are playing more in the opposition half."
He's also pleased that the pressure has eased, even if just slightly on Billy Stark. "The manager got a lot of stick earlier on but any player who has worked with him will tell you how good he is. When we were struggling it was because the players werent producing the goods-but he got the criticism, which was unjust. To be fair, the chairman deserves a lot of credit for sticking by him through the rough times. It would have been easy to bow to the pressure coming from a section of the support. But the chairman resisted that and was right to do so because there is no doubt that given time Billy Stark will eventually get this club back where they should be. He is very, very knowledgeable on the game and the criticism hes had that he isnt passionate enough is a load of nonsense. People have different personalities, some are more animated than others, but just because you dont jump about like a lunatic on the touchline doesnt mean you dont care. Billy Stark is a winner and I cannot see anything he isnt good at. I have been fortunate to work under a lot of good coaches and he is up there with the best of them."
And one of the best tributes came from County manager Alex Smith who said after the game, "St Johnstone are coming on to a nice run of form. Teams at the bottom of the SPL shouldn't be taking anything for granted. Instead, they should be worried."
Latest news on Paddy Connolly is that he suffered a twisted knee on Saturday. No word on how long, if at all, he'll be out.
January 12th - Big apologies - due to a cock-up by yours truly, the Ross County report didn't get uploaded last night - it's there now though. Thanks to all who took the trouble to spot it was missing and let me know!!!!
11th - Saints game against Ross County is set to be the only Bell's
First Division game to survive the weather with the others failing pitch
inpsections yesterday. Which no doubt means the wonderful Scottish media
will descend on McD so expect falsehoods galore
Looking ahead to today's game Paddy Connolly(right) is looking for us to continue the run and get some points racked up on the leaders. He said, "Inverness and Falkirk just seem to keep on winning. They may have lost the odd game here and there but theyve never hit a slump and its proving hard to peg them back. There has been speculation that both may lose players during the transfer window and hopefully thatll come to something and leave them weakened. However, weve got to set about reducing their lead through getting results ourselves, not just beating them when we play them over the next month or so but going on a six or seven-game winning run of our own. Based on our experience of a couple of years ago when we were 12 points behind Kilmarnock in the Premier League but came back to pip them for a UEFA Cup place we can be optimistic. At the same time, though, we are a little too far off the pace at the moment."
Meanwhile Saints keeper Alan Main has been praising Billy Stark and his coaching methods. The keeper said, "It wasn't long ago that some fans were calling for his head. That was down to frustration with a couple of results. But his methods didn't change. He believes in them and so do the players. The award was richly deserved. I've worked under some very different bosses. At Tannadice, wee Jim McLean was a winner who would rant and rave on the touchline. At Perth, Paul Sturrock could also be like that but it put him in a hospital bed. Billy is totally different but he's a winner too. I've spoken to a few fans who like their managers shouting and bawling at the dug-out but that's not Billy's style. He is more laid back. But everything we do in training is geared towards the match and supporters don't see that side of the job. He gets his message across without losing his rag. That isn't a sign of weakness. He has the complete respect of senior players who know the game. He has learned from managers like Sir Alex Ferguson and he wants to win just as much as any of them."
In terms of team news, there's no new injuries so expect the team and subs to be along the same lines as the Gayfield Glory Boys with only Ryan McCann now absent from the team.
7pm - Well it wasn't great for Paddy Connolly in the end as he went off injured after half an hour today. But goals from sub Chris Hay and a header from Ross Forsyth saw us run out well-deserved 2-0 winners after what has to be about our best performance of the season. The result sees the gap at the top closed to 5 points and Saints now clear in 3rd. After the game Billy Stark said, "The first-half performance was as good as I've seen in my time at McDiarmid."
10th - The good news first of all is that the Ross County game this
weekend is definitely set to go ahead thanks to McD's undersoil heating
and with most of the other games in Tayside and Fife set to be called off
as well as the SPL sitting things out, Saints are hoping for an increased
Meanwhile Billy Stark (right)believes his Manager of the Month awards if for the team as a whole. "Awards are always nice, but this is a reflection on the players performances on the pitch. In the last few weeks the players have found another level in terms of the way they have gone about things. The victories (we also won at Arbroath on January 1) have given them the rewards in terms of points. It is also great that the over-riding theme of our season-not scoring goals -has been put right and Tommys award is a reflection of that. He epitomises what has happened, playing with freedom and confidence. In the last few games we have definitely grown in that department." . And promotion hasn't been ruled out either. "The league season will be about the whole season, not just the first half, and Ive never felt that we were out of it. Weve got to try and build on what weve done recently and if we put a good run together I still feel it can happen for us. I dont know if its been coming out of Falkirk and Inverness that its a two-horse race, but certainly a lot of people have dismissed us. Its stating the obvious, but with three points for a win it wouldnt take that many games to turn things around."
Tommy Løvenkrands is looking to up his goals tally as well on top of his 3 strikes in recent weeks. "First Ill be trying to catch Paul Hartley, who is one in front of me just now, but I need to beat my brother as well. It will always be like that with Peter, we want to beat each other at everything. Hes off at the moment obviously and hell be up here for our game against Ross County hoping I dont score! Things are going well for both of us at the moment. If we could both win our leagues it would be great." . As for Saints and the rest of the season he's just as upbeat as the manager. "Were working as a team now and have scored a lot of goals. The manager took a chance to play me up front in a front three and its paid off. The team is setting me up with a lot of chances and Im really enjoying playing where I am now, up front on the left hand side. Its not been easy this season after being relegated. From my point of view the season started badly when I was injured but now Im back and feeling fit, hopefully things will keep going well."
9th - Off the park and Saints have been awarded the maximum £21,000
SFA grant towards their youth policy as part of the latest distribution of
cash amongst the 20 clubs which have shown that they're developing some
The club have also come out against proposals to introduce an SFL winter shutdown. Stewart Duff said, "Not only do SFL clubs need their gate revenue at this time of year, you also have to consider the unpredictable nature of the winter weather in this country. Because they have pitch protection, Premierleague matches, by and large, get played. But say the SFL opted for a shutdown in January and we had a particularly bad December which led to a large number of postponements. When would the fixture backlog be cleared ?"
For the Ross County game, the chief executive is expecting business as usual. "Our park is solid at the moment, but we will be turning the heating on in time to get it ready for Saturday and are not anticipating any problems".
6.30pm - And it's congratulations to manager Billy Stark and free-scoring (for him anyway) Tommy Løvenkrands(right) who today got the December Bell's Manager of the Month award Player of the Month trophy respectively. Speaking of the award, the manager said, "I'm absolutely delighted to win this award and I think it's a great reflection on all the staff and players at St Johnstone. Similarly, I'm very pleased with Tommy's performances recently. He's started scoring goals for us and that's obviously very important; his award is thoroughly deserved."
Iain Macdonald, speaking for the sponsors said: "Billy Stark is really helping drive the Club forward towards promotion. In December, St Johnstone had an impressive 2-1 win away against Clyde and ended the month with their best home win of the season with a 3-0 victory against Alloa Athletic. Likewise Tommy Lovenkrands had made a big impact in the Club's promotion push, scoring three times this season."....and not a hint of irony there either.
8th - Latest player being linked with a move away from Saints is
Alan Main(right). Out of contract at the
end of the season the keeper is today reported to be being eyed up by Brighton
for a possible move south. Hearts were also apparently interested,
and manager Craig Levein took time out to watch Saints in action against
Alloa with a view to seeing Main in action (such faith in Saints form) but
given their current financial situation, any move by them is being ruled
out until the summer. One other SPL club also linked with a potential bid
for the 35-yr old is Ambitious Meadowbank who'll want cover in the
event of Broto moving to Hibs.
On the incoming front, Billy Stark is keen to get some fresh faces on board but hasn't found his man yet. As the manager said, "It would be good to get a fresh face on board but the sort of player I want is thin on the ground.". In terms of position though it's believed a target man and a midfielder are on the Saints shopping list for the January sales.
January 7th - Not much
happening. A decision is expected in the next 48 hours over the
Ryan McCann loan, with
Billy Stark saying, "No
decision has yet been taken and we will consider it over the next couple
of days" .
And with the weather as bad as it is training was limited yesterday as well.
7pm -Confirmation that the Martyn Fotheringham deal has seen the player only move on loan until the end of the season with Saints reportedly miffed at Dick 'n' Bert for leaking the deal before it was finalised. A more permanent departure was also announced this morning with the news that Ryan McCann is set to return to the Bog Trotters at TFOE with Saints refusing to extend his loan deal. Billy Stark said, "I think Ryan has proved himself to be a very good player. He came here as a 21 year old with no previous first team experience so he will leave Perth having benefited from exactly that. He has done very well here, not letting anyone down and scoring four goals into the bargain. We're thankful for his services over the past six months and he leaves with our very best wishes.". No doubt given the Leprechauns record with TFOE youngsters, McCann can fully expect a transfer to the lower parts of the English League by the summer.
January 6th -
Martyn Fotheringham finally signed for
Brechin at the weekend, according to the Courier, with Saints
agreeing to release the midfielder who was straight into the Glebe Park
squad for their match.
No other transfer moves although Saints are expected to make a decision on whether or not to extend Ryan McCann's loan deal this week. Billy Stark would only say, "We will make a decision this week on whether or not we're able to extend Ryan's loan."
On the injury front there is some good news with Peaso reportedly only 3 weeks away from returning to the first team.
4th - No word of any pitch inspections at Somerset today although
Ross County's game against Falkirk is already a casualty and there's an
early decision to be made on QoS v ICT. Mark
Reilly(right) is more than happy to concentrate on Saints only
though. He said, "I have no doubt the teams above us will drop
points between now and the end of the season and we hope to be ready to
take advantage when they do. But we are not getting caught up in what they
are doing as there is no point worrying about something you cant
influence. We are just concentrating on ourselves and trying to put
together a wee run. We are probably the only team in the top part of the
league that has not gone through a purple patch so hopefully our time has
still to come." .
Billy Stark is expecting a tough game though. "We reacted in the right way at Arbroath in what was a howling gale. We have shown character to come back at teams in recent weeks and have not lost the place despite going a goal behind like we did at Arbroath. Ayr will make it difficult, though, as they have been going well."
Injury-wise Saints have a full squad to choose from - as well as all the midweek knocks recovering, Paddy "Lucky Mascot" Connolly has recovered from his hamstring problem.
11.05am - An 11am pitch inspection saw the game called off. Bugger etc etc etc.
5pm - The draw for the 3rd round of the Scottish cup sees Saints travel to meet the winners of the Airdrie / Threave Rovers 2nd round match (which is due to be played next Saturday). The tie will be at 3pm on Saturday Jan 25th.
January 3rd - Despite a reported
row in the Sun yesterday after the Saints team were again without hot
water for their showers at Gayfield, the club is rather cheery for a
change with no major problems ahead of the trip to Ayr on Saturday.
Billy Stark said, "A few of the
lads took pretty heavy knocks at Gayfield but everyone should be OK for
the Ayr United game. Alan Main was
complaining of a tight groin but he has had a bit of treatment and should
be OK. Ross Forsyth also took a knock
but we expect him to be fine and I do not see too much reason to tinker
with the squad." . The manager also took time out to praise
Tommy Løvenkrands saying, "Tommy
has now scored three in the last four games and I am delighted with the
way he has been playing"
Finally, the draw for the 3rd round of the Scottish Cup will also be made this Saturday after the game.
January 2nd -
Billy Stark praised Saints yesterday for
getting the win despite the dreadful conditions. He said, "We did
not expect it to be quite as bad as it turned out. It is always easier
playing into the wind, though not when you are 1-0 down, but they did what
I asked them to do. I have to praise their determination and character in
getting back into the game. They were determined that they were not going
to let it go. We have now scored two, two, three and three in our last
four games and I think we have now not given people any room to say we dont
Scorer of the 2nd, Tommy Løvenkrands was also a happy man. He said, "We can keep on going like that and get the results, but we just have to keep scoring goals. But I think that will be a turning point."
January 1st - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!- Yup Saints managed another first today, coming from behind for the first time under Billy Stark's reign to run out 3-2 winners at Arbroath in wonderfully Scottish New Year conditions - yup it pissed down, blew a gale and sent brass monkeys round looking for a welder. Goals came courtesy of Ian Maxwell(right), Tommy Løvenkrands and supersub Paddy Connolly. Elsewhere ICT and the Weans had their games called off but Clyde managed a 3-2 win over St Midden leaving things pretty much unchanged league-wise.
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