1886/87

Although the season was an improvement on the farcical nature of the previous one, Saints status as top dogs in the town and county of Renfrewshire was no longer up for debate as they had slipped considerably behind Abercorn in the Burgh and the district ratings by the end of it.

In Renfrewshire things looked bleak for Saints as they were knocked out the cup in the second round, and had been overtaken on the park by Morton, Port Glasgow and Arthurlie, leaving the Buddies a distant fifth between the top clubs in the county.

Saints still had the advantage of the best facilities; however, their once considerably bigger support had slipped in line with everyone else as results had been average at best. Taking away matches played in the Sports Days of Saints and Abercorn which had different rules to association football, the Buddies faced Abercorn, Morton and Port Glasgow on 11 occasions during the season, winning just twice and on one of those occasions (against Port Glasgow) the opposition had only 9 players.

Professionalism was sneaking in through the back door in Scotland, with England giving into their big clubs in 1885 and discussion about a professional league were already under way south of the border. Scotland was sure to follow, Saints had to get back on track, quicky.

There was hope for Saints though. Andy Brown had rediscovered his best form with at least 21 goals (all goal scorers not known for the season) from 30 matches, the majority coming after a four-month injury absence. Fellow young forwards Langmuir, Bain and Wylie showed great promise as the career of Geordie Watt came to an end.

A young half back by the name of Eddie McBain also broke through, scoring on his debut, and in time would become one of Saints most important players of the 19th century.

July 1886

The seventh annual Saints Sports Event is held on the 24th and 31st July. For the first ever time, the football competition is expanded to an 11 a-side tournament and will include Saints, Abercorn, Arthurlie, Morton and Port Glasgow Athletic. Again, the attendance over the two weekends exceeds 10,000 despite very poor weather, and Saints win the football tournament after wins over Port Glasgow in the first match and Morton in the final.

August 1886

The season starts with 2 draws, at home to Hibs and against Morton at Cappielow. Former Saints captain John Paterson is reportedly considering ending his stay in Australia where he was appearing for Brisbane Rangers, with a return to St Mirren a possibility.

September 1886

The Scottish Cup draws Saints with Arthurlie on the 14th in Paisley, but after the Barrhead side turn up with just 9 men, they refuse to play anything other than a “friendly” which is agreed by match secretary John Orr. However, captain Geordie Watt dismisses this compromise and claimed the tie on behalf of the Paisley club as Arthurlie “refused” to play. The teams then play out a “friendly” won 3-0 by Saints.

The SFA decide that the match should be played again, and schedule it for the following week. Saints win this 4-3 and meet Port Glasgow Athletic in the next round.

October 1886

The team pick the worst time possible to lose their first match of the season when they are knocked out the Scottish Cup by Port Glasgow on the 2nd. The 8-2 defeat at Kilmarnock a fortnight later highlights the issue with Saints determination to honour their fixture list as three players are on county duty and a further three unavailable due to injury, leaving a reserve side to take on the Ayrshire Cup holders.

Saints easily progress in the Renfrewshire Cup with a 9-0 win over Dykebar in the first ever meeting between the clubs played at Thistle Park on the 30th.

November 1886

The return of an old problem comes back to trouble the side as several players are posted unavailable throughout the month leading to Saints being surprisingly knocked out the Renfrewshire Cup by unfancied Pollokshaws Athletic.

December 1886

Saints are unsuccessful with a protest to the Renfrewshire FA following the cup defeat to Pollokshaws and lose their 5s deposit as a result due to the RFA deeming the complaint trivial. Despite continuing player issues, Saints win back-to-back matches against the 1st RRV and Battlefield, despite starting the match with only 9 men against the the former. Eventually two local players helped the Buddies in Greenock as the Renfrewshire Rifles Volunteers were beaten.

The Paisley Express reported on the 27th that the long-anticipated return of John Paterson from Australia was no longer happening.

January 1887

The club arranged another Southern tour for the New Year break, so Saints travelled down to the now familiar route to the North of England to take on three clubs, the first of which was Church FC from Lancashire who beat the Paisley tourists 5-1, although Bob Fairlie was injured early in the match forcing Saints to play with 10 men for most of it.

Two days later, Saints had moved onto Stoke where they faced Port Vale, thrashing the hosts 5-1 in freezing conditions. The day after this, Saints battled out a 4-4 draw at Bury in a foot of snow in front of only 100 hardy souls. Saints trainer and groundsman Bob Hindle was forced to start up front due to a shortage of players!

During this tour, Saints captain Geordie Watt had changed the formation in the side to a 2-3-5, and this seemed to be working well as the team won three consecutive matches on their return to Scotland against Kilmarnock, Ayr and Neilston.

February 1887

Yet more selection issues for Saints as Watt, Harper and McCrae miss the short trip to Partick Thistle on the 11th forcing former winger J Imrie out of retirement to play his first match in three years. A young Jags forward called Moffatt also appears for Saints but the patchwork side is thrashed 8-0.

Andy Brown makes a welcome return to the first team after long term injury the following week and scores twice in the 3-2 defeat to Port Glasgow, who have risen to near the top of the tree in the county following a fine 18 months. On the 25th Saints are encouraged by a fine 4-1 win over Morton with Harper dropping from right wing to right half to accommodate young forward, ironically called Morton, who nets on his debut.

March 1887

The returning Andy Brown continues his fine form with seven goals in the month from four matches, three of which Saints win. There is uproar in the Paisley Charity Cup however when Dykebar reschedule a home tie to Blackstoun Park, home of Abercorn, with other member clubs insisting that this ground shouldn’t profit from the competition as the ‘Zulus’ refused four opportunities to play Saints in the final two years ago.

It is also suggested in the newspaper article that further tensions exist between St Mirren and Abercorn due to a switch of allegiances by a Saints office bearer from Westmarch to Abercorn, and this person has since held a grudge against the Buddies.

April 1887

A good month, with Brown sill in fine form with a further four goals, is spoiled by a 7-2 hammering at the hands of rivals Abercorn at their Blackstoun Park ground. It’s a great day for former Saints forward Tommy Johnstone who nets four times for the Zulus, a player dismissed by the Buddies for failing to turn up on multiple occasions. Ironically, Andy Brown and captain Geordie Watt both turn up late by which time 9-man Saints trailed 3-0 during the match.

On the final day of the month, Saints appear in the Greenock Charity Cup semi-final, but are soundly thrashed 6-1 by Morton

May 1887

Saints pack seven matches into the final month of the season, including 2 games on the same day during the Abercorn Sports Competition in the middle, but the season ends in high spirits as the team finally win the Paisley Charity Cup and there’s no dispute this time over the validity with comprehensive victories over Renfrew and Thornliebank in the space of four days.

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