Craig Samson: The return of the 2013 League Cup winner was a welcome one, certainly with me and most fans as we had never quite replaced Samson in the first place after he was allowed to leave in 2014. Back then it seemed a ludicrous decision to replace the Ginger Ninja with David Cornell, the goalkeeping equivalent of a 2L bottle of Farmfoods own make Irn Bru without the physical stature or ability.
Last season we used three keepers in the league, but Samson was an ever present this term and broke the club record for consecutive home clean sheets in a row and went 813 minutes without conceding in Paisley during the run in. Also, despite not really having a settled defence all season he still manged a respectable fourteen clean sheets in the league and had two fine penalty saves one of which against Dundee United was a crucial moment in the season. (9)
Ross Stewart: As rarely seen as a five fingered Falkirk fan, Stewart had zero minutes league action but appeared in some early cup matches where he conceded twelve times in four matches, albeit in games where large changes were made all over the park. It’s very hard to criticise or even give an accurate score for a backup player like this, but you never seen the big keeper unhappy and was a clear part of a harmonious squad. (5)
Gary Irvine: Started the season as seemingly first choice right back, but his ordering off at Livingston in August quickly followed by the signing of Liam Smith meant he never featured between a two-minute cameo against Queen of the South at home on 24/09/17 and the 17/04/18 when he turned out against Falkirk.
One of the few Alex Rae signings still left at the club, Irvine’s form at the end of last season during the great escape was very good, therefore it is difficult for me to say anything other than positive things about him even now, but there is more chance of John Robertson being a member of SMISA than Irvine being at the club next term. (5)
Liam Smith: Arrived from Hearts on loan just in time for the Challenge Cup tie against East Kilbride in August and has been practically a permanent fixture ever since at right back. Composed on the ball and excellent going forward, Smith was ideal in a league we dominated for practically the entire season, but questions do remain defensively. That said, he is young, and I would be more than happy to see him return.
Smith also scored two absolute belters in the run in, the second of which enraged Sandy Clark, so bonus point incoming.
I’m sure Liam will also be delighted to tell Craig Levein how Saints managed to grind out a point to lift the title, something that of course still haunts his parent club and Levein to this day. (8)
Stelios Demetriou: Started the season off explosively by scoring Saints first goal of the league campaign, a crucial equalising strike against Falkirk, his fourth for the club in only his ninth start and I expected more to come from the Cypriot considering the way he played at that time, the only right winger/left back/second striker in the country.
However, for tactical reason he curbed his attacking instincts and his influence on matches over time became more defensive minded. Obviously, Stelios is capable of the occasional mistake and poor performance, but in general he has been an important part of the squad and will be remembered fondly around Paisley for many years to come now he has announced he is leaving the club as Demetriou is the very definition of a cult hero.
Stelios has a reputation for taking risks, and none more so at Cappielow when he ate a Bounty thrown by one of the locals, a dangerous thing to do. (7.5)
Adam Eckersley: There is not a lot to say about Eckersley. He is unfussy, committed and generally very very good every week. Can anyone remember a mistake Eckersley has made since signing for the club? He has a fault sheet as clean as Daryl Duffy’s kit in fact.
The best left back in the division by an absolute mile, everyone seems to think “Ecks” is underrated, but most Saints fans unless they are so utterly devoid of clue will know just how good he is.
At times Eckersley absolutely strolls through matches at this level, even when he played as part of a back three and he makes playing football look easy.
There is little doubt he will cope easily with the Premiership next term and despite his relatively short term at the club is arguably one of the clubs finest left backs of the past 30 years. (9)
Jack Baird: The most improved player at the club this season, big Jack put behind him the personal disappointment of his red card at Cappielow in the second league fixture of the season to become a regular starter in the side even when Gary MacKenzie became available again in the winter.
Scored the crucial winner at East End Park in January after Dunfermline went more route one than Catman hunting rat; a night I think most of us knew the league was finished and we would be champions.
Baird is likely to get even better with experience and could quite easily become a long-term fixture at the club over the next few years, and is now a firm fans favourite. Disappointingly never punched Lee Miller though this season, so loses a point. (8)
Harry Davis: When Harry plays, Saints win. It’s not entirely accurate, but near enough and a clean sheet is far more likely to happen also. Before Davis returned to the side in November, we had managed three clean sheets in twelve league matches, yet we managed eight in the first fourteen Championship games the big Englishmen was back in the side.
In my opinion the best centre half in the division, a close call between him and Gary MacKenzie in truth. Like Eckersley, Davis strolls through matches and hopefully will sign a contract extension in the very near future. Played a massive role in Jack Baird’s improvement as his calming influence undoubtedly brought the best out in young Bairdy.
Davis also became Saints penalty taker this season but missed the opportunity to send John Robertson into a different stratosphere of high pitched whining when his second penalty against Inverness was saved in March. Trying to work out if that was good or bad. (9)
Gregor Buchanan: At the time I suspected his signing was cover until Harry Davis recovered from his injury, and so it proved when the ex-Dumbarton stopper was punted to Livingston at the first opportunity in January.
Big Buchanan was decent enough cover in a big squad, but the bad habits picked up whilst being coached under Stevie Aitken at Dumbarton were prevalent when he repeatedly held Morton players in the autumn derby and we dropped two points as a result. (5)
Gary MacKenzie: Injury kept Mackenzie out for a long spell this season, but his return to the side was vital in the run in. On the day we won the league against Livingston big Gary Mac headed everything clear that tricky afternoon including two seagulls and a pie aimed at Ryan Hardie. Nothing was going to get past him, he wanted a semi naked pint in the Bankhouse and no football team on the planet was stopping him.
I would personally dearly like MacKenzie to return next season, not because I have a man crush, but because him and Davis are the best centre half pair we have had since we won the Scottish Cup in 1987, and that alone is proof quality defenders are hard to find. Gary Mac is rumoured to be so physically strong he can lift Paul Hartley and John Robertson off the ground at the same time. (8)
Massimo Donati: Signed in February and going by his social media accounts this was more to do with coaching than actually playing, but Donati appeared that night our reserves took on Falkirk at home after we had won the league in April. The first ever Italian to play for the club and is said to be Tommy Turner without the style. (5)
Mark Hill: His arrival seemed to be an agreement between Celtic and St Mirren as part of the Lewis Morgan transfer, but in truth we didn’t need another central midfielder at that point so opportunities were as limited as Ian McCall’s lung capacity for Hill. Hasn’t really played that much, but when Hill has appeared on the park he seems like a seriously powerful running player that effortlessly covers acres of grass, something we may need next season. (5)
Stephen McGinn: The best captain the club has had since Norrie McWhirter, and I include Jim Goodwin in that.
Always wants the ball, rarely wastes possession, 100% effort every week and another who should comfortably make the division team of the season as skipper. In fact, when I heard a heroic captain flew a damaged plane to safety in America last week I half expected it to be McGinn, with him exiting the plane telling Ian McShane where to stand.
Incredibly though, he doesn’t escape criticism from a very small percentage of the support, and one of the most familiar shouts from the guy behind me is “What is McGinn doing?….Nothing”.
I know what type of person this fan is though, an idiot. I bet he goes into his kitchen every night and gets slightly annoyed until it builds up to something he can longer handle, and he finally says to his wife:
“What is that fridge doing Brenda? Nothing, it’s stealing a space”; so he throws his Zanussi out and keeps his milk on the window ledge, only for it to go off within a day.
And then it hits him, that’s what the fridge does, it’s not flashy or exciting but it is essential, and without it the kitchen is Alex Rae’s place where Kyle Hutton keeps milk in the oven and Ryan Hardie uses the microwave as a tumble driver. That’s our team before Stephen McGinn, never forget that. (10)
Ian McShane: Like Buchanan, I suspect the man predictably nicknamed Lovejoy was signed as cover after Kyle Magennis was the victim of some ridiculous tackles by Dundee in the pre-season, but McShane played a pivotal role in the side for over half a season scoring five times from central midfield until he unluckily lost his place early in the New Year when the squad was strengthened.
It was always going to be a hard for McShane to live up to some fans expectation of being a replacement for Stevie Mallan, but his contribution in terms of assists shouldn’t be overlooked. Unknown if he will stay, but he can be undoubtedly proud of the part he played this term. Extra point for allegedly “shagging the burds”. (8)
Kyle Magennis: It’s hard to compare young Kyle to anyone. As competitive as Hugh Murray, as dynamic as Andy Dorman, and as skilful as Ricky Gillies, Magennis is on course to have a magnificent career.
Came back into the side in early winter, and unsurprisingly took a few months to return to his best, but the final quarter has seen the youngster hit top form and he has added free kick taking to his long list of attributes also.
Overshadowed in the media by other Saints players but Magennis will show everyone next season in the Premiership that he is the real deal and it is only a matter of time before we knock back a bid from some financially over-inflated side like Accrington Stanley or Worcester Steve for the youngster. (8)
Jordan Kirkpatrick: One of a few squad players Saints took a low risk gamble on last pre-season, but the former Alloa man didn’t really show anything to suggest he could hold down a starting XI place, a tough task for anyone from League One given the quality we have in midfield anyway.
Made a sporadic amount of substitute appearances and started some low key cup matches, but returned to Alloa on loan and is as likely to be back at Paisley next season as Stevie Aitken playing two up front at any point in his dismal management career. (5)
Dale Hilson: Another player injured by Dundee in that pre-season match, particularly hard on Hilson who had only a half season contract to try and gain a longer term deal. Only managed a couple of matches as he was either injured or not match fit and was then released but bagged a late winner against Brechin giving us a crucial three points. (6)
Josh Todd: Undoubtedly the unluckiest player in the squad and after dislocating his shoulder in pre-season, the only injury in Scottish football during July not seemingly caused by Dundee players, and he repeated the exact same injury in his only appearance for Saints all season against Queen of the South, where he played very well. Once he got fit again he was sent out on loan to the Palmerston side where he has played every week.
His name remains very hard to say when you are blootered or just out of the dentist after a filling and despite being very highly thought of by Jack Ross, is as likely to be back at Saints next season as Livingston are to win best family club in Scotland. (5)
Lewis Morgan: A sensational season, and young Lewis is surely destined for a great international career in the very near future. The youngster is so two footed I have no idea what his strongest foot is.
His early season form bordered on ridiculous; with his performance in the 3-0 humiliation of the 1983 champions (in case you didn’t know) Dundee United in August so good that even Radio Scotland’s pundits grudgingly called it “half decent”, high praise indeed.
Not content with that, Morgan repeated his double against the Kajagoggoo of Scottish football by scoring twice more at Christmas against them, effectively breaking the Tannadice club, Willie Miller, and their online rabid support in the process.
Then when we all thought his season couldn’t get any better, Morgan scored the winner against Morton and sent them into even more of an utter mess by doing his “provocative” celebration of, wait for this lads, stretching his arms out. Phone. The. Polis. (10)
Myles Hippolyte: Signed on transfer deadline day from Falkirk, the winger may be the eventual long-term replacement for Morgan, but the start to his career at Saints has been slow, it is after all difficult to get used playing in a stadium with four sides not in the immediate blast zone area of a chemical plant.
Physically and ability wise the winger has all the attributes required to be a first team regular, however there is a lingering doubt about his consistency, but if anyone can sort this out its Jack Ross. (5)
Ryan Flynn: Signed in January from Oldham with promotion in mind it must be said, the winger has started the vast majority of matches since and has hinted that much better is still to come once he has settled back into playing in Scotland.
Doesn’t have the blistering pace of Morgan, put has already shown he is versatile and hardworking member of the squad with good delivery and composure. Another who I am convinced has a lot more to offer once in the Premiership. (6)
Cammy Smith: Smith built on his impressive start to life at Saints in the second half of last season by having a simply magnificent campaign this time around, managing thirteen goals in all competitions, which is an excellent return for someone who is not a main striker.
There is so much to admire about Smith; work rate, dribbling ability, finishing, crossing, pace and body strength to name just the six. In fact, like the whiff from Ian McCall’s smoking jacket, Smith is unbelievably strong for a small man.
In truth we are lucky to have Smith and another who should comfortably make the division team of the year. I am absolutely intrigued to see how he gets on next season, I believe like a few players in the squad he will raise his game even further to cope with the quality.
Missed one match all season, the 1-0 defeat at home to Dumbarton, and it is no coincidence our worse performance of the campaign occurred with Smith unavailable. (10)
John Sutton: Big John Sutton, what a guy. Now in the veteran stage of his career, he was used sparingly to put it mildly this season but still contributed a couple of goals and assists.
A long-term favourite of the support due in part to events over a decade ago in Motherwell, the big striker probably got the biggest cheer at the civic reception when he rather sheepishly lifted the trophy aloft, but he has nothing to feel guilty about, his contribution to the club in the four seasons he managed was excellent, and joins a very exclusive club of three winners medals at the club comprising of Hugh Murray and David Van Zanten.
Two bonus points for knocking back Stevie Aitken and a move to Dumbarton in January. (8)
Gavin Reilly: Twenty plus goals, the first Saints player to do so since the legendary Barry Lavety back in 1993, Reilly had a sensational campaign that included a ten-minute hat trick in the Scottish Cup tie against Lothian Vale of the Hutchison United Thistle, or something.
Sharper than a Stevie Thompson spear and a bigger nuisance to defenders than Alan Lithgow is to women, Reilly proved to be a real handful for Championship defenders. In fact, in the 3-1 victory over Livingston in August when Saints were down to 10 men, the Lions hadn’t encountered something as slippery as Reilly since shower time Barlinnie prison.
Possibly wouldn’t have signed had Rory Loy decided to join us, but Reilly quickly proved the doubters wrong by scoring on his League, League Cup and Scottish Cup debuts for the club, as well as in his first start in the Challenge Cup. Not bad at all Gavin. (9)
Danny Mullen: A classic Jack Ross front man; small, strong with good movement, Mullen took time to settle after moving from the Almondvale Gang, and probably had a period where that awful cliché “he’s trying too hard” may have had some actual truth, however once Mullen scored his first goal he has looked far more comfortably and been a good member of the squad.
Very underrated in the air, particularly from cross balls, Mullen has a spring bigger than Ryan Hardie’s ego, and as we all knew anyway he has a bit of devil in him, which is fine as long as he’s playing for us. (7)
Ross Stewart: Taller than Peter Crouch standing on a box of Ian McCall’s player budget grievances, Stewart was very much in the “low risk” signing category, but still managed a couple of goals and assists, although at times he has the first touch and subtlety of a bricklayer’s jazz band. Was sent on loan to Alloa in early 2018 where he has had a much more successful time in League One.
Big Stewart is as likely to be at Saints next season as finding a Morton fan with a sense of humour. (5)
Daryl Duffy: Surprisingly signed at the outset of the season, Duffy is the forgotten man of the squad and has been seen less times this campaign than David Hopkin’s toothbrush.
Played a total of one minute league action, and had one start against East Kilbride in a cup match. Sent out on loan to Airdrie where he scored their goal of the season. If he is still here next season, Stevie Aitken will have taken over at Barcelona and Tam O’Ware will have joined the North Bank and been appointed chief drummer. Still good enough to start for Dundee United however. (5)