St Johnstone – Gordon Smith Obituary

I was saddened at the weekend to learn of the death of former player Gordon Smith after illness.

Gordon Smith was a promising 15 year old player with Glasgow United when he first came to the notice of Willie Ormond the St Johnstone Manager. So when Gordon signed for Saints in November 1969 he was following in the footsteps of Alex MacDonald and John Connolly both of whom had started with the Juvenile club before moving to Perth.

After a couple of seasons in the reserve squad his undoubted talent was beginning to shine through and, despite his youth, the Manager had enough confidence in his ability to include him on the substitutes bench for the Vasas Budapest match during the historic UEFA Cup run in 1971.

Further evidence of his developing talent came in January 1972 when Tommy Docherty was the Scotland International team Manager. The “Doc” played him at centre-half in two professional youth team matches firstly against the Scotland Under 23 team and then a month later against Ross County. His

St Johnstone team mate, Jim Pearson, was his direct opponent in the first of those games.

After featuring in pre season friendly matches against Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town at Muirton he made his St Johnstone debut on 30th August 1972 at Links Park, Montrose in a League Cup match. Saints won

3 – 0 that day with goals from John Muir, Henry Hall and John Hotson.

The team was: – Jimmy Donaldson, John Lambie, Billy McManus, Andy Kinnell, Alex Rennie, Benny Rooney, Kenny Aird, Gordon Smith, John Muir, Henry Hall, John Hotson. Sub: Jim Pearson.

The “P A” reporter made Gordon the “Star Saint” and in his report stated “Smith once again showed that he is a very good player – fearless in the tackle and very skillful on the ball. The youth internationalist’s versatility was demonstrated in the second half when, after Hall’s goal, Pearson replaced Rennie and Smith stepped back to fill the resultant gap in the defence”.

Later the reporter went on to say “ It seems unfortunate that Smith, essentially a central defender, is being shifted to midfield because of St Johnstone’s wealth of centre backs. He is a good enough player to adapt himself to this switch, however.”

Gordon would go on to make 16 appearances in a season that would see Willie Ormond appointed as Scotland International team manager in January of 1973 with Jackie Stewart arriving from Dumbarton to fill the Managerial post.

In season 1973/74 Gordon firmly established himself in the first team, appearing in midfield in 44 of a possible 46 matches, scoring 6 goals. However, on two occasions the new Manager tried him out at right back which would ultimately turn out to be something of a masterstroke. Both matches were against Dunfermline Ath and the first at Muirton Park ended 3 – 1 in Saints favour. On this occasion the P.A. scribe reported “Manager Stewart’s decision to play Gordon Smith at full back was a first rate success. The youngster overlapped up the right whenever the opportunity arose and this extra attacker also helped create problems for the visiting defence.”

In 1974 proposals to establish a “Premier League” for the 1975/76 season meant that it was vitally important that St Johnstone finished in the top 10 in order to qualify for the new top tier.

Gordon was a mainstay of the team, missing only 1 match from a possible 42, in a season that proved something of a struggle for Saints. However, they did manage to finish in 9th position helped by a 2 – 1 win over Celtic at Muirton Park on the final day of the season. Some 9,000 fans turned up to watch the likes of Danny McGrain, Billy McNeill, Jimmy Johnstone and Kenny Dalglish appearing for “the Hoops”. However, on the day Gordon Smith outshone these International stars.

Duncan Lambie had missed an early penalty before Celtic took the lead just after the half hour mark through Ronnie Glavin. Undaunted, Saints showed great fighting quality and were back on level terms just prior the interval when Gordon Smith “sent a slide rule 50 yard pass inside the full back and O’Rourke homed in on goal to blast an unsaveable drive through Latchford.”

Midway through the second half the referee awarded a second penalty when O’Rourke was fouled in the box but neither Lambie nor O’Rourke, the normal takers, wanted to take it. Showing no sign of nerves the young Gordon Smith volunteered to take the responsibility and calmly slotted the ball into the net sending the keeper the wrong way in the process. This was the first time that he had taken a penalty!

Both on and off the pitch the 1975/76 season turned out to be a disaster for         St Johnstone as the team managed to win only 3 League games and were relegated by the end of March. Again, Gordon was a regular and missed only 5 matches from a possible 45 played in all competitions.

Despite the Club’s problems, on a personal level, the high standard of Gordon’s performances did not go un-noticed and he was rewarded with 4 Under 23 International caps for Scotland. This was a young squad of real quality which included Alan Hansen, Andy Gray, David Narey and Alan Rough. Scotland won all 4 of the matches in which Gordon featured.

What would prove to be Gordon’s final match for St Johnstone was a 0 – 0 draw at Muirton Park in front of just 3,100 fans against Hearts on 26 April 1976.

The team was; – Derek Robertson, Gordon Smith, Stuart McBean, Phil Roberts, Ian Macdonald, Andy Kinnell, John Hotson, Ian Anderson, Gordon McGregor, Bobby Thomson, Duncan Lambie. Subs: John Mackay, Atholl Henderson.

Financially the club was losing money at an alarming rate and in the summer of 1976 the directors had no option but to sell players and revert to part time football. Gordon Smith was one of the “jewels in the crown” and in August he joined Aston Villa for a fee reported as £75,000.

He played for Villa for a number of seasons before joining Tottenham Hotspur and then Wolverhampton Wanderers.

In summary his St Johnstone career was : -

Season          Starts   Subs   Goals

1972/73         15           1           0

1973/74         43           1           6

1974/75         40           1           1

1975/76          40           0           3

Totals          138           3         10

Gordon Smith was a wonderful player who I had the privilege of watching play for St Jonhstone during the 1970′s.

 

“Jock” Lamond and St Johnstone 1921/22

I recently received a request for information regarding the St Johnstone career of John ( “Jock” ) Lamond who played in the early 1920′s so I’ve put together a bit of a combination of his career coupled with St Johnstone in Season 1921/22.

Following the end of World War 1 in 1918 St Johnstone slowly resumed playing football with a handful of friendly matches in the Spring of 1919. In common with many other teams who had lost men during that bloody conflict, a period of rebuilding was required both on and off the pitch.

The 1919/20 Season had seen the Saints play in the Eastern League which involved teams from Perth, Angus and Fife, and whilst they had been only moderately successful, finishing in mid table, the following Season ( 1920/21 ) the Directors decided to join the more competitive Central League.

In 1921 “Jock” Lamond ( as he is referred to in newspaper reports ) was a centre forward with local junior club Huntingtower and in the Spring of that year he was invited to play a trial match for St Johnstone.

This trial match on 20th April 1921 was in fact a “Benefit” for Johnnie Gilligan, a full back who had given fine service to both Forfar Athletic and Clyde before joining Saints in 1920. Rangers Reserves provided the opposition for the match played on the Recreation Ground, Perth, in front of some 5,000 spectators.

Saints team that Wednesday evening was: Wiltshire, Taylor, McKenzie, McCulloch, Forbes, Tracey, Wylie, McPherson, Lamond, Duff, Cobban.

Cobban and Taylor ( pen ) were the Saints scorers as the visitors won 3 – 2.

A newspaper report of the match states that Lamond had a goal disallowed and was prominent for St Johnstone.

He must have impressed as he made his “proper” debut in the final Central League match of that 1920/21 Season. League Champions, Bo’ness were the visitors to Perth and were trounced 4 – 0 by Saints with Lamond scoring 2 goals. Johnny Hart and Wylie added the others.

Finances were of course an issue in those days, just as much as they are today, and at the start of 1921/22 season reconstruction saw the Central League teams admitted into the Scottish League. The Central League was then “re-branded” as League Division 2 with promotion and relegation being introduced in an attempt to generate more competition and interest.

Saints opened their 1921/22 season with a Friendly encounter against Dundee Hibs ( now Dundee United ) at Tannadice and the young centre forward scored in a 1 – 1 draw. However, despite this promising start to his senior career, when the League campaign commenced the following weekend, he was left out of the team, the Manager/Committee preferring another local player, Jimmy Duff.

Oddly enough when “Jock Lamond” next featured it was in a League fixture against Dundee Hibs, again at Tannadice, where he scored Saints goal in a 3 – 1 defeat. He then dropped back out of the starting line up for the next seven League matches and during his omission Saints struggled to score goals with only 7 goals and 1 win being recorded in this period.

The Club’s Directors were trying hard to rectify the team’s shortcomings with quite a number of players being tried. These included some more senior players such as Stanley lad, Gordon Cowie from Clydebank, Davis from Millwall and Fowler from Rangers as well as Juniors from all over Central Scotland.

One notable signing was the experienced Jock Wyllie from Aberdeen who appears to have been a commanding, inspirational type of old fashioned centre-half.

On 5th November John Lamond returned to the team on the left wing for a match with Arbroath at Gayfield and scored Saints only goal in a 3 – 1 loss.

The fact that a newspaper reporter thought “ Lamond was the mainstay of the St Johnstone attack“ was probably little consolation as defeat meant that Saints were now propping up the League table with only 6 points from their 12 games played.

The following Saturday saw a remarkable transformation when high flying Cowdenbeath visited Perth. A Jock Wyllie penalty was enough to give Saints both points for the first time since September. Interestingly, one of the match reports at the time comments that “ Lamond, at centre forward, was the life of the attack.”

The following week at East End Park, Dunfermline, the Saints came back from a goal down to win 2 – 1. Scorers were Lamond and Wyllie from the penalty spot.

At the end of the match the local fans didn’t seem best pleased with the referee’s decisions and several hundred invaded the pitch to confront the official. Mr Brackenbridge required protection from two of the Dunfermline players, assisted by club officials and the few police officers present. Eventually he succeeded in getting his way into the safety of the grandstand. Undaunted some of the protagonists decided to wait outside the ground for the referee to come out. However, under the cover of darkness, and unknown to the would-be aggressors, the official made his way to town by the railway embankment which ran along the opposite side of the Athletic enclosure.

These successive victories had moved Saints off the bottom of the table.

Next up it was Vale of Leven, away, but despite Lamond scoring yet again, Saints went down by 2 goals to 1.

Some 4,000 fans turned up for the next match at the Recreation Grounds against Forfar Athletic, who were just one point and two places above Saints in the League table.

After “The Loons” had taken an early lead Saints equalised in controversial fashion. Newspaper reports record that Scott, the visiting goalkeeper, had done extremely well to save a fierce close range drive from Bennett, but before he could release the ball, both the winger and Lamond had bundled him towards the goal. This resulted in the ball dropping from his grasp and Lamond swiftly applied the finishing touch. Unfortunately, the goalie suffered a cut head in the incident and had to be taken to Perth Infirmary where he had five stitches inserted into a head wound. Accordingly, Forfar played the whole of the second half with only 10 men. Lamond scored again to ensure that both points stayed at home.

“Jock” continued his good scoring form with two goals in a 3 – 0 win over Armadale followed by a further brace in a 3 – 1 home win over Dundee Hibs meaning that Saints were now slowly climbing up the league table.

Although he failed to score and missed a couple of good chances in a 1 – 1 draw with Lochgelly United on 3 January it seems somewhat harsh that he was then left out of the team while more Juniors and Trialists were being played. In a Scottish Cup Replay with King’s Park he again appeared on the left wing, but it was clear that playing wide was not his best position.

After a further period of almost 2 months out the team he was brought back into the starting eleven in April for a match at Station Park, Forfar but failed to score as Saints went down 1 – 0.

The following week he played in a Friendly against First Division team Falkirk and scored the only goal of the match. His final St Johnstone appearance appearance came two days later in another friendly match against a Junior Select.

Saints finished the season in 13th position in the 20 team league, some seven points ahead of Dundee Hibs who were relegated alongwith Clackmannan on 26 points..

Saints managed to score only 41 goals in their 38 League matches with only Clackmannan scoring fewer (40).

During the course of the Season nearly 50 players were used.

John Lamond ended up as top scorer with an impressive record of 10 goals scored from 14 starts. Next was McEvoy with 5 from 23, Jimmy Duff with 4 from 36 and Jock Wyllie 4 from 31.

I cannot find any trace of where Jock Lamond went following his release at the end of the season.

On the financial side the AGM report shows that St Johnstone incurred a loss of £303 that year. Income was £3,160 and expenditure £3,463.

St Johnstone v Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership

St Johnstone’s match with Hibernian at McDiarmid Park tomorrow will be the 55th time that the teams will have met in the various formats of the Scottish Premiership dating back to the first occasion back in season 1975/76.

The following is a summary of the previous encounters: -

P          W          D          L          F            A

4           1            0          3           4             9              Muirton

22           7           9          6          26          21               McDiarmid

28          8           8         12         28          48              Easter Road

54         16         17         21         58          78              Totals

Hibs have won on their last two visits to McDiarmid Park by the odd goal ( 0 – 1 and 1 – 2 ) whilst Saints have done better at Easter Road ( 0 – 0 and 3 – 1 ).

Tomorrow’s game is vitally important for Saints who are presently 4 points ahead of the visitors with a game in hand as both strive to achieve a top six place.

Should Steven Anderson appear tomorrow then it will be his 287th appearance for Saints.

COYS

St Johnstone v Ross County in the Scottish Premiership

When St Johnstone meet Ross County in the Scottish Premiership at McDiarmid Park tomorrow it will be only the 7th time that the teams will have met in the various formats of the competition.

Our Premier League/Premiership record is : -

P6   W2   D2   L2   F9   A6

The first meeting in the top flight was a tousy match at Victoria Park on 22 September 2012 which Saints won by 2 goals to 1. This result ended County’s 40 match unbeaten run in League matches at Victoria Park. Liam Craig had put Saints ahead before Rowan Vine was sent off but a late and rare Frazer Wright goal brought the points back to Perth.

Our record at McDiarmid Park in League matches in both Division 1 and Premier League games is better : -

P15   W5   D9   L1   F22   A14.

The only reverse was a 2 – 0 defeat in March 2005 in what would prove to be the final weeks of John Connolly’s tenure as Saints Manager.

Interestingly, the Saints team that day was: – Craig Samson, Steven Anderson, Ross Forsyth, David Hannah, Kevin Rutkiewiz, Ian Maxwell, David Bagan, Paul Sheerin, Peter MacDonald, Robert Sloan, Willie Dyer. Subs: – Kevin Cuthbert, Chris Hay, Stephen Dobbie, David Cowan, Kieran McAnespie.

When the visitors came to McDiarmid Park in September 2013 Saints won convincingly 4 – 0, with Nigel Hasselbaink and David Wotherspoon scoring in the first half. Goals in the second period from Stevie May and Dave Mackay gave Saints a comfortable win. Indeed, had David Wotherspoon converted a first half penalty the margin would have been even greater.

Lets hope that Saints can continue their good home form and secure all three points in the drive to finish in the top 6 places.

7 March 1885 – St Johnstone 1 Caledonian Railway 0 – First Ever Match

As many of you will know St Johnstone Football Club was formed at a meeting of some of the members of St Johnstone Cricket Club held on 24th February 1885.

Less than two weeks later the First Ever Match was a Friendly game played on the South Inch Perth on 7 March 1885 against Caledonian Railway and resulted in a 1 – 0 win for Saints.

The following are transcripts of the match reports published in the local papers on Monday 9th March 1885.

Perthshire Advertiser

The St Johnstone encountered, for their first match, the Caledonian on the South Inch on Saturday.

The St Johnstone, from the first, pressed their opponents hard, and Gordon had to use his hands frequently to save his goal from disaster. For the St Johnstone team Lorimer and W.Thomson, at back, played a grand game, and Scobie, as centre, worked hard.

Gordon, at goal, for the Caledonian, played well; and McDiarmid, on the right wing, played hard, but he had a tendency to be rather rough.

Victory resulted in favour of the St Johnstone team by 1 goal to nothing.

The Courier

Teams representing these clubs met for the first time on the South Inch on Saturday, and the game resulted in a victory for the St Johnstone by 1 goal, their opponents failing to score.

Today, looking back some 129 years, I suspect that John Colburn, Daniel Scott, David Lambert, William Imrie, A Dunn, G. Robertson and William Thomson, when founding the Club will have had little idea of how great and loved the name of St Johnstone FC would become. From those humble beginnings we now have a club that has moved from the South Inch, to the Recreation Ground, then to Muirton Park and now to the first purpose built football stadium in the country, McDiarmid Park. During the Club’s history we have reached major National Cup Finals, semi-finals, and enjoyed three adventures into Europe competitions as well as many local competitions. We have a lot to thank those founders for, and I wonder what the next 129 years will hold! COYS

St Johnstone v Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup

When St Johnstone meet Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup at Kirkcaldy on Saturday it will be the 6th time that the teams have been paired together in the competition. In the previous 5 encounters Saints have progressed to the next round on 4 occasions and Rovers once.

The first time that the teams met on Scottish Cup business was back in 1936 in the 1st Round when Tommy Muirhead’s team overcame a plucky Rovers side by 4 – 2 at Stark’s Park. On a difficult pitch 3 goals from Jimmy Tennant and a single from Jimmy Caskie saw Saints prevail over their Second Division opponents.

Saints team that day was: – Bob Wylie, Bill Taylor, Willie Clark, Harry Ferguson, Jimmy Littlejohn, Percy Dickie, Jimmy Tennant, Hugh Adam, Jimmy Beattie, Andy McCall, Jimmy Caskie.

As can happen in cup competitions the teams were again drawn against each other the following season, again in the first round at Kirkcaldy. Manager Muirhead had moved on to Preston North End and David Rutherford was now in charge of Saints. A crowd of 5,500 turned up, generating gate receipts of £230, ( how times have changed! ) would see Saints survive an early Rovers onslaught before eventually running out comfortable winners by 5 – 0. Scorers were Tennant (2), Caskie, Beattie and McCall.

Saints team was: – Bob Wylie, Johnny Welsh, Bill Taylor, George Mason, Frank Moulds, Percy Dickie, Jimmy Tennant, ? McLaren, Jimmy Beattie, Andy McCall, Jimmy Caskie.

When the teams next met in 1971 Willie Ormond’s team were going really well in the First Division and were fully expected to progress to the next round. Things seemed to be going according to plan, in the only tie to be played at Muirton Park, when Jim Pearson and Kenny Aird put a dominant Saints 2 – 0 ahead shortly after half time. However Saints became complacent and 2 goals in 2 minutes by Innes and substitute Cooper late in the game earned Raith a replay. A major upset was only avoided when Cooper had another goal cancelled out for offside.

A crowd of 8,438 made their way to Stark’s Park for the replay on a cold January night and saw an inspired Rovers deservedly win a famous victory by 4 goals to 3. To put this in perspective Rovers finished the season in mid table in Division 2 with Saints finishing third in the First division, qualifying for the following season’s UEFA Cup.

Saints team that night was: – Jimmy Donaldson, John Lambie, Jim Argue, Alex Gordon, Alex Rennie, Benny Rooney, Kenny Aird, Henry Hall, Bill McCarry, Ian McPhee, John Connolly. Sub: Gordon Whitelaw. Saints scorers were – Rooney, Connolly and Hall.

The teams were again drawn together at Kirkcaldy in 1992 when goals from Paul Wright and Allan Moore eased Alex Totten’s Saints through to a meeting with Inverness Caledonian in the 4th round.

The team was: – Lindsay Hamilton, Gary McGinnis, Paul Deas, Paul Cherry, John Inglis, John Davies, Allan Moore, Tommy Turner, Vinny Arkins, Harry Curran. Subs: Roddy Grant, Ray Stewart.

The most recent meeting was a 4th Round tie on 15 January 2008 at McDiarmid Park where goals from Andy Jackson, Steven Milne and a Paul Sheerin penalty saw Saints progress into the next round. Graham Weir got a late consolation for Raith Rovers with the game ending  3 – 1.

The team that Tuesday evening was – Alan Main, Gary Irvine, Goran Stanic, Kevin Moon, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Stuart McCaffrey, Peter MacDonald, Liam Craig, Andy Jackson, Steven Milne, Paul Sheerin. Subs;  Kevin Cuthbert, Allan McManus, Steven Anderson, David Weatherston, Dyron Daal.

In the next round Saints would go on to defeat Ross County 1 – 0 and then at the quarter final stage St Mirren 3 – 1 at Paisley in a replay after a 1 – 1 draw at McDiarmid Park. In the semi-final at Hampden Derek McInnes team was most unfortunate to lose 4 – 3 on penalties to Rangers after the match had ended 1 – 1 after extra time.

Let’s hope that this year can be Saints year and that the team can put together a winning run that takes them all the way to the final for the first time in the Club’s history.

St Johnstone Player Profile – Derek Robertson

Goalkeeper Derek Robertson has the distinction of being the first player to be signed by Willie Ormond for St Johnstone after his appointment as Manager in the spring of 1967. Robertson was playing for Petershill Juniors in Glasgow having previously won a Scottish Juvenile cap whilst with Possilpark YMCA. Two weeks after signing for Saints, on Wednesday 26 April 1967, he made his debut in a 3 – 0 win over Ayr United in front of 2,500 fans at Muirton Park.

The Saints team that evening was: – Derek Robertson, George Miller, Willie Coburn, Bill McCarry, Benny Rooney, Ian McPhee, Bruce Munro, Jim Townsend, Tom Wilson, Gordon Whitelaw, Fred Aitken. Sub: Alex MacDonald. Scorers were McPhee and Whitelaw (2).

Little would anyone present that evening have thought that this promising young goalkeeper would go on to spend 13 seasons at Perth during which time he would make 265 first team appearances.

Previously, Jimmy Donaldson had established himself as Saints No 1 and it was not until February 1968 when he was injured that Derek got his opportunity to stake his claim for a permanent place. At that time Saints were experiencing contrasting fortunes. On one hand they were fighting against the prospect of relegation and at the same time they were enjoying a great run in the Scottish Cup. A run that would see them reach the semi-finals and come within a whisker of reaching the final.

Accordingly, it was something of a baptism of fire for the young keeper. In only his third match Saints were on the receiving end of a 6 – 2 hammering at Ibrox with Alex Ferguson scoring four. However, ‘Gers keeper Eric Sorenson was so impressed with his counterpart’s performance that at the end of the match he came all the way down the pitch to shake his hand. A few weeks later Celtic’s Bobby Lennox also scored four as the European Cup holders won 6 – 1 at Muirton. In quite a number of his 18 appearances that season, Derek Robertson received the “star man” award in the Perthshire Advertiser.

As mentioned earlier Saints reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup and met Dunfermline Athletic at Tynecastle in a game Saints should have won. Tom Wilson had put Saints ahead early in the match and Pat Gardner equalised for the “Pars” with the contest ending 1 – 1. ( A match in which Fred Aitken “scored” direct from a corner, but unbelievably neither referee Wharton nor his linesman saw the ball was over the line. A newspaper photo subsequently showed John Lunn clearing the ball from a good yard inside the goal – not that I’m bitter! )

So the teams were back at Tynecastle on the Wednesday night for the replay. Alex MacDonald put Saints ahead in the second half before Bert Paton levelled matters. Dunfermline were later awarded a penalty when Findlay McGillivray brought Ian Lister down in the box. Hugh Robertson took the spot kick and Derek dived to his right to save, and then, when Paton hammered in the rebound, the keeper managed to make another brilliant block. Lister scored 2 minutes from the end of extra time to give the “Pars” a 2 – 1 win. Saints agony was further compounded when Dunfermline went on to defeat Hearts 3 – 1 in the Hampden final to lift the Cup. Oh what might have been!

Thanks to some further “man of the match” performances Saints did manage to avoid the drop and finished in 14th position in the 18 team League table.

Even although Donaldson had recovered from his injury, Derek retained his place as the first choice keeper at the start of the 1968/69 season. In the first match against Hibs at Easter Road in the League Cup he saved a second half penalty as Saints went on to win the game 1 – 0 thanks to an earlier Kenny Aird goal.

Later in the League campaign the “P.A.” reporter in his account of a 2 – 2 draw against Hearts at Tynecastle, when Saints played the whole of the second half with only 10 men, said “ Derek Robertson, who once again proved he is one of the top goalminders in the country with some saves that could only be described as fantastic.”

Big Derek’s displays at that time had attracted the interest of some of the top English clubs and former Saints Manager Bobby Brown, who had taken up the position of Manager of the Scottish International team, selected him for the Under 23 pool to meet England at Roker Park, Sunderland. Unfortunately, that game at the end of February 1969 was postponed due to bad weather and Derek’s opportunity would not return.

After 56 consecutive appearances, disaster struck for the keeper in a midweek fixture with Celtic at Muirton Park, at the start of April, and in front of a reported 16,800 crowd. Saints had raced to a 2 – 0 half time lead thanks to goals from Henry Hall and John Connolly. As expected the visitors raised their game in the second half and despite Derek making brilliant saves from Billy McNeil and Harry Hood, Willie Wallace pulled one back. The disaster came when Tommy Gemmell equalised with a 25 yard shot that the keeper appeared to have covered but somehow the ball eluded him and went in off the post. In the final minute Hood scored to give “the Hoops” a fortunate 3 – 2 win. The following Saturday, Donaldson was back between the posts.

During the next four seasons Jimmy Donaldson played some of the best goalkeeping of his career and Derek Robertson had to be content with mainly reserve team football.

He was an unused substitute in all 6 of the UEFA Cup matches during the 1971/72 season but when Donaldson was injured in December, Derek played in the remaining 19 matches of the season. One of those I suspect he will not wish to remember was a 7 – 1 hammering at Easter  Road by Hibernian in April. The PA headline – “Saints’ problem – a powder puff attack and no defence” The forward line that day was Aird, Rooney, Pearson, Muir and Hall. Powder puff? I ask you! More realistically, Coburn and Argue couldn’t cope with the pace of Duncan and the craft of Edwards. Also Alex Rennie and Alec Gordon in central defence had no answer to the height of Alan Gordon.

Just to prove the old saying “It’s a funny old game” the following Saturday Saints thrashed Kilmarnock 5 – 1 at Muirton Park with Billy McManus and Dave Cochrane replacing Coburn and Gordon. Oh! … and Aird, Pearson and Henry Hall with a hat trick were the scorers. Powder puff? I ask you!

At the start of the 1972/73 season Saints met Newcastle United in a pre season friendly match at Muirton Park. Unfortunately, the game got off to a sensational start with Malcolm Macdonald scoring in just 4 SECONDS, and embarrassing Derek in the process. When Newcastle kicked off Robertson was stretching at the edge of his penalty area. Tudor tapped the ball forward to “Super Mac” who leathered it 50 yards downfield and the ball sailed over the keepers’ head into the unguarded net. Manager Ormond substituted him at half time with Saints 4 – 1 down and the keeper’s confidence clearly affected. Donaldson was back in goal in the midweek and although Willie Ormond was appointed Scotland International team Manager in January 1973, his successor Jackie Stewart stuck with the status quo. Robertson made only 1 appearance that season in a Scottish Cup replay against lowly Stranraer at Muirton Park. An extra time Billy McManus own goal gave the Second Division team a shock 2 – 1 win.

So, during a 4 year period due to Donaldson’s consistency Derek had to be content with mainly reserve team football making only 26 appearances from a possible 202 matches.

Who would want to be a goalkeeper?

1973/74 would see a similar pattern continue with Donaldson being first choice and Robertson covering on occasions of injury. However, this situation would change when sadly “Jimmy” suffered a career ending knee injury against Dumbarton in March. This effectively gave Derek a new start.

The great Saints team of the late 60’s and early 70’s had more or less been replaced and in the remaining games of the season Saints obtained sufficient points to avoid relegation, finishing in 12th position.

Interestingly, in December 1973 in a 5 – 1 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox the attendance was given as just 6,000. Scottish football was clearly in need of a revamp!

A proposal to form a new “Premier League” for 1975/76 season meant that the new season was vitally important as qualification for the proposed new set up would be restricted to the teams finishing in the top ten places at the end of the 1974/75 campaign.

This proved something of a struggle but Saints did manage to qualify on the final day of the Season when they came back from a goal down to defeat Celtic 2 – 1 at Muirton Park in front of 9,000 fans. Jim O’Rourke and Gordon Smith, from the penalty spot, saw Saints finish in 9th position.

Derek Robertson played a massive part in that success and in another quote from the P.A. reporter he wrote. “Derek Robertson never had a mishap and he produced some incredible instinctive saves in the closing half-hour to keep the Celtic forwards at bay.”

Having watched Derek throughout his career I think the word “mishap” is perhaps a well chosen one as not only was he a great shot stopper, but, as with all goalkeepers, he was also prone to the occasional mishap. For example some quotes and headlines from that season, which show both the highs and lows that a keeper can have.

v Airdrie 0 – 1. “Robertson’s only real mistake of the afternoon. The ‘keeper failed to fist away a Wilson corner and the ball dropped right on the toe of Reynolds who had the easiest of tasks to prod it over the line.”

v Rangers 1 – 2 “Derek Robertson had a very good game in goal and produced several top class saves at decisive points in the game”

v Dundee 0 – 4 “Two errors spoil Derek’s superb ‘keeping display”.

v Arbroath 0 – 0 “Goalkeepers put shutters up and points are shared”

 v Dundee SC 0 – 1 “Dundee were gifted a goal in the 30th minute through a Robertson blunder.”

The 1975/76 first Premier League season would turn out to be the worst in the Club’s entire history. Only 3 League games were won all season and with just 21 goals scored in 36 matches by the end of March relegation was inevitable. A 3 – 2 loss in the Scottish Cup to First Division Queen of the South and a 5 – 0 thumping by Hibs finally saw Jackie Stewart resigning and being replaced at the end of April by Jim Storrie.

After a disappointing start to the season in both the Anglo-Scottish Cup and the League Cup, somewhat ironically, Saints won their first Premier League match, against Dundee United 1 – 0 in front of 3,300 spectators 1 – 0 at Muirton, thanks to a John Muir goal in 86 minutes.

Derek Robertson also had the “honour” of saving the first ever penalty kick in the new league set up. It was awarded in only the 6th minute of the match and when United striker Billy Steele shot at goal the keeper dived to his right and the ball struck his trailing heel before being cleared.

The Saints team that afternoon was; Derek Robertson, Gordon Smith, Sandy Smith, Billy Ritchie, Ian Macdonald, Andy Kinnell, John Muir, Jim O’Rourke, Bobby Thomson, Gordon Cramond, Duncan Lambie. Subs Gordon McGregor and Duncan MacLeod.

The keeper missed only 4 games that year and despite the team conceding a total of 79 league goals ( Dave Nicoll losing 9 ), the St Johnstone Supporters Club recognised Derek’s fine contribution to the team by voting him as their Player of the Year.

Financially the club was losing money at an alarming rate and the directors had no option but to sell players and revert to part time football. Gordon Smith ( £80k ) and Ian Macdonald ( £60k ) left for Aston Villa and Carlisle United respectively with Jim O’Rourke joining Motherwell in a player exchange deal. Micky Lawson was the only summer spend at ( £15k)  and when the annual accounts were published later in the year they showed that a loss of £19k had been incurred. This would have been over £50k had the Supporters Club and the Aid Club not contributed greatly to the financial cause.

As others were leaving Derek remained loyal to the club, going part time and securing work with British Rail. Unfortunately season 1976/77 would see Saints downward spiral continue. In the League Cup Derek was in goal when a Saints team fielding 5 teenagers was hammered 9 – 2 at Easter Road. That said the match report says “ Derek Robertson had no chance with any of the nine goals and but for some inspired goalkeeping in the second half Saints could have lost by a lot more.”

Who would want to be a goalkeeper?

In the final few months of a struggling campaign the league position was becoming more and more precarious and manager Jim Storrie brought in new players, Derek O’Connor, Davie Ross, John Brogan and Drew Rutherford in an attempt to stabilise the sinking ship. Thankfully, Saints managed to avoid what would have been successive relegations on the last day of the season with a somewhat surprising 4 – 1 win over Queen of the South at Palmerston. This meant that they leapfrogged both East Fife and Raith Rovers in the table resulting in the Stark’s Park team joining Falkirk in the dreaded drop to Division 2.

Season 1977/78 started well with 3 wins in the first 3 matches and Saints were on top of the First Division albeit only briefly. In the League Cup Rangers were their opponents and following a creditable 3 – 1 defeat at Ibrox the Glasgow team went through to the next round with a 3 – 0 win at Muirton. Derek played well that day and another P.A. quote “ Derek Robertson saved Saints from a heavier defeat.”

Similarly, in a 3 – 0 reverse to Hearts at Tynecastle the P.A. report states. “The big keeper had a series of tremendous saves and had little chance with the three that got through.”

That said, perhaps due to the part time nature of the game, his form began to drop off and in December Andy Geoghegan, the former Aberdeen goalie, was brought in from Ayr United, resulting in Robertson playing second fiddle again. When Geoghegan was injured towards the end of the season Derek saw out the final matches. Saints finished that season in mid table so it appeared progress was being made.

1978/79 would turn out to be his 13th and final season with Saints. Geoghegan was back in goal at the start of the season, but there was a surprise when Jim Storrie resigned after only four matches. This followed a 0 – 0 draw with Berwick Rangers at Muirton, that had seen Saints exit the League Cup 0 – 2 on aggregate.

Caretaker Manager Frank Christie restored Derek to the No 1 position and after a seemingly lengthy period Alex Stuart was appointed Manager in October 1978. A foot injury sustained in an abandoned match at Clydebank in early December kept Derek out for 3 months and although he made a partial recovery his final appearance would come on 14 March 1979 in front of a 1,757 crowd at Muirton Park in a 1 – 0 loss to Clyde.

The team that day was – Derek Robertson, John Weir, Tom McNeil, Lindsay Muir, Gordon Hamilton, Drew Rutherford, John Pelosi, John Brogan, Walker McCall, Johnny Hamilton, Micky Lawson. Subs Andy Brannigan and Billy Thomas.

He was released at the end of the Season.

Derek Robertson proved to be a fine servant to St Johnstone and his total of 265 starts places him in equal 15th position in the all time list of Saints appearances. This total would undoubtedly have been substantially greater particularly between 1969 and 1973 had Jimmy Donaldson not been such a  consistent goalkeeper.

In my view Derek never really fulfilled that early potential and whilst he could make some fantastic saves he always seemed vulnerable with crosses. Outfield players can get away with mistakes, but unfortunately goalkeepers rarely do.

Summary of Derek Robertson’s St Johnstone career

Season          Appearances                        Clean Sheets

1966/67           1                                            1

1967/68         18                                          4

1968/69         38                                          7

1969/70           6                                            1

1970/71           0                                            0

1971/72         19                                          4

1972/73           1                                            0

1973/74         16                                          2

1974/75         40                                          9

1975/76         41                                          3

1976/77         41                                          7

1977/78         25                                          7

1978/79         19                                          4

Totals             265                                         49