St Johnstone are starting to make this look easy now, although Tommy Wright will undoubtedly tell you it isn’t. The manager summed it up best at the club’s end of season awards: “there might be clubs with bigger supports, there might be clubs with bigger finances, but no club has a bigger heart than St Johnstone.”
Fourth place (again) and more top flight points than ever before in the post-reconstruction era. A defence that conceded only 32 goals in 34 games if you take Celtic out of the equation and an attack that was bettered only by the “top four” teams in the league.
Next season, the pundits will talk about the “top five” and everyone will know who they mean. In the next breath, they will incredulously claim that that St Johnstone do get the credit they deserve. Six seasons, six top six finishes and four of those in the top four. We know it will come to an end one day but it doesn’t look like it be whilst Tommy Wright is in charge. Who knows how long that will be for as pragmatism clearly isn’t sexy enough for some but it does St Johnstone fans just fine, thanks.
Saints used 26 players over the course of the 2016/17 campaign and they are rated as follows:
Alan Mannus (6) – A beacon of consistency since taking over between the sticks for Saints in the winter of 2012, Mannus had to recover from the disappointment of losing his place only a few games into the season but grasped his chance when injury sidelined Zander Clark in March, conceding only five goals in nine appearances and staking a strong claim to start next season in possession of the goalkeeping jersey.
Zander Clark (7) – A real breakthrough season for Clark who won the battle for the number one shirt in September and by the turn of the year was being touted for international recognition by his manager. That chat is maybe premature – the 25-year-old is still prone to errors – but he has shown enough to suggest he has a bright future in the game, all going well.
Tam Scobbie (6) – If it’s not how you start but how you finish, that is fortunate for Scobbie as it should mean his stay in Perth is extended into a sixth year. After an early season injury, appearances were fleeting for the former Falkirk man but the end of season absence of Steven Anderson provided the opportunity for him to remind fans and manager alike of his value to the squad.
Steven Anderson (6) – Nothing highlights the consistency and reliability of Anderson more than the fact that despite this not being his best season at Saints, it can’t come close to being described as a poor one. A player who developed under the tutelage of Michael Duberry and Frazer Wright, he is now the experienced man in his partnership with Joe Shaughnessy. The club captain became the first player to make 400 appearances for St Johnstone in May.
Joe Shaughnessy (7) – Signed in 2015 with providing cover for Dave Mackay in mind, Shaughnessy has developed into a fine centre back and was named in the SPFL’s own Premiership Team of Year as recognition of another impressive season. He missed only 55 minutes of football over the course of the campaign, going about his business quietly, effectively and with real assurance.
Brad McKay (2) – August 2015. Brad McKay lines up in his league debut for St Johnstone. Slips on his arse, gifts Hearts a goal then publicly calls Juanma a cheat. Not the best start. Fast forward to August 2016, McKay appears as a substitute against his former club in his first appearance in 12 months and scores the winning goal. It wasn’t enough to salvage a career in Perth though and he left before the end of the summer transfer window.
Clive Smith (2) – In his own bit of deadline day trolling, Tommy Wright decided to bring a player to Saints from Preston North End on loan. It turned out not to be Stevie May but was a defender who ended up having a role to play before the end of the season. A beneficiary in the fallout from the Swanson and Foster debacle, 19-year-old Smith performed really well in his three appearances and would be welcome back in Perth next season, although such an eventuality seems unlikely.
Richard Foster (7) – Tommy Wright’s best signing of the summer window, the biggest compliment you can pay Foster is that Saints haven’t missed the presence of Dave Mackay at right back. Foster shares a number of qualities with Mackay, consistent and reliable and offers a good threat going forward. He’s also prone to losing the rag with teammates, although the former captain never quite went as far as Foster did at New Douglas Park in April.
Keith Watson (3) – A good player on the evidence presented, just a shame that it’s less than four full Premiership games. Injured on his debut and injured again when he’d got himself fit and back involved, he’s been told he’s free to leave Perth. Tommy Wright was quoted as saying he’d had the strictest medical of any player in his time in charge. That worked then…
Liam Gordon (1) – Thrown in at the deep end in the Betfred Cup quarter-final at Pittodrie, Gordon produced an accomplished performance but it was his only appearance in a Saints shirt this season. Spent the second part of the campaign at Peterhead and will be looking to make more of an impact next term.
Brian Easton (7) – Many players at McDiarmid Park enjoyed campaigns they can be happy with, but Easton had arguably his best in a Saints shirt. Rarely bettered by any right winger the league could throw at him, his trademark marauding runs forward are intelligent and so often created the space and opportunity for Danny Swanson to weave his magic. Convincing the former Burnley man to sign a new two-year contract in February was arguably the most important bit of re-signing business conducted by Tommy Wright.
Aaron Comrie (1) – Joined Liam Gordon on loan at Peterhead from January onwards and like his fellow defender, made just the one appearance for Saints this term, at Hamilton in September. Winner of the Peter Steinle Trophy, awarded to the most impressive player from the U20 squad.
Blair Alston (6) – It’s been a good first season at Saints for Alston, with hopefully more to come. Maybe not the most effective player when coming off the bench, he’s been unfairly sacrificed at times when he does start games, never really giving him the chance to properly establish himself in the side or find his best role. Has found goals harder to come by in the Premiership but there is enough reason to believe he can step it up a level next season.
Chris Millar (6) – A second consecutive season badly disrupted by injury for the McDiarmid Makelele but Saints remain a better team for his presence in it, as he seamlessly wins and recycles possession. Others in the squad may have finally received overdue recognition for their form in recent years but Millar remains criminally underrated outside of Perth.
Murray Davidson (6) – The chance of a big move and further international recognition have probably passed but queerly, Davidson is now a more disciplined midfielder than he’s ever been, a man who knows the role being asked of him down to a tee. A far more versatile midfielder than given credit for, a lack of goals this season shouldn’t disguise a valuable contribution in a deeper role.
David Wotherspoon (6) – For the first time during his four years with Saints, Wotherspoon found himself in and out of the team this season. His form maybe suffered slightly as a result and he’ll be disappointed to have scored only twice after netting nine times the previous campaign. Despite that, he’s a player that is continuing to mature and will play an important role for the club moving forward.
Danny Swanson (8) – The man that could nutmeg a mermaid. There was a dip in form in the middle of the season but a strong finish and an even better start sets Swanson out as Saints’ star man this season. The player that got the fans off their seats, he will be very hard to replace when he moves to Hibernian, although it’s questionable whether he’ll enjoy the same success in Leith as he has had in Perth.
Michael Coulson (3) – When a new signing tells you he’s “really struggling” with his body and when he’s also coming from the worst senior club in England, what could possibly go wrong? Coulson managed the equivalent of just eight full games over the course of the season, mainly because his body was indeed really struggling and because he had indeed come from the worst senior team in England. Another player that’s been told he’s free to leave, his capture at least annoyed Jackie McNamara…
Paul Paton (6) – It’s fair to say a number of supporters were wary when Saints moved for Paton last summer and some of his early performances did little to win them over. A lack of mobility seemed apparent but the former Dundee United grew into the role being asked of him and by the end of the season had nailed down a regular starting spot and won over even the most ardent of sceptics.
Liam Craig (7) – When Tommy Wright brought three new midfielders to the club last summer, some fans maybe wondered where Liam Craig would fit into the manager’s plans. But not only did Craig continue to play his part, he firmly established himself as a mainstay of the side, with only five players starting more league matches than the 30-year-old. It was a milestone season for the former Hibs man too, clocking up 300 appearances and 50 goals for the club.
Craig Thomson (2) – An unremarkable loan spell at Stranraer cut short, things weren’t looking too rosy for Thomson as April approached and he had 10 minutes of Premiership football for the season under his belt. Then with 20 minutes remaining in the opening post-split fixture at Pittodrie, he comes off the bench, scores his first goal for the club and Saints find themselves with a player transformed. A confident run of performances followed and a career in Perth could yet await the 22-year-old.
Steven MacLean (7) – Arguably my favourite moment of the season was the final few minutes at Fir Park in March, not because Saints were hanging on for another three points but because Steven MacLean set about desperately trying to collect his sixth booking of the season, so his suspension could be served during his self-imposed ban from the plastic pitch at Hamilton. Deliberate handballs, rugby tackles, he tried everything, although unfortunately in vain. But that’s Macca and that’s why we love him.
Joe Gormley (0) – Would you rather? Play for St Johnstone or quit professional football. The latter was the answer for Joe Gormley, who 71 minutes into Saints career decided he didn’t want to be here. Tommy Wright had waited all summer for a striker as well…
Chris Kane (6) – A player that is maybe still trying to find a niche for himself but who manager Tommy Wright believes can become the complete centre forward. Currently, it appears he’s caught between being a striker that plays with his back to goal and links play and one who runs in behind and tries to trouble defenders with his pace. The 22-year-old had respectable goal return from his minutes played but is likely to face more competition next season, putting the pressure on him to produce his best on a more consistent basis.
Graham Cummins (6) – An expert at running the ball into the corner to kill time (just ask Christie Elliott and Luke Hendrie), Cummins really stepped up to the plate when Saints were short of options in the spring. Leads the line well but if strikers are to be judged on goals, a return of six is disappointing for a player who can be guilty of spurning too many good chances.
Greg Hurst (1) – How hard can you be on a young player? The door was open for Hurst this season, especially after Gormley left, but it took until the final 20 minutes of the season for him to get his chance. He did well in that game against Rangers, as he seemed to do on loan at Berwick. With Tommy Wright almost certain to sign a striker this summer, was it an opportunity missed for the 20-year-old?
Written by St Johnstone1884