The second round of league fixtures started with a home match against The Rangers, the only six and a half year old on the planet with grievances stretching back to the seventeenth century.
If there is one downside to playing in the top league, it is facing the Govan branch of Last Night at the Proms and hordes of Neanderthals descending upon the town with a combined IQ of a bus stop. I’ll take that back, Neanderthals were far more intelligent and bus stops have a superior grasp of modern politics than The Rangers supporters.
I arrived at the 1877 club around 11am on the day of the match, a good hour and a half before kick-off and to my horror when turning around the corner from Ferguslie Park Avenue towards the ground it was like a scene from Dawn of the Dead, zombies everywhere, growling or hissing at anyone that moved not wearing the Cult chosen colours, blue or orange.
It was a relief to get inside the 1877 club with other members of the current civilization, and it was also a big match for my 10 year old son who had never seen Saints play a club he was older than, unless of course he bought the history of his long dead Saints supporting great grandfather, which apparently you can do.
When the team news arrived around 11.30am I was slightly alarmed to see our line up I must be honest, but as the game kicked off on a pitch more slippery than Jack Ross, our compact shape looked good and despite being by far the better team in the first half, the second was a different story when the wind assisted league new boys had the advantage without testing Samson too much, and it took a complete fluke by Candeias to beat the Saints keeper with ten minutes remaining when his cross caught the wind and flew into the top corner.
This goal prompted the entire the The Rangers team to celebrate behind the goal, and for a brief period the undead support broke the barriers and spilled onto the park, watch out for it in series ten of The Walking Dead next year as they link the zombie strain ground zero to a council house in Larkhall.
The celebrations were laughably over the top, and if I knew we were playing in the World Cup final I would have worn my lucky trainers. What this goal did prompt however was a sustained period of sectarian songs belted out by the The Rangers support, unfortunately not helped by the scandalous decision at board level to allow the The Rangers support into the family stand of all places, so the normal people (i.e. St Mirren fans) in the ground were subjected to this utter filth in stereo.
As the anti-Catholic songs blared out, I looked over the very short distance from the main stand to where my family have our season tickets on games we don’t play Celtic or Rangers, and repeated shouts of “fuck the Pope” could clearly be heard. Now Pope Francs is probably a better player than most of Stubbs signings, but to my knowledge the Pontiff hasn’t yet phoned Jamie Vardy for a gig at his academy so I’m not sure what relevance he has a St Mirren v The Rangers match, unless of course the away supporters are mindless bigots.
Back on the park, and a late goal by the impressive Morelos sealed the win for The Rangers, and the sheer hypocrisy of the celebrations from the The Rangers support brought a shake of the head from many in the Saints end as the Catholic Colombian secured three points for his employer whilst his own support lambasted his religion in the seconds leading up to it.
The day ended with a chorus of “God save the queen” from the The Rangers support, that’s right, a song glorifying the head of State in the UK who’s Revenues & Customs arm of Government vigorously and ruthlessly liquidated their old club only this decade, much to our amusement. It was a bit like Beatles fans having a Mark Chapman fan club or Steve Irwin’s family adopting a stingray and calling it “Stevo”.
The days after the match were awash with claim and counter claim about many controversial incidents during the match, but for the second time this season The Rangers had beaten Saints 2-0 and yet their fans had descended into an absolute seething bitter mess, so much so one even photo shopped an out of date pound coin into a picture of Morelos as he celebrated his goal directly in front of the Saints support, trying to suggest he was hit with the imaginary object.
Why would they do this? Quite simply the grievance culture at their club has surpassed anything previously seen in Scottish football, even outstripping Celtic of the 1990’s, and also it was a roundabout way of having a go at Neil Lennon who had been hit with coins at Tynecastle a few days before and called it out for being a hate crime due to his Irish catholic background.
In the The Rangers supports opinion, the imaginary coin was flung at the Colombian due to Saints fans imaginary hatred of Colombia and Catholicism, in a desperate attempt to try and disprove Neil Lennon’s claims.
That’s where we are currently, and it’s pathetic. The world has caught up with the The Rangers supporters long ago and left them stuck in a modern world pining for the “good old days” when law and practices were inherently unequal and hatred towards others was normal.
Today, your average the The Rangers fan is the equivalent of an old man standing in PC World surrounded by magnificent technology for the household attempting to sell you a box of dominoes, a week old daily mail and a whoopee cushion. They are dinosaurs, and their ways will soon be extinct.
The following week we travelled to Dundee for a crucial match between the bottom two clubs, who were already isolated at the foot of the table even this early in the season.
This was almost like a wooden spoon decider, but instead of a spoon it was a big steaming Alan Stubbs shite being held by Neil McCann in the middle of V9 academy surrounded by tall but well below average English footballers.
As most suspected, the teams cancelled one another out, if that is the right term, however we could actually take positives from the match. Firstly, Kyle Magennis returned to the side and looked absolutely brilliant. Secondly, our run of seven straight defeats ended. Thirdly, in the last ten minutes this was the first time all season Ferdinand, Stephen McGinn, Magennis, Smith, Jackson and Mullen were all on the park at the same time, and definitely not coincidentally this was our best period of the match and something we can hopefully build on.
At the end of the game, a rather solemn looking Craig Samson applauded the 800 strong Saints support and handed his gloves to a young fan behind the goal, a bit strange I thought at the time, but all would be revealed in the coming days when it transpired this was the final time Samson would ever play for the club.
What emerged in the week that followed was before this match former Saints manager Jack Ross had approached the keeper with a view to him becoming a coach at Sunderland. What Samson also revealed was that Ross had offered him the post without asking our board or Oran Kearney first, and although it is hardly surprising based on previous incidents involving our ex manager, this is the latest in a string of actions by Ross that have damaged the club.
What annoys me most is the disrespectful nature of his behaviour. As a club, we owe Jack Ross absolutely nothing. When he was appointed manager in 2016, this was singularly one of the most important football decisions the club had made in a long time, decades in fact. Relegation to the third tier for the first ever time was unthinkable and potentially embarrassing. We aren’t Morton or Dunfermline, and simply couldn’t go beyond the Championship. It’s bad enough in the second tier.
Therefore, Saints taking a significant gamble on a young inexperienced manager like Jack Ross, who had just relegated Alloa months before, was a big gamble that ultimately paid off due to excellent financial backing and the managers own ability without question.
When Jack Ross left Alloa, he worked a week’s notice out of respect for them, yet at Saints he went behind our backs to blag a gig at Sunderland and then does the same with Samson. Football is and has been littered forever with driven and ambitious people, however not all of them lack the class to repeatedly bite the hand that used to feed them. We’ll need to nail the trophy cabinet down when Sunderland visit next year.
It’s really sad however when even our great managers can’t behave in a manner that guarantees popularity; we’ve enough bad managers to bear that unpopular burden after all.
With Saints now without their first choice keeper, Danny Rogers was in line to make his league debut against Hearts the following Saturday after some highly unimpressive appearances in the league cup and preseason friendlies, where he looked as safe as Kyle Broadfoot’s upper body after the microwave pings.
Thankfully, we were playing Hearts that day who despite being joint top of the league at that time were frankly awful, and hadn’t scored a goal for about two months. With this is mind I was extremely confident of a victory beforehand much to the surprise of anyone that knows me, and my instinct proved correct as Saints comfortably won 2-0 thanks to an Adam Hammill double, including a 40 yard half volley that dipped beautifully over the Hearts keeper and into the net. It was a glorious goal that was so out of touch with our season I think people could scarcely believe what had happened. This was truly truffles amongst the turds stuff.
Undoubtedly it was our best performance of the season, and the surprising improvement of Alfie Jones and Lee Hodson under Kearney continues to grow almost weekly.
With Jackson and Hammill in the team, we possibly have attacking players that are capable of doing a job at this level now. Whether the overall squad is good enough however remains a question bigger than Callum Ball’s bath towel even following this great victory, but hope was back and this was good.
With Rogers completely untested due to Hearts having no shots on target, Saints went into the next match against lowly Hamilton high on confidence knowing a victory would put us tenth in the table, but my instincts told me something different to the Hearts match and I would have been happy with a draw beforehand.
It sums up perfectly watching Saints when I can be confident of beating the team top of the league, but have absolutely no belief when playing one so bad they couldn’t even muster 250 supporters the twenty or so miles to Paisley.
Again, my instinct proved correct, and Hamilton won 3-1 despite having no real periods of pressure or being on top for any of the match. All they needed was a combination of utterly terrible defending, bad luck on Saints part in attack and a referee so poor the ghost of Les Mottram appeared at the foot of the West Stand after the second goal went in, and Mottram isn’t even dead, that’s how bad it was.
After Saints had started very well, Hamilton took the lead from a needlessly given away corner after Rogers punched the ball backwards from the six yard box out of play behind himself, which is quite a feat.
From the resultant corner, that giant attacker known for his heading ability, Dougie Imrie, flicked a looping header over the keeper and the man on the far post to give Accies the lead from their first effort on goal. Why exactly our smallest player Lee Hodson was marking players and Erhaon at six foot plus was on the far post is a mystery to me personally, and it cost us.
Hamilton scored once more just before half time with their second effort at goal, and again it was from a set piece. This time, a free kick was awarded against Ethan Erahon for absolutely nothing as far as anyone can make out, and from the resultant cross Accies scored again when about four Hamilton players almost fought each other to prod the swinging cross home.
Saints pulled one back just before half time when Stephen McGinn diverted an Erahon volley into the corner of the net, and despite dominating the start of the second half, Accies scored with their third and final effort on target when James Keatings curled home following a decisive break away.
Before this, Accies had already reverted to Dumbarton style time wasting and spoiling tactics, and in act of solidarity with their support they managed to get one time wasting or diving event in during the 90 minutes for each of their 242 fans that made the journey. Football shouldn’t be played like this of course, but this is as good as it gets for a club of that size and eventually like Dumbarton they will slip back down to where they belong.
Referee Clancy however wasn’t finished, and he sent off Simeon Jackson for two bookings, the first of which was completely nonsensical as it was clearly an accident. To further confound everyone associated with Saints he allowed Ziggy Gordon to have about eight fouls, one of which was arguably a red on its own, resulting in Accies manager Martin Canning substituting Gordon immediately after his last offence, a sign that clearly he felt it was a red as well and they wanted the defender off the park quicker than Alan Stubbs can use a non-league academy for his entire recruitment policy for a professional club.
Incidentally this was the second time this season against us Accies have subbed a player on a booking after a referee failed to send him off, with Darian McKinnon taken off thirty minutes into the previous match against the club, although Accies could probably have beaten us with six players that day to be honest.
Next up, was a midweek trip to Easter Road against a Hibs side also in poor form. Saints were without the suspended Simeon Jackson and the injured Cody Cooke who had impressed against Hamilton a few days beforehand, meaning Danny Mullen led the line in a match Saints began once again began very brightly, and with only six minutes gone one of the all-time great goals was scored when Adam Hammill collected the ball inside his own half and fired a long looping shot high over a stranded Bogdan and into the net from 59 yards, as Sportscene confirmed the following day.
It was an outrageous piece of flamboyant genius, and at the match the ball seemed to hang in the air for an eternity as we watched the Hibs keeper scramble desperately backwards, with the ball finally heading down towards the goal to nestle gently in the net. Approaching my thirty fifth year of watching Saints, this is easily the most outrageous goal I have seen, and unfortunately as hundreds of Saints fans were still outside attempting to buy a ticket not many were fortunate to witness this brilliance.
Saints continued to push forward after this, but the injury to Danny Mullen on sixteen minutes disrupted the rhythm of the side and his replacement Cammy Smith looks an absolute shadow of the player we know he is and failed to make any real impact on the match, as Saints faded away for a long period after this enforced change.
Quickly after the break Hibernian equalised, taking full advantage of the stricken Kyle Magennis lying off the park, and as Saints had 10 men for all of a few seconds the Edinburgh side tore down our left to score a simple goal.
Magennis left the field immediately after this, but a few minutes later Paul McGinn rose to meet a perfect Hammill free kick and although the final touch may have been from a Hibernian player, it was suddenly 2-1 to Saints and three points were going to be very welcome considering Dundee were doing exactly what Saints should have done a few days ago and were hammering a very poor Hamilton Accies side.
However, following a Mallan corner, Ryan Porteous rose to thump a header home and Saints set piece Achilles heel cost us yet again, and it wouldn’t be for the last time in December either, and 2-2 it finished.
A few days later, Saints headed back up the M8 to face Livingston and despite leading at half time 1-0, the performance ultimately resulted in Oran Kearney stating he found it “embarrassing” and three pathetic second half goals conceded consigned Saints to another defeat.
With Ryan Hardie named in the Livingston starting XI for the home side for the first time this season, I think most knew what was coming next and the ex-Saints player slotted home their second, which left him looking confused, but that is of course his permanent pose and his small brain must rattle about that big skull like a pea inside an aircraft hangar.
It has been matches like this however that almost consigns my thoughts to inevitable relegation. Against Hamilton, Motherwell and Livingston at this point in the season we had played five matches and picked up no points, with an appalling record of scored two and conceded thirteen. We weren’t even competing against sides that should be no better than us, and it was a worry.
Next up was Aberdeen at home during absolutely dreadful conditions in Paisley, and another defeat thanks to two goals conceded from set pieces. Having looked back at all our league matches, if you take away goals conceded from corners, free kicks and penalties we would be FOURTEEN points better off. Our failure to deal with basics is killing us at the moment, and with Jimmy Nichol joining the backroom staff, surely between all the coaches they can improve this for the rest of the season.
Games were coming in a “Ryan Hardie” fashion in December, (thick and fast) and a trip to Motherwell who had pretty much steamrolled us only six weeks beforehand gave Saints an opportunity to improve that poor record against teams around us, and we did just that with a hard fought 1-0 win thanks to a Simeon Jackson goal where Anton Ferdinand excelled for most of the match.
It was a great victory and a massive boost ahead of the visit of the Fakes, St Johnstone, the third Saints to play league football in Scotland after ourselves and St Bernard’s. That’s right, a dog played football before the crofters emerged from their pens.
It was a pretty poor game in all honesty with very little between the sides, but the longer it went on I think the whole stadium believed St Fugazi would steal it as this is really the only skill they have, stun the opposition into boredom and then hit them with a sucker punch like some kind of bottom feeding ocean farm animal, and with a minute left Tony Watt stooped to head home after we switched off at a thrown in, and the chance to go tenth was lost again.
A few days later, we travelled the short distance to high flying Kilmarnock for the final match before the winter break, and it was a bad time to be playing the “Killie Boys” as parent club the The Rangers had beaten Celtic in the minutes leading up to the match, meaning their fans were extremely buoyant at kick off despite a large section still making their way to the stadium as the SPFL hadn’t bothered to consider some supporters would actually sacrifice watching the start of their own match to see another game.
In truth, Killie destroyed us like wee Robbo on his last selection box. They were 2-0 up after only ten minutes, thanks to another goal conceded from a corner and a tap in for the biggest diver in football Jordan Jones, after Greg Stewart had embarrassingly waltzed through our entire defence.
We hung in there however by grabbing one back soon after thanks to Jackson, and although the scoring was finished we were well beaten by an impressive Kilmarnock side where we failed to create anything in the second half. It was a tame and fitting end to a half season of football where we have been about as convincing as Willie Miller trying to claim he is an impartial pundit.
So having now played everyone twice, (apart from Celtic) it has been a tough few months without doubt, but we are still alive and kicking this season albeit with heavy weights of the Stubbs legacy tied to our feet. The transfer window promises much change, and if we aren’t stronger by the end of it, the new recruitment process at the club has failed before it has really even started such is the lack of quality currently at the club.
However, it is frankly inconceivable we won’t have a better squad by the time the league season restarts on 26th January. Will it be enough though to beat relegation? All will be revealed.
Ratings top 10 (all competitions)
Anton Ferdinand 6.6
Stephen McGinn 6.5
Craig Samson 6.5
Simeon Jackson 6.4
Cammy MacPherson 6.3
Ethan Erahon 6.2
Kyle Magennis 6.2
Alfie Jones 6.2
Adam Hammill 6.1
Lee Hodson 6.0
Highest Rating Score Per Month
July – S McGinn, Samson 7.30
August – Mullen, Samson 6.70
September – Ferdinand, Baird 7.00
October – Baird 6.70
November- Magennis 8.00
December – S McGinn, Hodson, Lyness 7.00
Man of Match Awards
Stephen McGinn 5
Craig Samson 4
Anton Ferdinand 3
Adam Hammill 2
Lee Hodson 2
Cammy Smith 2
Hayden Coulson 2
Alfie Jones 1
Jack Baird 1
Cammy MacPherson 1
Kyle Magennis 1
Simeon Jackson 1
Danny Mullen 1
Adam Hammill 4
Simeon Jackson 4
Danny Mullen 3
Stephen McGinn 3
Cammy Smith 2
Cammy MacPherson 1
Paul McGinn 1
Ross Stewart 1
Jim Kellerman 1
Hayden Coulson 1
Adam Hammill 5
Paul McGinn 4
Cammy Smith 3
Stephen McGinn 1
Ethan Erahon 1
Ryan Flynn 1
Alfie Jones 1
Kyle Magennis 1