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?