The Twenty Goal Club

When Gavin Reilly lashed the ball beyond former Saints goalkeeper Mark Ridgers to open the scoring and subsequently win the match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle on the sixth of January 2017, the Dumfries born striker not only scored his twentieth goal of the season after just twenty eight appearances, but joined a fairly unique and relatively small exclusive group of St Mirren players.

Scoring twenty times in a campaign is probably more or less the standard target for most forwards and some midfielders every season it could be argued, yet it has happened in Saints history remarkably few times considering the club is currently in its one hundred and forty first year, therefore the achievement of Gavin Reilly should be firmly acknowledged.

To put Reilly’s feat into perspective, this is only the thirty sixth time in Saints history I could find an example of a player reaching twenty goals in a season in all competitions, and with many of these players reaching this milestone on multiple occasions, incredibly Reilly is only the seventeenth individual player to score twenty times in a campaign during Saints entire history, and only the fifteenth when the War time records are discounted.

All official records ignore the two World Wars when collating such stats due to the perceived drop in quality during these years as many footballers joined the armed forces; however I have included these periods although the twenty goal target was hit with more regularity than at any other time, seven times during WWII alone for example, with Alex Linwood surpassing the milestone five times between 1939 and 1945 alone.

Surprisingly, no player manged to reach a twenty goal level before or during the first World War, mainly due to the small number of matches played in comparison to now it could be argued, and it was the decade immediately after the so called Great War that two of Saints finest ever goal scorers emerged and the twenty goal target was finally reached eight times during the 1920’s.

The ground beaker was Dunky Walker in season 1921/22, who started the season by scoring four goals in each of the opening two league matches, and Walker continued this incredible form throughout the campaign by netting a simply astonishing fifty six times in all matches including forty five in the league, and both totals remain club records to this day unsurprisingly.

Walker reached the twenty goal mark during this memorable season after only sixteen appearances, yet that is still not the fewest appearances required to reach the landmark number by a player, more of which later. Walker repeated his twenty plus form the following campaign before his remarkable exploits alerted richer English clubs and he was sold to Nottingham Forest in the summer of 1923.

The disappointment felt at the loss of such an incredible goal scorer did not last long however, and a twenty two year old chauffeur from Bridge of Weir named Davie McCrae was signed after impressing and scoring against Saints in a Scottish Cup match for Beith in early 1924, and this was the catalyst for the greatest scorer in Saints history to emerge from total obscurity to club legend.

Top row L to R – Dunky Walker, Davie McCrae, Jimmy Knox & Jimmy McGregor. Bottom Row L to R – Alex Linwood, Gerry Baker, Tommy Bryceland & Peter Kane.

McCrae scored twenty or more goals in a season on seven separate occasions between 1924/25 and 1932/33, including the opening goal in the 1926 Scottish Cup final when Saints beat Celtic 2-0 in front of the first ever 100,000 attendance at Hampden Park to win the clubs maiden major trophy.

Davie McCrae’s total of 252 goals in 352 matches for Saints is unlikely to ever be beaten, and although football is considered by many to be much weaker pre WWII than it is now, it should be remembered that Saints did not have any forwards of that quality or consistency immediately before or after Walker and McCrae, so was it really that easy?

When McCrae’s career came to an end, Saints suffered the indignity of being relegated for the very first time in 1934/35, but gained promotion back to the top division immediately in a flurry of goals in 1935/36, with Jimmy McGregor netting forty one times and Jimmy Knox on thirty one occasions making this campaign the only one where two players surpassed the thirty goal mark in the clubs history.

Knox in fact would score twenty goals or more on three occasions during the 1930’s, before Linwood took over during World War II along with Thomas Brady who managed to hit the milestone twice during a period where all sorts of weird and wonderful competitions emerged such as the “Emergency War Cup” and this is another reason official records tend to overlook these years.

However, it would be a travesty to ignore the exploits of Linwood especially, and it would be grossly unfair to penalise a player by deleting records from history as they happened to play football during a time Adolf Hitler decided he wanted to rule the world.

Perhaps an indicator of how difficult it was and still is to score twenty goals in a season is the gap between 1945 and the next twenty goal a season player in 1958/59, as this was during a period Saints had a consistently good side and finances were boosted by crowds regularly reaching over 20,000 and on many occasions pushing the limit of Love Street completely when close to 50,000 were in attendance.

The wait was worth it though I would argue. Young American striker Gerry Baker arrived from Motherwell in the autumn of 1958 for a small fee, unable to break into a Fir Park forward line that included Ian St John, and desperate to make a career in football after deciding against becoming a professional sprinter.

Baker wasted no time impressing, and after scoring on his debut against Hibernian in late November 1958 where he was up against his brother Joe, the lightening quick striker reached twenty goals in his quite astonishing first thirteen matches for Saints, which is the quickest any Saints player has reached the twenty goal milestone.

The striker, aided by a fellow forwards Alistair Miller, Jim Rodger, Tommy Gemmell and the brilliance of Tommy Bryceland continued this form over the season where he scored twenty eight times in only twenty five matches. Had he signed for Saints at the start of the season and scored at that rate, Baker would have reached fifty goals for the season.

Similar to Dave McCrae before him, Baker also scored in the Scottish Cup final to help Saints win the trophy for the second time in 1959, although it should be noted Baker scored in every round. Aberdeen were the victims this time in the final by the score of 3-1, however it was the semi-final annihilation of Celtic 4-0 where all five forwards were on the absolute peak of their game that probably remains singularly the greatest individual performance by a Saints side, something highlighted by the much respected and iconic broadcaster Bob Crampsey in 1999 when he chose this as the greatest performance by a Scottish club in a domestic match during the entire twentieth century.

The legendary Tommy Bryceland also reached twenty goals in 1958/59 as well as scoring in the Cup Final, and the pair repeated the feat during the 1959/60 season where Baker scored ten times in one Scottish Cup match before leaving the field injured, but this record haul helped him reach a total of thirty five goals for the season.

The English clubs were circling again however and the American was transferred to Manchester City in November 1960 for a fee of £17k, a modern day equivalent of just under £400k, seemingly scant reward for Baker’s sixty six goals in eight five matches, and Bryceland would eventually follow Baker to England, and signed for Norwich City in 1962.

The loss of such quality again had a massive impact on Saints, and a second relegation eventually followed in 1967, but the club once again bounced back immediately scoring goals, one hundred in total in the league this time, with Peter Kane notching a very respectable twenty nine goals in 1967/68.

The side couldn’t sustain this form however, and relegation for a third time occurred in 1971 after a few seasons struggling to reassert themselves in the top flight.

Clockwise from top left – Jim Blair, Ally McLeod, Bobby McKean, Frank McGarvey, Doug Somner, Barry Lavety & Gavin Reilly.

A period of six years in the second tier followed, allowing four players to score twenty or more in a season; Ally McLeod on two occasions, Jim Blair, Bobby McKean, and in the season Saints were promoted back to the top division in 1976/77 under Alex Ferguson a young Frank McGarvey managed twenty goals in forty three matches.

McGarvey would repeat this form in the Premier Division the following season with twenty three goals; however once again Saints couldn’t hold onto their prize assets and the forward moved to Liverpool in 1979 although Saints board seemed to have learned a lesson from the Gerry Baker fee by receiving £270,000 for the striker, around £1.5million in 2018 currency.

The popular striker would return to Saints in 1985 however to finish his playing career, and the thirty one goals McGarvey scored in this spell was enough to push him over the century mark for Saints, becoming only the fifth and currently last player in Saints history to do so.

With the money from the McGarvey transfer in 1979 and other deals around the time such as Tony Fitzparick’s move to Bristol City, Saints decided to spend big on replacements. The most high profile of these was Frank McDougall from Clydebank for £180k, a Scottish record at the time and eyebrows were raised as Saints had outbid Celtic for his services. In 2018 terms, that fee is just short of £1million incidentally.

McDougall never did reach twenty goals in a season for Saints however, but his strike partner Doug Somner did on two occasions. Somner was signed from Partick Thistle around the same time as McDougall for a fee of £100k meaning for a short period in history Saints had the most expensive strike-force ever assembled in Scottish football, and two of only seven players transferred for £100k or more in Scottish football on their books at that time.

His debut season for Saints in 1979/80 was the pinnacle of Somner’s goal-scoring exploits, the striker hit thirty five goals in all competitions including twenty five during a league campaign when Saints could have won the title but had to settle for third place after a disappointing end to the season.

Saints also became the first and only Scottish side to win the Anglo Scottish Cup that season, thrashing then top flight Bristol City 5-1 in the final over two legs where predictably the deadly Somner netted two of Saints goals.

The following season Sommer again made it to the twenty mark, and he would be the last player to do so until Barry Lavety in 1992/93 when the young striker scored a late goal at Love Street against Cowdenbeath on the final afternoon of the season to deservedly sneak into the elite club.

The twenty five year wait between Lavety and Reilly for a twenty goal man is the longest since Saints inception in 1877 to Dunky Walker achieving it for the first time in 1921/22, further strengthening the case to acknowledge the achievement of Saints current top scorer in reaching the landmark.

Many players have been close to reaching the twenty goal target since Lavety; Mark Yardley in 1999/00 and Martin Cameron in 2002/03 both scored nineteen times, and Eddie Gallagher managed twenty two between December 1992 and October 1993, but failed to complete a full season at the club.

As mentioned before, Frank McDougall could not reach twenty goals in a season, or Frank McAvennie, Gudmunder Torfason, Steven Thompson, Robert Rankin, Don Kerrigan, Totti Beck or John Sutton therefore Reilly really is member of an exclusive club that many respected and often iconic players did not manage to join.

Gavin Reilly still has at least sixteen matches to potentially play this season, maybe more if Saints can advance beyond Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup, but I’m sure thirty goals is now his target for this campaign which would mean entry to an even more exclusive club as only three players have managed this post war; Gerry Baker, Ally McLeod and Doug Somner.

With ten league goals in twenty league appearances currently, in all likelihood Reilly will need to improve his goal to game ratio in the Championship from one in two at the moment to two goals every three matches to reach that thirty target, but having made history already this season it can not be discounted.

December 2017 & New Year

December started with a home match against bogey side Dumbarton, one of two clubs in the division that only seem to treat matches against Saints seriously, which is cute but questions the mentality particularly of the manager.

In Dumbarton’s case that is of course ex Morton player and Time Bandit Steve Aitken, someone I have called out many times for his excruciatingly negative tactics that include time wasting from practically the first second of matches.

As the media continuously link Jack Ross with every possible vacancy and even posts that don’t exist such as the Aberdeen one when they assumed Derek McInnes would move to Rangers, the same people also consider Aitken a good choice to replace the Saints boss at Paisley. When the day does come that Saints need a new manager, hopefully years from now, I’d like to think Aitken’s disgraceful tactics are remembered in the Saints boardroom and we steer well clear. Going from Jack Ross to Stevie Aitken would be like casting Vinny Jones as Don Corleone in the new Godfather.

On this occasion, tactically Aitken organised his side as usual to stop Saints and the rhythm of the game at every opportunity, and credit where it is due it worked but he was helped massively by Stelios Demetriou losing the plot and unnecessarily launching himself at one of the Dumbarton players to give The Sons a man advantage for around 55 minutes. We now know Stelios was provoked by the Dumbarton player eating a bounty left at the side of the park by the Cypriot for an in-match snack.

At the time it was not good news, but not a disaster I thought as Dumbarton were likely to come out now and try to play, and this should open room for our forwards. Of course, I was wrong, and Dumbarton altered very little and seemed happy enough if the match ended 0-0 immediately at the red card despite their clear advantage.

Saints toiled badly and created nothing to be honest even with eleven men; this despite some of the imposters and Rae’s Ranjurs duds from the last few seasons playing for Dumbarton; Kyle Hutton, Callum Gallacher, Stuart Carswell and Scott Gallagher in particular, and perhaps it was the mere presence of these so-called footballers on the field that meant Saints produced their poorest performance for 11 months, and much more in line with when they were on our books, however this was to be a case of The Imposters Strike Back as far as Saints were concerned.

The winner also came from the boot of one of Rae’s players, but Tom Walsh was never one player I particularly disliked and felt he had a lot of talent which he proved when he scored a quite splendid solo winner near the end of the game which had the flair and imagination completely unbecoming of an Aitken side, and I hope the winger finds a manager that utilises properly his skill in the near future.

So, a 1-0 defeat, our first at home in the league since January but despite their awful tactics a deserved victory for The Sons who completely nullified us and had the best player on the park in Walsh. Perhaps not incredibly considering the circumstances in late 2016, this was the first time Walsh had ever played in a winning side at St Mirren Park during a league match despite being a Saints player for five months, and for Hutton who signed a two year contract for Saints in 2016, he had to go back to March 2011 when he played for the old Rangers for his last win at Paisley on league duty.

With this defeat now registered, Saints had five quick-fire matches between the ninth of December and the second of January, including games against title favourites Dundee United, then form side in the division Queen of the South, a trip to Cappielow, as well as a tough looking match game against Dunfermline near the start of this run.

Undoubtedly, this was now a make or break month and Saints didn’t want to fall into the same category as the Pars who had started superbly but fallen away in the past few weeks. Next up before any of these matches was a trip to Brechin City, a side Saints had really struggled to beat at home in the previous fixture, and the freezing conditions in Angus almost guaranteed a tough match against a side without a single league win so far.

Again, it proved to be a difficult and tricky match, but goals from Reilly and a Smith penalty ensured a hard fought 2-1 victory with most people satisfied at the outcome, however once again Brechin proved that part time clubs don’t need to time waste at every opportunity to be competitive in this division.

The Pars were next, and their slump in form was significant enough that should Saints win this match it would put such a large gap between the clubs it would take a weird turn of events for the clubs to swap positions before the end of the season, and win was what Saints did do, but on this occasion with some real luck and some bizarre decisions from the referee Craig Charleston.

Not long into the match, Gavin Reilly was sent clear and went around the Dunfermline keeper Sean Murdoch to the strikers right before what looked like being brought down by the keeper when it looked like he had a clear shot at goal.

The foul was outside the box, so not a penalty and therefore excluded from the double punishment rule which was recently introduced to stop a red card and penalty being given when a genuine attempt on the ball had been made.

After much deliberation the referee decided to only book the Dunfermline keeper which was the wrong/right decision depending on your view (probably correct in my opinion after watching the next day) and the Saints goal led a charmed life in the ten minutes after this, but Saints ended the first half strongly and crucially scored when on top when the almost permanently impressive Cammy Smith dispatched home to score what was the only goal of the match.

The drama was nowhere over however, and after around an hour the referee pointed to the spot for a Dunfermline penalty after Eckersley tackled Williamson, a decision which resulted in much commotion from the Saints fans in the Main Stand nearest the tackle, and from practically every Saints player.

A rather sheepish Charleston then consulted his linesman, but at no point did I think the decision would be overturned as that simply doesn’t happen, and if the assistant referee didn’t think it was a penalty he would surely have raised his flag to indicate so, and he hadn’t.

However, rather sensationally the referee did change his mind and Saints were awarded a free kick as Charleston had now decided the Pars player had dived, which apparently everyone in the Main Stand could see, some Dunfermline fans behind the goal also admitted was the case, but wasn’t so clear from TV replays. Sandy Clark I’m sure was delighted about it though.

Making a surprise debut for Saints this afternoon was Danny Mullen, who arrived from Livingston on an “emergency loan” with a transfer agreed for when the window opens again. The forward had been impressive for the Lions on many occasions against Saints, and despite his wild lunge on Jordan Stewart in a League Cup tie a few years ago; he should be a good addition to the squad. Despite his introduction to the match however, Saints were hanging on a bit near the end and we were all relieved when Fraser Aird almost cleared the stand with a late chance at the back post before Charleston blew for full time and what felt like a big result.

With six points collected following the defeat to Dumbarton, Saints then made the trip to Palmerston for their next league match a couple of days before Christmas, top of the league again by two points following the abandonment of the Dundee United fixture the previous week at the same Dumfries venue.

By this point, Harry Davis had returned to the side the previous month along with Kyle Magennis following their long-term injury issues, but due to the fake surface at Palmerston Jack Ross didn’t want to risk the centre half due to the nature of his knee injury and I’m guessing the unnatural hardness of these fake pitches.

I doubt I’m in the minority here, but these pitches should never be allowed in the professional game in the first place. There are many possibilities for technology and progressive ideas to flourish in football, but fake pitches are not one in my opinion. The fact multiple matches with these surfaces were called off in December as the parks were unplayable adds to the farce as the biggest selling point to fans over the past few decades was the fact they were supposed to be “all weather”. Clearly not, so get them ripped up and replaced with grass.

With Davis out, one of the heroes of last season finally returned to the starting eleven, the colossus that is Gary MacKenzie. Big Gary had suffered several setbacks this season including delayed concussion that led to him unknowingly playing when he shouldn’t against Morton earlier in the campaign, something that doctors strongly advise against for good reason, so it was great to see him back in the side after four months out.

However, before a ball was kicked there seemed a bit of doubt if MacKenzie was ready for first team action so early in his rehabilitation, including some comments from Jack Ross, so when Queens found themselves 2-0 up after only six minutes the big centre half could have been forgiven for indicating to the bench perhaps a substitution was in order, but as we know the defender is a lot tougher than that.

As MacKenzie found his feet, Gavin Reilly went about his business in his usual fashion scoring twice before half time to level the match, the second a typically ice cool finish when one on one with the keeper, to take his season total to a quite remarkable nineteen goals in twenty six matches.

In the modern era not too many Saints players have had such an impact early on in their career; Eddie Gallagher managed twenty two goals in his first thirty six Saints matches, but strikers as prolific as Reilly even at this level are quite rare particularly with the almost global shift over the past fifteen or so years to hard working lone strikers who bizarrely aren’t necessarily expected to score goals, resulting in utterly ludicrous comments entering the mainstream such as “Aye, but apart from score goals what does he do?”

Reilly however as we know works very hard for the team also, and despite his slight physique in comparison to defenders puts himself about very cleverly, often playing on the very edge of what is a foul and what is acceptable particularly with a defender at his back, and very quickly Reilly has re-established himself as one of the most lethal strikers in the division following a disappointing few years at Hearts and on loan at Dunfermline.

With the match now on a knife edge, up stepped MacKenzie. Probably the only thing Saints have been pretty poor at this season is scoring from set pieces, understandable of course as Stevie Mallan departed in the summer, but the aerial threat of big Mac from corners and set pieces has also been badly missed, so when Ian McShane curled an in-swinging corner towards the defender three quarters of the way through the match, we all knew the outcome and MacKenzie didn’t disappoint by expertly judging the flight of the ball and volleyed home when most of us were motioning a header movement.

Dozens of “score at anytime” coupons then came up, and Christmas was suddenly magical again having looked cancelled only an hour or so beforehand. It maybe did not match the pure mayhem of Christmas Eve 2011, but still good none the less.

Also, to put MacKenzie’s goal scoring prolificacy into context, he has a better goal to game average in the league since joining Saints than Morton “hotshot” Jai Quitongo during the same period. Not bad for a centre half.

With another win recorded Saints then concentrated on the top of the league clash against Dundee United live on BT sport on Friday 29th December, with Saints still two points clear of a resurgent Tannadice club having played a game more.

In the lead up to the match, I wondered if we should actually turn up at all. Despite having an incredibly strong home record, being top of the league and top scorers in the division we had absolutely no chance according to the easily the most arrogant set of fans on social media, and that is undoubtedly Dundee United supporters.

If you can’t work out who a trolling fan supports, you can guarantee it will be the Tannadice club if the word “minter” is used, as that is their go to patter. Predictions before the match on social media included anything up to five nil, and the usual “diddy club” nonsense from them, it put me in mind of other delusional East Coast fans, Dundee as it happens. You have so much in common lads, just merge and be done with it.

Before the match, the Dundee United boss and 90’s Mr. Loverman, Shabba, expressed his surprise as Saints led the league as apparently nobody seen that coming. That is except the bookies who had us only narrow second favourites at the outset, and a whole host of “experts” in the media who had backed us.

Shabba was to be further surprised however when the game started, and United provided as much penetration as Stevie Aitken at a speed dating contest, with their only shot in the entire match a penalty kick that was never a foul anyway, expertly saved by the increasingly important Craig Samson.

The award for the penalty was almost comical, with United defender Mark Durnan falling easier than a Rangers fans need for a new billionaire chairman, but as soon as I noticed Paul McMullan putting the ball on the spot I was mega confident they wouldn’t score, the winger is simply not built to kick a football.

Once Samson had saved, I then expected Saints to improve as the large crowd in the stadium reacted brilliantly to the moment, but in truth we didn’t get going at all in the first half and looked somewhat subdued, perhaps the loss of Gavin Reilly to illness was the reason for this.

That changed second half however, and the Saints we have been used to for most of the season came out. Encouraged by an epic snowball victory over Dundee United fans at half time, and an almost brutal sledging of former boss Alex Rae who was on BT Sport duty in a box between the rival supporters (who on earth thought that was a good idea??) the volume in the stadium rose significantly.

Rae will probably now try and take credit for the victory, but Saints and in particular Lewis Morgan was far too good for United and not for the first time this season. Tam Scobbie, a plodding one-dimensional honest pro had been switched to right back to mark Morgan, and claims at half time from the Dundee United support that he had the winger “in his pocket” were looking as silly as the Livingston player that bought David Hopkin toothpaste in their Christmas dip by full time as Morgan netted twice and Saints could have had many more as they turned on the class.

Shabba was still shocked though afterwards, and was still trying to work out why we were top of the league as nobody had seen this coming he claimed again. It’s almost as though he took the job without looking at the league table, or was told we wouldn’t last the pace.

This was a bad result for the dinosaurs of Radio Scotland, especially Willie Miller who is desperate for the return of the “natural order” as the sees it. I’ve never really been quite sure the logic behind this rubbish, on radio they mean the “big clubs” should always be in the top division regardless of ability, defending what they see as a football establishment that needs preserving, in other words absolutely everything that is and has been wrong with Scottish football for well over a hundred years.

“The natural order” as they like to say shouldn’t logically include Dundee United however as they didn’t become “established” until the late 1970’s, a full century into competitive football in Scotland. The Tannadice club are still benefitting from a good twenty years between 1974 and 1994, and somehow this propels them into the mythical elite as this period is basically around the same time these media dinosaurs either played or started their professions.

I would love to have seen Miller’s reaction if he was around in the 1950’s when people his age were arguing the same about Renton and Dumbarton; it’s as absurd then as it now.

United might still win the league, but should Saints or anyone else win the Championship it will not devalue the game in Scotland as these pundits believe.

This was the last match of 2017; statistically in terms of wins and goals scored one of the most successful we have ever had, but undoubtedly one of the most memorable. Only 2005 beats 2017 in terms of win %, however those that are old enough to remember that calendar year are unlikely to ever quote the multiple narrow victories and clean sheets that period in the same warm way 1976 under Alex Ferguson is revered, or Tom Hendrie’s 1999 and this current batch in 2017 are likely to be fondly recalled.

The first match of 2018 and the last of the Christmas period was an away match at Cappielow, the third cup final of the season for Morton, and their fans started the preparations early by posting messages on social media weeks in advance of the actual match when both clubs had at least two fixtures to complete beforehand. A game at a time indeed.

I admit I do find it all very curious. In the fifteen-year gap between playing in the same league as the Greenock club, (2000 to 2015) I had more or less discarded the rivalry completely like many other Saints fans had also, however clearly the sentiment isn’t mutual and a rather odd infatuation with St Mirren and Paisley has developed down in Greenock, which includes a strange obsession with the City of Culture bid. Absence makes the heart grow creepy I think.

Lewis Morgan, born in Greenock and who I believe still lives in the area, has over this season of course gained national exposure for his sometimes breath-taking performances for Saints and Scotland Under 21’s, and he is regarded as one of the best if not the best young player in the country, and before the match was on the brink of clinching a move to Celtic.

Not a popular transfer with the Morton support it would seem, and they screamed at Morgan “We know where you stay” like a bunch of young stalkers as the “Morton” support was boosted by almost 100% from previous matches to around 2400 for their big match.

Perhaps the Morton fans should be asking why the best player to come out of Inverclyde in the last twenty or so years has twice been missed by their scouting system in the past decade, once when he signed for old Rangers and again when Saints plucked him from the football wilderness at sixteen. Instead of concentrating their hatred at Morgan, perhaps some probing questions should be asked of their own club’s failure to sign blindingly obvious talent on their own doorstep.

To the action, and on the back of four straight wins Saints were in confident mood early on and bossed the first half with ease, however they only had a solitary Morgan goal to show for their efforts, the young winger reacting to creepy chants about him and his family by sliding in front on the Morton supporters to celebrate his goal.

I had a feeling at half time we would regret not finishing the match off, and that’s exactly what happened when Morton came out predictably fired up and flung everything at Saints, however Baird and Reilly (who was back after illness) both had real chances to finish the match off before Morton grabbed a late equaliser predictably from a set piece when Tam O’Ware rose at the back post to nod the Greenock side level.

What followed was as bizarre a celebration as I have ever seen at any match, when O’Ware attempted to engage with the Saints fans by making a couple of “slit throat” references to the support behind the goal, but most fans were distracted by Jai Quitongo standing in front of him and posing in a clear “look at me………look at me………look at me……………sign me” plea to the Saints fans.

O’Ware was joined by multiple Morton players who were falling over themselves to have a go at the Saints support in further proof of the creepiness that has descended from the Greenock club into the derby.

It was pointed out that Morton players only followed what Morgan and the Saints players had done by celebrating in front of the opposition support, but the fans from Paisley hadn’t sang about knowing where Morton players stayed or about the conduct of their sisters on a Saturday night that had provoked the Saints winger to slide in front of them.

And then of course is the “slit throat” gesture which apparently comes from a move by “The Executioner” who I am told was a wrestler. I’m not that bothered about it personally, it definitely was a bit irresponsible and in different circumstances could have resulted in real trouble, for example I remember a grown man in a Panda outfit once showed a league table to Morton fans and they complained to the Police, however what is more concerning is a twenty-four-year-old man liking wrestling. Get a grip of yourself Tam.

Saints however should still have won the match deep into injury time when Sutton was found unmarked at the back post and instead of heading home cushioned the ball into the path of Reilly who didn’t react quickly enough, and Morton cleared to ensure they remain the only side Saints haven’t beaten this season in the Championship.

After the match pictures emerged of Stelios being hit by a chocolate bar flung from the Morton support, but after initially being annoyed about this the Cypriot got tore into the confectionary which made him a brief internet sensation, however the real story was the picture of O’Ware doing his slit throat impression with his tongue sticking out covered in the excess scraps from Catman’s beard and it was utterly disgusting from the Morton defender.

The contents of O’Ware’s mouth should be investigated by the compliance officer, not the celebration.

After the match most fans of both clubs seemed happy with a 1-1 draw, probably a fair result overall, as did the managers, and Jim Duffy once again should be congratulated for his fair assessment of the match. Duffy is definitely one of the most sensible managers in the league, and has proven that it is possible to work on radio whilst managing a club and not becoming a laughing stock.

However, with this result the five-point lead at the top was cut to three points over United who still have a game in hand. Another big set of games lie ahead, can Saints remain on top seems to be the recurring question each month at the moment……..









November 2017

Looking ahead at the outset of November, I thought it might be a struggle to write something of any real substance this month with an international break and a match against some badly named amateur outfit in the Scottish Cup, meaning only three league matches were scheduled for this month. How wrong I was it transpired, particularly after the glorious Inverness meltdown following our comfortable win in the Highlands later in month.

To fill the gap between playing Dundee United at the start of the month and our next fixture against Lothian something or another on the 18th November, I decided for a bit of a fun to have a competition to find the biggest villain in football in the eyes of the Saints fans, but in line with Twitter etiquette, it was named the ‘World Cup of Wankers’, or WCOW as it was abbreviated to.

Basically, it boiled down to whom Saints fans on Twitter thought was the biggest wanker directly or indirectly involved with Saints over the past forty years, as all the thirty-two candidates were from this period, and most of these were chosen by people on Twitter and not me I should add.

Before this nonsense was a very important fixture against Dundee United at Tannadice on the fourth of November, and as Saints threatened to move clear at the top of the division the You Tube grassbags had decided to sack manager Ray McKinnon, one of their undoubted weak points, and eventually replace him with former Hearts coach Csaba Laslzo, but at this stage former Saints defender Laurie Ellis was in charge on a caretaker basis.

Before the match a Dundee United fan on Twitter decided to get in touch with me, the second time he had done so in a few months, and bizarrely again he was pointing out to me that Alex Rae was the best manager Saints have had in the past thirty-five years, and also slating the size of our support. Bitterness dripped from this strange individual, a bitterness we hear frequently on the radio from an ex-manager, and this connection was not coincidental.

Very strange behaviour, but all would be revealed later in the month when it transpired this United fan is one of Rae’s friends and I suspect his infamous stats man.

To the match which even three weeks later at the end of November seems like a lifetime ago, and Saints produced a pretty disappointing performance against the Tannadice side, thanks to a rather weird opening goal that sailed at the speed of Ryan Hardie’s brain processes through the air and nestled gently in the corner of the net with Craig Samson strangely static on his goal line.

United would add a second, before very late in the match Adam Eckersley volleyed home from twenty-five yards, a goal that suggested we would should have been hitting shots from distance at the United keeper long before injury time.

Despite defeat, Saints remained top of the division but now several clubs were behind us packed tighter than the inside of a dropped packet of Ian McCall’s Benson and Hedges fags.

So, with no game for two weeks as Liam Smith, the now fit again Kyle Magennis and Lewis Morgan had been called up to the Scotland under 21 squad, the aforementioned WCOW started the following week.

Within a few days, I had upset multiple people, including the wife and pal of one of the participants as they complained that their man was an actual victim in all of this, despite this player carrying out a disgraceful tackle on a Saints player at Kilbowie Park in the 1990’s that remains the worse I have ever seen. And then I upset the winner Alex Rae, who sent me a message intended for that United fan by mistake, basically saying I shouldn’t have an opinion as I haven’t achieved anything in football. Nice to see a man employed on a fans phone in show has complete contempt for anyone who has not played the game. Or maybe it is just me he doesn’t like; how do I sleep at night.

I am bored writing about Rae in all honesty. He goes on the radio unchallenged repeatedly spouting irrelevant facts about his win % at Paisley and suggesting he was unfairly sacked. Graham Spiers and Kenny McIntyre aside nobody ever challenges him or gives a different opinion from what is nationally perceived in the media as unjustified football sacking, and this has been going on now for over a year.

For this reason, around January I started the fightback, and I am glad he is aware of it and also that the low opinion he is in held in by Saints supporters made national radio due to him winning WCOW. If the media had done their job correctly and challenged Rae in the first place, Rae wouldn’t have won WCOW as he would surely have stopped going on about us at every opportunity. He also wouldn’t have won if he didn’t come across so bitter towards the club, for that I am certain.

He is not the worse manager we have ever had, that is abundantly clear, however he is nowhere near our best in the last 35 years as he claims, that is ridiculous to suggest, and his stats need proper context, something I know as that is my actual job, however I would never dare suggest that only statisticians should supply stats as that would be patronising.

For the record Alex Rae wasn’t my choice for WCOW as he seems to think I personally awarded it to him. He received a thousand votes from Saints fans on Twitter, but I would have liked to have seen a manager he has a lot in common with, Davie Hay win the award or even James Grady.

I would like to say this will be the last time I write about Alex Rae, but he genuinely can’t help himself on radio and I am sure I will need to address once again his lack of success at Paisley. Perhaps by the 2019 WCOW people will have forgotten………….

With that now firmly out of the way I can concentrate on the football. Saints faced what some thought was a tricky tie against Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale in the Scottish Cup, and beforehand in a frankly incredible interview with the amateur sides player Liam O’Donnell, it was stated he wanted to face Hearts in the next round, and current Hibs player Danny Swanson whose brother plays for the amateur side also stated in all seriousness, “I don’t see any reason why they can’t beat St Mirren”.

Before a ball was kicked, I could have given Swanson hundreds of reasons why the amateurs wouldn’t beat Saints. In fact they could have fielded line ups from the five clubs they were formed from; Lothian Thistle, Hutchison Vale, Lothian Vale, Hutchison Thistle and even Vale Thistle at the same time and I would still have fancied Saints.

My confidence was justified, and Saints were seven nil up after around forty minutes and on course for at least double figures and possibly even a new club record score, with Gavin Reilly netting four times in a stadium that resembled Moredun Playing Fields but without the glamour.

In true Football Manager style however the second half was no more near as productive as the first forty five, and that was the end of Saints scoring, although The Hutchy Jags got one back through the perfect named amateur played, Ringer.

With Saints knocking out five Edinburgh clubs in one go, one of the capital city’s most famous footballers in recent years was up next, John Robertson, a Gorgie hobbit whose voice is yet to break but despite this child like appearance wee Robbo (copyright Radio Scotland) hates Saints with a passion so fierce even Morton fans are envious, and it is at a level even the Catmen couldn’t even contemplate reaching.

Most of us know why Robbo hates us, and that is guilt, a guilt that will gnaw at him like Davie Hopkin trying to finish a corn on the cob every day for the rest of his life. Robertson, like his 1980’s strike partner Sandy Clark, are the most vocal of all Hearts players and supporters about the events back in 1986 that led to the Jambos very sadly throwing away a league title on the final day of the season they had practically all but won a few weeks beforehand. And there is a reason why it is these two that remain so bitter about the defeat, and it is probably because they can’t forgive themselves.

Saints have been dragged into the murky world of conspiracy because of this utter collapse from Hearts, mainly as Celtic benefitted from their failure to wrap up the league and as almost everyone knows we played the Glasgow club on the last day of the season, and that has made us a convenient scapegoat in the eyes of Hearts, as this is far easier than admitting they blew it in their title run in.

All Hearts had to do was win two of their last three matches, or win one and draw the other two to clinch the title. Robertson and Clark had scored 32 times in the league up until this point, but failed to score once in these last three games, equalling their worse run of form in the season. One goal from either striker at any point in the last three matches would likely have delivered the title to Tynecastle. The guilt and pain since has consumed Robertson and Clark, and Saints have been their convenient scapegoat.

Back to 2017, and Saints travelled to Inverness no longer top of the league as Dundee United had replaced us following a 3-0 thumping of Falkirk the day we were advancing in the Scottish Cup, that apparently could have been double the final score so superior were the Dundee club, and this was the signal for some to declare the league was now over and we should give up.

To the actual match, and of course Saints won 2-0 in the Highlands courtesy of an Ian McShane penalty and a Gavin Reilly solo goal, but the utter seethe that followed from Robertson and Inverness was something a little bit special.

In one way the reaction from the Highlanders was understandable as following a dreadful start in the league they had picked up their form significantly, and probably thought a victory over us would actually give them a slim shot at automatic promotion again. Therefore the defeat that followed ultimately ended their season before John Robertson could open the doors of his multiple chocolate advent calendars.

In Robertson’s opinion Saints didn’t win the match, despite being awarded three points for the final score of Inverness 0-2 St Mirren. Not in Robbo’s opinion, the referee won it for us and “took it away” from his side. Took it away, just like 1986, boo hoo.

Robertson’s gripes included mainly the decision to give us penalty, the failure to send off Craig Samson after he appeared to wrestle with an Inverness player, and the sending off of his own player Ian Vigurs, although the allegations towards the Saints keeper were really something on social media.

Robertson also mentioned on multiple occasions the number of saves Samson made during the match, and he and other Inverness players, fans and officials made such a big deal of all four I conceded before watching again on TV that they were likely to be correct given how vehemently they were going on about this, and we may have had a massive slice of luck. I was wrong though, and it was all a big overreaction orchestrated by Little Robbo.

On the first charge, Saints penalty, Robertson stated in his post-match interview that he had seen it again on video and his player gets between Lewis Morgan and the ball meaning it couldn’t have been a penalty, also hinting the Saints man had taken a dive to win the award in the process.

The first time I watched it I couldn’t believe what Robertson was saying if that was his interpretation of the incident, and had to re-run multiple times to convince myself I wasn’t so biased with “pure St Murn eyes” that I was missing something obvious. It was a clear penalty as the Inverness player makes an aggressive move to knock Morgan over and succeeds by barging him in the back. At no point is the Inverness player between Morgan and the ball, and for Robertson to say that suggests he was a hobbit consumed with rage. If this is the analysis people that “have achieved in the game” are giving us, time they weren’t allowed near a TV or radio station.

Second was the sending off for Samson, and on this you can see Robertson and the Inverness players/fans may have had a point. If it had been a red card, I wouldn’t have complained. However, Samson was only guilty of protecting Ian McShane from Ian Vigurs who had completely lost the plot and he more or less just grabbed the Inverness player to get him away from the Saints midfielder.

What followed on social media was accusations against Samson that he strangled, kicked, punched, threatened, argued, head butted, eye gouged, maimed, burned alive, drowned and finally decapitated the Inverness player as their fans went into a Robbo provoked meltdown. It was genuinely hilarious.

Vigurs I have mentioned already, and he was correctly sent off. He appears a very angry man and I would suggest his body language and quick temper are the result of him not being very happy at playing for Inverness in the second tier. If you are going to argue and pick fights with the opposition and referee all match you are getting to get sent off, although Robertson could have done with some of this intensity in the last matches of 1986 when he was a passenger on the pitch.

The final point Robertson had was the outstanding match by Samson and the number of saves he had to make, hinting at Inverness dominance throughout as opposed to praising the keeper I think.

Unless we are counting 30 yard tricklers straight at Samson as actual shots, I think Robertson is again wrong. Samson made one very good save from a Vigurs long range effort, but the rest of his saves were routine from speculative shots, and the big keeper would have been disappointed not to keep a clean sheet at the end I would have imagined.

Next up for Saints was the re-arranged Livingston match originally scheduled for the weekend we played in the cup, with the added incentive of the winners moving to the top of the league as each club had played one match less than Dundee United.

The Lions had proved to be tough opponents at home for Saints over the years; in fact, we had never beaten them at Paisley, yet have won every match we have ever played at Almodvale, a record almost as bizarre as the Lothian’s clubs insistence at hiring ex-convicts onto their staff.

When Dale Carrick gave Livingston a half time lead, this strange away record in the fixture looked as though it would continue, but Saints eventually won rather comfortably 3-1 with goals from Morgan, the outstanding Eckersley, and the composed Ian McShane again from the penalty spot, making a good night’s work for Saints to return us back to the top of the division and end November on a high. The question was simple, could we stay there?