1. 2019/20 Player Ratings – Defence

Vaclav Hladky (Goalkeeper)

Overall Rating 7.2
Best Month: October 7.5
Appearances 38
Shut Outs 14 (37%)
Assists 1
Man of the Match Awards: 8

The argument about whether Hladky was our best player this season is probably irrelevant, and the real conversation is whether he is genuinely the best goalkeeper in the history of the club. The fact this is even a proper debate speaks volumes of the impact made by the commanding Czech Republic keeper in just over a year at the club.

Last season, his arrival in January 2019, when he was identified from the creative scouting strategy implemented by Oran Kearney, coincided with a huge turnaround in fortunes for the team in what was arguably the greatest escape of them all this century, and we’ve had plenty of them. Without Hladky, we would have probably been relegated.

This season however, Hladky hasn’t been as busy as we have a better side meaning his contribution maybe hasn’t been noticeable, which has made some of the media consider that perhaps Mark Gillespie of Motherwell and Jedi/Hobbit hybrid Luke Southwood at Hamilton have been the pick of the non-Old Firm goalkeepers, but this assertion can be taken about as seriously as Ann Budge winning a ‘self-awareness’ competition run by Kris Boyd.

Hladky is pound for pound the best keeper in the division by a distance. He’s so good, everyone knows his only bad game, the 5-2 defeat at Tynecastle, and this freak match where he was below standard is testament to his outstanding consistency as it stands out like Gary MacKay at a medal winners exhibition.

Sadly, the Keeper has undoubtedly played his last match for the club now, and the fans have been robbed of at least another eight performances to add his fifty-nine appearances, however the keeper will leave a hero and one of the most popular and respected players of the last thirty years at Saints. Unless of course he signs for one of the Glasgow clubs…………………

Paul McGinn (Defender)

Overall Rating 6.7
Best Month: August 7.8
Appearances 26
Goals 0
Assists 3
Man of the Match Awards: 2

The third McGinn to play for St Mirren surprisingly left at the end of the January 2020 transfer window to join Hibernian where he finally worked with the man who actually signed him for Saints, Jack Ross. The defender had only missed one match this season up to that point and filled in splendidly at centre back during his last full month at the club as we faced a significant central defence shortage.

Although recognised as a right back, centre back is where I see McGinn playing out his career, as I’ve always believed he lacks real crossing ability in the full back position, although his bombing forward from that area of the park was badly missed after he left for Edinburgh. McGinn can best be described as reliable, a very undervalued attribute in my opinion, and was one of the most consistent players at the club over the whole of 2019.

Considering McGinn also played very well at left back this season when Calum Waters was ineligible, then his versatility was bound to be missed, however very few if any fans will hold anything against McGinn and it wouldn’t be a massive surprise should he return to the club in the coming years.

Lee Hodson (Defender)

Lee Hodson (Defender)
Overall Rating 6.3
Best Month: February 6.5
Appearances 10
Goals 0
Assists 1
Man of the Match Awards: 0

Hodson arrived late in the January 2020 transfer window, signalling the cover required for Paul McGinn to leave the club. The Northern Irishman is similar to McGinn in that he can cover both full back positions, and although he is unlikely to feature at centre back, Hodson can step into midfield or even on the wing as he proved when Goodwin put him here on his second debut for Saints, ironically at Easter Road as McGinn also made his Hibs debut from the bench.

Hodson hadn’t played much football since leaving Saints last summer, and even then, he only returned from long term injury for the final league match of the season and the play offs in May 2019. In total the full back only appeared in eight matches in the whole of 2019 between Saints and Gillingham, therefore it was understandable he had a sluggish start to life at Saints.

However, his second half performance against Motherwell during the 2-1 win at Fir Park in late February suggested that Hodson was finding his feet, where he was like Cafu, or as Danny Lennon liked to call the Brazilian, ‘the black Davie Barron’.

Kirk Broadfoot (Defender)

Overall Rating 6.9
Best Month: October 7.5
Appearances 8
Goals 0
Assists 1
Man of the Match Awards: 1

More slippy than a lubed up snake in a swimming pool, chicken embryo addict Broadfoot surprisingly joined the club in September after throwing his toys out the pram at Kilmarnock when the new manager Angelo Alessio made him train, and allegedly read his specially made pop-up book on football tactics.

A few months later and with the big bad manager back in Italy, Broadfoot insisted he returned to Ayrshire where he took a pay cut and bought out his own contract at Saints to go and sit on the bench at Killie. He sure has got them smarts.

The defender had played reasonably well when selected for Saints, but his last appearance for the club was one of the poorest in recent years when we were beaten 5-2 by Hearts at Tynecastle in early November, and big Kirky was last seen chasing the Red Lion egg lorry at Asda Linwood looking for his breakfast.

Whenever football returns, the reception Broadfoot gets from Saints fans when we meet again will be spectacular and I for one welcome the egging he is sure to deservedly receive.

Gary MacKenzie (Defender)

Overall Rating 6.8
Best Month: August 8.0
Appearances 12
Goals 0
Assists 0
Man of the Match Awards: 0

2019/20 was a familiar story for MacKenzie at Saints, where he was very effective when fit and put in some colossal performances, but long-term injury was unfortunately never far away.

After missing six matches following suffering concussion against Ross County in September, MacKenzie’s season and I suspect Saints career ended in the first match of December when he went off early in the game with a groin injury against Motherwell at home.

Saints fell apart that night against the ‘Well after the centre back was substituted and this underlines the influence MacKenzie had when fit, however 74 appearances over four seasons at the club out of a possible 176 matches played by Saints, highlights perfectly the unfortunate injuries MacKenzie has suffered and why it is inevitable he will be leaving the club as soon as his contract expires in June.

Missing 102 matches over four season is extraordinary, and it is likely we would add the eight remaining fixtures of the 2019/20 season to that total if they are ever played. In percentage terms, Big Gary Mac was only fit for 42% of the available fixtures for the club since July 2016, a statistic unlikely to support any claim a new deal should be forthcoming.

It is difficult to criticise the big centre back for this however, and MacKenizie I suspect will always be an extremely popular player with the Saints support. I can’t think of any players with a Rangers tattoo who is so universally adored by Saints fans and he will always have a place in our collective heart considering his personality and bravery on the park.

Had things been different with injury though, we may have been talking about MacKenzie in terms of being a club legend rather than a cult hero, as there is little doubt when fit, the last of Alex Rae’s signings still at the club was an outstanding defender.

Sean McLoughlin (Defender)

Overall Rating 7.38
Best Month: December 8.0
Appearances 21
Goals 1
Assists 0
Man of the Match Awards: 3

The Irishman was a target of Jim Goodwin as soon as he took the Saints job, and after failing to land him permanently in the summer when Hull City bought him, the Saints manager finally got his man when he convinced McLoughlin to move to Paisley on loan for the first five months of the season.

Despite having only trained with his new team-mates for a couple of days, the left sided centre back was outstanding on his debut at Easter Road and continued this level of consistency for long periods during the first half of the season where he quickly became an integral part of the first team.

McLoughlin strolled football in Scotland, and was rarely fazed, meaning in my opinion and as the average score proves, he was the pick of Saints players up to and including the winter break. However, as is the case with these matters, the Hull City scout monitoring his progress at Saints couldn’t fail to be impressed and the possibility of extending the loan looked unlikely as time went on.

Sure enough, as early as possible McLoughlin was recalled from loan at Paisley and put straight into the Hull City first eleven, which was no surprise considering what we had all witnessed from the former Cork City player. Comfortably one of the best centre backs I’ve seen at Saints in the last thirty years.

Akin Famewo (Defender)

Overall Rating 6.7
Best Month: February 7.1
Appearances 13
Goals 0
Assists 0
Man of the Match Awards: 1

Following the loss of several defenders in January, Akin Famewo arrived on loan from Norwich City to cover Sean McLoughlin returning to Hull City, and as a tall left sided centre back looked to be a perfect replacement.

Famewo however didn’t have the game experience of the Irishman, and took some time to settle down, however he did show enough to suggest that he was more than capable of becoming a good player at this level at least, and the young defender possibly has the potential to go even further.

The centre back was shaky at first particularity in possession, but he was soon finding team-mates with pinpoint passes and defending stoutly as he adjusted to football in Scotland. Just as he was really coming onto a game though the season looks to have ended, however it would be more than prudent to enquire about the Englishman coming back next season.

Conor McCarthy (Defender)

Overall Rating 6.9
Best Month: January 7.7
Appearances 13
Goals 1
Assists 0
Man of the Match Awards: 1

A centre back partner of Sean McLoughlin at Cork City, Jim Goodwin paid £21,000 to take the right sided defender to Paisley in January, and already it looks like money very well spent by the club.

From sweeping cross-field passes to astute blocking and even to his Victorian style wearing of his shorts, McCarthy has made a big impact on Saints fans and season so far, and it is with some regret we did not get to see him and McLoughlin in the same Saints team, but the youngster has impressively led the defence in the absence of a more experienced player beside him and settled easily into Premiership football in Scotland.

McCarthy scored a thumping header against Hibs at Easter Road, our first headed goal of the season, and it will be intriguing to see how he develops over the next few seasons as a bright future probably in England beckons for the talented Irishman.

Calum Waters (Defender)

Overall Rating 6.4
Best Month: August 7.0
Appearances 30
Goals 0
Assists 2
Man of the Match Awards: 1

Waters was brought to the club in August as Jim Goodwin struggled to get players into his squad, and as the pair had worked together at Alloa and the former Celtic youngster was a left back, a position we had no natural fit for, it did make sense.

The defender had been transferred to Kilmarnock during Goodwin’s time as Alloa boss, where he had played back up to Scotland international Greg Taylor, but when he was sold to Celtic Waters surprisingly found himself out of favour and the loan move to Paisley was sanctioned by Angelo Alessio.

However, since leaving Alloa in 2017, Waters only played seven Premiership matches in two seasons, and although he was loaned to Sligo Rovers last campiagn, his spell with Saints was the first time he had played consistent topflight football in his career, and it showed on many occasions, particularly in the early part of the season.

After the winter break however, there has been an undoubted improvement from Waters where he has had several fine matches, although he remains inconsistent and this drags his average score down.

On his day, Waters is a surprisingly uncompromising tough tackling full back, and if we see a lot more of this side of Waters rather than the timid passenger with poorer distribution than a Tory PPE agent, then he has a chance of carving out a career at a decent level, but I doubt that will be with Saints.

Others…………….Sent out on loan to Morton as punishment for not punching Lee Miller last season, Jack Baird (4 apps), played all the League Cup group matches and was as good/bad as anyone else, but the decision in January to return him to Cappielow as the club had no fit centre backs available suggests his days are numbered at Paisley.

Ethan Erahon (4 apps) also played all four League Cup matches, but similarly to most of last season the likeable youngster failed to impress in the left back slot. Allegedly turned down the chance to sign for a Scottish club on loan last August and spent four months in the reserves before effectively joining Barnsley on trial for a half season. Must impress in midfield if given the chance again at Saints, or his career is likely to be one of what might have been.

With one appearance each, Nick McAllister came on early in the League Cup match against Albion Rovers at right back and performed well. Coincidentally was sent back to loan to Cliftonhill In January where he has since played eight times. Scott Glover made his debut for Saints in the 3-3 draw against Livingston during a howling day in December due to the centre back injury crisis and gave his all despite being against the physically most intimidating side in the division. Didn’t seem ready for first team football at this level yet, which is no disgrace, and could benefit from a loan spell next season.