Unless otherwise noted, all photos copyright PPA (www.ppapix.co.uk). Used with permission.
December 31st - Confirmation today that the Hibs game set for last night will now be played on Wednesday January 20th at 7.45pm giving us 4 midweek games on the trot. Lovely.
December 29th - It's not looking too hopeful for a game tomorrow night. The pitch at McD might be fine but 8 inches of snow in the car park and sub-zero temperatures expected mean that the chances of seeing the boys are remote. Training was abandoned yesterday when they couldn't even load the minibus.
Meanwhile with the transfer window opening at the end of the week we've been linked with 34-yr old ex-TFOD centre-half Craig Moore whose season is over in Australia and is looking for a short-term deal to give him games ahead of the 2010 World Cup.
12.00 - Well as expected freezing conditions have put paid to tomorrow night's game.
December 28th - Chris Millar is in the papers today talking about the new hat-trick hero. After helping to set up all 3 of Peaso's goals, the midfielder told the Courier, "I am delighted for Peaso. As everyone knows, he has endured a torrid time with injury over the last few seasons. He has proved himself mentally tough as he has suffered more than a few setbacks along the way and it is little wonder he is a cult hero at St Johnstone. He’s a real livewire and a great character to have around the club, even if I have been on the receiving end of a few of his pranks on nights out. With Peaso back and Steven Milne also returning, as well as Andy Jackson nearing full fitness, it will be like having three new signings. It will give us great firepower up front. I think we are the third top goal scorers in the league but we have the worst defensive record. If we can all defend better as a team, then we will start picking up even more wins. Motherwell are on a wee bit of a bad run just now and you could see when we equalised that their body language seemed a bit flat and we sensed as a team that we could push on and win."
Meanwhile the same paper has confirmed that the centre-half trialist is Romanian Roman Konecny but isn't going to be at the club until the New Year.
December 26th - Saints have plenty of injury worries for today's game. Steven
Anderson and Stuart McCaffrey have both trained but Dave Mackay is still struggling after a knock last weekend although the latter two took part in training yesterday. Liam
Craig though reckons we should be looking up the table instead of over our shoulders. He told the Courier, "I think we should be looking above us. I certainly don’t want to be part of a team looking over our shoulders and why should we be looking at what’s going on below us? Why not be setting about catching the teams that are ahead of us? Beating St Mirren was a massive result, which took us within a couple of points of sixth place. Three points this weekend would take us within a point of Motherwell, who are fifth at the minute. And with Hearts—who we’re a point behind— playing Falkirk, something’s got to give there. So let’s go for it and see where that leaves us come 4.45pm."
As for the Xmas Day training session, he went on, "The manager gave us Christmas Day off two years ago when I’d just come to the club. And we went and drew 0-0 down at Stirling Albion on Boxing Day. So there was no chance he would give us Christmas off again. This just goes with the territory when you are a footballer, however. And busy though the festive period is, you prefer to be playing Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday rather than training. With a midweek game coming up next week, I won’t manage to celebrate Christmas Day or my birthday. But there will be time enough to do that once we get this run of games out of the way and hopefully we are in a better position in the league."
6.30pm - Peaso(right) started his second game of the season and notched up a cracking hat-trick as we came from behind to beat Well 3-1 on their own patch. After the game the hat-trick hero told the BBC, "It's good to get three goals, but I'm more delighted with the three points. We needed them, as the first-half wasn't good enough, and the gaffer let us know. You could see straight from kick-off, we were right in about them. If the team is playing well, the goals come. It's just good to be back playing. The gaffer gave me another chance and put a bit of faith in me, so I'm glad he did. Derek is a top-notch manager, so it's no wonder teams are looking at him."
December 24th - Savo(right) has been speaking to the Courier about his return from injury and revealed that Geoff Brown apparently wanted him shot. "The chairman wasn’t exactly sympathetic. I seem to recall him saying that it might be cheaper to put me down. But at least I’ve never been on the treatment table because of a sore thumb—which was what he was in seeing Nick about. To be fair that joking about helped me get through my rehab. Honestly, you get so bored in the gym, where there are no windows, and getting treatment day in day out that anyone coming in and giving you stick keeps you going. I was worried another operation might be required.
It seemed to be heading that way because the problem wasn’t clearing up. We were trying everything. I even shut it down completely for a few weeks to give it a chance to recover. But I was still getting pain when I tried to train. However, as a last resort I took a steroid injection two weeks ago and that seems to have done the trick.".
His comeback was at the weekend when he came off the bench and he said, "It was good to be back even if I was knackered afterwards. I actually surprised myself at how well I adjusted to the pace of the game. I thought I'd struggle but it wasn't a problem. I felt really sharp and lively."
The players will be training tomorrow ahead of the Boxing Day trip to Motherwell. They've been joined by a Serbian central defender and a Swedish goalkeeper on trial. Meanwhile the usual speculation is mounting over the manager after Craig Levein was appointed Scotland boss. Del, who was unfortunate enough to be sentenced to a spell at Tannadump in his playing days, has been made one of the front-runners in bookie-land although Saints are already saying a large six-figure sum has been placed on his head in terms of compensation.
December 22nd - Saturday's goal hero Chris Millar has put pen to paper on a new 2-yr contract. His current one expires in the summer but he told the Sun, "I was delighted to sign the new deal. To get another two years at this stage shows how happy the club are with how I'm doing. It makes you feel wanted, so for me it was a no-brainer. I've been here nearly two years now and I've loved every minute of it. There is one regret, though - maybe I should have held out on signing the deal until after the weekend. I'm sure I could have added a few zeros after my winner against St Mirren! I'm just glad it's all sorted now to be honest. To get some long-term security is great, especially in this climate."
As for the weekend win he went on, "Beating St Mirren was huge for us. I think everyone was disappointed with our last couple of games, so it was good to get back to winning ways. The next few weeks are crucial for us because things are so tight. I think we've got to be happy with the first half of the season. We could have picked up a few more points, but the displays have been good most of the time. This is an ambitious club though, and we don't just want to be happy with survival every year."
Meanwhile with Craig Levein set to be appointed Scotland boss today, Del has been linked with the job but is apparently rated an outsider since Geoff Brown has already said he'll play hardball over any approach.
December 19th - It's a big game today and with the defence coming under fire in recent weeks, Dave Mackay has come up with a festive analogy and wants us to become Scrooge-like at the back. He told the Courier, "It’s about time we got a clean sheet. We’ve only had the one all season—Hamilton away—and we need to start shutting the door at the back to give the team the chance that nicking one goal would be enough to win games. We’ve been losing far too many goals and that has to stop, otherwise we’ll not be picking up many points. We also need to be doing better at home. We’ve only won once in the league at McDiarmid Park, and taking just one point from the last two games there fell well short of what we’d have expected.". He might have to cover in the middle of defence today but that doesn't worry him. "We are struggling in central defence at the minute, and if I’m needed to step in there I’m happy to do that. I’ve played the position a few times in the past, so it would be nothing new. Right-back is my best position, but I can do a reasonable job in the middle."
It looks like being a makeshift lineup today though. Del said, "I have about a third of my squad out. I felt we had a decent squad, but we have had to rely heavily on it in the last couple of weeks. The players who are here will all be willing to put their shoulder to the wheel for the team, and we will have enough to go in to the St Mirren game with confidence and overcome the situation."
7pm - A good 1-0 win over St Midden this afternoon saw Saints move up to 7th. Chris Millar got the goal but there was more cheer for Saints fans with the return of both Peaso and Savo to the Saints lineup. After the game Del told the BBC, "We said we'd sacrifice a good performance as long as we got the result. I think it was more of that today. It was imperative that we showed the right sort of resilience and we were determined to get a clean sheet. That was the basis for winning the game. There were times we could have shown more quality, but the important thing was getting that victory."
December 18th -With Steven
Anderson and Stuart McCaffrey both looking like missing out this weekend it looks like Dave Mackay(right) will be switched to central defence as cover. Del told today's Courier, "We signed Dave in the summer to put pressure on every position across the back line. And although he has bedded himself in at right-back, where he has produced a real consistency of performance, I know he’ll never let us down whatever role we ask him to take on. The position we are in at the moment is such we may need to shift things about. And in such circumstances players like Dave Mackay, are vital.". The manager also issued a bit of a rallying call to the players saying, "What with the injuries we have—and unfortunately it’s big players and big characters we are without—and the nature of the loss at Ibrox we have to rally round and dig out a win against St Mirren to get us going again. We’re not enjoying the best of luck just now but we need to forget about that and what happened last week and see Saturday for what it is—an opportunity to get back on track. The fact we’ve failed to win our last two home games has impacted on us. It’s time to return to winning ways at McDiarmid Park."
That was echoed by Jody Morris who scored against the Midden last time out. But after only taking one point at the Methadome, the midfielder said, "We battered St Mirren that day. We defended really well —which we’ll need to do this time as well—and on chances created should definitely have won the game. Now we need to repeat that performance allied to being more clinical in our finishing. We like to think we’ve a good chance of beating anybody at McDiarmid Park. Unfortunately the last two home results haven’t been what we’d have wanted. So we need to be taking the three points this time. What happened against Rangers wasn’t the greatest preparation for a so-called six pointer like this game is. But the manager has been fairly insistent this week that we need to put that behind us and be fully focused on producing the type of performance which wasn’t there at Ibrox."
There was some good news - Steven Milne has managed to train this week but a bench spot is about as good as he can hope for.
December 16th - More bad news for Saints with the results of Collin Samuel's knee op. The surgeon trimmed some cartilage but the striker will be out for 6-8 weeks. Added to that there are doubts over both Steven Anderson and Danny Grainger who are suffering from knocks. Del told the Official Site, "It’s another blow but we have to get on with it. The good news is that the damage was obvious and quickly repaired and so it is not like he has come back unsure of what the problem is and has uncertainty hanging over him."
December 15th - With St Midden coming to Perth at the weekend, Del is looking for a positive reaction from the players after last weekend's nightmare. Speaking to the Courier he said, "Saturday wasn’t an enjoyable afternoon at all. Any manager going to an Old Firm venue says the same thing to his team—to keep things tight and try to frustrate. But from the very first minute we were behind, having committed the cardinal sin of giving Rangers an easy goal. There were positives from our performance. In the middle of the park we went toe to toe with them and never looked second best in there. A number of players can be proud of their efforts. But that was overshadowed by the mistakes we made. We worked hard on the defensive side of things last week. It’s clear we need to do more. No dressing it up. It was a poor 90 minutes from us. But this was a game we weren’t expected to get a result from so it’s not really affected us league wise. The two home games—against Hamilton and Kilmarnock—that we haven’t won have impacted more on us than losing to Rangers. But we have to go and ensure we get back to winning games when St Mirren come here on Saturday. And to do that we need to cut out these mistakes which are giving the opposition a lift and killing us."
That's not helped by the injury situation. Stuart McCaffrey is already a major doubt for the weekend with his groin strain while Kevin Rutkiewicz is set to be out for several months. The manager went on, "He won’t be getting surgery. He has torn the same medial ligament as he did earlier this year, but in a different spot. But it’s not a complete tear. You can operate but it means a 4-5 months lay-off, whereas if it heals naturally it can be shorter.". Martin Hardie has had the first of his series of ops to pin his knee and Collin Samuel undergoes his op in London today. Del said, "Hopefully when they scope Collin, it’s just what the scan has indicated, that he has a piece of cartilage that is grumbling and annoying him"
All of which means we can expect some activity in the transfer market at the end of this month. The manager said, "With Hardie and Rutkiewicz out long term and Andy Jackson not having played for a while we are definitely looking to see what is out there when the window opens. That was always going to be the case. However, the extent to which we attempt to strengthen will be influenced by results in December."
December 14th - Kevin Moon(right) is one of those who will be working to make amends for last weekend's game. He spoke to the Courier about the nightmare at the weekend and said, "Obviously, with a start like that we made it hard for ourselves. After that we had a mountain to climb in order to get back into the game. It was just one of those days. We have had a lot of good performances this season but this wasn’t one of them. Recently we have not been scoring freely and we made too many mistakes. Now we need to pick ourselves up in the days to come so that we are ready for Saturday. We need to get back into training as soon as possible and get this out of our system. The St Mirren match is a massive game for us and now we need to start getting good results. We are a group and we will all work together to try to make it right."
December 12th - With an injury-hit side heading to the Death Star today to take on the Trolls of Govan, Dave Mackay is keen to ensure he holds onto the jersey. Speaking to the Courier, he said, "I have played every match in the SPL and although I was a sub for the Co-operative Cup fixture against Stenhousemuir, I came on later in the game. I even appeared in the friendly up in Turriff to help open their floodlights so I have played nearly every minute of the season so far. Despite that, I take nothing for granted as there is always competition for places. I obviously didn’t see many St Johnstone games last year but right-back Gary Irvine was supposedly one of the better players for the team. He looks really good in training and in friendly matches so I know I simply can’t afford to let the level of my performance drop at all or there will be somebody ready to step in and take my place. I think my greatest strength is my consistency. I try not to let my standards drop throughout the length of a season. I might not be exceptional every week but I give the type of performance which seems to please the manager of every club I have been at. We have been creating lots of chances but we just haven’t been clinical enough. However the boys are getting fed up of hard-luck stories. You can only be unsuccessful so many times before you start thinking we should be making our own luck. The boys worked incredibly hard last season to get to the SPL and we are determined to do well today."
Meanwhile its been announced that the second home SPL tie against Rangers is also moving to a lunchtime kick-off with a 12.45pm start on Feb 20th.
6.30pm - A generally shite afternoon as the rank rotten Saints defending was put to the sword with the first goal in a 3-0 defeat at the Death Star coming within thirty seconds. There was little to cheer up the Saints fans as we rarely threatened and looked poor at the back and up front. Del wasn't happy either and told the BBC, "It was such a ridiculous start. To find yourself so quickly going behind is a sore one to take. Some of the defending today was indefensible. I can't excuse that. At this level, there were so many poor decisions from us defensively. I don't think Rangers had to do a lot to get their win and that's the galling part of it. It was an easy three points for Rangers in the end because of our defending. There were still positives from the game. There was a lot we could be pleased about in terms of passing."
December 11th - As usual because we're playing one of the Bigot Bros this weekend, there extra patronising pish in the papers this week with every TFOD connection being dragged up. From the news that Jonatan Johansson and Del(right) once played for the Dark Ones in the Courier to Graeme Smith going on about his return to the Death Star in the Sun it's the usual stuff with all and sundry commenting on the financial troubles of TFOD and their European "crisis".
With a rare mention of Saints though Del told the Courier, he's treating the match just like any other. "This is the first time I have been back to Ibrox as a manager and it is something I am really looking forward to. But, personal stuff aside, it is just another tough game for St Johnstone and we are desperate to pick up points there. I think we have moved on now from being a promoted first division team travelling to these great venues just to enjoy the experience and make up the numbers—we are going there to get a result. Collin Samuel hasn’t been able to train all week because of a bit of fluid on his knee but he has responded well to treatment and I expect him to be available for Saturday. With just three injuries, I have the luxury of making changes. We had a bounce game on Monday and everyone who took part gave me selection headaches for the Rangers game. But I already have a fair idea of my team and the lads taking part will also know after our training session. That was different to my days at Rangers when Walter Smith would announce the team on the day of the game and I would just be clinging on hoping for a substitute place."
5.30pm - So with all the predictability of a Rangers exit from Europe, the build-up to the big game has seen the injury curse strike again. Skipper Kevin Rutkiewicz who was only just back in the team and looking to silence the doubters tomorrow caught his studs in training causing a partial tear of his medial ligament. That's going to keep him out for 2-3 months. And Collin Samuel who has suffered from a knee knock will undergo an exploratory op tomorrow ruling him out for a few weeks. Add to that Stuart McCaffrey has picked up a groin strain to make him doubtful.
Del told the Official Site, "Kevin has injured the same knee as he hurt in the pre-season game at Cowdenbeath. There was nobody near him, he simply caught his studs in the turf and went down in pain. The initial thoughts were that he had torn the ligament completely which would have meant a four month absence but we've heard this morning that it is a only partial tear and so we are looking at two to three months. It's a huge blow for Kevin who will find it hard mentally to deal with this so soon after coming back from his previous injury but we?ll rally round him and I know he will work hard to get back. I'm gutted to be without my captain and a hugely influential player.". As for Sammy, he went on, "Sammy took a knock on the knee last week and he has been unable to run without pain all week. He consulted a specialist on Monday who has monitored him this week but Sammy has not been able to function properly all week and we have taken the specialist suggestion that he gets an op to clean up what we hope is just some cartilage damage. It's another blow as Sammy is a big part of what we are trying to do here."
Elsewhere Stephen Reynolds has extended his loan spell at Ayr until the 7th January.
December 8th - With Saints in need of a striker, there's a timely interview with Andy
Jackson in the Courier today. He's almost back to full training and told the paper, "Everything is going great. I’m actually ahead of schedule in my recovery. I’m back kicking the ball and today stepped up my running. The only thing I’ve left to do is sprinting. So I’ve set myself the target of being back training with the boys a couple of weeks from now. Then it will be a case of trying to get as many reserve games in as I can before hopefully making a competitive return. Unfortunately, between the weather being as it is and the fact we are headed into the festive period, there won’t be that many reserve matches getting played. But I’ll take anything. I’m just looking forward to January 1 and a new year—because the old one has been lousy!
In fact, the last two years have been a write off for me. After finishing top scorer two seasons ago, I was looking forward to kicking on. But then I developed an illness which knocked me sideways. And I was only just getting fully fit when I did my achilles against Livingston. And then of course two days into pre-season I did the knee—leaving me needing surgery to re-attach the hamstring and pin the lateral ligament that I had snapped. I don’t mind admitting that for two weeks after I hurt my knee I just sat staring at the TV asking myself ‘Why me?’. But the manager was brilliant, keeping me upbeat.
And his prediction that I’d come back stronger looks like being spot on because I’ve spent a lot of time doing weights and leg circuits. Physically I’m feeling stronger than I have ever done, and mentally I’m fine too because I’ve come to realise that there are people worse off than me. Just look at Martin Hardie who is out for the season. I bet he’d love to be in my shoes, coming back. I’m only 21 and hopefully now I can enjoy a good few years without any hiccups."
Del has admitted that our failure to capitalise on chances is a problem. "We are scoring goals from other areas of the team but have to get the strikers scoring on a regular basis. I know every club is crying out for that but we should be scoring more goals, given the number of deliveries into the box.". Jonatan Johansson was on target at least yesterday getting both goals as we won 2-1 against Celtic in a closed-doors game. Peaso and Graham Gartland both got 90 minutes.
December 7th - While the result didn't go our way at the weekend one player who was at least slightly happier was Peaso(right) who made his first team comeback as he came off the bench late on. The striker told the Sun today, "It's been good to be back again because my last game was a long time ago. I never knew I was going to be playing until ten to two when the gaffer read the team out. The treatment I got in Germany was top notch and it's made a real difference. It wasn't the comfiest but it's been worth it. I had goat's blood injected into my hamstring and an epidural into my spine to relax my back. I had a total of about 60 jags so it was quite intensive. He's world-renowned. Michael Owen and Michael Ballack have seen him, Usain Bolt uses him. I'm looking forward to the idea of getting a few games under my belt. All I can do is play well, work hard and try to stay fit. If that happens then hopefully the manager can't ignore me."
Del might not ignore him as well as he looks to sort the striking problem as we struggle to make the most of our chances. He told the paper, "We're looking for a consistency in results, we've had the performances. I don't want to be part of an unlucky side. It's not unlucky that we've not scored, it's not unlucky that we haven't kept a clean sheet. They've done very little for their goal in my opinion. We've had plenty of traffic into their box but have never taken advantage of it. Some of the play was great, but we all need to take responsibility in terms of getting the ball over the line."
There's a closed-doors game against Celtic today as he looks to try and fix those problems ahead of this weekend's coming trip to the Death Star.
December 5th - One player looking forward to today's encounter is skipper Kevin Rutkiewicz(right) as he goes up against Kevin "StreakofPish" Kyle. He told the Courier, "I believe that Kevin is the form hitman in the league. He has led the line as a target man better than anyone this season and I think he’s vital to how Kilmarnock play. Even if he isn’t performing well on the day, he still makes things difficult for defenders because of his size. He ruffles you up a bit but I’m looking forward to the challenge. He’s an international striker who’s played in the English Premiership and you need to test yourself. I may be conceding a few inches and stones as he’s a big powerful laddie but this is where I want to be and I’m really looking forward to it. I have been reasonably happy with my form since I came back from my injury and it’s getting to the stage now where I’m feeling really fit again. I’m hoping that I can steer clear of injury and get a run of games under my belt. We have only lost one game in five and the boys’ good run of form has really helped me as it’s always harder when you come back if the team is struggling or losing games. I was champing at the bit from the end of last season to get back into the SPL and it was frustrating having to wait because of my injury. But I can’t help thinking about my team-mate Martin Hardie who has had that taken away from him for the entire season after suffering his knee injury last month.
He knows we can still do better though. "The good thing is that we are still getting points even although we aren’t at our best. This is a crucial time of the year and it’s vital that we get points on the board. One thing we need to realise is that we aren’t going to dominate teams for 90 minutes in the SPL. Collectively, we have to be aware that during the spells when we aren’t on top and have to concede a wee bit of ground, we have to consolidate and make ourselves a very difficult team to beat. We are fully aware that we are conceding too many goals. Maybe last year in the first division we weren’t under the same intensity of pressure when we weren’t in control of a game. So we need to be ruthless in defence as I fully believe we have the firepower to create and score against anybody. As a team, we are really determined to do well against Kilmarnock as when we played them in the first game of the season it was probably the only time we haven’t performed at all. It is a big game for us. They are likely to come here and try to frustrate us and play ugly. But we have to stand up to the physical challenge and the result will probably depend on how well we play."
Meanwhile it was hard luck for the Saints U-19s who went down 2-0 at Tynecastle in the Cup last night.
8pm - A lacklustre performance despite dominating the game (16 shots to their 4) saw us lose 1-0 at home to Killie in a game which surely has to provide a kick up the arse to the squad who are carrying too many passengers just now. After the game, Del told the BBC, "There's a real frustration. We lost a poor goal and it gave Kilmarnock something to hold on to. Being the away team it possibly galvanised them and it made it more difficult for us to score. We were the better team in the way we played and we certainly worked their goalkeeper. But we need to look at our own failings and the fact we haven't scored. We know we should've scored today and the very least got a 0-0. It was a poor goal we lost today and it won't stack up at this level."
December 4th - Goalkeeper Graeme Smith is in the Courier today. Talking about his form since he came into the side he said, "I never had any intention of coming here and just walking into the team as Alan Main is a good goalie. Having said that, I came to play, to force the issue and to give the manager a hard decision to make. Being injured in pre- season meant it took a lot longer than I would have wished to get there, but since I came in against Dundee United in the Co-op Cup, I feel I haven’t done too badly. The only thing that’s disappointed me is that I haven’t managed to keep a clean sheet yet. Admittedly, I would take a 4–3 scoreline every week as long as the team are winning, but clean sheets are always the icing on the cake for a goalkeeper. Hopefully, I will register my first against Kilmarnock."
Meanwhile the manager confirmed that Graham Gartland is available for this weekend's game after recovering from his shoulder injury. Del went on, "I think Kilmarnock are a very experienced side who have been established in the SPL for a while now. Like last Saturday against Hamilton, I believe it will be very tight and keenly contested. The fact that they are down where they are at the moment makes every game for them even more important. But I think now that, regardless of the opposition, we expect to win every game at home and we are determined that the three points up for grabs will stay in Perth."
December 3rd -It's Gary
Irvine's turn in the paper to get the sympathy vote today. After sitting on the sidelines for most of this season, the right-back reckons its his own fault for having an ankle op in the summer which caused him to lose his place. Speaking in the Courier he said, "I was desperate to kick on from last season and the thinking in getting the op done was that I’d be fully fit and raring to go when we started our SPL campaign. I didn’t need to get the surgery. It was optional. But I just felt it was the right thing to do getting the matter addressed. Having been told it was an easy operation to come back from—the timescale for my rehabilitation was meant to be four weeks—I got it done halfway through the summer holidays. But the rehab kept eating into my pre-season and I still had niggling pain when the games came around. Being the kind of person who tries to soldier on, I kept going. In hindsight, though, I maybe didn’t do myself any favours— and probably shouldn’t have had the op full stop. All I was suffering from was a wee bit extra bone that was blocking the joint. And I managed to get through the whole of last season with it.”
"It has been hard to take after racking up 80 odd games over the two previous seasons. Being in this position has taken some adjusting to. It’s good to be back on the bench. At least that’s better than sitting in the stand. But having played the part I did for two seasons I still finding it hard not playing. All the advice I’ve had from people whose opinions I value, however, is that this is just one of those things that happens in football and I just need to keep plugging away in training and the reserve games. Dave has done a really good job and, however much I want to be involved, I have to credit him for staying as consistent as he has"
There was a bit of sympathy from the manager but Derek McInnes said, "There’s no doubting Gary’s ability or attitude and I fully expect him to do well for us again. It’s been difficult for him finding himself in this situation having been used to playing week in week out. He’s frustrated and no matter what I say it’s hard for him. But Gary has just got to keep himself right mentally and physically so he’s ready to step in, because I’m sure his opportunity will come."
December 1st - Steven Milne(right) is due to up his training regime this week and can't wait to get back. The striker told today's Courier, "I’m going to see what bits and pieces I can do over the next few days but I’m not sure I’ll manage full training this week. It’s really just a case of trying to move things forward as best I can at the moment. That’s eight weeks I’ve been out for now and it’s been a long haul. At the time I thought it was a bad injury and although initially I was told I’d be out for three to four weeks, it then emerged I’d a grade-two tear of an ankle ligament. I’ve had five injections in the ankle and unfortunately it hasn’t responded as well as we’d hoped—but I just have to concentrate on getting back fit. I’m not setting any targets for a comeback game. I’ve not looked at the fixture list and thought I’ll aim for a certain game, because I’ve done that before and not made it. I just want to get back playing—even a reserve game would do."
Meanwhile Graham Gartland is also nearing full fitness after missing out with his shoulder injury. Derek McInnes said, "Graham is coming on fine. He trained the early part of last week but was still aware of the shoulder and we had to rest him down Thursday and Friday with a view to looking at him again for this week. He’s bursting to get back into things, though, and could be involved in a closed-doors game we have planned for tomorrow. It’s as much a confidence thing as anything with this sort of injury. He just needs to adjust to having this wee bit discomfort and understanding it’s not a problem."
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November 30th - Saturday goalscorer Filipe Morais is full of praise for Del in the paper today. The winger told the Courier, "When the manager tells you you are a good player, it really means something because that is Derek McInnes saying it— it gives you great confidence. For a player, he’s brilliant because he looks at every detail and gives every player individual treatment. I’ve played under good managers and Derek is up there with the best. I always thought he could go on to manage because he is so professional. He’s very different to Owen Coyle but the sky’s the limit for him—his knowledge of football is vast. You know he’s going to the top and you want to do your best for him and hopefully he’ll take you with him. I have to make sure I do my left-back role because in the past that was one of my weaknesses. I wouldn’t like to say it is now because I’ve worked so hard and, with my pace, no one is going to get in behind me anymore."
Meanwhile his manager joined in the mutual admiration and Del said, "Filipe is the type of guy who has to earn the right to play by affecting the game in four or five instances and he did that last week setting up the goal against Hearts and this week by scoring. I’m really pleased because today he also stuck to his defensive duties and never gave up on that, as well as giving something different in attack. We were always trying to get the winner after we drew level. Against Hamilton it’s about individual battles and I thought we won the majority of those and that’s why it is disappointing we didn’t pick up all three points."
Finally a reminder that tickets for the trip to the Death Star on December 12th go on today for those of us that want to donate to charity and help the poor in Govan.
5pm - The 4th round cup draw has, just for a change, thrown up a tie against someone other than the Old Firm. Saints will be heading up to Station Park to take on Third Division Forfar. While a home tie might have been nice (since we seem to spend all our time on the road in the cups these days) at least we have a better than decent chance of progressing to the last 16. The game is scheduled for January 9th and expect some sort of ticket allocation to accomodate the large travelling support.
November 28th - Comeback star Kevin Moon(right) who made a big impact off the bench last weekend is looking for a starting place against Accies today. After being helped in his comeback from a groin injury with a change in diet and a special gumshield, the midfielder told the Courier, "It was such a relief when I was told I was going on against Hearts because it has been such a frustrating time for me. It was great to be back involved and I was really excited when the manager said he was changing it and giving me a chance. I was told to get us going from side to side and to spread the play a bit. The team did really well and we went on to win the game, which was great.".
Talking about his treatment, he went on, "The dental specialist gave me a gumshield to wear and I was also advised to change my diet. So I became a vegetarian and have not eaten any meat products since. I just felt that I had to take on board what they were telling me because I need to consider my career and livelihood. I would try anything within reason if it meant getting back involved with the first team. Fortunately, these latest steps appear to have paid off and I am now looking forward to fighting for my place. I am feeling better and it seems to be working for me. Maybe I am finally winning what is a mental battle as much as a physical one. I still have some way to go to get my match sharpness up to where I want it to be but I will be doing the extra work required to keep myself right."
Ando is fully fit but Graham Gartland, Kenny Deuchar and Danny Grainger all face late fitness tests again.
6.30pm - As last week we went behind but an equaliser from Filipe Morais wasn't enough as despite a load of pressure we settled for a 1-1 draw with Accies. Del wasn't too happy and told the BBC, "Naturally, I'm disappointed. I thought we had done enough to win the game. We had a really good response to going behind. In this league, it's always tight and sometimes it can be a set piece that can be the difference. We're disappointed to lose a goal from a set piece because it's very unlike us. We started the game great, forced them back and had two or three opportunities but the goal didn't come. In the second half, I thought we were the better side and did enough to win the game. It's a point for us but we're disappointed we've not picked up three."
November 27th - It's been a pretty quiet week at McDiarmid. But with the weekend match against Accies looming, Filipe Morais has come out in the Courier and said he expects a tougher game than the one at Tynecastle last weekend. Speaking to the Courier the winger said, "Now it would be really good to go on and beat Hamilton and do the double on them after getting our first SPL victory of the season against them. However, my next prediction is that it will be an ever harder game than the Hearts one because they really battle hard and you have to grind it out against them. The last time the gaffer changed a rigid formation, so we could battle against them, and we nicked two goals. We will see what he does this time but whatever way we line up it will be difficult.".
He also expects to be fit for the game despite limping off last weekend with a calf injury. "I hurt my calf during the game last week when there was no one around me. I thought I might have pulled the muscle but it transpired that I had not drunk enough fluids the night before and the leg was cramping up. Then I hurt my back during training. We were on the Astroturf because of the bad weather not allowing us to train on grass. A disc came out of place and hit a nerve. Nevertheless, I hope to be OK. By taking painkillers I can get through a training session and I am sure I would manage a game, even if I have to get an injection."
November 23rd - Despite the weekend win, the news about Martin Hardie (he's apparently ruptured both his medial and cruciate ligaments) has cast a cloud of gloom over the dressing room. Liam
Craig(right) told the Courier, "Martin is a great big lad and is as honest as they come. He worked extremely hard to get fit for the SPL. He is 33 years old and to have been competing again at SPL level was a great achievement for him. So it’s a real shame, but the boys will be around about him to help him through the injury. I have heard his season is over but hopefully we can remain a premier league club so that when he comes back he will still be a premier league player. That is what he deserves."
As for the game and the red card for Goncalves, Liam Craig went on, "The ball bounced towards me and I saw Sammy running in behind Goncalves. I went to head the ball on and saw his big size 12 (boot) coming towards me. He was running at a fair pace. I am six-foot tall and didn’t bend down any. I think he did try to play the ball and I don’t think it was deliberate. Obviously the referee saw the intent was there and that is why he was sent off. It is up to the referee to decide whether or not it was a red card. We weren’t great in the first half but in the second we looked after the ball better and were very brave. To go one goal down at Tynecastle and come back and win is terrific. It was also brilliant for JJ to get his first goal for the club and hopefully that will give him confidence to get some more. I didn’t see him initially and just stuck the ball across goal. I then watched him stick it in the net after checking with the linesman that he was onside."
Graham Gartland, Kenny Deuchar and Danny Grainger are the main doubts for Saints.
November 22nd - While the players were celebrating yesterday's win, there was some bad news, as Martin Hardie has been ruled out for the season. His medial ligament injury is worse than initially thought and Del told the Official Site, "It’s a horrendous injury for a footballer and we’re devastated for him. He’s popular in the dressing room and with the fans and he’ll be a big loss but he will come back from it and we now have to make sure that we are still an SPL team when he is ready to start playing again."
November 21st - It's looking more and more likely that Graham Gartland(right) will be available today as he reaps the benefits of treatment this week. The defender told the Courier, "I had an injection in the shoulder on Tuesday and it really seems to have helped my recovery. I have a lot of movement back in the joint although obviously if I fall on it badly again, then I might have a problem. I’m desperate to play as I haven’t missed a game so far this year and it’s a record I want to continue. However, I would never say I was fit for personal reasons—if I didn’t think I was right, then I would immediately tell the manager. When the injury happened at Aberdeen, I initially thought that I had dislocated it and tried to put it back in myself. A player I knew who had a lot of problems with his shoulder once told me that if you rotate your arm, you can put it back yourself and it is better than having someone else do it as it’s more natural. However, it wasn’t a dislocation. The bone and the A/C had just popped up a little. My team mate Danny Grainger drove me home in his car after the game and it was quite sore then, although that was nothing compared to the pain on the Sunday. I was also scheduled to have an the operation on my nose on the Monday. I had broken it before and I was having a lot of sinus trouble. I kept getting sick and needed antibiotics every two months or so. I said to the gaffer that it was draining me so we scheduled the op for the international break—it definitely wasn’t done for cosmetic reasons."
He's looking for revenge today, after we dropped 2 points earlier in the season against the Jambos. "The first game we had against them back in August was like a lot we’ve played this season. We probably should have killed them off early on but we let them back into the game and only secured a draw. But one thing about the boys is that they have a lot of character and the manager has also instilled the belief that even if we are behind in a game, it can still be salvaged."
Latest is that both Danny Grainger and Steven "Toe-job" Anderson have joined Kenny Deuchar in the list of late doubts for the game with all three facing fitness tests. For the Jambos Andy Driver and Jamie Mole are set to miss out.
5pm - It was a bit of a nightmare first-half that saw us go behind but goals from Collin Samuel and sub Jonatan Johansson saw us run out 2-1 winners at Tynecastle against a home side that were reduced to ten men late on. Del was happy with the win and told the BBC, "In the first half we were disappointed with our performance. We fell in love with the longer ball to Kenny Deuchar, but with the players we have we've got to try to pass it and move it more and I thought we did that in the second half. We mixed the game up and created chances and we thoroughly deserved our win. I thought we had the momentum from the start of the second half and we worked very hard for the equaliser. It was a great bit of skill from Filipe Morais digging it across for Collin Samuel. With the ordering off the game did swing more towards us. It was a break for us - I think it was the right decision - and I'm delighted to come away with three points."
November 20th - Latest from the camp is that Graham Gartland has an outside chance of playing tomorrow after receiving some intensive physio on his shoulder. Kevin Moon and Peaso are both in the squad but Kenny Deuchar is doubtful with a groin injury while Martin Hardie is out. Del spoke to the Courier and said, "We will test Garts on Friday morning and we have a big decision to make. It’s a bonus to have Peaso and Mooner available. We were delighted with the way we played against Hearts in Perth back in August and a 2-2 draw was the least we deserved. But they have only lost to Rangers at home so far this season and this is as tough as any away game. But we will go there with the right mindset looking for all three points."
November 19th - With Graham Gartland all but certain to miss out, it looks like a return for Stuart McCaffrey to the side as he renews his partnership with Kevin Rutkiewicz. Caff told the Courier, "Kevin and I played the bulk of last season alongside each other. And we played together a couple of times pre-season. But then he got injured just before the first game and only returned a couple of weeks ago. This season there has been a fair amount of chopping and changing at the back for us. But when you think about it that was perhaps inevitable. As well as people being injured, stepping up a division you are going to lose goals and games, and when that happens, the temptation is to make a change defensively. Between myself, Kevin, Graham and Steven Anderson, the manager has four guys, all of whom can play the position and that competition for places keeps you hungry. No one likes being out but over the campaign everyone is going to have a part to play at some stage. There wasn’t much wrong with me to be honest. I just had a wee bit of fluid in my pubic joint. So I got an injection a week past Friday to disperse that and was able to return to training on Monday."
Martin Hardie will have his injury scanned on Friday once the swelling has gone down but is expected to be out for weeks and possibly months.
8pm - Some signing news today with 17yr prospects Stephen Reynolds and Stevie May signing new deals to keep them at Saints until 2012.
November 18th - Despite winning yesterday's closed-doors game against the Bairns 5-1 the bad news was a knee injury to Martin Hardie(right) which has ruled him out for a few weeks. Speaking in today's Courier, Del said, "We suspect that Martin has medial ligament damage and that he’ll be out for a few weeks. And that’s a blow both for Martin and ourselves.". The midfielder had got one of the goals along with Peter MacDonald, Paul Sheerin, Kevin Moon and one of the two trialists that Saints fielded.
Peaso managed a full ninety minutes and looks set now to take some part in the action on Saturday. Del went on, "We had some good individual performances and scored a few goals — which was pleasing - but the injury to Martin has taken the shine off of that"
5.30pm - Another change to the diaries with the home game against the Sellik moved from the Saturday to Sunday January 24th with a 3.30pm kick-off to cater for Sky. Oh joy.
November 17th - With every Scots fan avoiding the word football after the weekend's debacle it's time to start thinking about this weekend's trip to Tynecastle. Unfortunately the injuries are mounting for Derek McInnes, with Kenny Deuchar the latest doubt for the game. That could mean a return to the first team for Peter MacDonald who has impressed the manager in recent weeks. Del told the Courier, "Peaso is doing fine. I’m seeing real improvement in his fitness, confidence and form. And I’ve been delighted by his attitude. Hamstring problems can undermine your confidence especially if, as happened in his case, they go on for months on end. But the treatment Peaso got in Germany has worked. He hasn’t missed a day’s training since he returned to us. And he’s getting there. We’ve got a match tomorrow which he’ll take part in. That would be his fourth closed doors game since he resumed training and he’s needed the match practice. You have to remember he hasn’t played competitively since March and even prior to that hadn’t been getting a lot of game time. But if he gets this fixture under his belt then he’d come into the reckoning. And I know Peaso’s qualities - I recognise that he would give us a goal threat. What I have to gauge is whether he could come in and play 70-80-90 minutes or would be better used coming from the bench."
Stuart McCaffrey was back in training yesterday and he was joined by Murray Davidson. Graham Gartland still looks like missing out this weekend though. Meanwhile Stephen Reynolds has joined Ayr on a 28-day emergency loan and the manager said, "Sometimes the SPL under 21 rule is to the detriment of the careers of young players. I watched Stevie playing in the youth cup last week and he was excellent. But he needs to be playing at a level which ensures he continues to make progress. And I can see huge potential benefits in this arrangement with Ayr. I’m sure he’ll come back to us a more confident player."
November 13th - Derek McInnes(right) has been speaking in the Courier today about the campaign so far and has admitted to being a bit disappointed with our points tally. "I set a target privately, which I didn’t tell the players, and we’ve fallen just short of what I wanted. So we’ve got a bit of ground to make up in my own mind over the next quarter. It’s important that we get more points, but it’s equally important that we don’t look back with regrets. We have to redouble our efforts to make sure we get more points in the next quarter. I’m breaking the season down into quarters and we’ll see how we go in the next one. Normally, when you come through the festive period you have an idea of where your battles are going to be. Hopefully, we’ll get enough points by then to keep us away from the bottom of the table."
"We’d told the players they were good enough for this level but, for those who hadn’t played in the SPL before, they now know they’re good enough to compete at this level and win games. Performance-wise I’ve been happy with how the season’s gone so far and I actually didn’t think we’d enjoy as much dominance as we’ve had in certain games. That’s been pleasing but now we have to make sure we make that dominance count and get more points on board."
Of course there have been some surprises this season and the right-back slot is one with Gary Irvine not getting a look-in but the manager went on, "I’ve got a high opinion of Gary and he’s a valuable member of our squad. It’s been difficult for Gary because he had an operation in the summer and that hampered him a bit in pre-season. We signed Dave Mackay for competition across the back four and I’ve been really pleased with his performances. The door was opened for him and he’s taken his opportunity. It is difficult when you’re out of the team but Gary has to keep training hard and playing well in bounce games. I’ve no doubt his chance will come again and he’s got to be ready physically and mentally when that happens."
November 11th - First news is that the CIS tie has been confirmed for Wednesday Feb 3rd 2010 with a 7.35pm kick-off to suit Dougie Donnelly and his BBC1 chums - yup live on telly and against the OF so expect another plucky display.
Elsewhere tickets go on sale tomorrow for Tynie a week on Saturday. The game is all-ticket and season ticket holders can get their briefs priced £22 for the upper tier and £16 for the "stalls" from the club from tomorrow.
Finally the Evening Times has us linked with a possible January move for Liam Buchanan at Partick Fissel - expect more such gossip in the lead up to Xmas.
November 10th - More reaction from Derek McInnes to the cup draw today. According to the Courier, he said, "Whichever team we got we knew we would have a real opportunity to get to a cup final and I still believe that is the case. We’ve drawn the favourites, so it is probably the most difficult tie, but it’s certainly not beyond us. We’ve experienced heartache in three recent semi-finals and now we want to realise our dream of getting to a final. There has never been a lack of belief in our last three semi- finals—two of which I played in and one in which I was the manager—and we were a first division team in all of them. Now we’re an SPL club and that should make our belief even stronger. Anytime we’ve played Rangers in the last few seasons the games have always been close and we’ll be ready for the semi when it comes round. Between then and now the most important thing is that we pick up some good results in the league so we go into the match in good form."
Meanwhile Murray Davidson was called up as an additional travelling member to the U-21 trip to Azerbijan this week but he's been ruled out with a groin strain. Del said, "Murray had to pull out after our physio and doctor had a look at him. It was a huge disappointment for him. Maybe Azerbaijan isn’t the most glamorous place but when it’s your first cap you’d play anywhere. My initial reaction when Murray was called in was one of delight for him. We were disappointed he wasn’t listed originally but this shows he is in Billy Stark’s thoughts. His time will come"
November 9th - To say Danny Grainger was a bit pissed off after Saturday's defeat (and more importantly the manner of the Sheep's winning goal) is like saying that Sellik slightly damaged Scottish football's reputation yesterday. The Saints left-back was still angry with the antics of Lee Miller for the penalty and the referee's decistion that clinched the win for them and told the Courier today, "I am not going to slag the referee off but he will look at the video and realise his mistake and, when I see him again, I will be looking for an apology".
Derek McInnes backed his player saying, "There was definitely a foul on Danny Grainger in the build-up because Lee Miller grabbed him and spun him to gain an advantage in the box. The ball was played into the area 10 yards away from the incident and what has happened is Danny has tried to make up the ground after initially being fouled and, as he has run back, Lee has stopped and Danny has nowhere to go and it is a coming together. The ref has said it was a push and a pull which it clearly wasn’t. He has got it wrong and the linesman should see the foul by Lee Miller.". And while the home side were whinging about our goal, Kenny Deuchar reckons that was just sour grapes. "I went up to challenge the goalkeeper and then headed it down. They were shouting for a free-kick but my argument is that whenever I go up for a ball with a keeper he is throwing his fists about while I am using my head. So, if I get my head on the ball, how can that be a free-kick?"
Graham Gartland will have his shoulder injury assessed today.
7pm - Well with all the predictability of the OF disgracing Scottish football, you'll never guess who we've been drawn against for the CIS Semi-final? Yup it's off to Hampden again to face the Bankrupt Bigots as we take on The Forces of Darkness for the right to face the Jambos or St Midden in the final. Game to be played on Feb 2nd or 3rd 2010. Speaking on the Official Saints Site, Derek McInnes said of the draw, "Whoever we were drawn against would provide great opposition but none of the clubs hold any fear for us. The fact of the matter is that we have drawn the bookies favourites for the cup and it is a tie we can eagerly await when it comes around."
Elsewhere and the news on Graham Gartland wasn't great - his shoulder injury was X-Rayed this morning and he's been ruled out until mid-December. Collin Samuel is due to be rested to give his knee a chance to recover over the next fortnight while Stuart McCaffrey is going to get an injection in his groin injury.
November 7th - Saints head north today looking for their third win in a row. Dave Mackay(right) is hoping to add some luck to our cause as well - he's only lost once against Aberdeen in 11 games. The right-back told today's Courier, "Hopefully I can keep this going now I’m a St Johnstone player. And I certainly see this as a game we can win. I’ve got a terrible memory but two matches against Aberdeen stand out for me. My last game for Dundee was a 2-1 win at Pittodrie when Derek Soutar made his first start for Dundee and Stevie Milne got one of our goals. The other one is that defeat up there with Livi which I remember for the fact we started really well but crumbled after losing the first goal and went down 3-0."
"I’m looking forward to going back to Pittodrie. It’s been three years or so since I last played Aberdeen and their squad has changed out of all recognition. Jamie Langfield would be one of only a few guys left at the club. We’ve now got two good wins under our belts. And the great thing from a confidence point of view is that we deserved to win both. It wasn’t as if we got lucky. Aberdeen by all accounts were unfortunate in losing to Hibs but we know that if we play as we can then we can win the game. The standard we have to match is the one we set in going to Easter Road earlier in the season and winning. That day proved we are capable of competing with the better teams away from home as well as at McDiarmid Park."
Collin Samuel and Steven "Toe-job" Anderson both came through training yesterday so should be involved.
8.30pm - Saints put up a good fight today but a dodgy decision late on to give Aberdeen a penalty let them run out 2-1 winners at Pittodrie after Liam Craig had cancelled out their opener. Added to that Graham Gartland went off early on after a knock and both Collin Samuel and Murray Davidson were carrying knocks by the end of the game. The performance was good but suffice to say that the overall performance and antics from the opposition mean that there's a bit of a grudge for our next game against them. Results elsewhere mean that we're now on equal points with both Killie and Accies with Falkirk five behind ahead of their game against Sellik tomorrow.
November 6th - We should have known better - I mean a player who doesn't play for the OF or in England getting into the Scotland squad? So no call-up for Murray Davidson. Elsewhere though Jody
Morris is in the Courier today and after admitting he'd "consider" a call-up to Scotland thanks to his grandfather's Tartan roots, he's been taking some stick.
Martin Hardie told the paper, "I’ve been at clubs where this sort of thing doesn’t happen—and it can be a long season. But fortunately at St Johnstone, Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty like having a bit of fun. And we’ve certainly enjoyed a laugh over this stuff about Jody playing for Scotland. He’d actually told me more than a year ago about his grandad having come from the Glasgow area. But there was no way there wasn’t going to be banter over Jody pulling on a Scotland shirt. Mocked up posters have gone up at our place depicting him wearing a kilt and tartan bunnet, with a bubble coming out from his mouth saying, “Gonnae gie me a pound of square sausage”. To be fair—he took it in good part!"
The lack of mention of Murray Davidson(right) in the Scotland setup though (either U-21 or full squad) has puzzled the Mad Mental One. "It’s a real surprise Murray not being named in either squad. You’d have thought he’d have got in the under 21s at least. But maybe being with a smaller SPL club hasn’t done his chances any good. I mean, there are guys being picked who aren’t playing for their club sides when Murray has missed just one game for us." . Derek McInnes was a bit more philosophical and he said, "If Murray keeps playing as he has been and progressing his career then at some point in time his talents will be recognise" - whether that will ever happen while he's at McDiarmid remains to be seen.
As for this weekend, the manager is expecting a tough match. "Pittodrie is going to be a test for us. They’ve been a bit up and down so far but over the course of the season they will climb the table and finish quite high up. But tough ask though this is, we go there on the back of two victories which we can take confidence from and if we turn in the kind of performance that we are capable of then hopefully we can bring something back from there."
Collin Samuel was back in light training yesterday but Stuart McCaffrey and Steven Milne are definitely out.
Finally the CIS draw is set for Tynecastle at 2pm on Monday.
November 5th - Latest rumour is that Wigan may be set to make a move for Collin Samuel. The striker, who should recover from his knee knock for the weekend trip to Pittodrie, is apparently being considered as a replacement for bad boy Marlon King. Elsewhere the Scotland U-21 squad was announced and was missing on-form Murray Davidson - there's now a rumour that he may be set for a call-up to the full squad today for the game against Wales.
November 4th - Saints beat Killie 2-1 in a closed-doors game yesterday with goals from Peter MacDonald and Paul Sheerin(right),
The lattter has also been speaking to the Courier about his decision to apply for the Arbroath job (which he lost out to Jim Weir). He said, "I applied for the Arbroath job because the time is coming for me to get into that side of things. I’m at a stage where I’m not playing as often as I’ve been used to and there comes a point where you have to accept that playing being your main focus is coming to an end. And going through the process of applying for the post at Arbroath has only served to cement that with me. I just feel I’m better looking for a job now than maybe next summer when—touch wood it doesn’t come to that—I might be out of work. That was the first interview of my football career so I am glad to have had the opportunity. And I was encouraged by the feedback I got from the Arbroath chairman who was kind enough to phone and tell me I’d interviewed well and they’d been impressed. It was just lack of experience that counted against me. I’m disappointed to have missed out but at the same time delighted for Jim Weir who I thought did well at Montrose and was harshly dealt with. And I take consolation from the fact it could be worse for me. I could have been out of work and applying for the post. At least I still have a job and with that the challenge of trying to feature more regularly for Saints, which I’ll knuckle down to. But hopefully something else might come along in the near future —and I get the opportunity to obtain a grounding in football management. "
"I look at Craig Levein and Miksu Paatelainen and I see two guys who learned their trade as part-time managers and went on to bigger things and that’s what I want to do. I could probably play another couple of years at a high level but I have to look to the future and the coaching/management side of the game. I’m doing my B Licence at the minute and my mind is made up. Before, I saw myself working with youths, but now I want to be my own man—to dip my toe in management. If I’d got the job at Arbroath I would have carried on playing but got the right kind of experienced person alongside me."
November 3rd - Despite the win at the weekend there are more than a few injury worries in the Saints camp. Steven Milne is still recovering from his injury and won't be available for the trip to Pittodrie this weekend while Euan McLean's ankle also rules him out. Collin Samuel has a knee knock which curtailed his involvement against the Bairns so will be limited in his training this week as will Jonatan Johansson who received 12 stitches in his head after a clash - that means he's likely to be wearing protective gear at the weekend. Finally Steven
Anderson missed out on Saturday after a "domestic accident" (he stubbed his toe) and his replacement Stuart McCaffrey was on the bench despite a pelvic injury.
Meanwhile congratulations to Jim Weir who was appointed manager of Arbroath at the weekend.
November 2nd - Skipper Kevin Rutkiewicz(right) has admitted he was just glad to get Saturday's game out of the way so he can concentrate on his football again. After his second start of the season, the defender told the Sun, "That was my first SPL game in many years. My last one was with Aberdeen under Steve Paterson when we lost 4-0 at Kilmarnock. It has been a long time for me, but the boys were fantastic and they helped me through it. I was toiling a wee bit with my fitness for the last ten-15 minutes. It was a matter of hanging in there because it was important I got 90 minutes in my system as I have a full week to recover. Results-wise, we have had two wins in a row so hopefully we can keep it going. I enjoy my singing, but I will be looking for more positive football headlines now. It would be nice to be asked questions about my football rather than my music. I have a point to prove to myself in the SPL."
As for the win itself he knows how important it was. "Last season we found ourselves top of the league and it is vital to stretch away from teams. We are at the bottom end so any gap we will take no matter what time of the season it is. It is vital we get the points on the board as there may come a time when we are not picking up any. We have now played what we consider to be top six sides at home and we have given them all a game. You do get a bit nervous when a side comes back to make it 1-1 with a few passes going astray. But we scored at vital times with some quick goals that won us the game. It was a massive match. They came here with a chance to leap-frog us."
November 1st - Derek McInnes was happy with the win yesterday and after the game told the BBC, "We deserved it on chances created. Falkirk passed and moved well and made us nervous and edgy at times but we realise we won't get our own way for 90 minutes. We missed three or four clear chances to finish the game in the first half and I thought it might have been one of those afternoons. But the players showed a lot of qualities to win. It wasn't always good but it was always determined."
Meanwhile Murray Davidson told the Screws of the World, "My goal was a bonus - it was all about the result. I knew the keeper was out of his goal and gave it everything I had to get on the end of it. It was a relief after missing a first-half chance and going a few games without scoring. That's us five clear of Falkirk. We can hold our own in the league."
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October 31st - Goalie Graeme Smith(right) is out to make up for lost time after his debut on Tuesday night. Speaking to the Courier ahead of today's encounter with Falkirk, he said, "My debut has been a while in coming and is long overdue. It was extremely enjoyable, although being a goalie I was disappointed that we did not keep a clean sheet. Maybe that is just nit-picking. I was annoyed to lose a goal and ended up getting booked because I kicked the ball way. It was still great to be playing because I am not the greatest spectator in the world and tend to even jump around the living room when watching games on TV at home. I guess it has been sod’s law for me because I came to St Johnstone to play games and have not been able to before this week. I still had a year left on my contract at Rangers but decided to move to play in the first team here so it has been a blow to be out injured. You just have to keep your head up and I have been telling myself that hopefully that’s all the injuries out of the way for the season for me. Now that I have my debut under my belt I feel good and am ready to kick on."
As for today's opponents he went on, "This match is crucial— definitely. I noted that Falkirk got a point at Tynecastle last weekend that meant they are only sitting two points behind us. Our league is going to be the bottom six so we need to take as many points off the teams in our area of the table, especially when we play them at home. A lot of people have said that when you get to the end of the first quarter of the season—we have Falkirk and Aberdeen still to play—you get a good idea of where you are going to be come May. However, I don’t think that would be a fair analysis of our situation because we have deserved better from our games so far and I still think we have a lot of improvement in us. You can even argue that it is a good thing we have not peaked yet because that would mean the best is yet to come."
The importance of the game was echoed by Derek McInnes who said, "Given where we are in the league and Falkirk are, this is a vital game for both teams. There is no point dressing it up any other way. We have played some good sides at home so far this season—Dundee United, Hearts, Rangers and Motherwell. This will be another tough one but it is a game we are looking to win."
6.30pm - We almost cruised to a 3-1 win over Falkirk but it wasn't as convincing as it could have been. Still goals from Collin Samuel, Chris Millar and Murray Davidson saw us comfortably through. Elsewhere next weekend's opponents Aberdeen finished their defeat at Easter Rd with just 9 men following two red cards.
October 30th - Following on to the good news about Jody Morris' new deal yesterday, Saints had another boost with Collin Samuel apparently responding to treatement and in with an outside chance of making the side against Falkirk tomorrow. Rustybitz should also play - he's suffered no reaction to his outing against United although Alan Main has a back problem.
October 29th - Jonatan Johansson has spoken out about his decision to sign for Saints. The Finn was a surprise signing for Tuesday's CIS win and told the Courier, "Signing for St Johnstone happened quite quickly. I’d been training here before the two Finland games and came back after them. Then, with quite a few injuries to the strikers, the manager wanted me to sign—which suited me too. It was an easy decision. I’ve enjoyed training at Saints and this was the right opportunity to get games and keep myself fit. And of course I want to help the club until at least January. I had a few alternatives but nothing great or solid. And as I really enjoy Scotland this was a good choice for me."
Jody Morris(right) and Martin Hardie should be fit for the weekend but Collin Samuel is rated doubtful.
10.30pm - But just to show he's not been idle, Jody Morris has given us a boost ahead of the big visit of the Bairns this weekend by signing a 2yr extension to his current contract keeping him at Saints until the summer of 2012. Derek McInnes told the Official Site, "I’m delighted that the club and Jody have been able to tie this up. He has been a real asset to us since he joined and he is a huge influence on the rest of the squad on and off the pitch and most importantly he is a great presence on the field during game. Already this season he has given me performances on the sort of level required in the SPL and he is a player that the younger boys can learn from. He’s popular with the players, all the staff at the stadium and the fans so to have him commit to a further two years is a huge boost to us"
October 28th - Derek McInnes was pleased with the result and performance last night even if it lacked the element of sexiness we've been enjoying of late. Speaking in the Courier, the manager said, "We felt we had the players to win this game but United are a top side and getting a victory against them should do us the world of good confidence wise. It was great, regardless of who applied the final touch, to get two goals from set-plays. And I was really pleased with the way we went about things. I was concerned that we might lack cohesion. But our attitude and approach was spot on. United showed a lot of pride and determination towards the end as they tried to turn the game around. But we showed the right qualities to hang on."
October 27th - Saints go into tonight's game hoping to keep their decent record in the CIS cup going. After the 125th Anniversary do at the weekend paid tribute to previous League Cup finalists, Derek McInnes told the Courier, "A night like Sunday shows how special successful cup sides are. It was great to be enthused by an event like that and to see how these two teams are appreciated by the club and its supporters. It gives us a wee extra motivation and we’ll be speaking about it before the game. It was a pity my players weren’t able to be there to see it all for themselves. You want to try and achieve something when you’re at a club. This group of players has done well over the last couple of seasons, but if we get to a cup final and have the chance to win some silverware that would really be special. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves but we’re one win away from a semi-final and who knows what can happen from there. We’ve been very close to getting to a final on a couple of occasions recently and we’d love nothing better than to get back to Hampden."
11.30 - It was a case of history repeating itself tonight even if the scoreline wasn't quite as convincing. A makeshift Saints side showing six changes from the weekend won 2-1 against United in the CIS cup to put Saints into the CIS Semi-final along with TFOD and the Paisley Tinks. Goals came in the second-half from Ando and the secret weapon in Agent Darren Dods who chipped in with a trademark own-goal.
Jody Morris and Collin Samuel missed out tonight through illness but the other big surprise was the new striker in the starting lineup with Jonatan Johansson up front. The ex-TFOD, Hibs and Charlton man put pen to paper today on a short-term deal until the end of the year, although he's been using training facilities at the club to keep himself in condition for the last couple of months.
October 26th - More trouble for Saints with Martin Hardie aggravating his thigh injury at the weekend and a doubt for tomorrow night. The good news is that Filipe Morais has managed to train while Graeme Smith and Rustybitz will also come into contention after recovering from their knocks - the former a possible candidate for the keeper's jersey after Alan Main's mistakes at the weekend.
Del is looking forward to the game. "It will be difficult for us, but we've got to go into the game with a bit of confidence. We lost narrowly in the league to them a couple of weeks ago and that was a sore one to take. It's an ideal opportunity to make amends. If we can get through this, it's a big, big thing for everybody getting to Hampden and the chance of getting to a final. It's a local derby and it doesn't get much better than that, so we hope to get a big crowd and a good atmosphere and that could drive us on to a performance."
October 24th - Saints head west today in search of their second league win of the campaign. Savo, Rustybitz and Filipe Morais have all been ruled out but Peaso is in the squad for the first time in ages. Kenny
Deuchar(right) is also in the squad and the new father is looking to get his first goal since his return to the Sacred Turf. Speaking to the Courier, the striker said, "It is important that I get a league goal as soon as possible. I have scored four in the CIS Cup and that was a good way to kick-start the season. However, you really want to be scoring in the league. That is what matters most. I have been in and out of the team a bit but hopefully I can get a run in the side and hit the target soon. It would great if I could get a goal so I could dedicate it to my wife and the wee man."
It's not as if he's not creating chances and he went on, "Hopefully one of those days the chances will all go in! Who knows, maybe in one of our next games we will give a team a good going-over. It is a real positive that we have been creating so many opportunities and also scoring goals. We maybe just haven’t managed to get the whole thing together for 90 minutes. I read somewhere that had our games finished at half-time we would be way up the league table. So it could be that we have had a tendency to hold on to what we have on taking the lead. That is the wrong mentality to have in the SPL. Last season in the first division, when we took the lead we expected to hold on to it. However, in the premier division the standard is that bit higher. You are punished for mistakes and lapses in concentration and teams come back at you, just like Rangers did last Saturday. The Killie match is one we really want to do well in. We have not played too many of the teams who finished in the bottom six last year. Now we have to take care of business in what is a mini league, really. Anything you get from the Old Firm is a bonus and we feel as if we were a bit unlucky. However, you can’t keep playing the unlucky card and we need to get points on the board."
7.30pm - A pathetic afternoon in the rain today seeing Saints turn in a comedy of errors worthy of Shakespeare himself with the star clown being Alan Main who conceded a second goal in a 2-1 defeat af Killie after going for one of his senile wanders out of the area. As for a goal for us that didn't come till the final minute and even then we had to rely on a Killie defender heading into his own net to cap a rank rotten afternoon.
Elsewhere and Falkirk's point in a goalless encounter at Tynecastle has narrowed the gap between us to two points - just what we wanted going into a league match with the Bairns next Saturday. Mind you if today's form is carried into Tuesday's CIS match there may be more than a few who will just want to give them the three points.
October 23rd - Martin Hardie knows how important tomorrow's game is. He told the Courier today, "Matches like this one are our bread and butter. It is the games against the likes of Falkirk, Hamilton, St Mirren and Killie that are vital to us. I mean no disrespect to these clubs but there is no point covering that up. It is just a case of being realistic. For the first time this season, the dressing room was pretty quiet after the game. We had put so much into it but came away with nothing. Now it is up to us to lift ourselves and get ready to go again."
And Del is expecting a tough encounter. "They did get a bad decision and were close to picking up a good point against Hibs. So we know we will be up against a team with great SPL experience and a lot of good players. It will be a difficult game for us but if we play the way we can it will be a difficult game for Kilmarnock. Against Rangers, we looked like a very good side for long spells but I would still take a scrappy win down at Killie, just like we managed to get at Hamilton"
October 22nd - After missing a couple of good chances recently, Murray Davidson(right) has come in for some stick but the midfielder reckons he'll score more goals this season. Speaking in the Courier, he said, "I am the first to hold my hands up and admit I’ve missed too many chances. And it does play on your mind when you are getting opportunities and not taking them. But the manager and Tony Doc have told me to keep on getting into the box. And like them I do believe the goals will come. It might be the ball goes in off my backside for the first one, but if I get up and running then I am confident I’ll kick on from there and bring goals to the team. I’ve been beating myself up about the miss I had against Rangers last weekend because I should have done better. But I’ll keep getting in the positions and hopefully the goals will come sooner rather than later."
And while there have been calls to give him an U-21 cap, he's not too bothered. "A lot of people have told me I’ve been watched. But that’s the least of my worries. Being selected for Scotland would be nice but if it came it would be a bonus. My priority is keeping my place in the team and helping Saints climb the table."
Del backed him saying, "Providing he stays fit and doesn’t let his head go down Murray will score eight or nine goals this season. He could have that number already. But he shouldn’t beat himself up over the chances he has missed. He is an imposing figure in the box and a good finisher so the goals will come."
October 21st - Saturday sees the proverbial six-pointer in the trip to Killie, but the injury problems are already mounting. Steven Milne is already a major doubt and Graeme Smith and Rustybitz have both picked up knocks in training. Elsewhere and Filipe Morais is a doubt after picking up a shoulder injury against the Forces of Darkness while Martin Hardie also suffered a knock in the same game - both should be ok for the weekend.
There was some better news with a 2-2 closed doors game against the Pars which saw Peter MacDonald and Kenny Deuchar both on target.
October 19th - Despite a man of the match performance on Saturday, Collin Samuel was more annoyed at Saints not getting anything from the game. The striker was being critical of his own shortcomings in the Courier and said, "Being the only striker is a hard role but I enjoy playing it. My job was to occupy the two Rangers central defenders and make life as difficult as possible for them. I did the same job against Celtic and think I did OK then, too, by playing to my strengths. Now it is all down to keeping as fit as possible and making sure I am ready for every game so I can get through 90 minutes. I know I need to keep my fitness level up and I am pushing myself as hard as I can in training. Every day I am working hard. I know I can be that (an explosive player) but I also need to have stamina for the whole game. Overall, we are not playing badly and we had the upper hand for a long time because we took the game to Rangers. We dominated for long spells but we just didn’t have the cutting edge. I think we are creating a lot of chances but we are missing them."
October 17th - With Saints facing one of the wannabee EPL clubs today it's no surprise that an OF connection is dragged up in the current squad with Chris Millar(right) interviewed in the Courier. Having once apparently almost ruined his career with The Forces of Evil, he told the paper, "This is definitely the type of game I have been looking forward to for a long time. This is when you test yourself against some of the best players in the country and it makes everything worthwhile."...some pish about TFOE snipped.... "So I left Celtic in January 2003, and it was the season when they got to the UEFA Cup final. I watched that game on TV while on holiday in Ibiza with the Morton lads as we were celebrating having won the third division championship. I just wanted to get on with my career and I had confidence in my own ability. I knew I had to take a step back and there were times when I wondered whether I had made the right decision. You had the trips to places like Elgin on a cold January night and I remember after my debut against Montrose that I had to take my kit home and wash it. That was certainly different to life at Celtic. Still, it was probably the best decision I have made and I have no regrets. I feel I am better equipped physically and at the right age to be playing in the SPL. Now I find myself with St Johnstone hoping to play against Rangers in what is a massive game for the club."
There are no new injury worries for us and Kenny Deuchar is out to continue a good scoring record against The Forces of Darkness after celebrating becoming a father on Thursday. Del said, "Kenny was given the day off from training on Thursday to be at the birth of his boy. He is really buzzing, as you would expect. It’s a big thing for any guy and we’re all delighted for them. Kenny trained with the rest of the boys and he’ll be in the squad for the Gers game. We’re really looking forward to the game. The reason we worked so hard over the last year was so we could pit our wits against the likes of Rangers. If we can show the same confidence and ability that we have displayed for the majority of the games so far, then we can do well. We have to make sure Rangers play really, really well if they want to win the game."
5.30pm - Collin Samuel gave us an early lead today but a couple of lapses in concentration saw us unlucky to lose 2-1 to TFOD although results elsewhere mean we're still 10th in the league. After the game Del told the BBC, "I felt we had the better chances in the game, we went toe-to-toe with a very good side. They are champions, they are used to winning and that is why they keep going. We were a bit sloppy at both goals. We played a part in our own downfall. We are learning as we go along, we are progressing. These games won't dictate where we finish this season. On today's performance, we should have got something. "The goals changed the reflection of the game. We're creating chances, we look a real threat. You don't always get what you deserve. "
October 16th - The big news today is that Del(right) has finally signed a 1-yr extension to his current deal, along with Tony
Docherty which will keep the pair at the club until the end of the 2010-11 season. Speaking in the Courier, the manager said, "If you are doing well as a footballer on the park you will attract interest from other clubs and, as a manager, taking the club to the SPL was bound to attract attention. However, Tony and I always made it clear we wanted to give the SPL a go with Saints. Our chairman Geoff Brown gave me the job when I was far from the favourite for it. He must have seen something in me he liked and handed me the opportunity. That was important to me and we are striving to take the football club forward. This season, that means retaining our status in the SPL. There is still a lot to be done in taking this club as far as we want it to go. Tony has played a huge part in what has been achieved. He also has a great relationship with the players in the dressing room and that is vital for any number two."
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Steven Milne looks likely to miss out. Filipe Morais should be available and while he's also back in training, Jody Morris is still doubtful.
October 15th - Saints lost 3-1 to Accies in the closed-doors game but the boys are concentrating more on the visit of The Forces of Darkness this Saturday lunchtime. The good news is that Steven Milne, Jody Morris and Filipe Morais should all be back in training today, while the other comeback kings came through unscathed on Tuesday. All of which means that Andy Jackson is the only one still on the treatment table.
October 13th - Just when it seemed to be getting better, Filipe Morais is the latest player to join the injury list with a knee knock picked up at Turriff United last week making him a doubt for the match against The Forces of Darkness this weekend. Steven Milne is also doubtful with an ankle knock and to add to the fun and games, Jody
Morris is suffering from a virus.
Mooner is set to continue his comeback in a closed-doors game against Accies today as he fights back from his groin strain. Del is hopeful he'll come into contention soon and told the Courier, "Last season he did hardly any of the pre-season work and it was about this time of the year when he came back in and got to the pace of the game really quickly. I’ve always thought he would do well in the premier league and nothing has happened to change my opinion on that."
October 12th - International weekend is over and with Saints playing the other half of the Bigot Bros this weekend, expect plenty of patronising media coverage this week. There's another closed doors game due as Rustybitz, Peaso and Mooner all continue their comebacks.
October 8th - While the trip up north saw Kevin Rutkiewicz, Peaso and Mooner all make appearances in their comeback, there's not been much else happening with the international weekend beckoning. Still there's an interview with Liam Craig(right) who has managed to get back into the first-team in recent weeks. The midfielder told the Courier, " It was really frustrating to be left out at the start of the season but we have a very strong squad and you simply have to take your chance when the manager selects you. He has changed the team a few times already and you have to grasp your opportunity when it arrives—hopefully after playing at Hamilton, I’ve now given him a selection headache for the Rangers game. Personal considerations aside, the main thing is that this club keeps winning and stays in the SPL. Hopefully, next Saturday will be another massive step towards doing that. We have a lot of players within the squad who have SPL experience so the step up this year hasn’t come as a big shock. With the exception of the Celtic and Hibs games, we’ve never really let ourselves down and our confidence is building week by week. It’s vital that we continue keeping clean sheets, though, as we don’t seem to have any problem scoring. So, if we work better as a team defensively, then more victories will come. We’re completely focused on the Rangers game and it would be great to get revenge for the two cup defeats we’ve had against them in the last couple of seasons."
October 6th - Saints are taking a strong side up north tonight for a friendly to commemorate the new floodlights at Turriff Utd. Kevin Rutkiewicz is one making the trip as he nears match fitness and the skipper spoke about his comeback to the Courier, "I’m slowly getting back to full fitness. I played 75 minutes against Airdrie last week and I was really buzzing as it was just great to get back on the pitch again. The injury is behind me now and it’s all about getting back into the team. I’m not sure whether I’ll start tonight at Turiff but I’ll definitely be taking part, as Graham Gartland is due a rest and Stuart McCaffrey is away this week doing a coaching badge. Hopefully, I can now work my way into the manager’s thoughts leading up to the next league game against Rangers. It has been really annoying sitting on the sidelines, especially as it was such a tedious injury. You just have to be really patient with medial ligament problems. It was different with my ankle as there was a lot going on, with the surgeon at one point even saying I’d be better chucking it and looking for things outwith football. So this injury hasn’t been nearly as serious but it’s come at the worst possible time, coinciding with our return to the SPL. I have to confess that I’m the worst spectator in the world. I always give the boys my full backing but there’s nothing worse than being in the dressing room before kick-off knowing you won’t be taking part out on the pitch."
Mind you he's got other plans for this weekend when there's no league game. "I’m going to be recording my first album, starting on Sunday. I have plenty of songs so we’ll probably be selecting the six strongest and putting them on demo discs. We’ll send them out to record labels and see what comes of it. The music is going well at the moment and it keeps me out of mischief. It’s good that I’ve found music as I discovered other things early in my career that weren’t nearly as forgiving on the body."
Peaso and Mooner will also be in the side tonight as they continue their comeback. There was also a boost with the news that Graham Gartland isn't quite suspended yet. Despite picking up six bookings, he's still one point short of the threshold for suspension so will be available to face the Forces of Darkness on the 17th.
October 5th - Ando(right) was glad to get the first win out of the way at the weekend even if it wasn't the prettiest. The defender told the Sun, "It wasn't pretty at times, but we got that first win and that was the main thing. We haven't been getting the right results, despite playing some good stuff, so the work we have put in over the past week or so has paid off. The three points will hopefully give us a confidence boost. We are aware we have been tipped to go back down by many and it's up to us to win at places like this and prove people wrong. I think we started getting anxious towards the end. But we weathered the storm and the second goal from Danny finished it. The two goals were very different. I think mine was a bit lucky. It just fell to me on the line and I jumped highest and turned it home. I'm still delighted with it, though. It's only the third goal of my career, so I need to savour them when they come. I don't think Danny needs to say too much about his goal. We could all see it was a class finish. I'm really delighted for him. Neither of us score many goals, so it was nice to both do so in the same game."
October 3rd - After a good start to the season, Murray Davidson's (right) exclusion from the U-21 squad this week was a bit annoying but the midfielder won't let it get him down. Speaking to the Courier he said, "A lot of people have mentioned the possibility to me but I have tried not to think about it.
I have never been involved at international level so I guess I don’t know what I am missing. Anyway, my aim has always been to do well for St Johnstone this season, to get in the team and play.
I am just concentrating on that and if something else comes along regarding the under-21s then that would be a bonus."
His first priority is today's trip to Hamilton and he went on, "We know what Hamilton are all about but we will be confident in our own ability and will do everything in our power to get the three points. I know we haven’t had the start we were looking for, there is no hiding from that, but we still believe we can be more than a match for most SPL teams. So we will continue to do the good things we have been doing. It is disappointing not to have won a league game yet but when we do get one then we will kick on—I am sure of that. There is no panic or worry among the boys. We have bags of self- belief and the win will come sooner rather than later. It would be a worry were we not creating chances but we are. I have had a few myself and am disappointed I haven’t converted more but I am also convinced that if I keep getting into good positions then my luck will turn."
Mixed messages about the squad with the Courier adamant that Savo, Graeme Smith and Rustybitz are all in the squad although whether they are risked remains to be seen. For Accies, new signing ex-Hibee Guillaume Beuzelin (Boozy the diver) looks set to make his debut.
6.30pm - The winless start to the league campaign finally ended today with arguably our worst performance of the season leading to a scrappy 2-0 win at Hamilton. Goals game from an Ando header just before the break and a screaming drive from Danny Grainger late on. Not a brilliant performance but easily better than Accies and the result puts us up into 10th spot.
October 2nd - Both Graeme Smith and skipper Kevin Rutkiewicz who made their comeback in the closed doors game midweek could be in the squad this weekend. Manager Derek McInnes said in the Courier, "Both came through the game all right—Dinky played 80 minutes, while Graeme managed 90—and I was actually really pleased with them. If they continue to do well in training then it will be my job to decide whether or not to include them in the squad for Saturday."
Meanwhile Savo will be back tomorrow after recovering from the knee injury that saw him miss out against the Arabs. Del went on, "If Hamilton were good enough to come up and stay up then we can be too. And we do feel we are good enough to compete at this level. There is confidence within us and that’s important. Even though we have had some harsh decisions and results recently it is vital not to get dispirited. I have sensed there is a real appetite for this game among the lads and they see it as a chance to make up for the disappointment of the United match. In the past when we have had a result go against us we have bounced back and played well, so hopefully that will be the case again."
5pm - The bad news tomorrow is that Savo looks like missing out while Graeme Smith and skipper Rustybitz will (according to the Official Site) not be risked. Peaso and Mooner are closer to stepping up their training but it looks like the same 18 that went down to the Arabs will take the field tomorrow. Del told the Official Site, "The players are determined to make up for last Saturday?s defeat and there is a good mood in the camp. There is a determination about this squad which augurs well for the weeks ahead.". Admission tomorrow is £22 to sit behind the goals.
October 1st - Forget the striker - he's been sent home without any sign of Saints following up their interest. The club have also confirmed he CIS cup rematch without any grudges
at all against Dundee United will be on Tuesday October 27th at
7.45pm with admission at £20 and £10 for concessions. Season
tickets are not valid for this one.
Meanwhile Danny Grainger(right) reckons we have plenty to be positive about despite the winless start to the campaign. Speaking to the Courier, the left-back said, "A few positive results can make all the difference. We can’t seem to buy a win just now, but if we keep working hard I am sure things will fall into place for us. Our games have been good for the neutrals — so I’ve heard — but I would take a 1-0 win at Hamilton on Saturday and I don’t care if it’s one of the scrappiest games I have played in, as long as we win. We know we can get the victory we want and have enough good players to get back on track in this league."
Top Of News
September 30th - Right bad news first and Charlie Richmond is the idiot in the middle at the weekend - yup the same one that booked loads of Saints players and gave Hibs a dodgy penalty recently. Oh well.
Onto better things and yesterday's closed doors game saw both Kevin Rutkiewicz and Graeme Smith come through. They were joined by 6ft tall 21yr old German striker Fitim Kacik, an ex-PSV player over on trial. He managed 45 minutes and is a free agent so if Derek McInnes loves him he can join immediately.
September 29th - Savo, who missed out through a knee injury at the weekend should be ok for the trip to Hamilton. Martin Hardie, meanwhile reckons we can use the trip to New Douglas Park to kickstart the season. His words of wisdom were recorded in the Courier as he said, "We had a difficult start to the first division campaign last season but we eventually kicked on.
Coming into this league we knew we had to give more than any other team.
People might say it is still early in the campaign and so far we have proved we can compete with some very physical sides, going toe-to-toe with them.
Despite stepping up a level we are playing good football and scoring goals. We just have to tighten up at the back.
So far we haven’t had the rewards for our efforts. That will come.
In saying all that, though, we are still sitting bottom of the league and Accies are above us.
So I see this next match as a six-pointer and a must-win. I would happily take a scrappy 1-0 win right now.
There's a closed-doors game today for Kevin Rutkiewicz and Graeme Smith as they continue their comeback.
September 28th - Despite being officially the worst team in the SPL Filipe Morais is still confident in the manager and players. Speaking after the game he told the Courier, "I’m not concerned at all about almost being at the end of September and still not having won in the league and nor are the other boys because we are creating enough opportunities. And if we can just stop conceding then we will get wins. If we are finding ourselves having to score three or four times to get a victory then that’s something we have to look at otherwise it’ll be tough coming by results. But if we can sort things out and become hard to beat then I’m sure the wins will start rolling in."
Derek McInnes wasn't as happy though as he commented, "The neutrals will say this was a great game, everything a derby should be. But I’m fed up because we shouldn’t need to score four goals to win a match at home. We should have taken something today. We fought toe-to-toe with United and created the better chances but their third goal was soft and it was disappointing to lose the second from a long throw as well. The referee has played a part in our downfall because, clear as day, it wasn’t a penalty kick. But so too have we with our defending at times and the reality is we are losing too many goals. It is devastating to put as much into things as we do and not get our rewards. But if the players keep their spirits up and we start defending better then I am sure the wins will come."
September 26th - Graham Gartland(right) is looking for us to get our first win today, even if that pisses off his landlord, United player Sean Dillon. The defender who managed 90 minutes in midweek without getting booked told the Courier, "Sean took me in when a property deal fell through. I’m picking up the keys to my new house on Monday, but I’m just moving across the road and he can see my house from his window. We’ve talked a bit about the game, but it hasn’t gone beyond asking if we’re going to play. Neither of us would dream of asking about the other club’s line-up or looking for the inside track. There is a professional code and we wouldn’t want to let down our team mates."
Derek McInnes meanwhile isn't making too much of the winless start to the campaign. "There is no point in getting a hang-up about it. We have only been beaten by Celtic and Hibs in the league, and most teams will find it hard to beat Celtic in Glasgow. Hopefully, we will continue where we left off against Hibs in the cup and take that into the league campaign"
Looks like no major injury worries ahead of today's game with Martin Hardie returning to the squad, but as usual we've got an unnamed player who's a slight doubt. Kevin Rutkiewicz and Graeme Smith are back in full training but won't be considered although they should take part in a closed doors game next week. Elsewhere and Peaso and the Kevin Moon are due to up their training regime as they approach a comeback.
6.30pm - A crap referee and some dodgy decisions saw Saints lose 2-3 at home to the Arabs who took the lead through a controversial penalty. Filipe Morais forced an og for the equaliser and after they regained the lead Martin Hardie came off the bench to score another orgasmic freekick, only for some slack defending to let the Arabs in to win a game that, in an echo of last week, we almost totally dominated. Results elsewhere mean we're now joint bottom with Falkirk and sitting at the bottom on goal difference. For all that though I've still got plenty of confidence in this team - we won't go down.
September 25th - With the CIS draw adding a bit of spice to this weekend's derby Derek McInnes is under no illusion about the task required to get the first league win. Speaking to the Courier, he said, "We’re under no illusions about just how tough the game will be as United are a well-established SPL side with a lot of experience throughout the team. We’ve had them watched a few times this season, and the reports have stressed just how much they play as a unit. Craig Levein has assembled a strong squad and it’s no surprise many are tipping them to finish third."
As for our own chances tomorrow, he said, "Whenever we’ve had a bad result, the players have always bounced straight back and they showed the same spirit and resolve again on Tuesday. Apart from the Celtic league match, the team have put in some excellent performances, even if the results haven’t always reflected that. The players are still buzzing after Tuesday night, especially as they came back from going a goal down in under a minute. We’re now looking to use the momentum and confidence we took from that cup win as a springboard to secure our first SPL victory. "
September 24th - With the CIS draw and inevitable draw away to one of the Bigot Bros looming, the post-match coverage from Easter Rd has seen Jody(right) talking Saints up. He namedropped to the Sun saying, "Lamps is one of my best mates so I speak to him on a daily or weekly basis. He and the rest of my mates were happy for me coming up to St Johnstone, because they'd seen me when I wasn't playing and I didn't have a club. They knew I was going to the gym or working with my fitness coach every day on my own. They'd seen when things went against me or when certain things didn't materialise. They'd seen me down in the dumps and were just happy to see me playing for someone I respect and admire in Derek McInnes. They knew the way he plays football would be beneficial for me and I'd also benefit the club. I was just happy to get started playing again and I'm buzzing in the SPL. Now anytime I'm on the telly I like to think my mates will watch me and Lamps being one means he WILL watch. But I still want to play at as high a level as I can and see where that takes me."
"I'm really enjoying my time up here. My family are settled and my little girl's enjoying school. We've got a great bunch of boys and I'm enjoying just playing football every week. Maybe some managers or club chairmen put a block on things happening for me down south because of the reputation I'd built up. But I'd like to think quite a lot of the people I've played under, or with, have either tried to re-sign me or work with me again. They know what type of guy I am and it was nice of the gaffer here to put his faith in me. Hopefully I can repay that. Initially he was a good friend and someone I liked getting advice from. I liked the way he thought about football, the manner in which he conducted himself and the way he trained hard. He was definitely someone I got on well with at Millwall. When he became a manager it was a bit of a grey area because I'd had it before with Dennis Wise. He was a pal of mine who became a manager and you never quite know how it is going to be. But Derek's been great. I enjoy working with him so it would have to be something good for me to walk away if he still wanted me."
"I know it sounds stupid but I probably get even more joy playing now than I did when I was at Chelsea. When I was out of the game for 18 months I realised what I was missing. The best time of my career - as far as playing for the team I loved and the biggest club - was Chelsea. But it kind of passed me by as far as me not taking in what was going on. But when I was out of the game I read up on things like the best preparation. Now I'd say I've got a good few years left in me."
21.00 - It's a home tie for a change with the CIS draw as we host Saturday's opponents Dundee United in the quarter-final. Well at least we avoided the Bigot Bros. The date isn't officially confirmed yet but it looks like being Tuesday October 27th.
September 22nd - Saints return to Easter Rd tonight with Chris Millar the latest doubt with the midfielder carrying a leg knock from Saturday. Derek McInnes though is glad we're returning to the ground so quickly and he told the Courier, "This is an ideal chance to make amends for Saturday and we know what’s required. We need to approach this game in the same positive manner but add to that a bit of improvement at both ends of the park. I can’t question the players’ attitude or effort. And they shouldn’t beat themselves up too much because we’ve suffered just two defeats—at Easter Road and Celtic Park—in seven games. But we have to learn as we go this season, recognising that against better opposition you have to concentrate that bit harder defensively and be more clinical up top. We got what we deserved at the weekend because Hibs gave us a lesson in finishing. Two of their goals maybe weren’t even half chances. In fact they’d just four attempts on goal and didn’t even force a corner yet scored three times. But Saturday has gone now. We move on. And I’m glad to have so early an opportunity to play again, especially against the same opposition."
Meanwhile Kenny Deuchar is looking for a bit more luck tonight after cameras showed his goal should have stood at the weekend. "I didn’t see whether the ball crossed the line or not. I was too busy rubbing my face because the keeper had punched me on the cheekbone. But between the reaction of Dave Mackay and the crowd I thought at the time it must have been in—and TV replays seem to bear that out. You could say the fact we were 3-0 down at that point means the decision didn’t really matter. But you never know what can happen. I’ve been 2-0 up at Easter Road before and ended up losing. In saying that we had other chances that, had they been stuck away, would have allowed us to make a game of it. The good thing is, though, that we are creating chances. And for me we just need to keep the door shut at the back because with the number of chances we are creating we’re confident of nicking a goal."
Stuart McCaffrey is a doubt tonight after his head knock - he's fit but the stitches are where he heads the ball and there are fears the wound could re-open. Filipe Morais is back in light training but will face a fitness test. Kick-off tonight is at 7.45 and admission is £15.
23.30 - It didn't start too well but a great comeback from Saints saw us march to the quarter-finals thanks to a 3-1 win at Easter Rd which goes some way to making up for the weekend defeat. Gavin Swankie, Chris Millar and Jody did the damage on the night but all the players contributed to a cracking win. Derek McInnes told the BBC, "It was nice to progress in the cup, we know what a good cup run can bring to the club. I thought we got our just rewards tonight. I think there was a quiet determination about them tonight that they wanted to rectify Saturday's result. We got rocked by losing the goal early and it was a real test for the players. But they responded and scored a good goal through Gavin Swankie. We took more of our chances tonight and it was a great finish from Chris Millar. The third goal from Jody Morris was a magnificent strike, technically brilliant. It was a good team performance. Individually, we won a lot of battles out there and that was important. We're in the quarter-finals, hopefully we can win our next one if the draw's kind to us and who knows where it will take us? Certainly, if we produce that type of performance, we're capable of beating most teams."
September 21st - Derek McInnes at least knows what needs to change tomorrow night for part two of the double at Easter Rd. With more chances than the home side but hee-haw in terms of goals or points, the Saints manager said, "We have been here before in terms of missing chances. I have said it after every game, including Celtic at Parkhead. We need to do better in front of goal and we should have taken the lead. Our performance should have got us something from the game but the fact is we are leaving with a 3-0 defeat."
Filipe Morais who missed out on Saturday is on anti-biotics as he suffers from the flu and the gaffer went on, "Fil is on antibiotics and has had to see a GP. He is laid up and I would even say he is a doubt for Tuesday." There's better news though for Stuart McCaffrey who went off early with a head knock - despite getting stitches, he should be fine for tomorrow night.
September 19th - Saints are off for the first of their double-header against the Hibs today and Filipe Morais(right) is looking forward to facing up to his old club. Speaking in the Courier, he said, "We could have had six points by now but unfortunately we only have three. Even then, that’s not too bad at this early stage. Hearts just got their first win the other night, while Hamilton got off the mark against Hibs at the weekend. We are a confident bunch of boys and we are not worried at all about it. I do think some team is due a defeat off us but we are relaxed about it. Our manager is a confident person and that gets through to the players. We have the belief that everything is all right and we are going to go on and do really well this season. We just want to get that first win in the bag. We are scoring loads of goals—we have scored more than any team outwith the Old Firm. We are also creating chances constantly. It is just frustrating that we have not finished teams off. We have great strikers and there are goals throughout the side. We just need to put teams away"
Meanwhile today's opponents don't have their problems to seek with Stokes the latest Hibs player to make the papers for the wrong reasons after being involved in a nightclub brawl.
6.30pm - Well that was a crap afternoon and while the scoreline didn't reflect the gap between the sides a 3-0 defeat to Hibs at Easter Rd made for a rotten afternoon for Saints.
September 18th - Manager Derek McInnes is looking for points not praise this weekend. Saints head to Easter Rd still looking for their first win and the manager told the Courier, "I would sacrifice a good performance for three points. We do like to play good stuff but we don’t want to be a team that gets a lot of plaudits for their nice football and for making lots of chances. We are past that stage. Also, it can be patronising sometimes. It is all about balance and as a manager you would love to win by playing exceptionally well but it has always been the case that the result is the most important thing. So I would take an average display if it meant we won the game. I do think we will win more than we lose if we keep playing like we have been and it is important not to be downhearted that we have not picked up more points. I have a belief in my players and they are gaining confidence as each game goes on. We now want to make sure we get results and we’re all geared towards that.". The Edinburgh side lost to Accies last week and he went on, "Hibs will be favourites and I expect a reaction from them after losing to Hamilton. In fairness, Accies played really well against them. We must try to punish them when we are on top because we haven’t been doing that. It is a game we are looking forward and one we are capable of winning."
September 17th - First the big news is that the away kit is released this Friday, so if you want to look dapper in maroon as we walk down Easter Rd at the weekend (also known as taking your life in your hands) you know what to do. Looking to the game and a 3-3 closed-doors match against the Arabs on Tuesday has seen Gary Irvine and Kenny Deuchar pick up minor knocks but both should be fit for Saturday. Kevin Rutkiewicz is set to resume full training next week.
September 15th - Slow news day as the Courier concentrates on tomorrow's 10th anniversary of the trip to Monaco. Survivor of that game Alan Main(right) said in the paper, " can’t believe 10 years have passed. There are some great memories and even although we didn’t do well, it was still a highlight for the players and the club to perform out there. When our name came out of the hat and we were drawn against Monaco, the guys were really excited by the whole Monte Carlo thing, with its Grand Prix and the famous casino. But to be honest, I tried to treat it just like any other game—I definitely didn’t try my luck at the gaming tables. It was good to receive praise from Barthez after the match but I was simply forced into making so many saves because of the quality of their side. A lot of their players, including Barthez, David Trezeguet, John Arne Riise and Willie Sagnol went on to play for bigger and better clubs."
His thoughts now were more to do with the draw at the weekend and he went on, "We’re all looking back and kicking ourselves that we didn’t take at least one of the chances we had to secure three points. We’re also still really annoyed about the penalty decision that went against Dave Mackay. It’s really difficult for referees at the moment after the diving incident involving Eduardo in the Arsenal game against Celtic. For instance, during our match against Hearts a fortnight ago, it looked like I was going to have a penalty awarded against me for a challenge on Christian Nade. From a certain angle it may have looked a stonewall foul but I actually pulled away and he dived. To make the situation even worse, one of the Hearts players was telling the ref that I should be sent off for a really bad challenge, which was why I lost the rag a bit. Thankfully, I was awarded a free-kick but on Saturday the decision went against Dave."
There were a few minor knocks from the weekend but nothing to worry about and Saints were boosted by the news that Kevin Rutkiewicz should be back in training by the end of this week.
September 14th - Dave Mackay(right) isn't mincing his words in the paper today. Talking about the penalty for St Midden when McGinn came near the Saints defender he told the Sun, "It was blatant cheating and I'm raging about it. I saw him coming into the penalty box but I didn't want to commit to the challenge and simply stood forward. I pulled out of it and he kicked me before falling over. He did it the way Robert Pires used to do when he played for Arsenal. It's disappointing because he's such a good player and has no need to do things like that. It was as clear as anything and I went across to him straight away to have a word. He didn't say anything back to me and that was proof of guilt in my eyes. He conned the referee and it was as simple as that. He'll say he was trying to gain an advantage for his team but it's just cheating. The boy just knew what he was doing in this game. He kicked me on the shins and fell over." He was just as unhappy about the referee's decision to book him and his overall officiation of the game. "The crowd's reaction said it all where the referee was concerned. Both sets of fans were booing him. You couldn't say a word to him during the game.When he gave the penalty I told him to have a look at the incident again on television. He just said, 'Get away or I'll send you off'. We had a meeting with Hugh Dallas, the SFA's head of refereeing, a few weeks ago and he told us there would be no problem if we spoke to match officials in the right manner. I didn't shout at the referee and I wasn't having a go but he didn't want to know. We should have won all three points. If we'd taken our chances we'd have won by a couple of goals.We were gutted in the dressing room afterwards."
September 12th - Saints head west today full of hope that we can notch up our first league win of the season. Dave Mackay for one is looking forward to the game and the full-back told the Courier, "The international break did me a real favour. If we’d had a game last weekend I’d have been struggling because of the groin strain I got five minutes into the Hearts game. But I’m feeling a lot better now. Coming to a club who’d just won promotion and one who’d put a strong squad together, I thought I’d have to bide my time. But the gaffer had obviously seen enough in pre-season to start me. And it’s great to be back playing in the SPL again. Between my time in England and at Livingston I’d been away from the top division almost five years and I missed it. We want to get that first win as soon as possible, because the longer it goes without our winning the more difficult it’ll get. And this is a game we feel we can get a result from. St Mirren are a team we would look to be alongside in the table. And the fact they’ve still to win at home in the league could work in our favour. It can’t be easy for Saints going over half a season without winning on their own patch. That creates a pressure and hopefully we can keep their run going for them."
Derek McInnes is confident that the win will come. He said, "We’ve scored in all our games so far and I’m sure that victory will come sooner rather than later. However, St Mirren will be equally determined to win today and we’ll have to put in another good display. Results are always more important than performance—I would be happy if the team scrapped to a 1-0 win— hopefully, we can combine both today."
11.30pm - It wasn't the highest scoring of games but again despite dominating the game for long spells we had to settle for a share of the points in a 1-1 draw at Paisley with Jody's long-range effort cancelling out a Mehmet penalty in what was at times a hard-fought encounter almost ruined by a referee in Steve Nicholls who dished out cards to Saints players like confetti and was almost Dallasesque in his incompetence.
September 11th - Liam Craig(right) has been the subject of some debate this season as the midfielder has lost his regular starting place in the side this season. He's not too happy about it either and in the Courier today he said, "It’s disappointing not to be playing. But this season we have a good squad of players and the team has been performing well. So, while it’s frustrating to be on the bench I recognise the manager has a hard job picking the side. There was Paul Sheerin against Arbroath. He was excellent in that game but couldn’t even get in the pool for the Sunday against Hearts. That shows you how strong a squad we now have. All I can do is work hard to get back in the plans. I’m pleased enough with my form. But the boys who are playing are doing well and I realise I’ll have to bide my time. Murray Davidson has been exceptional—then there’s Jody Morris and Chris Millar and of course Martin Hardie came on and scored against Hearts. So the competition in midfield is fierce and it’s just a case of waiting for my chance then doing the business when I get it. One of the reasons I asked to play in the midweek Forfarshire Cup tie was that it might give me an opportunity to catch the manager’s eye. The other was that apart from a bounce game with Hibs last week I’ve not played a lot of football recently and if I’m not to be involved this weekend I could have gone two to three weeks without a game."
Peaso is back in full training but tomorrow's trip to Paisley is too soon for him. Elsewhere and Dave Mackay and Danny Grainger have both recovered from minor knocks and will be fit for the trip.
September 9th - Saints exited the Forfarshire Cup on penalties last night after the game finished 2 apiece with Gavin Swankie and Stevie May on target for us, although it seems we had plenty of chances during the game to wrap things up with the woodwork stopping us on three occassions (sound familiar?).
September 8th - The build-up has started for the trip to Paisley this weekend and Murray Davidson is looking for Saints to get their first league win of the season. Speaking to the Courier, he said, "The start has almost been perfect for me, although I would have preferred one of my goals to have been a winner. I am sure if we keep playing the way we have been then we will get that first win sooner rather than later. As a team, we are looking for those three points because we believe we should have finished the Hearts game off in the first half, and also feel we did enough to win the match against Motherwell. We have had a tough start because we played Celtic as well but we feel if we keep this form going then we will get there. We have St Mirren on Saturday and while last season in the first division there was maybe a game or two when you thought it would be a banker for St Johnstone that’s not the case in SPL and it will be tough."
In an attempt to keep the rumour mill going we've apparently offered training facilities to Neil McCann. Meanwhile there's a Forfarshire Cup tie tonight at Station Park with a 7.30pm kick-off - it'll be a mainly reserve / youth side making the trip.
September 4th - There's not been too much happening with the international break this weekend. The club have announced that the St Midden trip next Saturday is an all-ticket affair and while you'll be able to buy tickets at a wee booth next to the Methadome, the club are also selling them priced £20 for adults and a tenner for brats and concessions.
On the injury front, Peaso is back from his goat's blood treatment in Germany and will be back in full training next week. Kevin Rutkiewicz is back running and Kevin Moon should be back in training soon as well while Graeme Smith is also hopeful of being back in training after his calf injury. The keeper told the Courier, "The international break has probably done me a favour. I don’t like setting a target in case I don’t quite get there but I don’t think I’ll be too far away after the break. Hopefully tomorrow’s scan will show that the calf is healed. The injury happened about six weeks ago in a pre-season game in Ireland. I felt it go with about 20 minutes left and then a scan showed there was a seven-centimetre tear. I hadn’t had a serious injury for a long time so it’s sod’s law that after coming to a new club I got one after less than two games. When I signed for the club I knew Alan would fight me all the way for the starting place. I wouldn’t expect anything less. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to challenge him because of the injury, but I’m hoping I can start that challenge soon. I know I won’t walk straight back into the team"
September 1st - Martin Hardie(right) confessed to the Courier today that he was always set to take the injury-time freekick that got us a point at the weekend."After the free-kick was awarded for a foul on me, there was only one thought in my mind—and there was no way anyone else was getting to take it! I practise that sort of strike often in training and it’s one I’ve got in my locker. I scored a similar one last season against Dunfermline but Sunday’s was even better. I think my last goal in the SPL was six years ago for Kilmarnock against Partick Thistle, so it’s been a long time coming but well worth the wait. However, despite that, I’d rather we’d won on Sunday. It’s obvious we’re still on a steep learning curve as the new team in the division—every day’s a school day for us. But the manager’s brought in a few new players and we now have a strong squad perfectly capable of staying in the SPL. That means some players are going to be left out on match day but we’re all working together and are determined to stay up. The bookmakers always write off the chances of the team that’s been promoted from the first division but we still have the winning and working mentality which made us champions. And the tough nature of the first division means we’re battle-hardened and we’ll always get in the faces of the opposition no matter who they are. It’s going to be a long, hard journey for us this season but it’s one we’re relishing."
Saints play a closed-doors game against Hibs today but don't look for any transfer moves ahead of tonight's deadline.
5.30pm - The transfer deadline has seen little activity although that hasn't stopped the rumour machine. The big news though is the CIS Cup 3rd Round draw and just for a change we've avoided the Bigot Brothers. Instead it's off to Easter Rd and a nice game against Hibs, only three days after we play them at the same venue in the league. Tuesday September 22nd is the date to put in your diaries.
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August 31st - Derek McInnes was happy enough with the performance yesterday. He spoke to the Courier after the game and said, "I thought that a point was the very least we should have had. When we went behind late in the game, I feared the worst, but none of my players gave up and they showed tremendous spirit and resolve. Huge credit to every one of the players, especially to Martin for coming off the bench and producing something so special. We really battered a good Hearts side for long periods and made numerous chances, and what we need to learn—and learn quickly—is that when we are on top for so long, we need to be more clinical. But if any of my team ever need belief and confidence that we belong in this division, then I’ll show them the DVD of the first 45 minutes of today’s game to persuade them. Overall, I’m relieved to get that point, but still disappointed that we didn’t make our early domination count for more."
That was echoed by left-back Danny Grainger who said, "Their keeper was a lot busier than Alan Main and I think it would have been an injustice if we hadn’t got anything out of the match. I think we’re finding our feet in the SPL now and if we can cut out some of our mistakes, we will start picking up three points from games."
August 30th - Saints don't seem to have any problems ahead of today's game against the Jambos. Steven Milne, Dave Mackay and Danny Grainger have all recovered from minor knocks sustained in the CIS victory midweek while Murray Davidson who missed out due to a strain is back in the squad.
7pm - Another pulsating afternoon of drama saw Saints draw 2-2 with Hearts despite arguably deserving all three points. Murray Davidson gave us the lead before a second-half comeback (and a disallowed goal for Saints) saw us go behind as injury-time beckoned. But all hail to the mighty presence that is Mad Mental Martin Hardie who popped up at the death with a cracking freekick to give us a point. Earlier on today Hibs lost out to a single goal from TFOE although the words "poetic" and "justice" will no doubt be echoing around Edinburgh tonight after McGeady was given a second yellow card for diving.
August 28th - Well so much on relying on Chick the Prick as the CIS draw isn't now scheduled until next week. Meanwhile one of the heroes from Wednesday night's win, Kenny Deuchar(right) is hopeful of taking his new goalscoring form into the SPL on Sunday. With Saints set to take on the Jambos, the striker told the Courier, "I don’t care where I’m scoring as long as I’m scoring and the team is doing well. But it would be nice to get a goal at McDiarmid Park where I have a really good record. I don’t want to put a curse on it but I’ve never lost there either playing for St Johnstone when I was on loan or against them for Gretna. That must amount to around 10 games all told. I’ve been lucky enough to play three out of the four games so far this season so I can’t complain too much at missing out on Saturday. Of course going to Parkhead and Ibrox are the fixtures you want to be involved in and it’s disappointing when you miss out. But these things happen in football. The manager has to make decisions and I’m fine with that. Hopefully, though, I’ve done enough against Arbroath to be in his thoughts now for Sunday."
August 27th - Derek McInnes was happy with last night's win. Speaking after the game to the Courier he said, "I was delighted with the way we reacted to Saturday. I was looking for a professional performance and got it. Our attitude was spot on. The players did everything I asked of them and we scored some good individual and good team goals. But perhaps the most pleasing aspect was the that we kept Arbroath out in the second half because when you get comfortable like we were you can become sloppy."
August 26th - Saints head to Arbroath tonight for the 2nd round of the CIS cup against an Angus side that have made a good start in the 2nd Division. Derek McInnes isn't taking any chances though and will put out a strong Saints side. That may or may not include ex-Arbroath star Gavin
Swankie but the winger is philosophical about it and told the Courier, "I still live in the town and I always look out for the Lichties’ result on a Saturday. And if there’s a midweek game and St Johnstone don’t have a match, then I’ll go along to Gayfield. I’ve actually been back to the ground as a player for friendlies while I was at Dundee, but I’m really looking forward to returning for a competitive fixture and meeting up again with some of the guys at the stadium. I imagine a few of my family will also be at the game—hopefully supporting St Johnstone. The club would love to go on a good cup run, if not win it, so if I’m selected I’ll be going all out to beat Arbroath. The gaffer has said from day one that he’ll need to utilise the full squad this season and obviously he can’t keep everyone happy. I was gutted to miss the Motherwell game, but you’ve just got to take it on the chin and if you’re given a chance, you have to grasp it. I was delighted to get on for 25 minutes or so against Celtic and despite the fact we lost, I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It’s now up to me to keep my head down in training and continue to work hard to convince the manager to include me in the team."
11.30pm - A slightly nervous start but from midway through the first half, we took control of the game and ended up comfortable 6-0 winners at Arbroath with goals from Steven Milne(2), Kenny Deuchar(2) and Collin Samuel while Filipe Morais got the pick of the bunch with a 35-yard rocket in the first half. So a good night out and we're in the draw for the third round which takes place tomorrow at 1pm.
August 24th - Gary
Irvine confessed that he had his part to play in Saturday's defeat. Speaking to the Courier, the Saints defender said, "It’s hard for the opposition to cope. We knew how difficult a task it was going to be. And to create chances as we did and score two great goals was pleasing. But to lose five is majorly disappointing, particularly given the manner of some of them. Celtic are playing a good system this season, moving the ball well and getting into little pockets. But, defensively, if you don’t get your positioning right or cover for one another then you’ll get punished which is what happened to us here. We need to learn from this and tighten up."
6pm - Not much else coming out of the post-mortems from the weekend. Looking forward though the prices for the Arbroath game on Wednesday have been confirmed with Saints fans paying £15 to stand at the "Pleasureland" end of the ground, while it's £8 for concessions and an adult and kid gate will set you back £20.
August 22nd - Today marks the biggest game of the season and Steven Milne(right) is out to score against the one side he's never notched a goal against. The Forces of Evil await the 500 Saints fans heading west but the Saints striker said in today's Courier, "Personally, I don’t have a great record against Celtic. I’ve had a few chances against them during my career, but I’ve never actually scored while playing Celtic. Saturday would be the perfect time to break my duck. People have been having a go at Gary Caldwell recently, and I’ll be hoping to cause him even more problems today. But he won the Scottish player of the year last season and is still a class act, so I’m sure he won’t be too worried about facing me. Celtic didn’t have the best of luck against Arsenal, but their win up at Aberdeen last weekend showed just what a dangerous side they can be. They have good players all over the park but obviously, at the moment, it looks like Aiden McGeady is on fire. We do have a lot of guys out at the moment, but we now have enough strength in depth with quality all over the pitch to cope with that, so we won’t be using injuries as an excuse. Our preparation for the game has gone well and we took a lot of heart from our opening league fixture against Motherwell. We may have drawn, but we feel within the squad that we still possess the winning mentality which helped us become first division champions."
One piece of good news came with Chris Millar managing to pass a fitness test so he's in the squad.
Elsewhere and the u-19s had a nast introduction to the U-19 SPL league with a 6-1 thrashing by Motherwell.
7.30pm -While the 5-2 win for TFOE perhaps flatters them and there were plenty of pluses to take from the performance, there's no doubt that the result will hurt. Collin Samuel and Jody Morris got the goals for us but after the game, Derek McInnes told the BBC, "Losing five goals is a sore one to take, but we will take positives from it. There was a gulf there in terms of keeping the ball and creating chances, but we still had two or three chances before Celtic scored. I am disappointed at the manner of some of the goals, but I think Celtic will score four or give goals against a few teams this season. And I think Collin Samuel can be very pleased with his performance"
August 21st - Chairman Geoff Brown has issued a warning ahead of our trip to Wegieland this weekend. Casting more clouds of doom and gloom he reckons Scottish football is in a mess financially and more clubs will go to the wall this season. Winning promotion last year cost us £225,000 (not helped by the early exits in all the cups) and the chairman told the Courier, "The last TV deal was very, very important to quite a number of clubs within the SPL and it could well have been the difference between those clubs being in business or not in business. The recession makes it very difficult because quite a bit of money coming into the clubs would be from what has been called the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ of companies taking match sponsorship and corporate entertainment. These are difficult times and companies just do not have the cash available— football is a luxury item and it’s the luxury items that are first to go. There’s no point in being in the SPL and not competing but the lid has to be kept as tight as possible."
"The club pushed the boat out and had the largest squad in the league... the result of that is proof that full-time football (at SFL level) is not economic and these figures prove that. The other thing to take into account is the cost of running the stadium now it’s 20 years old. Nothing of that age goes on without quite a lot of maintenance and there’s costs incurred over the season and there will be the following year."
Meanwhile on the park, Derek McInnes' plan for the trip to the Evil Empire tomorrow means we won't be sitting back. "Nobody outwith our dressing room’s expecting us to go to Parkhead and get a result, but we’ve got to turn that to our advantage and prove a point. There are always upsets over the course of a season and, hopefully, we can provide another shock on Saturday. We’ve been out of the SPL for seven years but we worked hard to win promotion from the first division and this type of game is the ideal reward for the players and our fans. No matter who they select, we know we’ll have to work hard when we don’t have the ball. However, we’ll definitely not be going there to defend for 90 minutes, as that would be suicidal. We still need to carry a threat when we have the ball and to cause them problems."
No word on Chris Millar yet but of the current crock list he's the only one in with a chance of making the game.
August 19th - The non-stop media coverage continues in the build-up to the weekend trip to Parkhead. Today it's Kenny Deuchar's turn and he reckons we've got nothing to fear. Speaking in the Courier, he said, "There have been strange results involving the Old Firm before. Over the course of a season their quality will come through in the end. In one-off games against these teams though, you never know what can happen. Teams have gone to Parkhead in recent years and got something from the match. We hope to do the same. Hopefully the demands they’ve faced in tackling Arsenal in the Champions League this week will give us a slight advantage in terms of preparation for Saturday. It’ll be difficult for us but if we don’t concede early and take our chances then we’ll be in with a shout. The difference between the SPL and first division is that there are no easy games in the Premier League. Lapses in concentration that you’ll get away with at the lower level you’ll get punished for when you step up as we found out against Motherwell. Last Saturday was a marker for us. It showed we can compete at this level. But hopefully in future we can confine the entertainment to what we are doing and not through the other team getting goals. I’d take a boring 1-0 over a dramatic 2-2 any day of the week.
Elsewhere and Chris Millar is set to resume training tomorrow but that will be to late for him to be considered for the Sellik match.
August 18th - Peter MacDonald is off to Germany to get to the bottom of his injury. He's off to see a hamstring specialist who helped out Usain Bolt and the striker told the Courier, "“I’d rather not be going to Germany but this has to be done. That’s four times I’ve tried to come back in five months and kept breaking down. I worked extremely hard over the summer and lost a stone in weight ahead of the new season. But then playing against the Scotland under-21s last week I went to burst and it felt like someone had shot the back of my leg. A scan has shown a slight tear in the identical position to the previous times and that needs to be seen to. It’s great that the club are prepared to get me the best treatment there is. Usain Bolt has been to this guy as have Michael Ballack and Michael Owen. It’s encouraging that getting me back is so important to them that they are sending me to Munich. And it’s given me a lift because I have been down. This isn’t going to be enjoyable. In fact it's going to be painful. I’m told I’ll get a daily cocktail of jags, massages and osteopathy. They inject you with zinc, potassium, magnesium, goat’s blood and other stuff. I spoke to Neil McCann who went there and he says he got 55 jags in just four days. But Neil went across on the Sunday and played the next Saturday, which shows this works."
Meanwhile another of the walking wounded on his travels is Kevin Moon. He's off to Lancashire to see a dental specialist about his pelvic trouble. Derek McInnes explained, "It’s been proved in the past that problems with teeth can upset your balance and affect your pelvis. So we’ve had Mooner, along with Martin Hardie, visit a specialist in Oldham regarding a gumshield"
Elsewhere and Caff (right) has been speaking to the Official Site about his performance at the weekend. Happy with his own game, he said, "For the much maligned Scottish football I thought it was a pretty good match. The two teams tried to play football and it was an open game - maybe too open from my point of view as a defender - but I though we acquited ourselves well. We had the better scoring chances and it took two exceptional goals from Motherwell to prevent us from taking all three points. I don't think we were out of place there on Saturday. It's games like that we have to make sure we don't lose and as a first taste it went okay. I think we should aim to be the top team in the bottom half of the league and if we could achieve that then that would be termed success. We'll be judged on what we do in games like Saturday's."
August 17th - Video highlights of the weekend action are now on the BBC News site. Back to reality and there are plenty more quotes in the paper. MoM Murray Davidson(right) told the Courier, "I am just delighted to get started in the SPL. The first aim for me was to get in the team and then it was up to me to prove that I deserved to be there. Hopefully I have done that and will keep my jersey for next weekend against Celtic. That game was played at a quicker tempo than those in the first division but every level you go up it is going to get more difficult. As a player you want to challenge yourself at a higher level and it is just a pity that we did not get the three points."
Not much news from Saints today though Derek McInnes has been quick to praise the fans that turned out at the weekend. With only 1400 Well fans in the ground (a wee bit less than the 2000 talked about in some of the Wegie media) the manager told the Tully, "The boys enjoyed playing in the good atmosphere and it will be great if our fans keep backing us as well as they did on Saturday."
Elsewhere and we've apparently signed local youngster Darren Kelly whose been at Hibs and Rangers - no doubt he'll be available once the usual quarantine restrictions are lifted.
August 15th - Well the big day is finally here and the real campaign starts at 3pm today. Danny Grainger(right) reckons we don't have to look far to see what we can achieve this season. Speaking to the Courier, the left-back said, "I don’t believe teams will under-estimate us as the side just coming up and that is understandable given what happened with Hamilton last year. Unfortunately for me, I was in the United team that lost to them on the opening day and I think they took confidence from beating one of the bigger sides in the SPL. That showed how important making a good start can be for a newly-promoted team and there can be no doubt Accies got a real boost from that result and performance. They realised that night that they could kick on in this league. We hope to do the same thing by getting a victory against Motherwell. I realise they may have an edge because they have been playing competitive matches in Europe—we will have to wait and see about that—but we have had a very good pre-season and are ready for this game. The boys are flying and we just can’t wait to get started."
"Since coming to Saints I have been really impressed by the quality of the squad and can’t see the club doing anything other than move forward this season. We played really well against Burnley last week—in the first half we were fantastic—and we got a massive confidence boost from giving premiership players a hard shift. I guess the side that comes up to the SPL is always going to be tipped to go back down but we won’t worry about that. I think we will end up in our own ‘league’ in the bottom half of the SPL but there is no reason why we can’t do well against any side on any given day. We certainly will be aiming as high as possible."
Derek McInnes wasn't mincing his words either. "I know it will be a tough season ahead but we are prepared and ready for whatever comes our way."
6.30pm -It was a frustrating start for Saints with a 2-2 draw with Motherwell to open the season. Murray Davidson opened the scoring and after losing a goal, Graham Gartland restored the lead before Well equalised with a good Forbes effort. Not a bad performance overall but after a good start we should have gone on to win the game. After the game, Derek McInnes told the BBC, "We've got to be disappointed after twice getting ourselves in front. I thought we had the better of the game in the first half and the best chances in the second, but it just goes to show that there is no margin for error at this level. It is the first game and there are bound to be teething problems. But we should take a lot of confidence from that. If that is the benchmark, we should be okay."
August 14th - The build-up is well and truly underway for tomorrow's SPL opener. Saints will be without six regulars (Kevin Rutkiewicz, Graeme Smith, Kevin Moon, Peter MacDonald, Andy
Jackson and Chris Millar) but Derek McInnes is still optimistic of a good start. He's in today's Courier and said, "I feel sorry for these boys who are injured because they had worked hard to be ready and they aren’t going to make it. When you see six players out before the first game of the season you realise the size of the squad is going to be crucial. Last season we had Jody Morris, Peter MacDonald, Martin Hardie, Andy Jackson and Collin Samuel out for more than half the season and that underlined the strength we had then. Having added quality in the summer, I feel we should still have more than enough to go out and win this game. Everyone has been told they have to be ready to play their part when the chance comes their way. That is the way it has to be to challenge and push the squad."
Motherwell of course have some games under their belt already thanks to a shortened Euro campaign. The manager has no fears though despite the bookie's (and the Sun's Ronnie Mackay) tipping us for the drop. "I can understand the bookies making us favourites to go back down but proving people wrong is again part of the motivation for the new season. I have players who are new to the premier league and others who have been out of it for a long time, but they showed they were the best in division one and this is their reward. I am just glad we are an SPL side now, playing against the best teams in Scotland. If you aren’t looking forward to that you are in the wrong job. The challenge is to win enough games to make sure we stay in the SPL because this club has been out of it for far too long. The chairman Geoff Brown and the supporters enjoyed it in the past and when St Johnstone were relegated seven years ago no one thought it would take so long to get back. Now that we are here we have to show the belief that we belong in this company. "
The 1st Division Championship flag will be unveiled tomorrow about ten minutes before kick-off. Off the park though there's already some controversy over the ticket allocation to Saints for the Parkhead trip. We've been given a whole 758 tickets but over 500 of those are "restricted view" (i.e. pish). Stewart Duff isn't too happy about that state of affairs and told the paper, "We’ve written to Celtic to express our disappointment that out of 758 tickets, only 222 have a clear view of the pitch. They are not in breach of SPL rules but we feel we’ve been treated a bit disrespectfully. It was never mentioned when we had our conversation about ticketing arrangements last month. If it had been we would have questioned it then. There’s not a lot we can do about it now but we await Celtic’s response."
August 11th - Saints have confirmed that Jody
Morris(right) will be skipper for the Motherwell game in place of the injured Kevin Rutkiewicz. The ex-Chelsea player isn't new to the role and told the Courier, "I’ve captained teams before. I skippered the England under 17s when Michael Owen was a team-mate and I was captain of Millwall. I even captained Chelsea on three or four occasions, after I complained to Gianlucca Vialli about not playing as often as I felt I should. I was only 20 at the time and went to see him about being left out of a couple of big games because I wasn’t too happy. His way of showing me I was thought highly of was to give me the captaincy for a spell, even though we had World Cup winners and people who’d captained their country in the side. Looking back now, it’s funny to think I was captain of a team containing the likes of Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps, Gus Poyet, Dan Petrescu and Roberto Di Matteo. And one of the games I was skipper for, Dennis Wise was also playing and he was the official club captain. But it was a good gesture from Vialli and one that made me realise that, however unhappy I was at being dropped when I thought I was playing well, I was still getting a decent number of games considering the midfield we had then. I enjoyed the experience of captaincy and wasn’t fazed by the thought of telling these guys what to do. For me, it doesn’t matter how old you are. Everyone is equal on the park and you’ve a responsibility to be vocal and tell team-mates what they need to be told. I’m 30 now but I wouldn’t look funny at an 18-19 year-old if they said something to me."
He's been putting in extra time in the gym as well and went on, "I only got an hour against Burnley so I went to the gym on Sunday night for a good workout on the weights. I felt the need to do that just to keep myself ticking over for this weekend. I am absolutely buzzing at the prospect of playing in the SPL. This is what we were aiming for last year and ever since the season ended we couldn’t wait to get started. Fitness-wise, I feel great. I’d a good pre-season and am raring to go. The new players who’ve come in have done really well so far. But there’s no doubt everyone will have a contribution to make over the course of the season. With going up to the SPL, we needed a stronger squad and people will have to show patience when they aren’t getting a game. It’s inevitable that players will spend longer on the sidelines than they might want to and they’ll just have to remind themselves that their chance will come along. In fairness, I don’t see that being a problem because last year one of our strengths was that everyone stuck together. There was no rubbish on the training ground with people sulking because they weren’t involved. The lads who weren’t being picked or were out injured were getting right behind their team-mates. I’m sure it’ll be the same this season."
Meanwhile Derek McInnes reckons he's got his tactics and lineup sorted for the weekend. He said, "I tried to involve everyone, who was fit, against Burnley and look at a couple of different formations, and all of the lads made a case for themselves. But I know who I’ll play and how we’ll play on Saturday. I was impressed with our performance against Burnley. We played some good stuff and when we were called upon to defend, as we will be to a greater extent in the SPL, we did that effectively. The one criticism would stem from the fact we needed a penalty to win the game."
Graeme Smith has been diagnosed with a tear in his thigh and is out for 10 days but Chris Millar should be fit.
August 10th - A closed doors game today saw Saints go down 4-3 to a Scotland U-21 side but the bad news was the aggravated injuries for Kevin Moon and Peter MacDonald making them doubts for the opener this weekend.
August 8th - With the last of the pre-season games today, this mornings Courier features the majesty that is Paul Sheerin(right) who shock, horror, reckons he may have to fight for his first team place in the coming season. "Since Owen Coyle came here and brought Neil Janczyk to the club, it’s been a common theme that I’ve not started seasons, but I’ve always knuckled down and been able to force my way into the team. I’m not trying to read the manager’s mind but I think against Burnley he’ll be sticking to the team he’s looking to play against Motherwell next week, which is obviously the team that did very well last Saturday. So, reading between the lines, I’m not overly optimistic about starting the match, but hopefully I can get on and do well. I’ve never shied away from competition. We’ve got options in every position and that’s how it should be. I’ll keep working away and when my chance comes, hopefully I’ll take it. I want to play every week and I feel I can do that.
I think that I’m naturally fit and I’ve had another good pre-season with no injury set-backs. I’ve never had pace to lose, so I’ve not got that to worry about."
5.30pm - As if Hollywood had scripted the game, it was Paul Sheerin from the penalty spot that gave us a well-deserved 1-0 win over Burnley as Saints turned on the style with as convincing a performance as we've seen throughout the pre-season build-up.
August 7th - The last big pre-season game takes place tomorrow and Derek McInnes is looking forward to the visit of ex-Saints boss Owen
Coyle. The Saints gaffer told the Courier, "I want us to be as hard working all over the pitch and clinical in front of goal as we were against Stenhousemuir. If we can take a solid performance against an English Premiership side into the Motherwell game, then I think that will serve us well. It will be good to see Coyley and his team again. The fact that they’re a Premiership team now, with some good signings in their team, will make it even tougher for us than it was last year. Both clubs have done well to get where they are now."
Graeme Smith(thigh) and Chris Millar(calf) are again set to miss out but both are hopeful of being ready for the SPL opener next weekend. Peaso is still building up his fitness after his hamstring injury and is unlikely to be involved but the manager is hoping that Kevin Moon will take some part.
August 5th - Saints have confirmed that the CIS tie with Arbroath will be on Wednesday August 26th with a 7.45pm kick-off. Meanwhile the first rip-off of the season looms with tickets on sale on Monday to season ticket holders for the SPL trip to Sellik Park on the 22nd of the month - it's £25 for a normal view and £22 for a "restricted" one. Bet you can't wait.....
August 4th - The CIS Cup 2nd round draw was made to day and it's another away tie with a trip to Arbroath on the cards on the 25th or 26th of this month.
August 3rd - The post-match coverage from the weekend has focussed on the ice bath that Saints brought with them as an after-match treat for the players. Not that Filipe Morais(right) minded much with the midfielder telling the Sun, "The gaffer has got us into using this pool after every game to help the recovery time of the muscles. It's basically a paddling pool full of cold water and then you add ice it's freezing. We had to stay in for at least seven minutes. It's not the most pleasant thing to do but it does help, especially me, as I'm playing catch-up with the squad at the moment in terms of fitness. The gaffer allowed me to train with the lads and play in a couple of games until I made up my mind about his offer to sign. I'm still behind them with sharpness and will likely miss the game against Burnley next weekend. But I would rather be ready for the first league match the following week against Motherwell. To get another crack at the SPL is great. The first year at Hibs was good and then the second season it all went down the pan. Then Caley getting relegated sums up my crazy career so far. Derek McInnes is a great manager and I want to settle down and have a good go at making it third time lucky, with a great bunch of guys. They may have been First Division players last year but most of them could have easily been playing the SPL. They are a classy side and we showed some good touches and scored some great goals against a good Stenny team. I was pleased to see the forwards score a couple each. I had a chance which I thought was worthy of a great finish. Unfortunately I hooked it high and gave everyone a laugh."
Derek McInnes was just as happy. He said, "It was a great workout and I thought we played some really good football. I don't want to single anyone out as I thought everyone from Alan Main to Filipe Morais was terrific. It's always great to score so many goals, but I was just as pleased that we didn't concede any, as its always easy to take your eye off when you are so far in front. But the players kept their concentration well and that pleased me just as much as the result."
6pm - No major news from the weekend. There's been no call-up for Collin Samuel for the Trinidad and Tobago squad for their game next week so he should be fine for the Burnley game this weekend and the league opener on the 15th. The injury victims are all making progress and while he was taken off with a groin strain, Steven Milne should be fine for the Burnley game. Saints have confirmed that season tickets are valid this weekend and that both the East and West stands will be open for the friendly, which has a 2pm kick-off.
August 1st - The injury list keeps on growing. Kevin Rutkiewicz and Andy
Jackson were already ruled out while Peter MacDonald and Kevin Moon weren't going to be risked as they continue their comeback. Now they've been joined by the trio of Martin Hardie(flu), Graeme Smith(thigh) and Chris Millar(calf) which stretches the squad a bit. Coming into defence though will be Graham Gartland(right) and he's out to establish himself in the side this season after a mixed set of performances earlier in the year. The defender told the Courier, "I had a few opportunities to come in and do well and never took them and you can only blame yourself for things like that. This is a new start for me. I’m not one of the new boys any more. I know what’s required of me and it’s about getting on with it now. I took two and half weeks off in Dublin and spent a lot of time with my family and from June onwards I started coming back over myself and it’s good to switch off for a while and then I came back and enjoyed pre-season. To be honest, it’s probably the first pre-season I’ve enjoyed in a while.". He's out to make the most of the injury to his skipper though and speaking of the situation, he went on, "It’s unfortunate and he’s been a bit unlucky this pre-season.
It’s a shame for him because he did so well last year and will now miss out for the start of the season but hopefully he’ll get back fit as soon as possible.
You’ve to take what’s in front of you and take it from there.
Caff and Dinky did well last year and it’s difficult to break those two up but you’ve to keep going whatever happens."
6.00pm - In the end it was no problem for Saints with a 5-0 win at Ochilview to put us into the second round of the CIS Cup. Goals came from Steven Milne with the opener, a couple for Kenny Deuchar and a couple for sub Collin Samuel to round off a nice afternoon for the boys.
Top Of News
July 31st - While the U-19s chalked up a 6-1 win against Newburgh juniors last night, today's Courier has an interview with Jody Morris(right) as well as the official squad photo. The midfielder is looking forward to the SPL and said, "I didn’t have any preconceptions about what Scottish football would be like when I first joined St Johnstone. The only thing I knew—and this came from playing down south—was that when you come up against a Scotsman you are in for a game. I didn’t know much about the Scottish first division at all, although I had watched the Saints lads in the cup games that were on TV. So I came up here with no expectations and it was all about playing football again. This has been a fresh start for me. I had built up a certain reputation in England because a lot of things happened, both on and off the pitch. I know that could have been helped by myself but I think it just became the easy thing to do to criticise me. It got to the stage where people would focus on one tiny little thing and blow it out of proportion rather than focus on what was really happening in a game. There were times when I had obviously played really well but some journalists just criticised me regardless. I am my biggest critic and am harsh on myself but I know when I have played well and when I have not. I had read some of the reports and thought it was ridiculous. But since I arrived in Scotland people have just taken me as they have found me and that has been refreshing. It has given me a new lease of life. That is not just for me personally but for my family as well. They are relieved that people are finally giving me a chance and being fair. I am not saying I would never want to go back down south again, but what I am saying is that coming to Scotland has shown me that not everyone is the same."
He's also fairly confident for what the coming season will bring for Saints, "We have a strong squad, there is plenty of depth there and the quality is high. Having the numbers was a big factor in winning the league last season and it will be just as important this year. It is good to know that when someone drops out there is somebody just as good waiting to come in. From the manager’s perspective, it also gives him the options to mix things up for certain games. We have made a few signings and I have been very impressed by them. Murray Davidson is a very exciting player. He is just young and learning the game but having played against him last season I know exactly what he is about. At Livingston last season, Leigh Griffiths took all the headlines because he was scoring goals but Murray was just as good. When clubs were looking at Griffiths they were also looking at Murray and that shows just how highly people think of him."
Looking forward to tomorrow and the injury list has lenghtened. Martin Hardie's hamstring injury isn't apparently a serious one but he's been ruled out of the trip to Ochilview. Peter MacDonald though is back in training at last.
July 30th - Filipe Morais(right) has been speaking about his decision to sign for Saints. In today's Courier, the winger said, "This has been a long, long time coming. It was May when I first heard St Johnstone were interested but I took my time with the decision and I’m happy it’s all done now and happy to be here. I have a little boy and fiancee down south so it was a big issue whether they wanted to come up again and I was looking to go down south really. But the manager was a big factor in me coming back to Scotland and I really want to do well for him. He thinks and I think I can show people that I’m a better player than they have seen so I’ve got unfinished business and want to do well next season. I had options down south but I felt I wanted to come back again and do well in Scotland. St Johnstone have a really strong squad with a good blend of experience and young players coming through like Kevin Moon and Andy Jackson so I think we’ll be fine."
Del also confirmed that he's finished with his summer shopping spree.
July 29th -The Saints photocall took place this morning with Graeme Smith trying to impersonate John Martin and wear some wacky gear (no
doubt to impress the watching West Coast photographers). Filipe Morais was there after a 1-yr deal signing this morning and Saints have also
announced the squad numbers for the coming season :
1 Alan Main
2 Gary Irvine
3 Danny Grainger
4 Jody Morris
5 Kevin Rutkiewicz
6 Stuart McCaffrey
7 Chris Millar
8 Martin Hardie
9 Steven Milne
10 Liam Craig
11 Paul Sheerin
12 Dave Mackay
14 Kevin Moon
15 Euan McLean
16 Peter MacDonald
17 Kenny Deuchar
18 Graham Gartland
19 Gavin Swankie
20 Murray Davidson
21 Collin Samuel
22 Filipe Morais
23 Andy Jackson
24 Steven Anderson
25 Graeme Smith
But the injury worries have already started with Kevin Rutkiewicz on crutches after last night with suspected medial ligament damage. Del told the Official Site, "Kevin will get a scan on his right knee at tea time tonight. It looks like medial ligament damage but I don’t want to jump to conclusions about the severity of the injury, we’ll see what the scan results show. However, he’s on crutches and unable to move the knee so it is obviously a concern with the SPL starting in two weeks."
And he's been joined on the sidelines by Andy Jackson who is set to undergo a knee operation keeping him out until Xmas. The manager went on, "Jacko will get an operation on Friday on his lateral knee ligaments. Best case scenario is a three month absence but it could be five months. It’s a big blow for a player who has not had his troubles to seek but the medical people feel it is better to operate now, solve the problem and start the recovery process rather than take a risk on seeing how things pan out for the next few weeks and then find that an operation is unavoidable."
Finally David Somers is the arse in the middle for the CIS cup-tie at the weekend.
July 28th - It's the last friendly before the firs real competitive action tonight as Saints head to Cowdenbeath. Jody
Morris is a doubt and Graeme Smith has a minor strain but Del is looking to put out a first-team squad. The manager's happy enough so far though and told the Courier, "We got what we wanted from the tour of Northern Ireland and the boys worked hard and enjoyed the trip. I am disappointed we did not win the game on Friday and we paid for a lot of missed chances when they scored a late goal. We must get that competitive edge for this Saturday and I am mindful of the fact that Stenhousemuir’s season got under way last Saturday."
Meanwhile the Morais transfer saga continues although it seems he's agreed to sign for us. And finally the prices for the CIS tie at Stenhousemuir on Saturday are £12 for adults and £6 for concessions.
10.15pm - Tonight's friendly finished in a 2-1 win for Saints with Kevin Rutkiewicz and Steven Milne getting the goals.
July 27th - Fanfest went well yesterday although disappointingly it seems most of the current squad had left before the official start of 4pm. But still there were plenty of legends on show and we were entertained by the sight of Allan Moore swearing live on Radio Tay. The new kit seemed to be selling well while the main rumour seems to be that Filipe Morais has all but signed in a move that should be confirmed in the next couple of days.
July 25th - The Glenavon friendly last night finished 2-apiece with Jody
Morris and Steven Milne on the scoresheet for us although we did apparently dominate the game, missing one penalty and seeing a goal disallowed before the home side equalised four minutes from time.
Meanwhile as Chic Young's Fitba Philosophy is again shown to be lacking as another of his "Dream Teams", Livi, go into administration again, former Livi defender and now Saints star Dave Mackay has been commenting on the sorry affair in the Courier. "It is a shame what has happened to Livi but it has been coming for a while. The place has gone from one disaster to the next because it has been somebody’s plaything for too long. Change at the top is what they need, so admin-istration might turn out to be the best thing that’s happened because they can hopefully come through the other side stronger. They had a chance the last time but it didn’t work out. The contrast between Livi and St Johnstone is huge. This club have not thrown money at it like some have. Saints live within their means and even though it took seven years to get back to the SPL they have done it now and are in a strong position. At this club, at least you know you will get your wages every week, so by coming here all I have to think about is the football side of things ."
July 24th - The wave of love and optimism going through the Saints camp continued today with Liam
Craig(right) talking up Del. The midfielder, whose no doubt glad to be able to play up there instead of at left-back told the Courier, "It is brilliant that he is being linked with big jobs because that means we are doing well as a team. I owe him so much.
He has been great for me and for the club since he was appointed. He is an inspirational character and the fact he is not long retired from playing means he can connect with the players. If West Brom or any other club are talking about taking Derek McInnes as their manager, it reflects well on us and it means we have been progressing on the park. Obviously, we are delighted he is still here and if he is getting linked with big jobs next summer we will all be happy because it will mean we have had a successful year. I don’t doubt that one day big things will happen for him in management but at the moment we are just glad to have him in charge heading into the SPL"
As for his own situation he still feels he has a lot to prove in the so-called elite league. "I do feel I have some unfinished business at that level and that is why I joined St Johnstone. Everyone knew this club possessed everything you need to be an SPL side so, in my view, it was only a matter of time before we got back there. Now we have earned the right to put ourselves up against the best teams in the country. Personally, I can’t wait to go back to places like Parkhead, Ibrox and Tynecastle. That’s what it’s all about at the highest level and it is a challenge I am looking forward to. We are under no illusions about the task facing us. At this moment in time, we are looking to finish 11th and anything above that is a bonus. We picked up good habits last season and have been used to winning games so we need to take that into the new season and kick off with a good start against Motherwell ."
Not much else to report other than expect the Filipe Morais situation to be concluded one way or another in the next 24 hours.
July 23rd - A 3-1 win for Saints over Distillery last night saw us get off to a good start on the Irish tour. Goals came from Gavin
Craig and Chris Millar. Del was happy as well and told the Official Site, "We played some good stuff tonight and created bundles of chances and if I have a criticism it’s that we were a bit wasteful with some of those. However, we got 75 or 90 minutes into most of the guys and that’s what it is all about just now. The goals were all quality - Liam produced a great run and finish for his one and we must have strung passes numbering into double figures before Midge scored his so that is pleasing. Lisburn are a decent side and gave us a good work out."
Meanwhile the manager reckons Filipe Morais will be a Saints player soon. The Couriers quoting him saying, "I know Felipe well and know what he is capable of. We probably lacked a wee bit of creativity as a side last season and I think he will give us that. So I am keen to get him signed and he is keen to sign so hopefully we can get that done. I would say that one is close."
July 21st - Stuart McCaffrey is the latest player to talk up Saints' chances for the coming SPL campaign. In the Courier today, he says, "No disrespect to the first division, but all teams want to be in the SPL. I think everyone at the club—players, manager, staff and fans—are all really excited at the prospect of being back there. And part of the beauty of going up is that in the first year, teams perhaps won’t know our players and, hopefully, we will catch a couple of sides off guard, certainly in the first round of games. The confidence and togetherness we possessed towards the end of last season will hopefully see us through the early SPL matches. It’s all about building up a head of steam, and securing points when we can away from home at tricky grounds like Tynecastle and Easter Road. But most of all, we have to make sure McDiarmid is a tough place for teams to come to. Once those initial matches are out of the way, we’ll perhaps be able to accurately establish just where we’re at and what our targets will be for the rest of the season."
July 20th - The new kit was launched today at the club and suffice to say the
reaction from the fans is one of under-enthusiasm with the strips
looking fairly dull to say the least. A blue and gold home kit
(modelled by Murray Davidson) with a big Taylor Wimpey logo on
the front (as last season's sponsors have been renamed) is
accompanied by a maroon and white kit for the away strip (as
worn by Graham Gartland) which not only has a logo on the front but
sponsors Easy Heat Systems getting their logo on the back. Both
kits have a new 125th anniversary badge. The home kit is
available at the Surridge Sports website and along with the
training gear will be on sale at the Fanfest this Sunday. Don't look
for the away kit until nearer the end of August though.
Geoff Brown talked up the sponsors though telling the Official Site, "I am delighted that Taylor Wimpey has extended its' relationship with the Club in what is such a high profile year for us. Taylor Wimpey has been involved with St Johnstone FC for a number of years and we are pleased to continue the association. In addition, I am delighted that Easy Heat Systems has chosen to enhance their support of the Club by way of this sponsorship and it is extremely encouraging to receive such good support from a local company."
11.30pm - The pre-season prep continued with a convincing 2-0 win at Ayr tonight with goals in the second-half from Kevin Rutkiewicz and Filipe Morais. The latter will now join the squad for their trip to Ireland tomorrow for a couple of games. Peter MacDonald, Andy Jackson and Kevin Moon will stay at home to work on their fitness.
Speaking of the win on the Official Site, Del said, "I’m really pleased with that tonight. It was a good competitive match against a side that I think will do well in the First Division this season. It allowed me to get some playing minutes into a range of players and will prove a useful stepping stone as we build up towards the start of the season. We maybe could have picked them off a bit better at times and 2-0 was the least we deserved."
July 18th - Despite a lot of pre-season niggles, Peter MacDonald looks like being fit for the start of the campaign in a fortnight. He's also got plenty of motivation. In today's Courier he said, "Last season was disappointing for me personally, but great for the club. However, that’s in the past and I’m now concentrating on looking forward. I’ve lost 11 pounds and I’m lighter than at any time since John Connolly was manager here. Derek McInnes showed faith in me when he made it clear he wanted to me to stay. I signed a new deal soon after he took over as manager, and that was a huge confidence boost. I intend to repay that faith. I owe him and I owe myself. I’m one of the longest serving players here now, and I’m going into the SPL ready to prove I can still cut it at that level."
Meanwhile yesterday's bonding session at Crieff Hydro went down well. He went on, "It was brilliant for morale, and everyone loved the jeeps and quad bikes. However, Collin Samuel managed to smash into a tree, despite being the slowest driver among us, and Graham Gartland and Martin Hardie became bogged down in the mud and needed a tow"
Elsewhere and Andy Jackson has had his scan postponed until the swelling goes down on his knee.
July 17th - A 1-0 defeat to Norwich yesterday doesn't seem to have worried Del much. Pre-season continues today with the boys off to Crieff Hydro and the manager told the Courier, "The guys have worked extremely well in pre- season so, when the people at Crieff Hydro kindly invited us to go along to sample their facilities, we thought it was a perfect opportunity to reward the players and to enjoy a bit of team bonding—without alcohol. It will give the players a chance to relax in a nice environment away from football for a while.
Andy Jackson won't be there though. Despite being in line to play yesterday he's got swelling on his knee and faces a scan today. As for the signing situation, don't expect anything too soon as the manager went on, "Filipe is a player I’d definitely like to sign. I’ve worked him before at Millwall, I’ve played with him at St Johnstone and he provides another option in a wider area for us. But we’re still a long way from an agreement. He’s been training with us, but has one or two other irons in the fire, so we’ll just have to see how things progress. "
July 16th - New no3 Danny Grainger is more than happy to have signed for Saints according to the Courier. "It looked like the deal had originally fallen apart and I was disappointed. But then I returned to Dundee United for a couple of days and now it has happened I’m over the moon. The last year has been Hell for me. I want to play football every week and now I’ve got a chance to come to Perth to do that. I want to reward Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty for bringing me to McDiarmid Park. There aren’t many teams in Scotland paying money for players outside of Dundee just now, so I’m looking forward to working with the lads here and getting to know them all."
Saints play Norwich at St. Andrews this afternoon with Del looking for an improvement on the 3-1 defeat to QoS on Tuesday. The mystery trialist is still at the club and he's been outed all over the place as ex-loan star and recently-freed ICT midfielder Filipe Morais.
July 15th - Hallelujah, Praise the Rod and other such spiritual phrases. The Great Left-Back Search is finally over as Saints today signed 22-yr old Danny Grainger(right) from Dundee Utd on a 2yr contract. Previously at Gr£tna the new signing cost us some money (and additional hygiene products in order to cleanse him of the Gr£tna / Tannadump diseases) and joins after being shoved out the picture at Tannadump with the Arabs signing of Andy Webster today.
July 14th - With the world and his dog sworn to secrecy re the trialist striker, who is still be checked out by the club, Del at least ruled out one person as a rumoured move for ex-Saintee Keigan Parker was totally denied by the Saints manager. Meanwhile the boys have another closed-doors game today against Queen of the South before facing Norwich at St Andrews on Thursday.
July 12th - Training camp finished yesterday with a 1-0 win for Saints against Rushden and Diamonds with the goal coming from a trialist who apparently anyone who was at the game easily recognised (but not being part of a clique we're not allow to mention). No real worries though Jody Morris picked up a minor strain. Up in Oban, a youth team finished runners-up to Alloa in their tournament with draw against the Arabs and Jambos in the process.
July 10th - There are some minor injurie in the Saints squad at Warwick but nothing major with Peter MacDonald and Collin Samuel suffering from minor strains. Andy
Jackson meanwhile is back in Perth to see the club doctor as they try to sort out his illness. Derek McInnes is quoted in the Courier saying, "We really want to get to the bottom of what has been causing the problem. He’s still able to do a bit of running work so his fitness levels are being improved and to some extent his inability to do full training is giving his achilles additional rest so we have to take the positives."
Meanwhile reports elsewhere reckon we'll have another keeper on our books in the next 48 hours with TFOD's Graeme Smith set to leave the Death Star and undergo decontamination prior to being allowed in the sacred halls of McDiarmid. The 26yr old ex-Killie player is 6ft 3 but has languished in the Ibrox reserves for the last few years.
5pm - Saints confirmed the signing this afternoon with Graeme Smith signing a 2yr contract and moving from Ranger to Saints. Meanwhile the curse of the plague on Saints trip continues - Kevin Moon has been sent home suffering from mumps!
July 8th - It's not so good for Andy Jackson with a recurrence of his illness on Sunday night meaning the Saints striker has had to stay at home and miss the training camp at Warwick this week, although Derek McInnes hasn't given up hope on him being able to join up with the lads later on. Kevin Moon is set to join in training this week after seeing a specialist in Leicester to get an injection into his groin (ooer missus). The squad are apparently having 3 training sessions a day including a 7am run before a bounce game at the weekend against Rushden and Diamonds and a trip north on Monday.
July 4th - Andy Jackson was at the middle of a health scare on Thursday. He apparently took ill at McD during training and ended up with an overnight stay in PRI with what seemed to be a reoccurence of the illness that he suffered over a year ago. He's had tests and was still travelling with the squad to Warwick but it's obviously a worry that Saints could do without. Derek McInnes told the Courier, "Jacko is out of hospital—which is a relief—and the doctors think they’ve got to the root of what was wrong. They believe it’s bowel related—but he’s much better, and will be coming to Warwick University with us next week. Jacko turned up for training on Thursday and just one look at him told you he wasn’t right. Stevie Milne has been off with a bug, but this was much worse. We sent him to a local doctor and he was referred immediately to Perth Royal Infirmary. He was put on a drip and given morphine. Obviously it was a worry, because it was similar to what happened more than a year ago. Poor Jacko has had a nightmare time of it—he has just come back from the Achilles injury. You’ve got to feel sorry for the lad, but hopefully the specialist has got to the root cause and he can get off to a fresh start in the SPL."
July 3rd - With plenty of rumours still doing the rounds the club announced yesterday that the mystery new shirt sponsor has been sorted out. Unfortunately this means the new strip won't be available until the end of the month which is starting to make previous suppliers Xara look like early providers. No doubt it means the launch will be timed with the Fanfest on the 26th.
Back on the park and Danny Grainger won't be moving to Perth. Despite Saints willing to spend 25K on the player United's asking price was beyond this so Derek McInnes has moved on - the Courier reporting that Partick's Marc Twaddle is one possible target.
Meanwhile Kenny Deuchar says he's looking forward to the new season. Dr. Goals(right) was also happy that WBA have sorted out their managerial situation. "It is great news that the manager will be here for next season. It is good for me personally because he is the person who signed me and I enjoy working with him. More importantly, though, it gives the squad continuity and we can go forward as a unit now. The club did really well last season under the manager and now he is staying here hopefully we can continue to make progress. Most of the guys know how he works and he has added the players he wanted over the summer so this is his team. It would have been really difficult for a new manager to come in and work with somebody else’s side. We face a huge challenge in the SPL but we are all settled and looking forward to the action starting next season."
He's also looking forward to linking up with Andy Jackson again. "Andy had a really difficult time last year with illness and injury. He has been working hard over the last couple of months—he’s been in every day trying to get fit—and I think he is on schedule to be ready for the new season. That has to be good for the club because if we can get him back playing like he was a couple of seasons ago then he will be a goal threat in the Premier League."
Meanwhile we may only be a week in but the injury problems have started. Kevin Moon will not be heading to Warwick but instead is off to Leicester to get an injection in his groin. The manager said, "We have been monitoring Kevin over the last wee while and have sent him back down because we feel we need to resolve this issue once and for all. It is frustrating for the player and we feel we need to find out what’s causing the problem. Mooner was magnificent at times for us last season. I have a high regard for him and if fit I know he could do well in the SPL for us. He will be travelling across from Leicester to join up with us at Warwick. He has reacted positively to the injections before so here’s hoping. "
July 2nd - Confirmation yesterday that an initial enquiry has been made for Arabs left-back Danny Graingerwith the former Gretna man out of the picture at Tannadump cos they keep on signing Coags. Derek McInnes told the Courier, "Danny is a player that would interest us and we have made an inquiry to Dundee United. It will all come down to a fee, though. If we can afford United’s asking price, hopefully a deal can be thrashed out. If not, we will have to move on."
Meanwhile it's been revealed that Collin Samuel(right) might miss the SPL opening fixture on August 15th due to a Trinidad and Tobago game against El Salvador, that's scheduled for August 12th. The striker said, "Our first game here is the 15th so I don’t know how it will work out. But I have done this before, playing on the Wednesday and coming back to Scotland to play Saturday, when I was at Dundee United. There’s no point concerning myself about the situation just now. I’ll have to wait and see if I’m selected by Trinidad and Tobago. But if I am then I’ll have to work out how I can best play for my country and club because I would definitely want to be involved in both games."
Top Of News
June 30th - More news from the start of pre-season yesterday. Del confirmed he's hopeful of signing a new deal within the next fortnight. But his main effort is on adding to the squad. Danny Grainger is the latest name to be linked with the left-back slot with the Arabs defender mentioned in the Courier. "The more pressing issue is getting one or two players in to make us more rounded as a squad. Weíve got three lads on board but there remain positions requiring to be strengthened. Unfortunately weíve lost out on a couple of people weíd targeted because of the constraints of working within a budget. But weíll keep working away to bring in players we can afford."
As for his own contract situation he said, "Itís flattering to be linked with jobs, especially one at a former club I had good times at. But I see my immediate future lying here at St Johnstone where I was given an opportunity by the chairman, when in the eyes of many people I wouldnít have been favourite to replace Owen Coyle. And now I hope that over the next couple of weeks weíll get something sorted out contract wise. The chairman has indicated there will be something there for me and Iíve told him I want to stay. Weíll get that sorted."
June 29th - Saints return for pre-season training today with a week's work at McDiarmid ahead of the squad once more heading to Warwick Uni for fitness assessments. Del is hopeful of having another couple of new faces for the trip as well as sorting out his own contract situation.
8pm - Well there was one new face today although it's not on the playing front. Former Rangers, Arabs and Everton defender Alec Cleland(right) has joined Saints as U-19 coach after Del got him in when he was left out of a job after the cutbacks at Caley Thistle. The Saints manager told the Official Site, "Iíve known Alec since our days together at Rangers and watched his career develop. He did well at Inverness and his U19 squad made the last four of the Scottish Cup. Alec will be a real asset as we try to bring more of our own players to join Kevin Moon and Andy Jackson in the first team squad and itís great to have him on board for the start of pre-season. He will work with the players Paul Sheerin brought on last season. Paul did a great job with our kids but his focus has to be on playing now that we are entering the SPL. Tommy Campbell will remain in overall charge of your youth development programme."
June 25th - Some optimism today with Del apparently keen to stay - according to the Tully he's told Geoff Brown, "I see my immediate future as being with St Johnstone. I'm looking forward to proving myself in the SPL and have told the chairman I want to stay. I can understand speculation linking me to the West Brom job, as I formerly played for them, and it's flattering to be linked with the post. But my focus is on St Johnstone and, with the new SPL season due to start soon, I am looking forward to that."
June 24th - Not much happening still. Transfer moves for the two or three players Derek McInnes wants to bring in are still on hold after the mess with the TV finances in the SPL. And hopefully the managerial position will become clearer as well with WBA expected to make any move for a new manager within the next 48 hours.
June 22nd - Little real news still to report with the rumour machines across Scotland still in overdrive - although new TFOE managers, Sultana TV problems and Livi's fate seem to be keeping the Derek McInnes rumours away - that's not stopped some sites quoting him as favourite for the WBA job although there has still been no official comment. Meanwhile Saints themselves have apparently joined the hunt for Livi's style-challenged youngster Leigh Griffiths with the player already the subject of several Dundee bids - but with his employers in financial doo-doo there is now a real chance they'll go into administration which opens up an avenue for Saints to offer him SPL football.
June 18th - With the release of the fixture calendar, one person starting to get excited about the chance to prove himself in the SPHell is Savo(right) who told today's Courier, "Weíve been waiting for a while and itís hit home today seeing the fixtures. I looked for Dundee United because itís a derby. The Old Firm as well because you want to play in the big games. But Motherwellís the one to focus on because itís first and itís a home game and we want to pick something up from that. Iíve been thinking about it quite a bit and probably not looked forward to a season as much as this for a long time. Itís been a while in the first division so being back in the premier league and playing these sort of teams week in, week out is something to look forward to. I was young when I came through at Dundee and you assume youíre going to be in that league all the time. When I came here I thought weíd get into the premier league long before now and the fact weíve taken so long means we will appreciate it all the more. Weíve added to the squad we had last year and weíve seen in the past when weíve played against Premier League teams in one-off games weíve done well, and we just have to put that together as a run in the league. Weíve seen Hamilton and St Mirren doing it so I feel we can compete."
June 17th - Not much real news this morning. Mowbray has taken over at the Evil Empire so any move for Derek McInnes should happen soon. Meanwhile the club have announced that season ticket sales are up 30% on this time last year which will no doubt have the board smiling. Finally today also sees the much-awaited SPL fixture list announced - not that us wee websites are allowed to tell you the full list without being under pain of torture.
6pm - Well the fixtures for the season came out today and we're opening on a Saturday afternoon with a home match against currently managerless Motherwell. That's followed a week later by the first encounter with some bigots and a trip to Sellik at the home of the Evil Empire. Apart from that it's a bit of a mish-mash with midweek games not starting until December and all games subject to the whims of the TV producers across the land. Full fixtures are on the Official Site since they paid a license - as before the Temple will only show friendlies and the next game otherwise some dodgy lawyers will no doubt start harrassing us. Anyway the info is here
June 16th - Derek McInnes has been tracked down to Sweden where he's doing part of his UEFA coaching licence this week. No official confirmation of any move from WBA yet and the manager said, "As I said last week when Watford was being mentioned, Iím sure the club will be first to know of any interest and they will tell me. Right now, Iím getting on with the coaching badge and I canít say how much Iím looking forward to the SPL season. I hope all the speculation isnít dampening the fansí enthusiasm for the season ahead. We have fixed-up pre-season games now and weíll be based in Belfast for a couple of matches. Then we have Owen Coyle bringing his new Premiership team to McDiarmid the week before our first league game. It would be nice to put one over on him! Pre-season results are rarely an indicator of how you will do but it is essential we instil the right level of fitness in the players for the campaign ahead. We had progressed talks with two or three players but that has gone on hold until the Setanta scenario becomes clearer. That is sensible and thereís no panic but Iíd like to have the squad in place to work together and bond in pre-season.".... so nothing new there. It does seem that WBA fans aren't overly enamoured of the Saints boss taking over at the Hawthorns but that hasn't apparently stopped the papers saying that he's the preferred choice of their board.
June 15th - Nothing official from the club yet but the Courier today has some quotes from chairman Geoff Brown(right) about any possible move for Derek McInnes. It's a bit of a rehash of the stuff he told the other papers last week but he said, "We donít want to lose Derek and talks with him over a new contract are ongoing. But being realistic here, if a bigger club came along for himóand the fact Owen Coyle, his predecessor, has done exceptionally well at Burnley will have been noted by teamsóthen thereís not a lot we could do about it. Weíve heard nothing at all from West Brom but then the chairman in my position is the last person to hear about such an interest because heís the guy whoíll be looking for compensationóbut I recog-nise thereís no way we could compete with them if they wanted Derek. "
June 14th - Right after tons of voting etc, the 2009 TOSSAs are finally out. As well as that the 2009-10 Fixtures (well the ones I'm allowed to show) have been added along with the Referees and Media Falsehood pages.
The big worry for the Saints fans today though are the continual rumours linking manager Derek McInnes to his former club West Bromwich Albion, with the Championship club set to be on the hunt for a new manager given the high probability of Tony Mowbray joining the Forces of Evil (see it's all their fault). Obviously nothing official is being confirmed but it seems that the rumour machine is in overdrive and not helped by the bookies making the Saints manager their favourite to take over at the Hawthorns. For now, we just have to hope he decides to stay and that any talk in the media doesn't disrupt the preparation for the new season.
June 13th - Even though the signing talks are on hold, preparation for the new season continues and Saints have announced the majority of their pre-season games. Despite reports earlier in the week the Norwich game at St Andrew's is a closed door affair along with one against Queen's Park. The official games are as follows (all away from the sacred McDiarmid turf apart from Burnley):
June 12th - Despite reports this week saying a 2yr contract has been offered to ex-Well and Caley striker Richie Foran, the manager confirmed in today's Courier that the board have put all transfer talks on hold while the SPL try to sort out the mess that the financial troubles of broadcaster Setanta have left. Del said, "There are one or two players weíre quite far down the line with. But the chairman has asked me to hold fire on that for now while we wait to find out whatís happening with Setanta. Heís wants to err on the side of caution, which is entirely understandable."
June 10th - With the boys due back for pre-season training in a few weeks there was some good news yesterday as the club revealed that both Steven
Anderson and Gary
Irvine have come through minor ops unscathed and will be ready for the start of the training. They'll be joined by Steven Milne who was told yesterday he won't need a knee operation. It's still too early to tell whether Andy
Jackson will also make it but he's close to a comeback and is back at McD for gym work as he recovers from his Achilles injury.
Looks like another game has been arranged with Saints set to take on Norwich at St Andrew's University on Thursday July 16th. It's a 2pm kick-off but is apparently open to the public - the reason it's not at McDiarmid is due to the Jehovah's using the ground for their annual conference.
June 9th - Saints have been quick to quash any rumours about a move for Del after yesterday's reported move by Watford. While the Courier reported that discussions had hit problems due to the compensation demands by Saints, Stewart Duff told the paper today, "As things stand this is just speculation, weíve had no approach from the club concerned. But if they did contact us, only if and when agreement on compensation was reached would we allow them permission to speak to our manager. The Championship in England would represent a step up for Derek but weíve just won promotion to the SPL, have signed three players and are talking to others. And we are looking forward to the start of the premier league believing Derek will be remaining our manager."
June 8th -
Apparently Del is back at his desk today and proceeding with the
next stage of the master plan for European domination. There
was some good news to greet him with the report that Collin Samuel(right) had notched a goal for Trinidad and Tobago against
Costa Rica at the weekend - pity they lost 3-2. Del told the Tully, "I'm pleased for Sammy. He?s been hampered by injuries in the
past couple of seasons, but, playing for his country, plus getting a
decent pre-season, should be a big help to him and keep him
The gaffer is still looking to add to the squad this week - a reported bid for Paul Gallacher was put on hold after news of the SPL Setanta money worries but he continued, "We're speaking to one or two other players."..... dear God let one of them be a left-back please? The rest of the pre-season games should be sorted out this week including the glamour tie for the club's 125th anniversary.
Finally though there is a possible cloud on the horizon - today's Sun managed to get one piece on Saints in amongst their Big Brother coverage, with a report that the Saints manager is on a short list of three for the Watford job with ex-TFOE Malky Mackay the favourite. Add to that the currenty round of managerial swapping that's going on and it'll be interesting to see how many jobs Del manages to get linked with this week.
June 4th - More fixture changes today with the draw for the first round of the CIS Cup. Saints are heading to Ochilview to take on Stenhousemuir on Saturday August 1st at 3pm in a repeat of our first round Challenge Cup draw last season that saw us run out comfortable 5-1 winners...eventually.
The big news though is the return of Kenny Deuchar(right) who signed a 1yr contract today. A successful loan spell in the first half of the 2007-08 season meant he was always a popular signing target and Derek McInnes told the Official Site, "Iím delighted to get Kenny back. He made a huge impression at the club first time round and hopefully he will do so again. He knows the club and the players well and that is a plus for us. We have kept in touch since his first spell here and we tried to get him before. We wanted him back after his spell in the States but he wanted to test himself in the SPL. It didnít work out as well as heíd have liked at Accies, for whatever reason. But he has the hunger to succeed in the SPL. We have got a player who has something to prove and thereís a few of us in the same boat. We have players who were deemed not good enough at previous clubs or who are making their way in the game. We have all got a point to prove next season and Kenny is no different. He showed our fans before that heís a creator and a scorer. I like the option of a big man giving us presence up top. We have pace and movement from other strikers. But Kenny isnít just a foil for others. Itís important to have this type of player around the club, especially with Derek Holmes moving on."
June 3rd - While we are still waiting on the official fixtures, there's one pre-season friendly been confirmed. Saints will head to Cowdenbeath on Wed July 22nd for a game with the Fife side - kick-off is 7.30pm.
June 2nd - Not much happening at all on the transfer front. Saints have confirmed they'll be back in pre-season training in under 4 weeks, while the only real upgrade for the summer appears to be the McD floodlights which need a six-figure sum to bring them up to SPL standard.
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May 28th - Latest transfer rumours doing the rounds seem to concentrate on Kenny
Deuchar. Doc was released by Accies yesterday and has allegedly already rejected moves from Partick and Raith because he's committed himself to Saints. Expect a resolution to this soon.
Meanwhile the Courier reckons our interest in Paul Gallacher has cooled due to the player's wage demands and the transfer fee required from the Pars. The next keeper being lined up is supposedly Linfield's no 1 Alan Mannus. The 27yr old is a highly experienced keeper after coming through their youth ranks.
Finally Owen Coyle is making plenty of headlines with TFOE apparently trying to line him up as their new manager although the latest reports suggest he might have seen sense and decided to stick with Burnley.
May 26th - More transfer rumours today ex-loan player Kenny
Deuchar allegedly a target for Saints. Currently at Accies after a spell in the states he's a popular player and would no doubt be more than welcome. Meanwhile another possible new arrival could be Pars keeper Paul Gallacher with the ex-Arabs goalie rumoured to be the subject of a £20,000 bid from Saints
And more good news off the park with Burnley's promotion to the English Premiership yesterday meaning a promotion clause in Owen Coyle's compensation was triggered and a wee bit more cash is heading to Perth.
May 25th - Well it's good to see that not much hits the net in Sainteeland
while I'm absent from these shores. Aye and the SPL is really the
The postponed Airdrie game went ahead on the 11th with Saints notching up a 4-0 win to round off the season. Just over 600 fans saw a mixture of fringe players and youngsters give us the result that sees us finish the league-winning campaign ten points clear. Goals came from Graham Barrett, Gavin Swankie, Steven Anderson and setting a record for the youngest Saints goalscorer in the SFL, Stevie May.
With the end of the season there have been the inevitable comings and goings. First of all the departures from McDiarmid. Graham Barrett and Steven Doris were released a couple of weeks ago as Derek McInnes began the rebuilding process. While the former isn't much of a surprise it's hard not to feel some sympathy for Doris whose Saints career has been hit by injury. But given his successful loan spells at Montrose and Arbroath, he should be able to stay in the game. One other departure was Derek Holmes. Despite Saints offering Sherlock a new contract, he's opted instead for the security of a two-year deal and the attractions of Dumfries as he switched to Queen of the South.
Of the other players offered new deals by the club, Paul Sheerin has signed up for another year as has Graham Gartland. The latter told the Official Site, "I wanted to see if I settled in Scotland okay as I didn't enjoy my previous spell but I have really enjoyed my time with Saints and am delighted to be staying. With the Irish season running from March through summer, I have been training and playing continuously since February 2008 and to be honest my body is screaming at me to take a break! I'm going to have three weeks of complete rest now and then build up to pre- season training again."
Also signing an extension to his contract was Kevin Rutkiewicz. Rustybitz will be part of the Saints set up until 2011, and speaking to the Official Site (ahead of a 5-week Walkabout Down Under) he said, "There were a few times when I didn't think Id be at St Johnstone. But now I have a real affinity with the club. I know the club inside out. Everyone is on first name terms. I even recognised a lot of the faces on the victory parade this week. I feel part of the St Johnstone fabric now. Everyone talks about how the club is a well-run business but it is also a real family club – everyone at the stadium mixes well and does their best for the club". Another deal extension was announced today with Stuart McCaffrey putting a year to his deal keeping him at Saints until the summer of 2011. Alan Main and Gary Irvine have also signed up for a year.
But Derek McInnes hasn't been slow in expanding the squad with a raid on the Soup Kitchens of the unpaid Livi players. Ex-Dundee defender 28-yr old Dave Mackay(right) has signed a 2-yr deal while 21-yr old midfielder Murray Davidson(far right) has put pen to paper on a three-year contract. The added icing on the cake of course was that both players were the subject of a bid from Dundee the week before. and Derek McInnes told the Official Site, "We will need more power, presence and height in the team and I think those two players will fit the bill in that respect. Dave can play anywhere across the back four and will be a great addition to the squad while Murray has his best years ahead of him and I want them to be with St Johnstone. He was a player I was wary of when we played Livvy and I'm delighted he is now with us."
Off the park and Saints are planning a Fanfest for later in the year as part of the club's 125th anniversary celebrations. To quote the Official Site, This family event will take place on the all-weather pitch adjacent to the stadium on Sunday 26th July between 4pm and 8pm and among the attractions are the appearance of fans’ favourites from the past 20 years, an ‘Abba The Concert’ tribute band, the Radio Tay Roadshow, funfair, food and drink outlets and also the chance to purchase replica kit for the new season from Surridge Sports. This is sure to be a great afternoon and all profits from the event will go Radio Tay's Cash for Kids charity. Tickets for the event will be priced at £10 for adults and £5 for under 16s and were delighted to announce that anyone buying a Season Ticket for next season will receive a ticket for the event with the compliments of the club. Club Chairman Geoff Brown said of the Fanfest, “It is right and proper that we should hold a formal dinner to celebrate this milestone in the Clubs history but we were also determined to have something for the Saints fans and the people of Perth and Perthshire. “We have 1,700 season ticket holders, many of whom renew year after year, and we want them to come along as our guest as a small thank you, be joined by anyone else who would like to buy a ticket and have an enjoyable day – hopefully on a lovely sunny day! The people of Perth are on a high with the team at the moment - it was there to be seen on Tuesday - and the Fanfest will lead us nicely into the new season” Radio Tay Programme Director Lorraine Stevenson says of the event “We are looking forward to being involved in what should be a great day. Our Cash for Kids charity supports many charities and individual children in Perthshire and we are delighted the event will benefit the charity further.” Other events for the 125th anniversary include the imminent issuing of a commemorative lapel badge and tie and the club are working hard to bring a top class side from England for a celebratory match.
Meanwhile season ticket details are out with an adult East Stand book coming in at £285, averaging fifteen quid a game. Admission prices this season will be a minimum of £19 for an East Stand adult with the price increasing depending on the level of bigotry in the opposition. Full details on the season tickets can be found here.
Finally the TOSSAs are pouring in, but a quick reminder that voting closes at the end of this week.
Oh aye and congratulations to Owen Coyle for guiding Burnley to the Premiership.
May 11th - Final update before I leave has an interview with Euan
McLean in the Courier ahead of tonight's game. It looks like being a mixture of first-teamers and U-17s on both sides but he's just glad to get one game before the end of the season and told the paper, "I was really, really disappointed when the referee called the game off but having seen the park he couldn’t have done anything else. I had been so looking forward to the game and was choking to get an opportunity to prove what I could do. The gaffer had said a day or so beforehand that I would be playing so I was well prepared. It is so important that I do what I can to get into the manager’s thoughts for next season. These are exciting times for St Johnstone and I want to be involved as much as I can be. The postponement has meant I have had to wait a couple of days but it will be worth it in the end."
Right that's it for me - keep the TOSSA Votes coming in and thanks for the thousands (well dozens) that have done so already.
May 10th - Not much in the papers today. The Airdrie game has been confirmed for 7.45 tomorrow night although there's no word on how strong the Saints side will be. Anyway leaving that aside, there will be no update from the game on the Temple until the end of the month. I'm off to sunnier climes tomorrow morning so if you want updates on transfers, player moves, contracts, season tickets, keep an eye on the Official Saints Site.
In the meantime, feel free to indulge in the usual wit and debate. Yup it time to get the votes in for the 2009 TOSSAs. Voting can be done by the online form or if you want, you can just e-mail this text file with your answers to email@example.com. Results will be announced in about a month.
May 9th - One big revelation ahead of today's final game of the season came in the Courier today with the pre-match interview revealing Chris Millar's(right) previous career as a pop star. While not up there with the Virgin Whores from the days of Nick
Dasovic his interview with the Courier was interesting. The midfielder revealed, "I would admit I am never shy when it comes to singing on the karaoke as everyone has found out. When I was 16 me and some mates from Port Glasgow entered a talent contest at school and we won it. We had this boy band which we called Satis-Five because we mainly covered songs by the band Five, who were popular at that time. Having won the competition at school there was this local talent contest in the Inverclyde area called Megastars. We did well again, coming in second, so we must have been decent. It made perfect sense at the time. It was all a bit of a laugh but, funnily enough, I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone here. Then my dad told Jody Morris about it when he had had a beer and needless to say it was all around the club. So even when I had to do a forfeit for coming last in a training test— the sprints around the cones—I was ordered to get singing. I grabbed the corner flag and belted out Rock DJ by Robbie Williams which I am sure everyone enjoyed. All in all, we have had a great time celebrating winning the championship. There was a lot of pressure on us to do it and we have come through so we were allowed to enjoy ourselves. But that is the partying over now because we have another game to go and the gaffer has been stressing that we have to finish the season on a high note, so to speak. Also, we want to be fair to Ross County, who are in a battle with Airdrie to see who avoids the relegation play-off spot. So we will be pro-fessional —there’s no doubt about that."
In terms of team news, Paul Sheerin trained yesterday so is definitely in the squad and he'll be joined by youngsters Steven Doris, Stephen Reynolds and Steven May who look set to play some part. Derek McInnes wants a win though and told the paper, "I’m only concerned with my own team. We want to put on a performance in front of our own supporters and go out on a high. We have prepared for this game as we usually do, though we do have a few players out either injured or close to suspension. It will give me a chance to take a look at some youngsters.". The Official Site yesterday said that Kevin James wouldn't be playing today (to avoid injury as he looks for a new club) but the Courier says the club are leaving it up to him if he wants to make a final appearance.
3.15pm - So much for summer football. A 2pm pitch inspection of the Broomfield Loch put paid to today's encounter. No official word of a rearranged game although Monday night seems to be the preferred date. But thanks to County's win at Morton, Airdrie are definitely in the play-offs and it looks like both teams will field U-17s since Airdrie will need players for the play-offs starting on Wednesday and Saints need theirs for the civic receptions, bus tours and general end-of-season partying.
Either way it's a completer pisher for yours truly who, thanks to wonderful scheduling is flying off to sunnier climes on Monday morning.
May 8th - The biggest non-surprise since Rustybitz lifted the trophy last weekend leaked out yesterday with confirmation from the club that club captain Kevin James(right) won't be offered a new deal. After missing a lot of the last couple of spells through injury and Saints having a solid central defence with Rustybitz and Stuart McCaffrey it's not exactly a big surprise. Having said that, his loan spell at Ayr earlier in the season saw the Second Division club impressed and it's unlikely he'll be short of offers with Queen of the South also interested. All the best Kevin and thanks for the last few years (especially those goals at Falkirk). The player himself told the Courier, "I may be leaving but I have had a brilliant time. Owen was the person who signed me all those years ago and he was the reason I came here in the first place. We finished second in the league twice, reached cup semi-finals galore and Owen has since gone on to prove his worth at Burnley, leading them into the Championship play-offs. Now, under another fine manager in Derek McInnes, St Johnstone are bound for the SPL. New players will come in and others, like me, will leave, but the club is run so prudently and professionally that I have no fears for them in the Premier League. The chairman Geoff Brown, unlike some others, isn’t one to go chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but he will back his manager and I don’t envisage them having a problem staying up."
As for his own future he went on, "I probably knew before going out on loan to Ayr this would be my last season here. When the manager confirmed that, I appreciated being told quickly and now I can find myself another club. There has been some interest but nothing concrete yet. I have been unlucky with injuries this season. I had a cartilage op and then I did a disc in my back in the warm-up at Dundee but played on because we didn’t have options. I have been fit for some time now and I just couldn’t get back into the Saints team with Stuart McCaffrey and Kevin Rutkiewicz both playing so well. That’s football and I have no gripes"
Derek McInnes told the Tully, "We wish Kevin all the best. He’s a great lad, the right type. Kevin was the first player I spoke to about my plans and I believe he will be a big asset to the club that signs him. Wherever he goes, his new club will get more than just a good player. At the start of the campaign I had placed huge importance on him but he had problems this season with injury and by the time he was fit again the defence was settled. Despite that, Kevin has been totally professional and a great influence in the dressing room as club captain. He has proved to be a fine asset. Kevin has served this club well."
There's no more contract news with Gary Irvine apparently getting the weekend to decide on the contract offer from Saints.
Elsewhere and the knocks list for tomorrow's final game grows with Paul Sheerin and Martin Hardie the latest additions to the doubtful list. Euan McLean is also likely to get a run out in goal.
Finally Perth Council are organising an open-top parade and a civic reception for the players next Tuesday night with details still to be confirmed.
May 7th - A quick fishing story in the Courier today with a random rumour stretched to several paragraphs about how Swindon are the latest club to be linked with Gary Irvine. The right-back is in "advanced negotiations" about a new contract with Saints though and a decision is expected soon.
May 6th - Saints have confirmed that both Rustybitz and Liam Craig will be rested at the weekend - both players are only one booking away from a ban so won't be risked. Youth striker Stephen Reynolds may well be given a start for the first team.
May 5th - The planning for next season has begun in earnest and Geoff Brown is already working out the manager's budget. Speaking to the Courier, he said, "The nature of football means that some players will leave and others will come in over the summer. The challenge is finding the players at the right price. But Derek McInnes has done an exceptional job here. He is shrewd and honest with a great work ethic. He is also a man who knows what he wants and when he identifies a player it’s up to us to do what we can to bring him here. Financially, much will depend on the Setanta television deal and there have been big noises from SPL clubs that they might be getting less cash than they expected. Of course there’s more money available in that league compared to where we are at the moment. But you also have to up the ante with players now they’ll be playing in the premier division."
As for what the result meant to him and the club he went on, "This means such a lot to so many people. A lot of effort from a lot of people has gone into this. We’ve had disappointments to contend with along the way. But when the time is right it’s right. Mind you, my life expectancy would have been longer if we’d romped our way to the title instead of finding ourselves a goal down in the penultimate game of the season and maybe having to go to the final day again. The coming season will be a real test for us but one we’re all looking forward to. We’ve been there before. We’re not strangers to the SPL. But I had grandchildren at the Morton game and like many in the crowd they’re too young to remember Saints playing in the SPL. It will be a new experience for them."
Meanwhile there was better news for Gary Irvine who might still make every game this season. He's due a ban but it turns out the club new before the Morton game that it won't come into play until next season but kept it secret from the player to ensure he went all-out against Morton. Therefore he's available this weekend. Derek McInnes though intends to rest some players although the side won't be a weakened one. "I’ll be giving a few boys who’ve not had an opportunity to play of late a game at Airdrie. But we won’t be putting out a weakened team. I’ll pick a strong side. And while, now promotion has been secured, we won’t have that real edge to our play we’ll still be going there looking to win. But more than anything, now the tension has gone, I’m looking forward to this final week as a chance just to enjoy each other’s company."
May 4th - With the hangovers from the weekend only just starting to ease, Saints are planning for the final game of the season this Saturday. The media pish has started as well with Gordon Strachan getting Manager of the Year ahead of Derek McInnes and Leigh Griffiths getting First Division Playerof the Year last night. Meanwhile there are more interviews in the papers today. In the Sun, Chris Millar said, "This has been a long time coming for the boys and we’re thrilled to have clinched it at last. It’s an amazing feeling, just incredible. I said a few weeks ago getting to the SPL would be a dream come true and I mean it. I left Celtic and went straight to Division Three. I’ve worked my way through the leagues, always hoping I would reach the SPL. There can’t have been many guys who have grafted as hard as me, but it’s totally worth it". He revealed he almost lost his medal in the celebrations. "I couldn’t believe that happened. I was just so chuffed to get it and gave it a wee kiss. It fell out of the box, but I was able to grab it just in time before it hit the deck. That would have been a disaster. It’s a special day, really special. My wife Danni’s here, and so is our wee girl Ellie. To be able to take her round the pitch and celebrate in front of our fans is just amazing."
Contract talks will start soon now the title has been decided. Paul Sheerin told the Courier, "I’m not sure what next season holds for me. My contract is up and we’ve not spoken as yet, which is as it should be when we didn’t know what division we’d be in. But now we’re going up we can talk—and hopefully there will be a favourable outcome to those discussions. If that’s not the case then I’ve had an amazing five years here and winning promotion will have capped it off. I wouldn’t want to second guess what’s going to happen but I feel fit enough to carry on. I wouldn’t say I’ve played more often this season than I’d expected to, but I have been more involved than maybe the gaffer anticipated. We spoke at the start of the season about how often I might be used. And I knew I’d need to prove myself and give him something to think about when he sat down to pick the team. I think, looking at the number of games I’ve played, that I’ve succeeded in doing that. The Challenge Cup last year was my first ever winner’s medal and this is my first league winner’s. It’s a brilliant feeling. I don’t think what we’ve achieved this season means any more to the likes of myself who was involved two years ago compared to the lads who’ve come in since. But that final day, with all the drama it entailed, remains a vivid memory. Gretna pipping us with a goal, scored minutes after we’d finished at Hamilton, was a major kick in the teeth, one of the sorest things I’ve had in football. But this eradicates it a bit."
And another whose future everyone wants sorted out is Gary Irvine. "I’ve never won a league before. I’ve been fortunate enough to win two Challenge Cups, but this tops that. This is why I left Celtic, to play and win things. I’ve played 82 games in a row and now have two trophies from my time here and you can’t ask for much more than that. Now the league is won hopefully we can start talking. I’ve loved every minute of my time here. Working first with Owen Coyle and now Derek McInnes has been brilliant as has being part of this group of players. And from my point of view I don’t see why I wouldn’t be staying on."
May 3rd -
There's a nice wee pic on the right then as Rustybitz finally got his hands on the trophy. The skipper told the News of the World, "It's huge for me because to be honest I thought those days might have passed me by. It's magnificent for someone like Paul Sheerin who's an outstanding playeryet that's his first ever medal. There have been a few hiccups and every single team we've played has caused us problems.But overall we've done enough and we're delighted. I feel this is a developing side that will improve next season although you would expect to see a few new faces too.".
More pics added to the web report and YouTube has heaps of videos from the game, full-time celebrations and for the totally surreal, the players leading a sing-song on the bus from the 208 into town. And if you weren't there, there's a youtube clip of the Sky Sports News coverage of the game - not quite the same but at least you get a chance to worship at the majesty of the second goal.
Meanwhile there's plenty of coverage in the papers (for a change). Derek McInnes had plenty of praise for the players and reckons we're over the heartbreak from 2 years ago. He said, "There was a lot of hurt that day and I know how the fans felt. It was absolutely gutwrenching, but I'd like to think today finally puts that in the past. The supporters here have suffered more than most in the past few years, so today was all about them. The players have been magnificent all season. We'd a sticky start, but we've been top since October and have broken the club's 125-year record for going unbeaten. We did it with style today. Owen Coyle phoned me at full- time to offer his congratulations, which was terrific. At the start of the season I told the players they were SPL quality and to go out and prove it. Too many of them were playing out their careers in the First Division. I'll look to bring one or two more in, but I know I've got some real quality here already."
And chairman Geoff Brown is being as pragmatic as ever. He told the News of the Screws, "I've been reading about the Setanta thing and that needs to be resolved before we can see where we're at. However, most sides that have gone up have shown what's possible if you can get off to a good start. Just look at Hamilton and Inverness when they were first promoted. I just don't think there's that much between the bottom six in the SPL and the top half of the First Division. It's a wheel that just keeps going round. Hamilton two years ago was an extremely disappointing day but that's behind us now and we're there now. We've shown a lot of character this season after a bad start. But all along I knew we had a good squad and an excellent manager. At times you can't pay too much attention to what some supporters say. Some of them might have wanted us to look elsewhere but we always felt we'd the right guy in here capable of doing the job. 'Will bigger clubs look at him? We can't stop that. But if they come hunting it's a sign that he's doing something right."
May 2nd - Surprise, surprise there's actually a bit of coverage about us in the papers. After the pathetic jibes from the likes of Chic the Prick and ex-Saintee Billy Dodds on the radio last night (and credit to Stuart Cosgrove for treating them with the contempt they deserve), the build-up is underway for the big game this afternoon. And demonstrating a wonderful use of the understatement, Jody Morris is in the Courier talking about what a winner's medal would mean. "I’ve never won a league title before. In 1999 at Chelsea we were a point behind Man United for most of the season only to lose out over the last two games and end up third. But finishing within four points of United that time is as close as I’ve come. And if we could win the championship here this year that would top everything for me. It would mean more to me than anything else I’ve done in football. When you’ve been out of the game for a period of time like I was because of injury and all sorts you come back with a real desire to win things. And if we could win our league and go up...well you couldn’t ask for more."
"I wouldn’t have even contemplated signing here if I didn’t think we could go up. And the fact we’ve done so well is due to everyone sharing that belief and pushing in the same direction. There’s a hunger at the club to be in the Premier League and the mixture of youthful drive and experience has produced a good cocktail which hopefully is about to produce success. Having been top for so long it would be a travesty really if we didn’t get promoted. There’s a lot been made of the number of draws we’ve had but this is a really tough league and we’ve been there to be shot at throughout. Despite that, for me, since the first five-six games we’ve been the best team in the division. And if we could now go on to win the league on Saturday it would be a great feeling—even if some people will say we could have won it before now."
Meanwhile Derek McInnes is ready for this afternoon. "I think whenever you get so close to the finish line in any competition, it can get a bit nerve-wracking. There are always likely to be moments of tension, but we have to accept that and try to use it to our advantage. This is too good an opportunity to miss. We have worked so hard to get into this position but we realise we still have work to do. We know Morton will provide tough opposition and I am looking for a performance from my players along the lines of what they produced against Dundee last week."
Elsewhere and there's an interview with the Scourge of the Dens Dugouts, Martin Hardie in the Sun and the midfielder wants to banish the memory of losing on the last day of the season two years ago. "To say I was devastated doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was such a difficult thing to get over, but it wasn’t just because of the football. I lost one of my oldest mates the week before, so the t-shirt I had on that day was a tribute to him. Football doesn’t compare to that sort of thing I suppose. But in terms of the game, losing the league like that is the worst feeling anyone can have. I’ll never forget sitting in the dressing room after the game. We finished a couple of minutes before the Gretna game, so we were all huddled round the radio. The result came through and we sat there in disbelief. It was horrible. Winning the league would help us forget that day once and for all. There are not many people in the team who were there at the time, but it still hurts. To get so close was difficult, but we were always chasing it. It’s different this year and the past few weeks have been all about us. Unlike two years ago, we’ve been in control and it’s up to us what happens. We had a wee blip against Queen of the South, but we bounced back against Dundee. There’s been pressure on us from day one, but it’s been enjoyable. When you’re at the top of the table and winning games you can’t ask for much more."
There are no new injury worries for Saints while ex-Saints keeper Kevin Cuthbert should line up for Morton along with a certain James Grady Esquire. One worrying loss for Saints though may be the lucky mascot of Kevin Rutkiewicz' beard which, if rumour is to be believed has been removed.
7pm - Well the boys didn't let us down and despite going behind to a penalty early on, Martin Hardie equalised and Savo banged in a classy double for a 3-1 win over Morton and that bloody all-important LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP with Rustybitz lifting the trophy in front of over 6,000 Saints fans as we enjoyed the biggest party Perth's seen in years. Photos and videos will follow but beer beckons first!
May 1st - Despite seemingly holding some affection for the Greenock side, Derek McInnes says that's oot the windae tomorrow as he targets the title. According to the Courier, the Saints manager uttered, "I was at Cappielow eight and a half years and still have strong feelings for the club. I have a lot to thank them for. There are many good people at Morton—they are a club with great supporters— and I always like to see them doing well. In fact, I still go and watch them when I can and take Jack with me. But at this moment in time all that matters to me is winning these three points. My old club will provide tough opposition. We’ve only beaten them once this season, although I felt we did enough in the two drawn games we’ve had to win both, and they have hit a bit of form of late. But the opportunity is there for us—that if we win a home game we win the league—and we don’t want to let that pass us by. I know Morton will be motivated and they will be determined to play more than a supporting role. They will be trying to beat us. But we have had to handle that all season. We’ve been top of the league and there to be shot at since October. There has been pressure on us all the way through. Now we are approaching the moment when we can get the job done. It’s great to know it’s in our own hands and hopefully we can produce a performance on par with last week at Dundee. There are no guarantees in football—not when 11 guys on the other side are doing their best to beat you—but the same attitude and performance levels we showed at Dens Park should be good enough to win the game."
The manager also made another rallying call for the Saints fans to turn up tomorrow. "They will be there in numbers and maybe they will treat it as a day out—that’s what our away support does, and they really get right behind us. The East Stand fans have been playing their part and I think the supporters realise they have a team to be proud of. They couldn’t have a more committed group of boys. These guys are giving everything. I’m sure we’ll get great support from the stands and hopefully we can produce a performance to allay any anxiety. If we stand together we can make it a day to remember for St Johnstone."
Meanwhile Steven Milne(right) is also looking to get on the scoresheet again to hit the half-century for Saints. Last week was his 49th striker and he told the paper, "I wasn’t aware I was closing in on 50 goals for the club but now I am I’d love to reach that mark this weekend. Winning and taking the title is the priority, of course, but if I could get on the scoresheet, especially early on, that would really make my day because there are always nerves in games like these and, as happened at Dens, an early goal tends to calm those."
Top Of News
April 30th - There have been a couple of trialists at McD this week - a "stocky midfielder" and
a tall Swedish striker were being put through their paces. Meanwhile, Derek McInnes has confirmed that Peter MacDonald and Andy
both been ruled out for the season while Gary
Irvine will see his
unbroken string of appearances come to an end after Saturday as
a suspension for the Airdrie game kicks in.
Finally no matter what happens, there will be one trophy presentation on Saturday with the U-17s due to get their trophy at half-time.
April 29th - It's Chris Millar in the papers today talking about this weekend's game. Up against his old club in Morton, the midfielder said in the Courier, "Having won promotion from the second and third divisions with Morton itís ironic I could complete the set against them this weekend. I was saying to my dad the other night that itís funny how the fixtures and our recent results have worked outóthat a win against my old club would get us there. But neither I nor St Johnstone are taking anything for granted. With whatís at stake this is the biggest game of my career so far and I donít underestimate how difficult itíll be for us. Nobody makes it easy for you in this league and thereís no way Morton will lie down here at the weekend. They are big, strong, well organised and have a goal threat up front and from midfield. And had they made a better start to the season then theyíd have been challenging us for the title. But if we show the same application, effort and desire as we did in beating Dundee then we are more than capable of getting a result"
The paper also confirmed that if we clinch the title on Saturday, the trophy will be on standby for presentation after the game.
April 28th - Martin Hardie(right) has apologised for being an erse when he was subbed at the weekend. Speaking in the Courier, he said, "I apologised to the gaffer in the tunnel. I know I let myself and the team down the way I reacted. I was fired up because of the importance of the game, felt I was playing quite well and was just disappointed to be taken off. However, he was doing what was right for the team. And heís a top man. The gaffer had a wee word in my ear before the match reminding me of what happened two years ago when we lost out to Gretna for promotion on the final day of the season. He told me to use that memory to go and drive the team on. And sometimes something a manager says to you really sticks and provides a massive inspiration. Missing out on going up in the manner we did was really, really hard to take, not least of all because, as now, I felt the side we had was ready to go up to the SPL. But hopefully in the course of the next fortnight we can rectify that by winning promotion."
He's recovered from his assault from Antoine-Curier though and went on, "When I was lying there I thought ĎOh no Iíve caught an absolute cracker here,í. I was in agony to be honest and still a bit dazed when I got back up. But that was nothing to the pain I felt when I later headed the ball and my jaw clicked. Our players said you could hear a crack when he caught me. So I suppose Iíve gotten off lightly. Earlier in the game I went up for a header and caught him a wee bit. I donít know if this was his throwback at me. But it was a cynical foul. And Iím just glad the referee was only five yards away and saw what happened. It was probably fortunate too that it was a top ref who was in charge because, given the magnitude of the game, a younger, up-and-coming official might not have made the decision that Mike McCurry did. But in the end itís only been him own team the guy has hurt because them going down to ten men helped us secure the victory."
April 27th - Alan Main(right) says he expected this weekend's game against Morton to be the title-clincher all along. In the report of the weekend win (written with as little grudging respect to Saints as a Dundee paper can manage), he told today's Courier, "There was a lot of talk beforehand about us coming here and winning, and Partick losing. But the only thing on the players minds was getting this result. No-one in our dressing room thought, win at Dens and we win the league. There was a wee shout from the crowd that Partick had gone behind, but we quickly found out from the dugout that wasnít the case, and I realised from the reaction of the Dundee fans near the end that Thistle had actually scored late on. So when I celebrated at full-time it wasnít because I thought weíd done it. I just wanted to celebrate how great the fans had been. What a travelling support we had today, and I just hope theyíll turn up again next week because we do need them."
There was a worry early on when he picked up a knock and he explained, "I landed awkwardly after getting a wee push and it felt like Iíd pulled the calf. I did wonder whether Iíd be able to play on, but we ripped open the sock... and I managed to get through the gameóthough Iíll maybe go get it scanned now. It helped I didnít have much to do, and thatís mostly down to the four lads in front of me. For me, these guys have defended very well all season. We donít have a great deal of height in there, but they manage to time their headers and weíre really strong at the back"
April 26th - Derek McInnes reckons another performance like yesterday's will give us the title. Speaking in the News of the Screws after the game he said, "It was a very deserved win - I thought that my players were magnificent. We started in the right manner by showing determination and winning a lot of second balls. We should have added to the early goal and you are never comfortable with just one of a lead. We were polished, determined and organised. I'd been assuming that Thistle would get nine points and we'd need six so now we need the win next week to finish the job. The tempo, application and hunger we showed today is how to win football matches. We need to show that again."
April 25th - The big day is finally here and for Saints fans the world over the chance to right so many decades of hurt. Nobody seems to be sure how many of us are heading through to Dens - the Courier states 2500 but is using that for their token interview with the Dundee polis as if there's going to be loads of trouble. For the players and management there's plenty of optimism and confidence at McDiarmid and Derek Holmes(right) told the paper, "We are heading to Dens in good spirits and our confidence certainly hasnít been dented by losing last Sunday to Queen of the South. In fact, itís sky high. We have had a setback, but every game is hard in this league. It was more a case of being angry and disappointed with ourselves because we didnít play to our full potential. The Dundee one is a great game to haveóitís a derby and we are all looking forward to it. I know the fans are looking forward to the match tooóthey have been fantastic and they will travel in numbers to Dundee. They have played their part this season and, hopefully, they will be a 12th man for us at Dens."
Its' not going to be easy though. "Dundee definitely wonít be downing tools or thinking about their holidays. We expect a tough game, but we have big players coming back and the squad is in really good shape. The squad has coped with the loss of the likes of Jody Morris and Martin Hardie for much of the season and guys have done well when stepping in. There is real character at St Johnstone, as we showed battling back from two goals down on Sunday. Maybe we should have settled for a point, but the belief was there that we could get the winner. It was fantastic getting back on the scoresheet against Queen of the South óeven if the result didnít go for us. It is always good chipping in with a goalóit was probably overdue"
Meanwhile chief executive Stewart Duff is hoping to put to rest some of the bad memories from 1962 today - when Saints were relegated and Scumdee won the title at Muirton. Interviewed in the Scotsman he said, "Victory would be very sweet today, put it that way. It would soothe the wounds it a bit. All the directors, including our chairman Geoff Brown, were supporters of St Johnstone as boys. They all know what it means. It's always nice to beat Dundee."
Caff and Jody Morris are back in the squad and should both play some part. The coags for their part have again emphasised that kick-off won't be delayed so make sure you're there in plenty of time for the party - especially given our Tayside neighbours habit of only opening one bloody turnstile!!
7pm - It was an early goal from Savo but a convincing performance led to a 1-0 win over the Coags at Dens. Unfortunately a late penalty for Partick saw them win which means we're back to requiring the same or better than Partick next week when we play Morton to clinch the title and prevent it going to the last game. Today's win though was more than enough to convince the 3000-plus fans that we are more than capable of wrapping it up next week.
April 24th - Motivational talk today comes from club captain Kevin James(right), one of the few who have won a First Division title before. According to the Courier he said, "I have been in this position before at Falkirk when it was in our hands and, believe me, it is the best way for it to be. Indeed, it is a great position to be in and if you were offered this at the start of the season of course you would take it. For two out of the last three seasons we have been chasing St Mirren and Gretna respectively. We were behind but wanted to be where those two clubs were. So we should enjoy being league leaders because we deserve to be there. There have been folk from outside looking for a wee chink in the armour. There are mind games in football and you have to throw everything at the team at the top. People try to plant seeds of doubt but that wonít affect us. We are not bragging about doing this or that but we are confident in our own ability. There is no negativity about the club and rightly so. I actually think it is a pleasure not to be chasing somebody else. We are the team with the lead and we are enjoying it. Pressure to me would be being down at the bottom of the league. Being at the top of the tree and hopefully having a successful season? Thatís not pressureóitís enjoyment."
"We have confidence and it was like that even early in the season when results werenít great. The gaffer knew the players he had at his disposal and never panicked. I think that is the sign of a good manager. He never changed what he was doing as he had belief in the boys turning it around and he has been proven right. The gaffer has played at the top level so knows whatís involved in winning trophies. Yes, Sundayís defeat to Queen of the South was a blip but over the course of a 36-game season you are going to have blips. Even in defeat we showed character to come back from being 2-0 down. We have shown already this season that when results have gone against us we have come back. Hopefully that can be the case again when we play Dundee."
April 23rd - Derek McInnes reckons this weekend is the perfect setting for Saints despite the tough fixture. The manager said in the Courier, "The game canít come quickly enough. Indeed, if I could pick a fixture for Saturday, this would be the perfect one for us. It will be difficult and the Dundee lads will be up for it óthey will be motivated to stop us winning and are a good side on their day. We recognise all that, but we donít fear it. I have every confidence in my players. We are ready to go there and competeóto meet the challenge head on. We are also ready to make amends for losing like we did on Sunday, and we want to send our supporters home from Dens happy. I have been stressing to the lads they should enjoy being at the top of the league and not let a bad result spoil what has been good for much of the season. It is never easy when you are top because you have to work for everything, but the boys have produced the right type of performance at the right time in the past, and hopefully we can do that again. We wonít be thinking about anything other than winning the match. That is difficult enough without letting your thoughts stray on to what might or might not happen. The concentration is on the 90 minutes and nothing else. We have all been eagerly anticipating the Dundee game, and I really believe it is the ideal one for us."
As for the team lineup Caff missed out on the Sellik draw but is fit and Jody Morris played the full 90. The manager went on, "Jody played the 90 minutes and says he feels fine,Ē said McInnes. ďAs long as there is no reaction he will be involved in the squad. Caff trained rather than played because we weighed things up and decided that was best for him. As well as Jody, Kevin James, Graham Barrett and Steven Kinniburgh all got 90 minutes, while Gavin Swankie and Chris Millar played a bit of the game"
Finally congratulations to assistant boss Tony Docherty whose wife gave birth to a baby daughter this week.
April 22nd - Saints drew 3-3 with Sellik in the closed doors game. Both Caff and Jody Morris played and are in line for a return this weekend.
April 21st - There's a closed doors game lines up today for Caff and Jody
Morris(right) with both in line for a return to the squad this weekend. Derek McInnes told the Courier, "Jody and Stuart both trained on Friday and weíve now got a closed-doors game tomorrow against Celtic. Weíll see how they are after that and a full weekís training.". Not so good news for Peaso who is still ruled out.
As for the result at the weekend he went on, "It was a blow, but we have to remain positive. For me thereís no room for error and we have to play with that edge to our game. When we do play with that edge I think weíre the best side in this division. Weíve got to assume that Partick will win all three of their games, so we need to make sure we win two. We canít have any other thoughts. Itís the same situation that we were in before the match at Dunfermline last Saturday, but with two games less to play. We have to go to Dundee with the mindset of winning the match. In the scheme of things anything other than the three points will be disappointing. Do I think weíve got the players to win there? Yes. Weíve got it all to prove and weíll be looking to do that."
April 20th - Derek McInnes knows he has a job to lift the players after yesterday but the manager isn't duly concerned. Speaking to the Courier he said, "Sometimes you have to take your medicine so we will regroup and pick ourselves up. What better game to do that in than a derby against Dundee at Dens, so by tomorrow we will be looking towards that match. We have been under pressure all season. I put myself under pressure and have put the players under pressure to go out and win this league. It is something that has been there all season and it is no different now."
There was still some controversy over the Saints goal that was chalked off at 1-0. "I have watched the video of the goal we had chopped off and the match observer has also looked at it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it and it is such a poor decision. The referee got a lot of easy things wrong today. But I thought we defended poorly in the first half and were culpable for their first goal. Our passing was poor and the delivery, too. We gave them the second goal with a mistake and that would have killed off most teams. But we improved and started to play at a tempo so once we got the first goal I had a feeling we would get another. We went to try to win the game after that but the goal we lost was terrible. We stepped up to play offside when we shouldnít have so it was a third mistake. We have been excellent defensively and ultimately we have come away from the game with nothing when we deserved more."
April 19th - After Partick won at Cappielow yesterday the title run-in is a lot clearer. If Saints win today and get the same or better result next weekend as Partick then we've got the title. But of course that means first beating a team we've not managed to deal with all season. There's a good interview with Captain Beardy in the Scotland on Sunday today. No more news re the injury situation so expect few, if any changes to the starting line-up.
Del is still taking the cautious approach and on the Official Site said, "We still require a couple of wins and I am looking to make the game against Queen of the South the first of them. These are tough games coming up Ė look at what Queens did last weekend at Firhill. You then have games against Dundee and Morton, both tough, tough opponents. So there is a lot of football to be played and it is very important that the players and fans approach these games in the proper manner. If things turned against us at the weekend we could only be four points clear with nine to play for so nobody is taking anything here for granted Ė we have to go and get the wins which will give us the right to celebrate."
And to give an added incentive to the players and fans there will be an appearance by some ex-Saints players at half-time as part of the 125th anniversary celebrations with Willie Coburn, Jim Donaldson, John Brogan, Willie Brown and Roddy Grant all taking part.
6.30pm - Come on it was Saints and a TV game so what on earth did you expect? Yup after heroically coming back from 2-0 down after a shambles of a first half we lost it at the death and the goals from Derek Holmes(right) and Chris Millar counted for hee-haw with a 3-2 defeat at home to QoS.
All of which means that if we're to win the leage next weekend we have to win at Dens and Partick have to lose at home to Livi, otherwise it goes on for another week or two. It's a bit of a depressing evening and just ot add to the fun and games Dundee have decided in the finite wisdom to make next weekend's game an all-ticket affair. Saints will have 4,200 tickets but not the South Enclosure. Instead we get the normal away stand and the mess that is the Scumdee main stand. Tickets are on sale to season ticket holders from tomorrow until Wednesday then a general sale - prices £17.
April 18th - It's Kevin "Captain Beardy" Rutkiewicz doing the rounds in the papers today ahead of the televised spectacular against QoS tomorrow. And despite all the title-winning talk, he also realises that Queens are the only team we've not beaten yet this season with honours shared in each of the previous three encounters. According to the Courier, the ZZ-Top tribute player said, "If we do get promoted I wouldnít want a team to have that on us. I donít want Queen of the South being able to say ĎWe werenít that far away from them because they couldnít beat us.í So the fact that we havenít beaten them this season is my personal motivation for this game. I try and treat each game on its own merits and thatís how Iím looking at this one. Weíve drawn three times so far, but I thought we battered them without scoring in the match here in December. If we give a repeat performance Iím sure weíll get the win this time. Thatís what we needósame again, but with the killer touch in front of goal."
And honest he's not thinking too much beyond this weekend - aye right. "We know that, regardless of other results, if we can take care of our business we can win the league at Dundee. For the players who have been here for a few years itís a big incentive because we know the rivalry that is there. From the other side of things, if thereís one team who wouldnít want us to win the league on their ground itís Dundee. So it will be a huge match at Dens regardless of what happens this weekend. But the Dundee game isnít in our thoughts just now. Itís all about Queen of the South."
Meanwhile Del who's rounded off a nice week by picking up a nomination for Player of the Year told the paper, "I canít stress that enough. Weíve got to keep our focus and concentration against Queen of the South. If weíre not at it, weíll end up with nothing. If Partick beat Morton and we donít perform then all of a sudden the gapís back to four points and other teams will have been given encouragement again. Weíre aware of the best case scenario at the end of the weekend but weíre also aware of the worst case. All we can do is make sure we win our match. Iíve been really pleased with the playersí attitude in training this week. It looks as if theyíve got the bit between their teeth and are desperate to get the job done. Iím looking for them to take that attitude into Sundayís game. Queen of the South have got a lot of experienced players in their ranks. For one reason or another it hasnít happened for them but they can be as good as any of our opponents in this league on their day, as they showed against Thistle last week."
There's no news on the injury front although it seems that of the missing trio, Kevin Moon(right) is the main doubt.
April 17th - Graham Gartland is doing the talking in the papers today. He's revealed to the Courier how he was lucky to be around for last weekend's game after a car crash last Wednesday morning. "I was driving down to Glasgow to pick Jody up because we were going to the Liverpool and Chelsea Champions League game. I was a few miles outside of Perth (on the Cairnie Braes) and just before I got round a bend I hit the barriers on the right hand side, went across the other side of the road, up and over a bank, sideways through a cow gate and into a tree. It takes a lot to get to me but that was scary. I was blessed. Iím lucky to be alive. Half way through it I thought, Ďthis is going to be badí, then after it happened I was thinking, Ďhow did I get away with this?í Passers by opened the door but I couldnít hear them at first. I was on my own and didnít know who to ring so I just thought Iíll have to ring the manager! I couldnít get him so I tried Tony Docherty and he got people down to me. I was in the back of the ambulance when the physio and Tommy Campbell arrived. I was asked if I wanted to go to hospital but I didnít want to. I had a bump on my head and a few bruises. Tommy was great. I stayed at his house on the night after the accident. When youíre over here on your own little things like that mean a lot. It was that night that things hit me. After that I just wanted to get back training and playing so I didnít have to think about it. I told the manager I was fine to play against Dunfermline on Saturday. The lads have been giving me a bit of stick about it all but they were great when it happened as well. Sean Dillon at Dundee United is my best pal from playing back home. Tony phoned him after the accident, but he said he had a Lionel Ritchie concert to go to that night! Iíve been unlucky and lucky since I got here. I got injured the day before I was supposed to make my debut for the club and that set me back for a while. Then I got a bit lucky last Tuesday night when I got my chance to play and got very lucky the next day."
His dealis up in the summer but he's not looking to leave and talks have started over a new deal. "The club has been excellent with me and Iíd like to stay. Iíve had to wait for my chance but thatís football and now Iíve been given it. Itís not easy when you come in half way through the season, especially on the back of having played a long season with Drogheda when we started off in Europe and ended up going bust. That was draining. Hopefully, Iíll get a good rest in the summer for a few weeks then get going again in pre-season. Promotion for the club is the bigger picture just now. Itís the be all and end all at the moment. Iím starting to feel part of it now but the lads who have been here all season will deserve it more."
April 16th - Saints are still trying to reign in the wave of optimism amongst the support with a stark reminder that we've not beaten this weekend's opponents Queen of the South in three encounters this season. Del knows what a possible Dens party would mean though and he told the Courier. "Iíd feel a lot more comfortable talking about it next week. We canít afford to buy into talk of winning the league at Dundee because our job as professionals is to focus on Sundayís match against Queen of the South"
There's some good news on the injury front as well with Peaso, Caff and Jody Morris all possibly in line for a return to training this week. The manager went on, "Weíre hoping to have the three of them back training with us on Friday, which would be fantasticóif theyíre fit, theyíll come into the squad". Meanwhile Martin Hardie and Kevin Moon are both due to receive injections this week although the latter is still a big doubt for the weekend.
April 14th - More words of caution from the manager today. With Saints fans still planning a title celebration at Dens, Del(right) issued a warning to the Courier. "Weíve got a job to do against Queen of the South on Sunday, who weíve drawn against three times already, and if we fail to win it will make life harder for us. I can totally understand what our supporters will be thinking. For them, winning the league at Dundee would be the icing on the cake. But we canít get drawn into that because weíve got a game to win. If we start looking ahead - either myself or the players - we could fall flat on our faces. Weíve not done that so far this season because weíve treated each game on its merits. Weíll not be talking about Dundee yet."
However our lux-loathing neighbours from down the Tay have apparently been drawing up plans for the game. With several thousand Saints fans expected for the trip Dundee don't want to make the game all-ticket and are thinking of moving home fans to accomodate us (presumably with the usual stringent cleansing of the seats before the game).
Back to the weekend win at Dunfermline though and Del said, "Weíve got to recognise that that was a big weekend for us. I always thought that if we could win at the same time as our challengers slipped up (second-placed Partick Thistle lost against Queen of the South) at this stage of the season then it would be significant. I had a good feeling about the Dunfermline match. I always felt we could win there. The players wanted to make up for the frustration of the previous two matches, because drawing at home is never a good result regardless of who your opponents are. Now weíre in a very strong position. You canít say anything other than that, but all it needs is for one or two players to start thinking the hard work is done and all of a sudden it affects all of us. So weíll carry on with the focus and concentration that has served us well since August. That means working hard this week and preparing to get three points against Queen of the South."
Kevin Moon missed out through a groin injury at the weekend but should be back in training this week and he'll be joined by Peaso, Caff and Jody Morris
April 13th - Goalscorer Gary Irvine(right) was happy after his first goal at the weekend - even if it does mean a constant mention he's a "former Celtic kid". He's in the Courier today and said, "Thatís the way to do itówith a contender for goal of the season! It was great to hear the wee dink as it went in off the post. I scored in a bounce game recently but was just told then to do it when it matters. I did not think my first goal would be as good as that, although I thought it was going in as soon as the ball left my foot. We still have a wee bit of work to do and are treating every game the same. Obviously, the results have boosted our confidence but we have to keep focused."
Meanwhile Alan Main is in the Sun today with a front page story about his personal life - welcome to the dark side of promotion.
April 12th - Despite the euphoria from yesterday, Del is taking nothing for granted. He told the News of the Screws after the game, "We have worked hard to get into this position and we still have some work to do. But Gary Irvine's goal was just outstanding and it was his first senior goal. He scored a goal in a closed door game against Hamilton a couple of weeks ago, which he has been getting a lot of stick for because he would not shut up about it. This was a top goal good enough to win any game."
And Alan Main was just as happy to celebrate his record-breaking appearance with a win. Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, he said, "It's a great day for me personally, but an even better one for the team. Becoming the record appearance holder has been at the back of my mind for some time, so I'm delighted I've achieved it. Now I can focus on trying to win a medal. If it's to be next week against Queen of the South that would be great, but we're taking nothing for granted. There is still work to be done"
April 11th - Plenty of pre-match excitement in the papers today and the scorer of the winning goal at East End Park last time round Liam Craig(right) is providing the soundbites. He told the Courier, "The last time we won at Dunfermline, the result put us top of the league and we still havenít moved from there. If we can go there and win again, it would mean weíre at least four points clear with only four games to go, and it would send out a big message that weíre not going to lose this title. Weíve been disappointed at drawing our last two matches (first against Partick Thistle and then in midweek against todayís opponents), especially the one against Thistle, because we were so close to winning that one. After the draw the other night, other teams chasing us will be expecting us to drop more points so we have to make sure that doesnít happen. Even going back to my Falkirk days, Iíve enjoyed playing there and Iíve never lost. Itís been a good ground for me and hopefully that will continue tomorrow."
There's no guarantee he'll start though an he wasn't happy about being on the bench midweek. "I want to play in every game. So not being involved was hard to take, especially given the stage of the season weíre at. But the manager has his plans and we all respect his decisions. Weíve got a really strong squad, and that has been shown throughout the season. Now itís up to me to get back in the team and hopefully play a big part in the run-in. As much as you could say we could have won the league already, we could also have lost it with the amount of draws weíve had. We donít go out looking to draw games but thatís the way it has panned out. There are still teams who fancy they are still in with a shout but if we can start winning againówhich we know we have to doóit doesnít matter what the rest do. The defence has been brilliant all season and we donít look like conceding goals. Itís all about getting the other part right and getting the goals we need, whether theyíre from strikers, midfielders or defenders. St Johnstone havenít been in this position for a long time. Iím sure the fans are a bit nervous after what happened a couple of seasons ago, but everyone at the club is determined to finish the job."
Caff is the only major doubt for us with Peaso already ruled out. Del knows what is required though. "Weíve got five games to go and I think weíre a better team than all five teams weíre facing. Itís up to us to show that. Weíve got to take the initiative and have no fear. Going for a league title is a situation to enjoy. We won at Dunfermline before with a great support and hopefully weíll get the same support and result again."
And congratulations to Kevin Rutkiewicz who has been names Irn Bru Player of the Month for March.
6.30pm - It was an excellent day at the office for Saints with goals from Martin Hardie, a wonder strike from Gary Irvine and a penalty kick from Liam Craig(right) giving us a 3-1 win over the Pars with the whole afternoon rounded off nicely by the news that Partick had collapsed at home to QoS with a 2-0 win for the visitors. That means we're just five points off the title and could concievably get within a point of clinching it with a win next weekend if Partick take nothing from their trip to Cappielow. It's a nice feeling.
April 10th - It's a big milestone for keeper Alan Main(right) tomorrow as he breaks the appearance record for Saints but he says he's more concerned with another clean sheet to help the club to the title. In the Courier today he said, "Iíll be honest, the recordís not something Iíve been thinking about too much. Ideally it would have happened at the end of the season when hopefully weíve won the league. The manager asked me recently how long I had to go to break the record and I didnít know at the time. I consciously wasnít looking at it. Donít get me wrong, itís a great achievement and Iím delighted with it, but there are more important things to be achieved than me breaking a club record. More than anything else out of this season I want a winnersí medal. I felt the same about the undefeated record we had earlier in the season. Now isnít the time to think about what these records mean, that will only be if we win the title. If we get a win on Saturday it would obviously make the day even more special for me personally, but it would mean even more for the team to enable us to hopefully open up a bigger gap at the top of the table."
And he realises that the failure to win the last couple of games means that the title race isn't over yet. "Every game now is a massive one and Iím sure weíve got the players here who will react to this situation. Thereís not a lot of nerves in the dressing room. Drawing games has given others a glimmer of hope that they can get back into things but Iím not the type of person to look back. We have to look forward and treat Saturday as if itís the last game of the season that we really have to win". He does want another crack at the SPL though and went on,"I donít feel I look out of place here at the age of 41. Iíve made mistakes and poor decisions this season but theyíve not been down to my age. The SPL at 42 would be great for me. It would also be special for my kids, who have season tickets. If we do go up, Iíll be training really hard this summer to get myself ready for the SPL, even though I know the manager may look to bring someone else in."
Del was full of praise for the record-breaker as well. "I know Alan is extremely proud and so he should be. Heís had a big impact on the team this season and Saturday will be a huge moment for him. Hopefully he will remember it with a clean sheet and three points. Iím actually glad that our game in hand is out of the road now. We know the situation weíre inóweíre four points clear with five games to go. Itís that simple. I think weíre a better team than all five teams weíve to face and itís up to us to show that. Weíve got to take the initiative and have no fear. The failure to score in three of our last five home games is obviously disappointing. We know weíre strong at the back so that should give us confidence to get bodies forward."
Caff is still a major doubt tomorrow with his hip injury and Peaso looks set to miss out due to being less than 100?% fit. Martin Hardie should return though after being rested midweek.
April 9th - More optimism in the Courier today with Graham Gartland(right)(right) the man providing the soundbites. "Itís all down to us, so thereís no need to be looking over our shoulders. Promotion is thereóitís up to us to go get it. This group of players hasnít been in the situation before, but itís clear cutóif we win our games we win the league. So letís go do that and have no regrets. Thereís no point worrying about what teams behind us are doing, if they are picking up points or not. We just have to try and tick over, not getting too excited if we win or if things donít go our way. We just need to go from game to game not getting carried away or beating ourselves up."
As for his late callup on Tuesday he said, "Thatís happened to me once beforeógetting called into the team late on. But at least that time I was on the bench and had been preparing for the game. I was in the players lounge talking to Graeme Holmes, who I played with at Dundee United and saying how I was a bit under the weather, when I got the shout that I was playing. I didnít have any gear to put on because Caff was wearing it. So Iíd to wait for him to come in and give me his shorts and stuff before I could go out and warm up. When I went running out I looked at the clock and it was showing 7.39pm. I just warmed up until 7.43pm then came back in to join the lads. It was all a bit unexpected, to say the least. I had a bit of a sinus infection on Sunday morning. The gaffer gave me the day off and I then only did a little bit of training Monday. That, and the fact he was going out to win the game, was why he didnít put a defensive player on the bench. I was just happy to come in and help the team. Itís been tough for me since I arrived here. Every time Iíve come in things havenít gone as well as Iíd hoped. Iíve done okay, but not as well as Iíd have liked. Getting an injury scare early on and coming back from that too soon didnít help either. But hopefully Iím over all that now and can play a part in getting us across the finish line"
April 8th - Del spoke to the Sun after the game last night and he's still optimistic. " thought we were terrific in the first half but no one grabbed that goal we were desperate for. We wanted to win the game in hand to make it count but with five games to go every other club in this division would want to be in our position. We just need to concentrate on ourselves and keep our noses in front. It is important we go for that line, be positive and stretch that lead and not look over our shoulders."
April 7th - Saints have a big worry ahead of tonight's game against the Pars with Saturday's goalscorer Savo doubtful after picking up a knee injury at the weekend. Del spoke to the Courier and said, "Savoís knee went away from him in the first half and it gradually got worse and worse. Thatís why we had to take him off. It blew up a bit overnight and hadnít settled down yesterday. I would say heís doubtful for tomorrow."
As for the game itself, the manager continued, "Itís important that we donít have a hangover from the disappointment of losing a late goal to Partick. Thistle needed to win the game more than us and itís significant that they didnít win. You can dress it up however you like but thereís no hiding the fact that weíre disappointed not to have beaten Thistle. I didnít see their equaliser coming. But, in the cold light of day, itís another week gone by when our closest rivals havenít gained on us. They still have hope but weíre firmly in the driving seat. Itís now important that we make our game in hand count. If we can beat Dunfermline then all of a sudden weíve got a decent gap. Winning tomorrow would go a long way to making up for the disappointment of losing a late goal on Saturday."
Chris Millar(right) returns to the side tonight and he told the paper. "It wasnít easy watching the lads from the stand on Saturday but I feel refreshed after a few weeks off and ready to go if the gaffer decides to bring me in. This is the biggest game of the season for us in light of the Partick result. Now, if we donít win weíre only three points ahead and itís all to play for. Everybody knows whatís riding on this match. Weíve just got to keep believing in ourselves. Weíre top of the league for a reason. Weíd liked to have played this game in hand sooner, because itís always better to have points on the board. Itís always been in the back of our minds and is a massive game. There have been some cagey games between the top teams but I donít think tomorrow will be one of them. Both teams will be going for it so I think it will be an open game. There are always goals when the two teams play each other."
11pm - Not the worst game you'll ever see tonight but still it finished with a disappointing 0-0 draw against the Pars despite Saints dominating for long spells. The result moves us another point clearer at the top. Savo managed to play as well but Caff was injured in the warmup and saw his place taken in defence by Graham Gartland.
Finally, congratulations to Alan Main who tonight equalled Drew Rutherford's record number of appearances for Saints.
April 6th - Morale is still fairly high even after dropping points at the weekend. That's according to striker Derek Holmes who told the Courier today, "We have a great squad and a great bunch of lads. Confidence among the players is sky high and the character of the boys is amazing. We were doing really well after taking the lead and should probably have held on so to only take a point is very disappointing. However it is probably a better point for us than it is for Thistle." He's pleased there is another game tomorrow night as well to get things back on track. "We are definitely glad to have a game again so quickly. Everybody is looking forward to it and will go into the match feeling very positive."
Skipper Kevin Rutkiewicz(right) meanwhile has vowed to stay teetotal until we've won the title. He's quoted in the Sun saying, "We have missed out by the skin of our teeth over the last few years. It would mean so much to everyone if we go up this year. Iíve even started my own superstition and decided to grow a beard and give up alcohol for Lent. However, there will be no drink and the beard will stay on until we get promotion. Iím 28 now and in all my professional career I have never won anything. Even guys like Paul Sheerin who have been in the game a lot longer than me have never won anything. Weíve already put ourselves in the history books this year by going on a 24-game unbeaten run but that will all mean nothing if we donít win the league and get promoted. I canít actually believe Iím in this position. Iím a wee guy from Garngad in Glasgow and I could be leading a huge club like St Johnstone to promotion into the SPL. Itís plain to see that the nerves are beginning to kick in but the gaffer just keeps telling us to believe. Believe, believe, believe and we will get the promotion we deserve. The gaffer keeps us right off the pitch and itís my job to keep things right on it. Itís up to me to speak to the other guys and even when someone is having a bad game, as will happen, I need to make sure they still muck in and play their part."
April 5th - More reaction from Del to the result. He was as disappointed as anyone and told the News of the Screws, "It's only natural to feel disappointed when you lose a goal so late in the game. But we are still unbeaten at home since last August and I thought beforehand that Thistle would have to come here and win. I'm glad we have a game so soon at Dunfermline on Tuesday night as it gives us the chance to try and make up for the disappointment.
They will feel it's a better point for them because the game should have been won. They posed very little threat but a good player got them a goal. We know there's still work to be done."
Still good to see Keecher McCall is as deluded as ever as he apparently believes we only had one chance all game.
April 4th - Today sees the biggest game of the season for Saints as our nearest (and possibly only remaining) challengers Partick come to Perth. And Caff(right) is fully aware of what the game means today. Speaking to the Courier, the Saints defender was still being charitable towards our Tayside neighbours and said, "If you look at Dundeeís last three games you see what a fine line there is between success and failure. Having been ahead in all three matches theyíve lost late goals. For me, the teams in this division are so closely matched that there could yet be twists and turns. Looking at the table at the moment you would, I suppose, take the view that itís now between two sidesóourselves and Thistleóbut there are still a lot of points to play for and we are taking nothing for granted."
He's also been part of a strong defensive unit. "In view of the fact we took a few weeks to get going, it is quite an achievement. But looking back, the start we made to the season actually brought us togetheróour pride was hurt by losing the matches and goals we did and we wanted to prove the doubters wrong. If you are to be successful you have to be solid defensively, and to have lost only two goals at McDiarmid Park since the end of August (none since mid-November) leaves us with a good feeling. However, just like that long unbeaten run we put together, itíll count for nothing if we donít win promotion. Fortunately, our fate in our own hands. If we keep winning it doesnít matter what anyone else doesóand thatís as much as you could ask for at this stage of the season."
Chris Millar is suspended this afternoon and Peaso will also miss out with a hamstring strain. Steven Kinniburgh is in the squad along with Martin Hardie and Kevin James who's back from his loan spell at Ayr. Del knows what is required though "The players have worked extremely hard to get into this position, and we want to press home our advantage"
7pm - Steven Milne had us in front today but a late equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Partick means things are unchanged at the top of the table although with Scumdee collapsing again their challenge has really faded.
April 1st - More good news for Saints last night with Scumdee blowing another lead in the last minute and being forced to settle for a one-all draw with the Pars - a result which leaves us seven points clear of our unwashed neighbours from along the Tay with the added bonus of a game in hand.
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March 31st - The build-up to arguably the biggest game of the season has begun. Partick visit McDiarmid this Saturday and Derek McInnes is aware of how much could be riding on this one, especially after Scumdee's draw at Dingwall dented their hopes. The Courier quoted him saying "We all know the significance of the match. Obviously there’s a lot riding on it because Partick are our nearest challengers, especially as there are so few games to go. I’m convinced we’ve got the players to go out and win it. Partick will fancy their chances, but we’ve got a good record against them at home. They’ll be coming to face a team determined to get three points. I can honestly say that I’m not thinking about how many teams are still in the race. When you’re chasing you have to look at all the different scenarios and permutations but, for our part, all we have to do is keep winning and we’ll stay ahead of the pack."
The fans also have their part to play despite the nerves in the stands at the Airdrie game. "The fans needed to see a convincing win as much as we did. That’s natural. You’ve got to remember that this club has been in the first division for a long time. We’re all desperate for the same thing. The supporters were anxious because of a couple of poor home performances but our last one was back to the days when we were at our best in October and November. We’re very close now. Hopefully the supporters will come out on Saturday and give us great backing. They’ve been there this season when we’ve needed them. Thistle will bring good numbers. Let’s make sure that we make more noise off the park and do the business on it"
Kevin James has returned to the club after his month's loan, despite Ayr wanting to extend his stay. Martin Hardie should be in full training this week and despite a hamstring strain Peaso should also be available. Elsewhere Jody Morris is set to return to training in a week to ten days.
Today also marks the loan transfer deadline and the manager is hopeful of getting a left-back in place, although he apparently reckons we can manage with the current squad if required.
4pm - Plenty of support on the Official Site today with legendary former player Roddy Grant(right) dishing the words of advice ahead of this weekend's game. Realising the similarities between the Partick game and the 1990 title clash with Airdrie, he said, "That Airdrie game was a ‘must win’ game. We were a point behind them and had we lost the game it may have proved too much. Today’s team have the luxury of already being top of the league and even if they lose on Saturday they would still be in a great position. We came out of the traps and battered them for 45 minutes. The pace of the game was incredible, real end to end stuff but we were creating all the chances – we must have had ten or eleven efforts on goal in that first half. We had a great spirit among us and the heads didn’t go down for a moment. We knew that despite the loss of the goal we had them on the ropes and that we just needed the one goal to start to turn things around. We got it – and kicked on from there. Nobody said so at the time but I’ll admit it now for the first time – we knew we had won the title with that victory. Airdrie had led the league for a while but the ease with which we dominated that game fired us with so much confidence. We knew then that we were the best team in the league and although that doesn’t always guarantee you success, we knew we had them. It wasn’t arrogance, just a confidence that we could carry things on from there and stay top. If Saints beat Thistle on Saturday they should kick on and take confidence from that for the remaining games. Given what they have achieved so far, they should fear nobody irrespective of the outcome on Saturday."
Elsewhere and Saints have signed a left-back with 19yr old Steven Kinniburgh signing from Rangers until the end of the season. He's a six-footer who has appeared regularly for their reserves and with a nice twist of irony is the younger brother of Partick's Willie Kinniburgh (that's one to keep the Daily Record happy for the weekend then).
March 27th - Steven
Anderson(right) who's been suffering from an ankle injury has put plans for an operation to help the problem on hold. Speaking to the Courier today, he said, "I’ve got a weak ankle that needs operating on, but I’ll wait till the end of the season to get it dealt with. The gaffer says he needs me just in case, so I’m happy enough to delay the surgery. Because the team has been doing really well I’ve not been able to get in it. I haven’t started a first-team match since the Clyde game here at the end of December. I’m desperate to play, so if suspensions or injuries open the door for me then I’ll be only too grateful of the chance. And if he wants me to slot in at left-back then I’ll do that too. It’s not my preferred position, and it’s my left ankle I have the problem with, but I just want to play."
Meanwhile the boys notched up a 3-2 win in the Hamilton game with another 45 minutes for Martin Hardie, while Steven Anderson and Peter MacDonald both played the full 90 minutes.
March 26th - Not much news coming out of McDiarmid with the next game still ten days to go. There's a closed-doors game against Hamilton today and Martin Hardie is expected to continue his comeback after getting another injection in his pelvis this week. Elsewhere though and Tony Docherty is in the Courier talking up Kevin Rutkiewicz for the Player of the Year Award. The Saints assistant said, "I would think Kevin has to be a contender for player of the year in this division. Along with Liverpool and Chelsea we have the best goals against record at home in Britain which, considering we lost six in two games back at the start, is a remarkable achievement. And Kevin has been an integral part of that. He has matured as a player, struck up an excellent partnership with Stuart McCaffrey and become an inspirational captain for us."
March 25th - There was more good news last night for Saints title hopes with the Pars going down 2-1 at Ross County which doesn't aid their championship hopes one little bit.
Meanwhile it's fairwell to Richie Byrne who has returned to Caley Thistle at the end of his loan period. Derek McInnes is on the lookout for a replacement again and told the Courier, "It’s a bit of a blow losing Richie. He’d have been a good option for us. We’ll try to get someone else in providing the right player becomes available. I’ve made a few inquiries and we’ll see what responses we get."
Finally the reserves notched up a 4-2 win at East Fife on Monday night with several players getting another game under their belts as they continued their comebacks.
March 23rd - The lead at the top is three points now after Partick and the Scum managed to do us a favour with a one-each share of the points at Firhill yesterday. Looking back at the way we did our part at the weekend Derek McInnes was happy with the manner of the win as much as anything else. He told the Courier, "It was a good, in parts very good, performance. And at this stage of the season when there’s that added pressure to get results it was really pleasing to win so convincingly. Three-nil at home in this league…it doesn’t get much better. I was anxious to get Sammy in because of the injection of pace he gives us. And he made a very positive contribution. There was a great intelligence about his performance."
Paul Sheerin was happy with his contribution, but also had plenty of praise for his teammates. "You are always going to have your doubters. To be honest we’d people doubting us before the run came to an end because of all the draws we’d had. So it was nice to respond to the Livi defeat as we have. The manager was making the point pretty strenuously during the week about how last year when Hamilton suffered a loss they always bounced back by winning the next game. He told us that’s what he wanted to see us doing and we’ve done it. I felt we were reasonably comfortable. First half we were more like ourselves and although we didn’t get as much space after half-time I can’t remember Airdrie creating any clear cut chances."
"Sammy has always had wee problems since he came here and it’s been difficult for him to get going,“But he showed his worth today. Collin is someone who has all the attributes the modern day player needs and looking at how he played its certainly a plus for us to have him coming back at this stage of the season. Mooner has been excellent since he came into the team. He’s been unfortunate. With Jody Morris and others doing so well he struggled to breakthrough. But all he needs is a run of games and the last few weeks he’s taken his chance with both hands."
March 21st - Saints go into today's game knowing our two main challengers face one another tomorrow on BBC Alba. Chris Millar(right) though says he's concentrating on our game before his suspension for the Partick match kicks in. The midfielder told the Courier, "If we get the right results against Airdrie, which I’m confident we will, then it will put the pressure on Dundee and Partick. If that happens we’ll be able be able to sit back and watch the game on Sunday, though I might have to have the volume down and put the tranny on. There’s a lot of people been talking but we don’t want to get dragged into that. We just need to concentrate on ourselves. If we can win our games from now until the end of the season, we’ll win the league. People keep wanting to talk about us, and they can do that if they want, but at the end of the day it’s what happens on the park that counts. That’s where we’ll do our talking. I’d much rather be in our position, top with a game in hand, than chasing. And it’s certainly more enjoyable fighting at the top than it was battling relegation with Morton last season."
As for his forthcoming spell in the stands he went on, "It will be tough to miss the Partick match. Originally I thought that tomorrow’s match would be the one I’d be suspended for but it’s not worked out that way. I picked up the suspension as a result of a booking against Clyde, which I shouldn’t have got. It was supposed to be for simulation but when I went down I didn’t even make an appeal for a foul. Doc spoke to the referee after the game and he admitted he might have made a mistake, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’ve known I’ve been a booking away from a ban for a while, so it’s maybe been at the back of my mind. I’m sure the boys will do well without me and the gaffer will probably involve me in reserve games to keep me ticking over while I’m out."
Saints today will for a change have to bounce back from a defeat - something we've not done since last summer. Derek McInnes said, "The players know that they must react positively to last week’s defeat and I know I have the squad who will do that. We have three home games in a row with a week’s break in the middle and that is the perfect platform on which to launch our final assault on the league."
We've got both Collin Samuel and Martin Hardie back in the squad while Airdrie are apparently at full-strength.
6.30pm - Two goals for comeback king Collin Samuel and one for Paul Sheerin at the death meant a convincing 3-0 win over Airdrie at McDiarmid which restores the four-point lead at the top of the table and keeps us in control ahead of the big game against Partick in a couple of weeks.
March 20th - With arguably one of our most important games, psychologically at least, coming up this weekend, there's not been much news coming out of McD this week. Derek McInnes in the Courer today spoke about the need to improve at home and he's not using the poor pitch as an excuse (obviously not a Dundee manager). "There’s got to be an understanding that the surface doesn’t allow us to play as we would want to all of the time. So at times we need to mix it up a bit. Going long to Homer isn’t such a bad thing but if you’re doing it for 90 minutes then it is. I felt that against Ross County and Dundee we didn’t mix our play up enough. We need to play when it’s on to play and be able to recognise when the time is right to do that. The players know how much the pitch has deteriorated but the pitch won’t stop us being successful— it’s what we do on it that matters most.
He's also looking for the fans to do their bit and went on, "There will be tension among our fans, which I can understand. But hopefully they will understand that they’ve got a committed bunch of players looking to do all they can to get the club promoted. Hopefully, together we can finish off the good work we’ve done so far this season. The players will be sent out to be positive from the off and we’ve got a great chance to bounce back from our defeat at Livingston last week. We’ve got a two-week break after this match so we’re focusing all our energies on Airdrie. We’re mindful that they’re on a five-game unbeaten run and are fighting for their lives at the other end of the table."
The good news for Saints fans is that both Collin Samuel and Martin Hardie are back in training and should be available.
March 16th - More glass haf-full optimism in the papers today. The Courier has Alan Main(right) commenting after Saturday's defeat saying, "We felt we could come here and do a job but it didn’t work out. However, all that’s happened is we’ve lost a game after going 22 without getting beat. We’re top of the table by a point and if the situation’s the same come the end of the season then we’ve won the league. It’s obviously disappointing that our unbeaten run has gone and Partick have closed the gap. But we always knew someone would make a late surge. This is a hard, hard division to get out of. But, touch wood, this is still going to be our time."
8pm - Confirmation tonight that Chris Millar will be suspended for the Partick game on April 7th, but he is available this weekend.
March 15th - Derek McInnes was philosophical after the end of the unbeaten run yesterday. Speaking to the News of the Screws, the manager said, "The conditions were difficult. There wasn’t a lot of football played in the first half and we lost a poor goal. After the break, though, we dominated them and should have done better with two or three chances, although they were a threat on the break. We were the better team by far. People will say that our run had to come to an end somewhere but I didn’t expect it to finish here. However, it means that we have eight cup finals left now and I believe I have a group of lads who will be successful. I’d have bitten your hand off if you’d offered me the chance to be in this position at the start of the season."
March 14th - Man of the hour / week Gavin
Swankie reckons Saints have found the secret to improving their form (that wacky idea of playing the ball on the deck apparently). Speaking to the Courier, he said, "We got the ball down and passed it, which plays to my strengths. We’ve got the players here who can pass teams off the park and we should be looking to do that in every game.
I took confidence from getting on the ball early and going by a player and I’ll be looking to do the same against Livingston. Hopefully we can get the ball into wide areas and we can see them off like Clyde. The defenders have been doing their job every week and we did our bit as midfielders and strikers on Tuesday. It was a complete team performance. Hopefully we can take that into tomorrow’s match."
No new injury worries for Saints and there will be a late decision over both Collin Samuel and Martin Hardie.
6.30pm - A bad day as Saints lost 1-0 to Meadowbank in a game where conditions killed of any real chance of entertainment. Elsewhere and wins for the Scum and Partick mean our lead at the top is down to a single point and the psychological war is about to start. Still plenty of time to start another unbeaten run...
March 13th - Plenty of praise from assistant Tony
Docherty in the paper today with midweek comeback kid Gavin
Swankie(right) the main recipient. The Doc told the Courier, "I thought Swankie was excellent against Clyde. I’m a massive fan of his. People see the downside of him but we do a lot of video analysis of games and it shows that he’s an excellent player. A lot of his strengths came together on Tuesday night. We got him in situations where he was one on one with defenders a lot, and in that position I don’t think there’s anyone better. That probably set the tone for our performance in attack. He capped it off with a brilliant goal as well. It was a great piece of individual skill. When Swanks is on form there is no one better at this level. He can open up defences and it’s a bonus to have him playing well. He’s a strong character and has a lot of belief in himself. He showed that in his performance the other night and, as a coach or a manager, you just tell him to go out and do it again."
Looking to the Livi game tomorrow and Collin Samuel and Martin Hardie is apparently in the squad. Jody Morris is ahead of schedule but Andy Jackson had a setback this week. Nick Summersgil told the paper, "We thought he might have a deep vein thrombosis so we took him to Murrayfield Hospital to have his plaster removed. Thankfully, it wasn’t. It is thought that the pain is from irritation of the nerves in his calf. From Thursday to Monday the pain increased and he was in tears with the agony. I wanted the hospital to keep him in but he didn’t want to. He’s on a massive amount of painkillers at the moment. He’s back in plaster and the injury will heel, but it will take a long time. "
March 12th - Some bad news coming out of the Broadwood win on Tuesday is that the daft undeserved booking for Chris Millar has tipped him over the points limit so he's got a suspension coming up. He's still available this weekend. The only other doubt is Kevin Rutkiewicz who picked up a knock when he was caught late by a so-called tackle, but he's expected to play.
The other big news is that the rearranged date for the Pars game has been confirmed with the match now scheduled for Tuesday April 7th at 7.45pm just four days before the sides meet up again at East End Park.
March 11th - Manager Derek McInnes was happy enough with last night's performance. He told the Courier today, "It was a good win on the road. We haven’t lost since August 30. We needed a convincing win and I felt we got it. We played some terrific passing football. Maybe one or two had doubts when they scored from a set play but the goal near the end gave the scoreline a truer reflection."
March 10th - Saints head to Broadwood tonight with the pressure mounting to start getting the goals. The situation hasn't been helped by Collin Samuel missing out with the striker suffering from a dead leg and unlikely to be risked. Martin Hardie gets another injection in his pelvis today and while he could be available, he's unlikely to be risked.
Del's quoted in the Courier saying, "I’ve said to the players it’s now come down to a mini-league of 10 games. We need to forget about our four-point lead and make sure we accumulate more points over these 10 games than anybody else. I’m not looking at how other teams are doing, it’s down to us. We’ve got five matches at home and five away and let’s start winning again. Obviously we could do with one just to get us going again and, because of the tightness of the league, wins are so valuable. We need to show the hunger to go out and win games. I’ve got the players to get enough points to win the league, I genuinely believe that."
"We know the areas we need to improve upon. And hopefully we can start doing that tomorrow night. Teams are setting up to try and stop us but that’s something we have to get used to and combat. At the weekend we didn’t work them enough and make things happen. We’ve got to use Homer in the right way. We’ve been guilty of playing it forward and hoping something will happen. We have to work the ball into areas from where we can get better quality delivery to him. There’s a great platform to build on with our defensive record but we’re aware that it only takes you so far."
11.00pm - It turned into a pretty good night really with a 3-1 win for Saints at Broadwood coupled with defeats for both the Scum and Pars putting us and Partick well clear of the chasing pack. Saints turned on some of the style tonight with goals coming from a double from Savo sandwiching a brilliant strike from Gavin Swankie.
March 8th - The Saints manager certainly wasn't happy with the draw yesterday. Del told the News of the Screws, "I’m not looking at other results. We wanted a home win and didn’t get it. But we have to stay focused and remain confident.". Still biggest laugh in the report had to be Derek Adams' protests of innocence after he was sent to the stand.
March 7th - New boy Graham Barrett is hoping to get a start for Saints today and he's hopeful that he'll be able to do us a good turn in his favourite all-out striker position. In today's Courier, he said, " made a decision to leave Falkirk and it wasn’t just about playing first- team football. I feel I can do a job on the right or left but I’ll never be more than good out there. But as a striker through the middle, I feel as if I’ve got a lot more to give. I haven’t played regularly in that position since I left Arsenal at 23. Now I’m 27 and it’s a very strange thing to say, but I feel that I’m still a player with potential. But it’s as a striker. I think I’ve been decent when I’ve played out wide, but if I’m being truthful I wouldn’t pay to watch me as a wide player. There are parts of my game that I can’t use when I’m out on the wing that would be the strongest part of my game. I’m not saying I’m going to be unbelievable as a striker. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. Now I want to get games, get sharper and prove I’m a good player. I know I still have things to work on but I feel I’ll be able to do good things here as a striker."
He realises he may not start today though. "I don’t know the manager’s thinking. The lads have been doing well for some time, so we’ll see what happens. Hopefully I can get a place in the team sooner rather than later. I thought the lads dug in against Dundee last week on a pitch that was difficult to play on. You never know, that might be the point that sends us up. It’s a great bunch of guys here. You can see why they’re top of the league. The one thing that was evident on Saturday was that we weren’t going to be beaten. There’s only 11 games left in the season but I’m happy with the decision I made to come here. If the team gets promoted it will be the lads who have achieved that over the course of the season before I got here, but I’d love to help get the club to the SPL. I’m out of contract in the summer and I want to make sure I have a job next season, be it here or somewhere else."
Collin Samuel should be back in the squad today giving Derek McInnes a selection dilemma and the gaffer is expecting a tough encounter against County this afternoon. "I think Ross County are a very good side and can beat anybody in the league on their day. We’ll have to play well to beat them. We’ll be looking to pass and move the ball quickly and play with confidence. They’ve got a few players who need to be watched but I’d like to concentrate on what we can do to get back to winning ways."
6.30pm - It was another nightmare afternoon as Saints struggled to put on any entertainment with a 0-0 draw at home to Ross Co. There was some good news with Partick going down at home to Clyde meaning our lead is now four points. Elsewhere the Pars draw in the cup with the sheep means that our league game against the Fifers is set to be rescheduled again.
March 6th - It's been pretty quiet all week but Saints have been boosted by news from the treatment room. Jody
Morris seems to be healing quicker than expected and although he'll still be out for weeks, there is some hope he'll be available for the closing games of the season. Meanwhile Martin Hardie's pelvic problem has responded to a course of sugar injections and he's expected to make the squad tomorrow. He'll be joined by Collin Samuel(right) who's over his hamstring problem. Derek McInnes told the Courier "Sammy has been working with the physio on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. He was with his sprint coach yesterday and back with us today. If his hamstring is fine he’ll be available and would be an option for us. He’s done well against Ross County in the past and you do look at things like that when making a selection."
As for the remaining games, he went on, "There is a lot to be pleased about. We’re in a really strong position at the top of the table. It was disappointing that we didn’t win our last home match, but nobody ever said it was going to be easy in this league. All of us—players and supporters—have to stick together and we can make this a memorable season. We’ve got an opportunity to get back to winning ways against Ross County and I want us to press home our advantage of playing at McDiarmid."
Finally, Kevin James has joined Ayr United on a month's loan with a view to helping his match fitness.
March 3rd - There was a runout for the reserves at Arbroath last night. with a comfortable 5-0 win for Saints. Graham Barrett hit a couple and there was even a goal for Gavin
Swankie although he left the pitch with 15 minutes to go.
Meanwhile Derek McInnes is in the Courier saying that despite the draw at the weekend we're still on track for promotion. "In the last 20 games we have accumulated 40 points. The rule of thumb is that if you get two points per game you will be successful in any league. We were disappointed not to win at home and from that point of view it was a flat dressing room afterwards. We had a great turnout at the game from our supporters and they got right behind us. We were desperate to give them the win they were craving, but there’s still plenty to be positive about. Now we move on and get ready for the Ross County game in a very healthy position. It’s important that supporters, players and staff all stay focused and that there’s no panic because we haven’t won a home game. It’s not the end of the world."
As for the so-called pressure being hinted at by the rest of the league (our Tayside neighbours in particular), he went on, "That’s what any team at the top of a league has to deal with. If you see it for what it is, it doesn’t become an issue. The players know they have to be focused and that all that matters is what they do."
Finally, the club are out to identify the culprit who threw something at Eddie Malone on Saturday. Geoff Brown is out to ensure that the so-called Saints fan is punished. "We will be making every effort to find out who did this. I’m told it was a sweet but that doesn’t make any difference. It has nothing to do with football and the culprit won’t be allowed back into the stadium."
March 1st - Savo wasn't happy about the refereeing in yesterday's games, especially the penalty incidents. The striker told the News of the World, "It was a definite penalty. Even their players said so. It was a ridiculous decision, it was mad. It wasn’t a great game and the keepers weren’t tested enough. We remain unbeaten so it was a better point for us than Dundee but we were looking to win the game."
Meanwhile Derek McInnes was just as disappointed. "We have set a new 20-game unbeaten record but it was tinged with a sense of anti-climax because we haven’t won the game. It was a definite penalty when Savo was bundled over and the referee called that one wrong. We didn’t do enough to ask questions of Dundee and they merited their point. It was a typical blood and thunder derby."
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February 28th - The Courier's picked on Alan Main for it's pre-match interview today but the veteran Saints keeper isn't too worried about the big game especially compared to some past encounters. "The third place game meant a lot and one or two things that happened that day have been with me the rest of my life. I’d happily settle for another clean sheet and 1-0 victory tomorrow. That would be great. Against Ross County and Queen of the South during recent weeks we put ourselves and the fans through the mill a bit. A straightforward victory this weekend would suit everybody better. Establishing a nine-point gap would, without killing them off, obviously be good for us but equally losing would really tighten things up at the top. I think we’re all aware of the implications of a win or defeat in what’s a massive game for both teams."
"These are the games you want to play in, the ones with a big crowd, a good atmosphere and a lot at stake. I know what I’ll be in for personally—loads of stick from the Dundee supporters! But that’s something I actually enjoy at times. It really gets me up to play. So, I welcome the fact there will be loads of people coming along—regardless of whether a section of them will be giving me abuse. It’ll help make the occasion."
In terms of team selection, Peaso is apparently touch and go while both Gary Irvine and Martin Hardie are in the squad.
6.30pm - No goals and precious few chances but a 0-0 draw at home to Scumdee was enough to keep us three clear at the top (Livi lying down to Partick not helping matters) and to set a new record of 20 games unbeaten in the league.
February 27th - Savo is in the news again with the announcement that the striker has signed a 12 month extension to his current contract through to 2011. Derek McInnes meanwhile is looking to get that unbeaten record tomorrow and said in the Courier, "The run we’re on is great credit to the players but for this weekend it’s completely overshadowed by the match we are playing. We’re about trying to get the three points that would help us win the league. If the record comes with that, great, but if we were to set a new mark by drawing we’d be disappointed. We’re looking to win, no two ways about that. Dundee have had a couple of good results recently. But we’ll meet the challenge they provide head-on and look to make our home advantage count. We’ve not lost at home since the end of August, and only dropped two points in Perth during that period. We aim to maintain that."
Gary Irvine meanwhile looks likely to play - he was diagnosed with bone bruising after being scythed from behind last weekend but has managed to train today.
February 26th - Savo who by some miracle hasn't succumbed to yellow fever, typhoid or rabies this week (despite the way out injuries have been developing and the proximity of a Dundee game), says that he's not settling for anything less than a win on Saturday. The striker told the Courier, "It’s not a must-win match for us because whatever the outcome we’ll still be top. But it is still one of the most important fixtures of the season. We could go nine points clear of Dundee and that’s what we’ll be looking to do because opening up that kind of lead would go a long way towards getting us where we want to be. It’s all set up for Saturday with our being on a good run and Dundee posting some decent results recently.It should be a cracker of a game. We’re aiming to open up a big lead over them but equally our advantage could be cut down to just three points. The potential swing between us is massive."
February 24th - More bad news with the injuries from last night's friendly with East Fife. A 1-1 draw allowed Mad Mental Martin to play 90 minutes but at the cost of another couple of injuries to the strikers. Peaso who got the goal is doubtful for the game this weekend with a back injury and Steven Doris also had to go off with a knee injury.
With the injuries mounting, Derek McInnes has moved to at least strengthen the striking options and signed 27-yr old Graham Barrett(right). Freed by Falkirk at the end of last year, the internationalist had a spell training with us and then the Jambos but has signed until the end of the season.
February 23rd - Chris Millar(right) said he was finally glad to break his duck. The midfielder scored his first for Saints at Palmerston and told the Courier (in what will probably be the last bit of sense before the Dundee paper spends the rest of the pre-derby reporting licking Dens Pars arses) today, "We were talking about it coming down in the bus. I’ve been doing pretty well in training and the lads were saying I was due a goal. “I must admit it’s been a bit of a monkey on my back but the gaffer told me as long as I was contributing to the team that was the main thing. I was just delighted to get my first goal for Saints. I was brought here to get a few goals and I’ve not managed to do that and I’ve been a bit disappointed in myself. However, I’ve worked hard on my finishing with Tony Docherty after training and was absolutely delighted to get it. I was away over to the fans celebrating."
He also reckons that the recent comebacks show the sort of spirit that wins leagues. "Queens would be disappointed seeing as they led twice but the boys deserve credit because this isn’t an easy place to come, especially with them coming off the back of a good result last week. In recent games we’ve not started well but today I thought we actually started pretty well and they scored against the balance of play. After I equalised they scored again almost right away and that could have killed us, but showing that kind of character is the sort of thing that wins you championships. There’s a belief about this team. Not many teams come back from 2-0 down here. The record has its own pressures. It’s certainly been spoken about, but the main goal is the league. If we can break any records along the way that’s brilliant."
7pm - It's time to swear at the Gods of Football tonight as more depressing news came out of the McDiarmid treatment room. Jody Morris apparently was stretcheed off with a "grade two lateral ligament tear" which basically means he's out for six to eight weeks. Sammy has a hamstring tear so he's out for a fortnight. Just to add to the fun and games Gary Irvine has severe bruising after being kicked on the ankly by McQuilken towards the end of the game although Saints are hopeful he can play this weekend.
Derek McInnes told the Official Site, "The loss of Jody is a real blow as he has been very influential since coming back into the side after his earlier injury problems. Collin, too, was just finding some form so not to have him available for Saturday is a disappointment. We were running with a fairly small squad anyway so this will test us. I might look to get someone new in ahead of Saturday but if that doesn?t work out we will just get on with it. I thought we started the game well and put a good side on the back foot and it was a mistake that cost us the opening goal. We didn't do too much differently after the break and even when we went 2-0 down I always felt that if we could get one goal we could get level or win it. Their third goal was a poor one from our point of view but even then I felt we had the resolve to come back."
He's now planning for the Scumdee game and said, "I am looking forward to it immensely. We are a strong side at home and will look to make that count on Saturday against a side who will have their tails up after a couple of good results. There will be a decent crowd and a great atmosphere and we are building towards the game now and looking forward to it."
The fringe players will get a run out at Methil tonight in a reserve game with Richie Byrne due to get another hour under his belt.
February 22nd - Plenty of praise for the fighting comeback displayed yesterday with manager Derek McInnes telling the News of the World, "It was a real team effort by the boys coming back first from two goals down and then after losing another. The players were magnificent, but I feel the goals we lost were a bit soft. Nevertheless, to come back after going 2-0 down so early in the second half was a great achievement and it keeps us on course at the top."
February 21st - Saints head to Dumfries today with the small matter of equalling the all-time unbeaten league record to deal with. Eighteen games since we last failed to take at least a point but media darling Kevin Rutkiewicz(right) (as featured in this months 4-4-2 magazine) is enjoying leading the table. The Saints skipper told the Courier, "Usually at this stage of the season we’re under pressure chasing clubs ahead of us. That was horrible because you always had the feeling that if you lost, the season could be over. We’re maybe not sitting as comfortably as Hamilton were last season, but this is definitely more enjoyable than chasing. We’ve got a different type of pressure on us than normal and we’ll have to show the right mentality. We’ve got the carrot of the SPL dangling there for us and now it’s up to us to take it. I must admit that on paper I don’t think we’ll get a better chance. If we keep the work ethic up I’m sure we’ll be fine. It’s not going to be easy, and you would expect us to make it tough for ourselves along the way because we’ve got a habit of making people sweat. There will be a few bitten nails but it will be exciting."
As for the record he went on, "It’s not something we’ve talked about. We want to stay unbeaten, but only for the reason it keeps us out in front. We’ve been aware of it though, and it would be a nice record to have. The most important thing is beating Queen of the South to top up our lead. It would be a massive result in our bid to win promotion. We know what to expect because we always get a battle down there. I don’t think they had a settled team for a while and their form suffered because of that but they’re a decent side, especially at home. They’ve got a few ex-Saints like Steve Tosh and Stephen Dobbie who always want to do well against us. They would love to be the team that ends the run and as the team at the top, we’re the one everybody wants a shot at. That’s a pressure we’ve got to handle."
Derek McInnes is expecting a tough match though. He said, "The players’ application in this run has been fantastic and we’ve shown consistency that no other team has. We want to keep it going as long as possible and tomorrow will be another big challenge. Queens are a good side and we’ve found it difficult there in the past. I don’t expect it to be any different this time."
7.30pm - Well Rustybitz promised us shredded nerves as the season enters the closing stages and that's exactly what we got today as Saints came back from two down to draw 3-3 away to Queen of the South. Rustybitz got our first goal and Chris Millar finally broke his duck for the season with our second. Queens took a 3-2 lead before Derek Holmes scored the equaliser five minutes from time. Richie Byrne made his debut at left-back but Derek McInnes has injury worries ahead of next week's home game against the Scum and the chance to set the new unbeaten league record. Sammy went off at half-time with a strain and Jody Morris was stretchered off in the second half today with a possible ankle injury.
Elsewhere in the league the Scum gubbed Livi 4-1 and Partick notched up a single-goal win over Morton while the Pars went down two-one at home to Ross County. All of which means we're now five points clear of Partick and six clear of our soap-dodging neighbours going into next week's big game.
February 20th - More coverage of the new loan signing Richie Byrne in the paper today. After revealing the new man hasn't played more than a reserve game for weeks, Derek McInnes is quoted in today's Courier saying, "Richie’s had his problems in the past with his hamstring but he’s been training for more than six weeks and had three reserve games. I watched him play 90 minutes against Dundee United reserves on Tuesday and was satisfied with his fitness levels. He’s ready to go. Left-back has been a problem area for us and hopefully Richie can have the same impact that Paul Hanlon did when he was here on loan. We’ve done a deal for a month initially and we’ll see how things shape up after that."
The left-back only joined Caley last month after a spell at Oldham and he said, "I’ve injured my hamstring a couple of times but I feel I’m on the right road now. I’ve had no problems in the last three games I’ve played. This is another step up but I feel ready for it and I’m confident I can do a job for St Johnstone"
With Andy Jackson out, the manager hasn't ruled out bringing in another striker although he doesn't think the situation is too desperate. "We’ll look at that situation if the right player becomes available but we’re fortunate to be in a position where we have four strikers who I feel will score us goals. We’ll see how things develop over the next few weeks but there’s certainly no panic to bring someone in. Peaso hasn’t played regularly, but neither have Jacko or Collin Samuel. All three have had injury problems and Steven Milne and Derek Holmes have formed a good partnership. I weigh up what I see every day in training, not just in games. I’ve said before that everybody in the squad will contribute this season."
February 19th - Bad news for Andy
Jackson with confirmation he'll miss the rest of the season as his Achilles injury is worse than expected - although not a rupture, the tear is worse than initially thought. Derek McInnes told the Courier, "Andy will get the best of treatment to see him through this. He will see a specialist next week and he’s in plaster for six weeks. His season is over but he has the character and determination to come back stronger than ever."
7pm - Well Some major shockeroonie news from the club today with the arrival of Caley left-back Richie Byrne on a one-month loan deal. The 27yr old 6ft 1" Irishman has had spells at the Pars and Aberdeen and goes straight into the squad for Saturday's trip to Dumfries.
February 17th - Andy
Jackson(right) has spoken to the Courier about his injury. "The best scenario is it could be a strain, in which case I’d just be out for three or four weeks. A tear or something else would be the worst case scenario, so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed for good news tomorrow. The physio is trying to get me into hospital at Dunfermline. A rupture has been ruled out, which is good, because you can be out for the best part of a year with that. I’m still hopeful that I could be back this season and do my bit for the team. I was running into a channel to give Homer (Derek Holmes) some support when I just fell to the ground. I’ve never been stabbed before but that’s what it felt like. I was in agony. I don’t know what caused it, but all I know is it was really painful, and still is. What makes it even more frustrating is that I’d just got back into the team. I’d been saying to the manager on Friday that I was feeling really good again, and I was feeling good in the game up to that point as well."
Derek McInnes was sympathetic to his striker saying, "Everyone in the squad feels for Jacko after what he’s been through over the last year. Obviously he’s going to miss some football but if it proves to be a tear he has to keep focused, work on his rehab and who knows, he might score a vital goal for us before the end of the season. The thought of that will drive him on.".
As for the scrappy performance that sneaked us the three points the manager went on, "No one outwith our dressing room would have thought we’d go on to beat Livingston on Saturday. We were fortunate to go in level and I acknowledge that. But there is belief in abundance in this squad. It’s a tight group which sticks together. We deserved to win because of the quality that was produced for our goal. The opposition couldn’t come up with that and once again our subs made a real impact. Everyone is playing their part. A lot of people doubted us but I have complete belief in this squad of players. We are all motivated to get the success we want for the club. We are top of the table and just one game away from a historic milestone in the club’s history so the players deserve a huge amount of credit. I’m told this is the best run for nearly 50 years. That is some level of consistency and only one team has scored more goals than us. You can’t play well in every game but we have strung together 18 matches unbeaten in a league where people say everyone is capable of beating everyone else. Well, during that spell no one has beaten this team and the players have done the club proud."
February 15th - Latest news on the Andy Jackson injury is that he's suffered a slight tear in his Achilles tendon and will be out for weeks, possibly the rest of the season.
February 14th - Liam
Craig notches up his 50th game for Saints today and the midfielder told the Courier, "I guess I still have a bit to go to catch the likes of Alan Main and Paul Sheerin but it is nice to pass the 50 mark. It is also great to be back playing at McDiarmid again. It seems like an age since we had a match here. Our home form will be crucial to our promotion challenge. I think we have eight matches left in Perth and we will be looking to win them all. Our last three results have been draws but they haven’t been bad results given the standard of opposition. And one significant thing is that the confidence among the boys is still great and the spirit has not been dented. We are still on an unbeaten run of 17 matches in the league and that is a great achievement. We came back from two goals down at Dingwall to keep that record going and that show the character there is in our squad."
Del praised the ex-Falkirk player as well saying, "Even after Liam’s first game for us you could see he would bring something extra to the side. I always felt his best years are still ahead of him and that he will get better and better and that is why we tied him up on a long-term contract.". As for today's encounter, he continued,"It just seems so long ago since we were playing here. It has been frustrating being on the road so often. We have taken three points from three draws and wanted more but hopefully we can get a victory against Livi. I am really relaxed about the game and have total confidence in my players that they can make the most of the home advantage."
Kevin James is out with a foot infection but the rest of the squad is fit. There's been no further move for Graham Barrett and certainly no sign of a left-back.
8.00pm - Sammy came off the bench for an injured Andy Jackson to save the day, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win over Meadowbank. Elsewhere the Pars won at Firhill to maintain their challenge but if we can play this poorly and still win I'll be happy - especially now we're 7 points clear.
February 13th - Its the first home league game of the year tomorrow and Gary
Irvine(right) is looking to keep Saints at the top of the table after the Livi game. Speaking in today's Courier, he said, "We are really enjoying sitting at the top of the league and it is far preferable to being in the chasing pack, as Saints have been in previous seasons. The fans want to see us out in front and, as a player, it is good to know that we have our destiny in our own hands. The sides below us will ensure we keep on our toes and we need to continue to do the right things on the park. What would be nice is to start turning draws into wins. We have taken a point from away games against Partick Thistle, Morton and Ross County and I think you can argue that they were good points. The others have to go to those places and we will see how they get on because it wasn’t easy for us. Good points or not, though, we are determined to notch up a victory against Livi and kick on from there."
Derek McInnes has still to make a decision about Graham Barrett. The 27yr old is a free agent but the manager said, "Graham is a player whom I have always liked and it was good to get a look at him in midweek. He is a free agent and when someone of his quality becomes available it is always interesting. I wouldn’t say signing a forward is our priority but he trained with us again today and we will just see how it goes."
The good news is that despite yesterday's snow, Saints have remembered to put on the undersoil heating this week so the game is in no danger. The bad news is that it's disrupted the training regime and that means that Savo is still a doubt.
February 12th - Despite all the planned moves for a left-back, it looks like Derek McInnes is lining up a possible move for a striker. Republic of Ireland front man Graham Barrett was released by Falkirk by mutual agreement last month and turned out as a trialist, scoring our goal in a 3-1 defeat to the Scotland U-21s on Tuesday. No real idea why he was released by Falkirk but he played a few games for them this season and scored twice against QoS in the cup.
...still no word on a left-back though.
February 9th - More reaction on the Official Site from Derek McInnes. He told the Official Site, "The two goals we lost were very poor from our point of view and came about from certain players not doing their jobs. However we got a great reaction after half time which is the least that I would of expected - The players have a great pride in the unbeaten league run which began up there in September and there was at least a determination to maintain that. I have viewed the whole match on video and I can understand why one of the efforts was disallowed but I would contest the other decisions, especially Collin Samuel's - he came from at least a yard behind Golabek and the goal should have stood. It was a big decision for the assistant to get wrong."
Savo is hopefully going to be back in training on Thursday and the club are optimistic he'll be fit for the weekend visit of Livi. As part of the preparation for that Saints are due to play a Scotland U-21 select tomorrow in a closed doors game with some of the fringe players getting a run out. Meanwhile apparently the search for the left-back might bear fruit by the weekend with Saints closing in on a player and the manager is hopeful of having him available to play Livingston.
February 8th - Plenty of praise for the performance from Derek McInnes after yesterday's draw but he wasn't happy with the disallowed goals. The manager told the News of the World, "We started brightly enough, but I was really disappointed with the disallowed goals, at least one of them should have counted. Then we had poor defending for County’s goals and suddenly we were 2-0 down. Half-time came at the right time for us as we looked a little ragged. It was five months ago we started this run and it’s been a lot of hard work. We showed more effort in the second-half and it was a great reaction from my players to come back."
February 7th - No word on the game yet - the pitch at Dingwall is apparently playable but there was a lot of snow up north last night and the A9 doesn't look like fun - so there won't be a Temple report from the game. The players all stayed in Perth last night and the preview in the Courier today has an interview with Collin Samuel(right) who has been getting some specialist coaching. The striker told the paper, "I’ve been doing extra sprint training on a Wednesday. I’d asked Doc if he knew a sprint coach and he put me in touch with a guy at Stirling. It involves work that is specifically for footballers. I think my running had been putting pressure on my hamstrings. It’s not about changing my style of running but if I can get extra pace back it should give me the edge on defenders. That’s what we’ve been working on. It’s definitely helping me, but the main thing is staying injury-free. I want to stay off the injury list because this season has been a frustrating season for me so far. I’ve not had a long spell where I’ve been fit "...Next up some goalscoring coaching for the strikers.....
Ironically Sammy's scoring form has been at Dingwall with three of his massive tally of four goals scored there. "I’ve done well there in the past. Now I want to get myself going and hopefully it can work out for me again there. If the manager gives me the chance to play I need to take it. Hopefully whoever plays, we can put our chances away. I don’t know why I seem to do well against Ross County. It’s just one of those things that happens in football. You can sometimes find teams and grounds that suit you. Whatever the reason is, I’m hoping it will continue tomorrow. When we won 2-1 in September it started us off on our 16-game unbeaten run which is still going now we’re heading back there. The run isn’t something we think about a lot though. We’re just concentrating on our next match."
Savo will be the only absentee from the Saints squad today....assuming they make it up the road and the game goes ahead.
8.45am - Confirmation that the game goes ahead.
16.45 - The game went ahead although I didn't brave the A9. Derek Holmes managed another couple of disallowed goals before poor defending let County score 2 before the break. But 2nd half goals from Stuart McCaffrey and Derek Holmes got us a point in a 2-2 draw at Dingwall Elsewhere in the league Livi and Dundee finished with a win for the Scum.
February 6th - Despite the weather, there is every hope that the game will go ahead tomorrow with Del having been in touch with his whinging namesake Adams at Dingwall. The Saints manager told the Courier, "I spoke to Derek Adams this morning and he said the pitch is absolutely fine and they don’t envisage it getting any worse. We’re anxious to get the game played because we’ve had enough of postponements in recent weeks."
Savo has made some improvement but won't be risked tomorrow. Otherwise Del is looking forward to a tough game. He's not too worried about the lack of goals either as we aim to set a new league wins record. "If you’re averaging two points a game that would be good enough in any division. Our away form is an improvement on previous seasons. We are definitely a stronger side on the road and that is very pleasing. Six of our seven draws have been away and that is decent form, even though a couple of those draws still rankle. We want to work the opposition goalkeeper and and be a bit more positive in the last quarter. That applies to the whole team —defenders at set plays, midfielders chipping in and strikers scoring goals. I’m not unduly worried about that though. I would be if I didn’t think I had the players here to score goals, but that’s not the case. We’ve got proven goalscorers in this division at the club. It would be wrong to say I haven’t thought about it, but I’m not overly concerned."
February 4th - The latest on Savo is a bit more promising with the striker's injury diagnosis changing from a hamstring tear to a nerve problem in his back. He was due for a scan yesterday but if there is no major damage, he has a chance of playing this weekend, although at the moment he's still rated doubtful.
February 3rd - There were no new arrivals ahead of the transfer window closing last night but the Courier reports that a loan left-back might still be on the cards with TFOD'sSteven Smith apparently the main target.
Meanwhile Stuart McCaffrey(right) reckons that our lead is being helped now that Livi and Partick think they're back in the title hunt. He told the paper, "Having so many clubs thinking they are still in with a chance could be in our favour. Any side that’s even nine or 10 points down on us at the moment will feel that if they put together the kind of run we have then they will be close come the end of the season. The good thing from our point of view is that these teams are playing each other every week and they can’t all be winning. So as long as we keep our end up then I’m full of hope we’ll stay in front."
Del reckons that despite the lack of goals, the defence are more than doing their job. "We do need to work the keeper more and to hit the back of the net more, but I feel I’ve got the players here who will start doing that again. We’re looking very solid at the back and that gives us a platform, especially away from home, to go and win matches. Five of the last six league games have seen us record clean sheets, and but for a last minute goal at Airdrie we’d have made it six out of six. Ideally we’d be winning more games than we have been but it should be recognised that of the seven draws we’ve had in going 16 games unbeaten, six have been away from home. We’ve gone to Dundee, Queen of the South, Partick, Airdrie, Clyde and Morton and come away with something and that’s a creditable effort."
7pm- Saints are set to get another live TV appearance with the news that BBC Alba will cover some live First Division games in the run up to the end of the campaign. for Saints it means that the home match against Queen of the South has moved from Saturday April 18th to Sunday April 19th with a 3.15pm kick-off.
February 2nd - Nice to see the problems haven't disappeared. The bad news from Saturday is that Savo has been diagnosed with a hamstring tear and the striker looks set to miss out on the fun trip up the A9 this weekend. Meanwhile the transfer window shuts at 5pm tonight although adverse weather conditions in England (i.e. two flakes of snow) mean it might be extended. Either way it doesn't really matter to us with Saints carrying out the grand total of hee-haw transfer deals.
Finally the Pars game has finally had it's date fixed. Mark Tuesday March 17th into those diaries with a 7.45pm kick-off.
February 1st - Gary
Irvine was Mr Honest after the game yesterday and didn't try to blame the referee when for changing his mind over the penalty. He told the Screws of the World, "I didn’t really know myself as it happened so quickly, but I know I fell into the box just because of my momentum. It happened that quickly it was a hard one for the referee, but the boys told me it was just outside the box so it was a good call."
Del(right) was just as surprised that the game finished goalless and he said, "We absolutely battered them! We were excellent for the first 15 to 20 minutes then we got involved in the battle and their style of play. As for the penalties, well, Craig Thomson is a good referee and I am not going to criticise him. The second one with Gary Irvine was outside the box, but the first, if it had happened anywhere else on the pitch then it is a free-kick. Although it is only a point, it keeps our unbeaten run going to 16 games now and even though seven are draws, six of them were away from home. "
There's no word on Savo's injury yet after the Saints striker was taken off at Cappielow yesterday.
Top Of News
January 31st - Chris Millar is in the papers today ahead of the game against his former employers. And it seems as if the Greenock fans still bear a grudge as he told the Courier, "This week I got a text from a random number calling me a traitor and other things I couldnít mention. So Somebody had obviously managed to get hold of my mobile number to give me a bit of stick before the game. I was told in Tesco that Morton would be beating us but thereís no malice behind it, itís all good fun. Thereís always the odd one, but most of the Morton fans have been really good to me since I signed the pre- contract agreement with Saints a year ago. I think they appreciated that I then helped keep them up before I left. I just hope that Iím playing tomorrow and Iíll look forward to the banter. Once the game starts you donít hear anything anyway."
Del though is expecting a tough match. With our game off last weekend he took in the Morton v Livi draw and said, "They were well on top against Livingston for a good 70 minutes and could have been three or four up. Thereís a physical presence about them and weíre well aware that weíll have to be at our best to beat them. Weíve only had one league game in January, which has been disappointing, but itís important we donít let that affect us."
7.30pm - Another draw for Saints as it finished 0-0 away to Morton which sees us equal the 16-game unbeaten league run of the last title win. On the plus side we should have won the game given the chances we had with Derek Holmes heading the ball against the bar and two decent late penalty claims turned down. Graham Gartland made a decent debut at left-back as the defence put in another solid performance. The result means our lead has been reduced to three points as the Pars went down like a Dundee whore at home to QoS while new second place side Partick Thistle managed a win at Airdrie.
January 30th - For those of us worrying about the left-back situation, the transfer window is due to close on Monday night, which doesn't leave much time. The latest rumour has 18yr old Hamilton left-back James Gibson linked with Saints. Paul Hanlon definitely won't be returning but Saints are hopeful of having someone in place before tomorrow's trip to Greenock. Elsewhere and Kevin James has been linked with a move to East Fife.
One definite change though is Kevin Moon(right) with the midfielder signing a two-year contract extension yesterday. Del has always rated the player and told the Courier, "This seasonís been a bit stop-start for Mooner because of injuries but I feel heís got a really good career ahead of him in the game. He can do a bit of everything. He can be aggressive, score goals, he gets around the park well and heís a good passer of the ball. He listens well to Jody Morris and myself in training and heís earned this new deal. I totally trust him. Anytime I call on Mooner I know I can rely on him to perform. He showed that recently against Partick Thistle. He gets to the pace of a game really quickly even if heís coming off the bench. I can only see him getting better and better and hopefully, with the security of a two-year contract deal, he can keep improving."
As for the player he commented, "Iím always learning here. The manager played in my position which helps, and Jody is a class act to pick up tips from as well. Itís been straightforward agreeing a new deal. I was desperate to stay and we got things sorted out quickly. Iím delighted to get the contract thing sorted and hopefully I can do my bit in the run in. Everybody here wants to be playing in the SPL next season. My pelvis has been moving out of place every time I play so Iíve been getting injections which are meant to put that right. Iíve been to Leicester twice already for them and Iíve got one more trip to go. Iíve been able to play through it but I just want to get it sorted and to put it all behind me. All the boys were frustrated when the Dunfermline match was postponed last week but weíre focused on Morton on Saturday now, which we know will be a tough game."
There was more good news for tomorrow as well with Graham Gartland coming through a training session unscathed which gives the manages a full squad to pick from for the first time in donkey's.
5.15pm - Latest team news has doubts over Kevin Moon with his ongoing pelvic problem and Steven Anderson who has an ankle knock - both should at least make the bench. Both Martin Hardie and Graham Gartland are in the squad.
January 28th - It's piss-up in brewery time as we still await the new date for the Pars game. Despite the Fifers saying it would be next Tuesday (Feb 3rd) apparently they hadn't got Saints agreement first - the latest we're now talking about is the following Tuesday - that's the 10th. But don't plan your evening at McDiarmid yet as nothing is official.
January 26th - There's been no official word ont he rearranged date. It definitely won't be this week but the word from Pars fans is next Tuesday (Feb 3rd) looks like a possibility although Saints preference was for the free weekend at the end of March but that clashes with the Holland v Scotland game and would no doubt cause plenty of annoyance amongst the Tartan Army Saints fans. Anyway expect confirmation over the next few days.
6.30pm - Not too much happening with Saints although Paul Hanlon did make a sad lonely figure as he headed back down the M90 to Edinburgh today. But there is hope for Saints with another loan target apparently in Del's sights and possibly set to be in place for the trip to Greenock this weekend.
January 24th - It's Liam
Craig(right) in the papers ahead of today's game. The midfielder is close to a 2-match ban but he says that won't stop him playing his usual game today (although hopefully he'll learn to keep his mouth shut). "Iím not going to be watching what Iím doing as far as tackling is concerned. Weíve a strong enough squad here to cope with people dropping out of the team so Iím not going to stop making challenges. If the ball is there to be won then Iíll look to win it. If I get booked then so be it. Iíll take that on the chin. What I do need to avoid, though, is picking up cards for dissent. Thatís something I definitely need to get better at. The majority of my bookings have probably been for dissent and thereís no need for that. I canít keep saying Iím young and inexperienced. Iíve been in football long enough not to let myself, the gaffer and the supporters down by picking up needless cards. If I was getting suspended for six or seven tackles then maybe I could accept that. But bans for dissent arenít acceptable, as the gaffer has told me. Obviously we all want to do well and when decisions donít go your way you get a bit excited about it. But the better players can control themselves. You donít see Jody
Morris losing the head, and I just need to learn from the likes of him and Paul Sheerin"
He scored when we beat the Pars last time round and went on, "It was a great day down at Dunfermline and getting a winner of that kind right in front of our fans made it particularly special for me. A repeat on Saturday would be great but in all honesty Iíd do well to beat that goal. So this time Iíd settle for a last- minute five-yard tap-in to win the game. The gaffer expects me to score when Iím playing in midfield and I take pride in getting goals. And the type of player Derek Holmes is, if we get balls up to him and midfield runners feeding off of that, then the likes of Chris Millar and myself will get opportunities."
4.30pm - Well it was feck-up central today with a half-time postponement due to a frozen McDiarmid surface. Despite living in Scotland in January, the club decided against switching on the undersoil heating and a 12.30 inspection meant the game fell foul to the weather. No doubt we'll get plenty of deserved criticisim for the decision never mind the possible impact a midweek replay will have on the gate receipts. No word on the rearranged date yet but Dunfermline apparently want the game to go ahead this Tuesday.
January 23rd - Paul Sheerin(right) in the paper today. Fresh from celebrating 200 games for Saints last week, the midfielder is in today's Courier looking ahead to tomorrow's big league game. He said, "One of the young lads mentioned that I had made my 200th appearance last weekend. Itís a nice milestone and not bad going in four and a half years here. Iíve been involved in most games since coming to the club. There was a Partick game this season and a couple under John Connolly that I missed. But Iíve always been available for selection. I suppose itís unusual nowadays but, touch wood, Iíve always been pretty lucky in avoiding injuries. Maybe itís because I donít do much tackling!"
He's also making a name for himself coaching the Saints youth sides and the U-17s look set to clinch their league this weekend after an impressive season. "Iím enjoying the coaching role and would like to spend more time on it along with Tommy Campbell. But playing still comes first. This is a huge game coming up for both ourselves and Dunfermline. Itís the classic six-pointer. Thatís the way both sides will see it. It would be a massive result if we could win it. We want to stretch the lead to eight points. In the last three seasons itís been us looking up at the leaders. Weíve never been in this position with other teams trying to hunt us down. Thatís why this is the biggest game of our season. Dunfermline havenít made inroads into our lead when they had chances. Now theyíre coming to Perth knowing itís probably a game they must win. That means thereís added pressure on them. They gave us a battering here early in the season but we evened it up at East End Park."
And another record could be matched this weekend as Saints set out to go 16 league games unbeaten, something we've not done since the 1996-97 promotion season. Del also spoke of the Paul Hanlon situation - there's a chance he could come back on loan later in the season but with no guarantees, the manager is looking at other options. "I canít depend on that so we will look at perhaps bringing someone in, although it would have to be the right player."
Meanwhile both Savo and Martin Hardie put themselves into contention by returning to training yesterday.
January 21st - Savo seems to be pretty optimistic that he'll have recovered from his thigh injury for the weekend. The striker said in the Courier, "The manager knows Iíll be honest with him about whether Iím OK, just as I was for the cup tie. Iíd actually trained on the Saturday before we faced Rangers and the gaffer said to me he thought I looked good. But I hadnít felt right and went and told him that, which he appreciated. Iím hopeful for the Dunfermline match though. I had a scan on Saturday morning which showed a slight tear in the thigh muscle. But Iím still aiming for this weekend, because thereís been significant improvement since the scan."
As for Saints' chances he continued, "Other teams are coming back into the picture but I still see Dunfermline as our main rivals for promotion. Theyíve had a couple of chances to catch up but havenít picked up full points. So theyíll be really keen to beat us and cut the gap to just two points. Itís obviously massive for them because if they lost, eight points it a lot to come back from. Weíve had a five-point lead for whatís seemed like ages. But that could be wiped out in the course of just two games, so we want to be putting a few wins together now and extending our advantage."
January 20th - Skipper Kevin Rutkiewicz(right) is the latest Saints player to join the Gary
Irvine fan club. Talking up his defensive colleague, he told today's Courier, "Iíd be surprised if no one was looking at Gary. He has everything a modern day footballer needs and at his age heís only going to improve. As right-backs go, I canít think of many better than him in Scotland. Like the rest of us he had a poor start to the season. But heís recovered from that and probably, as far as his career is concerned, itís been good for him to go through things like thatóespecially if he comes out the other end as well as he has. Defensively heís been absolutely brilliant, no one had had the better of him since that shaky opening few weeks. But hopefully weíll get to the end of January when the transfer window closes, before thereís some interest in him."
Praise wasn't just for the defence though with Derek Holmes also getting the gold star. The Saints captain went on, "Big Derek has been outstandingówhat a team player. All too often Derekís contribution goes unnoticed by fans. But no other striker in this league brings to their side what he brings to us. Heís annoyed at not getting more goals himself. But of the seven or eight goals Stevie Milne has got over the past few months I think Derekís had six assists in there. He maybe doesnít put the ball in the net as often as heíd like himself, but the rest of us know how valuable a contribution he makes to St Johnstone."
As for this weekend's coming game against the Pars, the manager knows just how important it could be. Del said, "I’m really looking forward to Saturday, when I’m hoping to see the players show the same attitude as they did at Partick. We know exactly what to expect from Dunfermline. Like Partick, they’ll view the game as a chance to pull us back. And we understand their mindset, having found ourselves trying to come from behind in the promotion race for the past two years. But we’ll meet that head on. We’re playing with confidence and restricting the opposition to very few chances. The one area I am looking for improvement in is our goal threat."
5pm - Some bad news for Saints today with the announcement that Mixu is being all selfish and taking Paul Hanlon back to Easter Rd. That means no extension to his loan and this weekend will see his last game for Saints. It also means that Del has to do some work to try and identify a left-back for the rest of the season and the manager told the Official Site, "It's disappointing, but I am grateful to Mixu for allowing him to come here in the first place and he obviously has to look after Hibs' interests. However, Paul will not return until next Monday so he can play against Dunfermline this weekend".
January 19th - Expect Paul Hanlon's future to be sorted out this week. Hibs look set to recall him from his McDiarmid loan spell but the player told the Courier, "Iíve one game left and I donít know what happens thereafter. Iím enjoying my time at St Johnstone but itís up to Hibs. I heard Ian Murray missed the St Mirren game because of injury so if I do go back then hopefully Iíll have the chance to play. But if not Iíd be happy to stay with Saints. Playing really tough games week in week out with a team at the top of the league is something I can only benefit from."
Del has already been eyeing up possible replacements if you believe the papers with ex-TFOD full-back Maurice Ross apparently a possible target.
7pm - The problems have started for us already ahead of the weekend. Graham Gartland will be out for 2 weeks after a picking up a knock on the training ground. Del told the Official Site, "Graham stretched his medial ligament on Friday and it will keep him out for a couple of weeks. It was the most innocuous of training incidents so it is a bit frustrating."
On the plus side, Kevin James should feature for the reserves tomorrow and Savo should be fit for the Pars game at the weekend with Martin Hardie hopefully resuming training later this week. The manager went on, "I'm really looking forward to the game. I was pleased with our performance at Firhill and it was just frustrating that we didn't carve out more chances. I want more of the same this weekend.". And despite weekend speculation, Del has denied any imminent move for ex-TFOD defender Maurice Ross saying only that we'd given the player training facilities over Xmas and New Year - mind you if Paul Hanlon returns to Easter Rd we will need to move for a left-back.
January 18th - After his goalline heroics yesterday, Gary
Irvine(right) was feeling confident in his post-match interview. He told the Sunday Mail, "That's got to be my best goal-line clearance ever. Exactly what happened is a bit blurry but I really had to stretch and if I hadn't thought I was getting to it with my head the hand would have come out. The back five, including keeper Alan Main, take our jobs seriously and we'll do anything to get a clean sheet. If it proves to be a defining moment in the title race I'll be delighted but there's a long way to go. The lads seemed impressed with what I did and the goalies were saying they wouldn't even have saved the shot with their hands so I'm chuffed.". He's all over the News of the World as well and told them, "Itís a bit of a blur to me but the boys are saying it was an unbelievable clearance. Some of them told me I wouldnít have saved that with my hands never mind my head. But it shows it was worth chasing a lost cause because it looked as if they were bound to score. It would be nice to look back on that clearance at the end of the season and think that it played a part in getting us promoted and this could prove to be an important point. Thistle are never an easy team to play and this point sets us up for a massive game against Dunfermline next week."
While Keecher McCall seemed to think the home side deserved the points, Del had praise for our performance as well saying, "We were devastating for 35 minutes and did everything except score. We dominated the first half and maybe could count ourselves unfortunate not to be ahead at half-time. On another day we could have won it but we could also have lost it because Thistle probably had the best chance with the one that Gary Irvine headed off the line. Thistle are a good side and are capable of beating anyone in this league so we are not too disappointed coming away with a point."
January 17th - Stuart McCaffrey is out for revenge this afternoon for the last defeat at Firhill. The defender told the Courier, "Last time round at Firhill wasnít a good day for us. But we have turned things around since then. There has been a dramatic change and we will travel with confidence. Thistle will fancy their chances and they always get decent backing from their own fans, but we will have a go at them and look for all three points.". With the Pars game looming next week, theres no doubt that these two games, could go a long way to deciding the destination of the title.
7pm - It finished 0-0 at Firhill today with chances for both sides with Gary Irvine arguably contributing most to the unbeaten run with a header off the line in the second-half. There were a lot of tired legs though as the effects of the cup match came through. We're still clear at the top in the build-up to the Pars came next week as all the games finished in draws with only County notching up three points with a win over Queen of the South.
Finally congratulations to Alan Main who picked up the SFL Player of the Month Award for December.
January 16th - After a good, albeit goalless performance on Tuesday night to mark his comeback, Jacko(right) is looking to get back amongst the goals starting at Firhill tomorrow. The striker has a bet on with Derek McInnes that he'll get 20 goals this season. He spoke to the Courier and said, "It looks like the gaffer will be getting the £50. I think thatís out the window now. If I do go on from here to get 20 goals then I should be getting a couple of grand from him! It has been tough handling the injuries, especially because of the high expectations I placed on myself at the start of the season. But I felt right back to my best against Rangers and, hopefully, I did enough to be involved at Firhill. Itís good to be back and now I want to get among the goals again."
Del was pleased with his performance as well and added, "Andy did really well and I made a point of telling him that. He was a bit unfortunate to be sacrificed in the second half but at that stage I felt we needed a wee spark and Collin Samuel gave us a bit of pace. Andy worked the defence hard and looked back to his usual self after his injury problems. The Rangers game is out of the system and our focus is back on the league. Everything has been geared towards Saturday. Firhill is a difficult venue, as we know to our cost over the last couple of seasons, so we need to be right for this one. Thistle are definitely title contenders. I know that within their camp they feel they can go on and win it. But we are a different animal from the side which lost there early in the season and our 3-0 home win over them went some way to making-up for that result."
Peaso is back in training but Martin Hardie is still apparently a doubt.
6pm - Latest news is a bit worse for Saints. Martin Hardie and Savo will both be rested tomorrow with Derek McInnes wanting to save the pair for the big game against the Pars next week.
January 15th - Despite his error leading to the first goal, Alan Main is still being backed by Derek McInnes. The manager told the Courier, "Alan took responsibility for the goal but Iím certainly not going to condemn him. He has been great for us. I trust him fully. He would have dealt with it 99 times out of a 100. Alan is annoyed with himself but the lads are right behind him. Thatís something keepers have to cope with and Alan is experienced enough at this stage of his career to handle it. There wasnít much Stuart McCaffrey could do about the own goal and it was a real blow and a turning point. But we had a real go at Rangers and worked Allan McGregor. Now however, we have to focus on a big league game at Firhill on Saturday."
5pm - With both teams out the cup, Saints have confirmed that the postponed trip to Ross County from Jan 3rd will now take place on Scottish Cup 5th round weekend - that's Saturday February 7th with a 3pm kick-off.
January 14th - Just after midnight and we're out of the cup losing 2-0 to the Forces of Darkness. Despite a good first-half performance the fates were against us thanks to a Stuart McCaffrey own goal (for which Alan Main's clearance contributed no small part) and a late Novo tap-in. All of which means we're out of the cup, no trip to partake of the Forfar bridies and we just have to concentrate on winning the league. It might make up for it.
After the game, Derek McInnes was honest about the performance and said, "There was a lot to be pleased about in the first half and we worked their keeper a few times. We just needed one of those chances to go in. To go in at half time 1-0 down was a real blow. It was a sloppy goal to lose and it gave Rangers a lift. I didn’t see it coming, to be honest. We tried to get forward in the second half but Rangers picked us off and I felt 2-0 was a bit harsh on us."
January 13th - Well apparently there's a wee cup-tie on BBC1 tonight. Yup the hype has started and Saints are all over the papers today. The Courier first and the team news isn't too great with Savo apparently a major doubt with a thigh strain. Martin Hardie and Peaso are out already but Collin Samuel is fit and Derek Holmes has recovered from twisting his ankle on Friday. Derek McInnes told the paper, "Savo has done really well for us this year and is our top scorer. Heís also proved over the seasons that he can score against top opposition, so it will be a big disappointment if he doesnít make it."
Paul Hanlon has been allowed to take part for us tonight so should start at left-back. The manager went on, "Mixu had always said that if Hibs were knocked out of the cup we could play him. Heís been involved in all our preparations so far and is up to speed, so thatís not a problem. We know itís not the most important competition for us this season but we want to make it a fantastic occasion to remember. We know theyíll create opportunities but we have to try and restrict them and do our best to impose our game on them. I feel as if weíve got players to score goals and hopefully that will be the case."
Jody Morris is also up for the game despite suffering from the flu last week. He said, "Itís a game weíre all looking forward to. But after injury problems during the first half of the season any game is welcome for me. For it to be a cup game against a big club like Rangers is a bonus. Thereís still a bit to go before Iím in tip-top condition, but even with the flu last week Iím in much better shape than I was before the semi-final. I had a sore throat, headaches, shakes, the lot. But Iím over it and ready for Rangers. Obviously it will be tough but I genuinely believe we are a better team than we were last season. We have gone 14 games unbeaten and we are high on confidence. They will be expected to do a job on us but we are proving a hard team to beat at the moment. At Hampden we pushed Rangers all the way and matched them for 120 minutes. But this time the tie is at our gaff and the manager will have us well prepared - so why canít we win?"
Over in the Scotsman, Paul Sheerin is the player interviewed (mainly through his involvement in the Caley Thistle humbling of the other half of the Bigot Brothers a few years ago) and he told the paper, "It's a massive game and the home draw adds up to a wee chance for us. We're classed as underdogs, obviously, but I think that helps you sometimes, you can go and relax and you've really got nothing to lose. In the league at the moment, we've got to keep trying to win matches and have to break teams down. We're not expected to win this one and it would be a huge upset if we did. It takes a wee bit of pressure of us and hopefully adds a little bit to them. I think we know we have to play at our maximum and hope they have a slight off night. We hope to get a few chances to score and fingers crossed, we can cause an upset. There have not been many over the weekend, maybe only Ayr drawing with Kilmarnock, and it would be nice to achieve one."
Meanwhile in the Scottish Sun, it's new boy Graham Gartland being interviewed with the paper picking up on his religious background and the attitudes of the OF fans. The player is quoted saying, "Itís great just to be back at training again. It was frustrating when so many moves fell through but the gaffer here has shown a lot of faith in me and kept in touch. Iím glad everything has been sorted now and Iím excited about getting started again. Itís great to have a set routine again. As a footballer, everything revolves around training and playing games."
January 11th - The cup preview articles ahead of Tuesday's game have started in earnest. Alan Main is interviewed in Scotland on Sunday (read it here), while Jody Morris(right) is in the Sunday Mail. The ex-Chelsea man, like the rest of the Saints side, is out for revenge for the semi-final shootout defeat last season and told the paper, "The great thing about the FA and Scottish Cups is the underdog can win. Hopefully we can do that against Rangers. To get back to Hampden would be incredible and to win a trophy with St Johnstone would mean so much. The thing I remember most about the semi-final is missing the penalty - I'll never forget that. I shouldn't have been on the pitch because I was injured and wanted to come off before the full-time whistle. I couldn't because we had no more subs. My only regret on the penalty is that I would like to have hit it harder. But in extra-time I couldn't do anything that involved power because of my calf. I had to stay on for extra-time with the tear and in the shoot-out I was conscious I couldn't hit the ball as well as I would have liked. We held our own and were unlucky against Rangers. If anything we're better equipped this year to beat them. I fancy us against anyone at home right now."
Another player interviewed by the paper is Savo and he isn't worried about the hype for Tuesday. "No disrespect to Rangers but I've never feared them. You either fear them or relish it and most of our boys will feel the same as myself."
2.35 - After Hibs early exit (which might help Paul Hanlon's chances of playing on Tuesday night), the 5th round draw was made this afternoon. So assuming we comfortably deal with the Wegies, Saints will face a trip to either Forfar or Forres.
January 8th - While it might just be a training exercise gone wrong to prepare the McDiarmid staff for the presence of the Wegies on Tuesday, it seems that there is a plague doing the rounds at the ground with the cup preparations thrown into more disarray with several players suffering from the flu. The roll-call sent home yesterday included Stephen Doris, Alan Main, Euan McLean and Jody Morris. With Martin Hardie all but ruled out and Peaso(right), Steven Milne and Collin Samuel all needing treatment for injuries, Derek McInnes could do with a better platform to prepare for the cup tie. Speaking in today's Courier, the Saints manager said, "Thereís lots of flu going about just now. The players affected have been sent home and given medication and I would expect to see them back at the park on Friday. Thatís the plan. Martin's got a slight hamstring tear and heís a doubt for the match but, if he doesnít make it for Tuesday, we hope heíll be available to face Partick Thistle."
January 7th - No bounce game today for Saints. McDiarmid is suffering from a frozen pitch and the club have decided not to put on the undersoil heating to save the pennies.
January 6th - With no action at the weekend and no game till a week tonight, Saints have lined up a closed doors game against the Arabs tomorrow to keep things ticking over. Saints tried to get the County match played tonight but the Dingwall side want a full week to prepare for the cup. Derek McInnes told the Courier, "We had a feeling last week the Ross County game would be off and itís disappointing thatís how it turned out as we wanted to keep playing. We tried to get the match played this week but they wanted a full week to prepare for their cup tie. So weíll play United in a bounce game instead and will give everyone who is fit some part of that one with a view to topping up their fitness."
The manager is also trying to clarify the situation regarding Paul Hanlon and whether the on-loan Hibee can play in the cup match. He went on, "The agreement was weíd look at Paulís situation a couple of weeks into January. But itís maybe going to come to a head sooner because of the cup game and our need to ask for permission to play him. I think if itís their intention to hold on to Paul then we wonít be allowed to involve him against Rangers. But in saying that they play on the Sunday and if they get knocked out then we might have him for our cup tie but still not know whether heís going to remain with us for the rest of the season. As it stands his loan is due to run out a week before the window closes and I have asked Hibs for as early an indication as possible regarding their intentions so I can bring someone else in if I have to. Paulís done well but we do have other options."
Injury-wise, Martin Hardie is already a doubt for the cup game after being diagnosed with a hamstring tear.
January 2nd - No word yet on the pitch inspection for tomorrow's game at Dingwall but even the Official Site reckons one will be required while most fans seem to think it will be nothing more than a formality to call the game off. That would be a disappointment for Saints striker and former County player Derek Holmes who is looking to get back to scoring goals (his main job) having failed to find the net since September. He told the Courier, "Maybe if I was younger it would be preying on my mind but the team is winning and Iím playing well enough. Iíve been here before in my career so I know the goals will comeóIíve absolutely no doubt about that. Myself and Stevie Milneís partnership probably dipped a bit but we were back on form against Clyde. I had another chance against Clyde but I struck it first time and it went straight to the keeper. Thatís typical of my luck at the moment. I feel everything is there for me apart from the goals and, as I say, Iím confident they will come."
2.30pm - Breaking news and causing about as much surprise as the news that Dundee is a smelly city, a 9.30am pitch inspection this morning put paid to Saintee fans' journey up the A9 tomorrow. No word on when the game will be rearranged.
January 1st - A Happy New Year to Saintees everywhere. Saints entered their 125th year today and for a change the club have remembered the anniversary.
The bad news is that the freezing temperatures up north mean that the likelihood of Saturday's game with Ross County going ahead is about as likely as seeing a certain Dens Park mob get the award for most financially astute club in the SFL.
The new month also heralds the opening of the transfer window and a chance for the media to go OTT linking every has-been / never-was with either half of the Bigot Brothers. For Saints, Derek McInnes will be officially tying up the signature of Graham "Garters" Gartland(right) today. The Saints boss is still hopeful of landing a permanent left-back.
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