Having been top scorer in the English top flight, scored at one of the two world cups he appeared in, and impressively netted at a rate of 1 goal every 2 matches for four years during his time at Barcelona; even at the age of 34, Glasgow born Steve Archibald seemed like the ideal man to solve Saints goal scoring issues during the 1990/91 season when he was announced as Tony Fitzpatrick’s latest signing on the 7th November 1990.
These were ambitious times at St Mirren, with Archibald on a reputed £5,000 a week and the same bonus per goal, making him the alleged highest paid player in Scotland, and this was after Fitzpatrick had spent over £1.5 million in transfers in the past season and a quarter.
Before he had even kicked a ball, Archibald used his influence to convince his former captain at Barcelona, the 60 times capped Spanish midfielder, Victor Munoz, to swap Serie A giants Sampdoria for St Mirren and he successfully convinced both parties to do a deal, so the following week Fitzpatrick authorised a cheque for £30k to be sent in return for the 33-year-old to spend the rest of the season in Paisley.
It’s unthinkable for any of this to happen now, but three days after Archibald signed for Saints and with Victor still settling his affairs in Italy before making the move, Aberdeen travelled to Paisley for a Premier Division match with “Archie” wearing his customary number 8 shirt in a typically grim and drizzly late Autumn Day in the north side of town.
Archibald had of course made his considerable reputation a decade or so earlier at the Dons during the Fergie years at Pittodrie, and although those days had now finished, this Aberdeen side was still one to be genuinely feared and actually only missed out on the title that campaign during the final match, therefore it wasn’t a massive shock that Saints were beaten on the day, however the 0-4 score-line was extremely disappointing especially as Archibald had missed a glorious one on one chance at 0-1.
The forward had last been in Scotland only the previous season at Hibs, when he was in fabulous form, however this was perhaps a campaign too far at the top level for one of the best Scottish players of his generation and it took until his ninth appearance to find the net; on the 2nd January 1991 during a 2-2 draw at Love Street with Motherwell.
He would net again the following match, but any hope of a sustained run of goals quickly evaporated during a dreadful season for the club where only 5 wins were recorded in 39 matches in all competitions with one of them being against bottom tier Stranraer away in the Scottish Cup. In fact, in the 27 matches played after Archibald joined the club, only three were won; that match at Stair Park and two 1-0 victories over Hibs.
Thankfully relegation was scrapped for reconstruction so Saints were saved from demotion, but the points total of 19 (24 in modern times) is proof enough of how bad a season it was, resulting in Tony Fitzpatrick being replaced with Davie Hay in March 1991, who quickly indicated he wasn’t interested in either Archibald or Munoz remaining in Paisley and both would leave the club at the end of the season.
Archibald played a total of 17 matches for Saints scoring twice, and would later have brief spells at Clyde, Reading, Ayr Utd and Fulham before taking over as Player/Manager at East Fife where he would play until he was 40, including the opening match of the 1996/97 season at Bayview which was won 4-0 by Saints.