Some Of The Times St Johnstone Played 3 Games in 4 days

The New Year period has always been a popular time for fans to watch football matches. Much is made in the modern game of the pressure on players playing 2 matches in 3 days. So spare a thought for some of the Saints players in the past.

Looking back to the 1960’s it was quite common to play 3 games in 4 days!

During the 1963/64 season St Johnstone met Dundee United in the traditional derby day match on Wednesday 1st January 1964 at Muirton Park. A thrilling match ended all square, at 2 – 2, with goals from Alastair McIntyre and Alex Ferguson. The team that day was: – Harry Fallon, Charlie McFadyen, Jim Richmond, Jim Townsend, Ron McKinven, Bill McCarry, John Flanagan, Bobby Craig, Alastair McIntyre, Alex Ferguson and Bobby Kemp. ( No subs in those days ). 10,000 fans turned up.

The following day it was off to Aberdeen to meet the Dons at Pittodrie in front of 12,000 supporters. Saints fielded 9 of the 11 players who started the previous game with the inside men, Craig and Ferguson, being replaced by Mike Jackson and Jimmy Harrower. A John Flanagan strike was enough to bring both points back to Perth.

The players ( and supporters wallets ) were given the Friday off and it was back to business on Saturday 3 January 1964 when Motherwell were the visitors to Muirton Park in front of 7,600 fans. There was only one change to the team from Thursday with Alex Ferguson coming back in to replace Mike Jackson. A Jim Richmond penalty put Saints ahead but “The Steelmen” equalised in the final minute to earn a 1 – 1 draw.

In 1966/67 a similar scenario unfolded. This time it started with St Mirren coming to Muirton Park on Saturday 31 December 1966. A crowd of 3,900 watched as Saints won that match 3 – 0 with Gordon Whitelaw scoring 2 goals and John Kilgannon grabbing the other. Saints team was: – Jimmy Donaldson, Bill McCarry, Bobby Smith, Jim Townsend, Benny Rooney, Ian McPhee, Eddie O’Donnell, Gordon Whitelaw, John Kilgannon, Alex Macdonald, Drew Johnston. Sub: Drew Michie.

It was Sunday off and then off to Tannadice on Monday 2 January 1967 to renew the rivalry with the “The Terrors”.  Manager Brown fielded the exact same eleven as in the previous match. A tight match saw Dundee United win 1 – 0.

No time to dwell on any perceived misfortunes as the following day Aberdeen were the visitors to Perth. There were only two changes made to the starting line up with Willie Coburn coming in for Smith at left back and Billy Clark replacing O’Donnell on the right wing. Willie Renton was listed as sub.

Gordon Whitelaw was in a rich vein of goal scoring form around this period and it was his 37th minute shot that proved to be the only goal. This was his 6th goal in 4 matches.

The final piece for this particular item gives me the opportunity to reminisce over the beginning of a wonderful chapter in the history of St Johnstone. This was in the 1968/69 season when Willie Ormond was moulding together his legendry team. The little maestro, Henry Hall, had joined in November and was  beginning to make a positive impact on the team.

Although the 3 games in 4 days sequence started with a 4 – 2 loss to Dundee United on Wednesday 1st January, it really was a fantastic match on a very heavy Tannadice pitch. Saints were 2 – 0 down at half time and when United went 3 – 0 ahead immediately following the restart you might have thought it was game over. However, goals from Gordon Whitelaw and Henry Hall got Saints right back into it. As Saints piled on the pressure to get a merited equaliser they were hit by a sickner when Kenny Cameron headed the home team into the lead.

The team that day was; – Derek Robertson, George Miller, Willie Coburn, Alex Gordon, Benny Rooney, Alex Rennie, Kenny Aird, Bill McCarry, Gordon Whitelaw, Henry Hall, Fred Aitken. Sub; Ian McPhee.

When Aberdeen came to Muirton the next day ( Thursday ), the Manager kept faith in the team from the previous day with only Ian McPhee replacing the injured Kenny Aird and a young John Connolly appearing on the substitutes bench.

His confidence was rewarded when Fred Aitken put Saints ahead in 6 minutes. Whilst Martin Buchan equalised for the Don’s a little bit later it was Henry Hall, at his brilliant best with 2 goals, giving Saints a 3 – 1 victory.

Then it was Dundee at Muirton ( pity the groundsman ) on Saturday 4th January 1969. Kenny Aird had recovered from his injury and replaced Ian McPhee who reverted to the subs bench.

Saints again won 3 – 1 with man of the match Henry Hall, Kenny Aird and Gordon Whitelaw scoring. A last minute Dundee goal was an unjust reflection of the match. Saints should have won by 6 or 7 as they totally outplayed the visitors.

From this New Year period until the end of the Season, Saints Won 14 Drew 3 and Lost 5 games in all competitions. They scored 50 goals conceding 34 and soared up the League to finish 6th in the First Division.

Whilst by no means advocating a return to 3 games in 4 days it just shows the stamina and fitness levels that these players attained.

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St Johnstone – Hat Trick Heroes

Following the three goals scored by Stevie May for St Johnstone today in the 3 – 0 win over Dundee United at McDiarmid Park, I have been going through my records to find other hat trick heroes in recent times.

Stevie May and Peter MacDonald are the only two Saints players to have scored a hat trick of goals in the various formats of the Scottish Premiership ( SPL etc ) dating back to reconstruction in 1975.

Peaso hit three in a 3 – 1 win over Motherwell at Fir Park on Boxing Day 2009.

Prior to that Jason Scotland scored three against Partick Thistle in a 5 – 1 win at Firhill on 9 September 2006.

Jason Scotland was also the last Saints player to score a hat trick at McDiarmid Park. This in a 3 – 2 win over Stranraer in a Division 1 match on 1 April 2006.

Chris Millar – 200th St Johnstone Appearance Coming Up

Should Chris Millar feature for St Johnstone against Celtic in the Boxing Day Premiership match at McDiarmid Park, then it will be his 200th appearance for the club.

This will make him only the 40th player in the Club’s 129 years history to achieve such a milestone.

Chris started his career at Celtic but did not make any first team appearances and moved to Morton in 2003. At Cappielow he made 197 starts plus 10 sub appearances and scored 32 goals before Saints Manager Derek McInnes brought him to Perth in May 2008. Since then he has been the model of consistency in the St Johnstone midfield.

He made his debut for Saints in a Challenge Cup match at Dingwall where Saints lost 2 – 1 to Ross County. The Saints team that day was: – Euan McLean, Gary Irvine, Steven Anderson, Chris Millar, Kevin Rutkiewicz, Stuart McCaffrey, Liam Craig, Martin Hardie, Derek Holmes, Steven Milne, Paul Sheerin. Subs: – Collin Samuel ( who scored Saints goal ) Peter MacDonald, Andy Jackson, Gavin Swankie, Greg Kelly.

His St Johnstone stats in all competitions are as follows: –

Start     Sub   Goals

2008/09        Div 1             34         4        1

2009/10         SPL              37         4        4

2010/11          SPL              34         3        2

2011/12          SPL              28         5        0

2012/13          SPL              29        1         0

2013/14          SPFL            17        3        0

Totals                                179       20        7

Included in his achievements at Perth are a First Division Championship winner, a League Cup semi final appearance against Rangers in 2010, and has appeared in 4 of Saints 6 Europa League matches over the past two seasons.

Whilst goals are somewhat rare, one that does stick in the memory was the Saints second when Rangers were thrashed 4 – 1 at McDiarmid Park in March 2010. Receiving the ball from Liam Craig, “Midge” unleashed a 25 yarder which flew past Allan McGregor into the corner of the net ( with the aid of a slight deflection off David Weir ).

In one of the strange quirks that football can sometimes throw up it is ironic that his 200th appearance could come on Thursday against his first senior club.

If he should then he will join an elite group of players which includes the likes of Steven Anderson on 271, Paul Sheerin on 231 and Liam Craig on 224. The two nearest are Sammy Johnston and Steve Maskrey who both featured 201 times in a Saints jersey.

Good luck Chris.

21 December 1963 – Rangers 2 St Johnstone 3 – Alex Ferguson Hat Trick Sinks ‘Gers

This day 50 years ago is one of the most memorable in the history of St Johnstone and supporters of that vintage will recollect with both pride and satisfaction the day that Alex Ferguson ( now Sir Alex Ferguson ) scored a hat trick at Ibrox.

In setting the scene of the time Rangers were without question the dominant force in Scottish football. In the previous season (1962/63) they had won the First Division at a canter finishing nine points ahead of second placed Kilmarnock. They had also lifted the Scottish Cup defeating Celtic 3 – 0 in a replay after the first match had ended all square at one goal each. Although defeated by the great Real Madrid team in the European Cup, they were by no means disgraced, and were still packed full of Scottish International players.

On the other hand Saints had been promoted as Second Division Champions and after a reasonably good start in the higher division, results during November and December were not good. Prior to this match Saints had lost seven of their previous eight games scoring only 9 goals in the process. A 2 – 1 win over St Mirren being the only success. As a consequence Saints were sitting  sixth from the bottom of the league table on just 12 points from 16 games played.

Manager Bobby Brown was looking to bring in a goalscoring forward and had been trying different permutations in his team selections in an attempt to find a winning formula. In one of football’s strange twists Alex Ferguson might have joined Raith Rovers in October but had suffered a broken nose and a fractured bone above his eye in a reserve team match at Airdrie. Whilst John Bell did go to Kirkcaldy the Manager had a change of mind when Ferguson recovered fitness keeping him at Muirton as he felt that, without further additions, he might need forward cover in the winter months.

Against this backdrop, a crowd of 14,000 turned up to watch the following teams.

Rangers: – Ritchie, Shearer, Provan, Greig, McKinnon, Wood, Henderson, McMillan, Millar, McLean, Brand.

Saints: – Harry Fallon, Charlie McFadyen, Jim Richmond, Jim Townsend, Ron McKinven, Bill McCarry, John Flanagan, Bobby Craig, Alastair McIntyre, Alex Ferguson, Bobby Kemp.

Although very much the underdogs Saints started well and Ritchie had to dive bravely at McIntyre’s feet to prevent him causing an early sensation.

Thereafter the first half was very much a backs to the wall affair with Fallon, McKinven and McCarry proving a difficult barrier to break through. Despite their valiant efforts Rangers made the breakthrough in 38 minutes when Brand opened the scoring latching on to a McLean through ball before lobbing over Fallon’s head. 0 – 1 .

The home fans must have thought they were in for a goal feast but just before half time Saints gave them a reminder of what they were capable of. Bobby Kemp raced down the left wing and crossed into the goalmouth where “Fergie” just failed to get on the end of it. The ball did run through to Flanagan who fired in a terrific shot which Ritchie just managed to fist over the bar.

With the second half less than 10 minutes old Ferguson scored his first goal. Craig had tried to barge his way onto a McIntyre pass but the ball broke to the Saints striker and he did not hesitate in firing the ball into the roof of the net. 1 – 1.

Minutes later he very nearly added number two but shot over the bar following a nice one-two with Kemp.

The second goal came just before the hour mark and the ace poacher was on hand to knock the ball home after Ritchie had failed to hold a fierce Kemp 25-yarder. 2 – 1 and could an upset be on the cards?

Rangers were now becoming rattled but got a big slice of luck when the referee awarded a penalty when McCarry was harshly adjudged to have handled in the box. Despite Saints players protests that “Buck” had chested the ball, and the referee consulting his linesman, he did not change his mind. Provan made no mistake with the spot kick. 2 – 2.

Many teams would have crumbled in such circumstances but not this Saints team. They showed tremendous character and continued to take the game to their more illustrious opponents. Their reward came in the 78th minute when Ferguson got his hat trick shooting home to make it 3 – 2 and game over.

In the proverbial game of two halves this was a fantastic team performance with Saints clearly being the better team in the second period. The icing on the cake, of course, was Alex Ferguson’s 3 goals in a never to be forgotten achievement.

This was only the second time Saints had defeated Rangers at Ibrox. The previous occasion was in 1926 when a Jimmy Munro goal had given Saints a 1 – 0 win.

Sir Alex later achievements both as a player and a manager have been very fully documented elsewhere. Suffice to say that he joined St Johnstone in 1960 from Queen’s Park and went on to score 22 goals in 45 appearances. In the summer of 1964 he was transferred to Dunfermline Athletic ( where he scored a barrowload of goals )  with Dan McLindon coming to Perth. Not one of Manager Brown’s better transfer deals.

St Johnstone History – Did You Know?

Some followers may not have seen a short series of articles I did for the Saints programme a couple of years back. Here is the first of these which I hope proves of interest.

1 )       Nick Dasovic is Saints most capped player winning 26 of his 63 Canadian caps whilst playing for Saints.

2 )       Allan Moore scored the first hat trick at McDiarmid Park in Saints 3 – 1 win over Forfar Athletic in 1989.

3 )       In Season 1970/71 Saints defeated Rangers both home and away in the old League Division 1. Alex Rennie and John Connolly scored in a 2 – 1 win at Muirton with Henry Hall and Connolly scoring in the 2 – 0 success at Ibrox

4 )       Manager Bobby Brown signed Alex MacDonald in 1965 in a Glasgow fish and chip shop to beat Newcastle United to his signature. Alex joined Rangers in 1968 for a then record £50,000 fee.

5 )       Saints first ever Scottish League match on 19 August 1911 resulted in a 4 – 1 win over Arthurlie at the Recreation Grounds.

6 )       Roddy Grant’s goal in 21 seconds against Celtic in a 3 – 2 win in May 1991 is the fastest goal scored by a Saints player at McDiarmid Park.

7 )       The £1.75m transfer fee received from Blackburn Rovers for Callum Davidson in 1998 is a Saints record. The previous record being £750,000 received from Aberdeen in 1994 for Billy Dodds.

8 )       Goalkeeper Alan Main kept 122 clean sheets during his record 361 appearances for Saints in all competitions.

9 )       Willie Imrie is the only St Johnstone player to have scored for Scotland in a full international. His single goal came in the 87th minute of his second appearance for his country in a friendly match against Germany in Berlin 1929. The game ended 1 – 1.

10 )     In a League Cup match against Falkirk at Muirton in September 1960 Saints were 6 – 0 ahead at half time. The game finally ended 7 – 1 with Ian Gardiner scoring 4 goals.

19 December 1992 – Rangers 2 St Johnstone 0 – John McClelland’s First Match as Manager

On this day in 1992 St Johnstone travelled to Glasgow to meet Rangers at Ibrox in a Premier League match.

Following the sacking of Manager Alex Totten earlier in the week, Geoff Brown was quick to promote John McClelland from his role as player-coach role to the position ( initially ) of Caretaker Manager and soon thereafter to Manager.

As a player McClelland had an impressive c.v. A solid defender, he had represented his country Northern Ireland at Full International level winning 53 caps and scoring 1 goal.

During the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain he appeared in all three of the group stage matches including the famous Irish victory over the host nation. Many readers will remember that Gerry Armstrong scored the only goal in that game in Valencia to give the Irish a most unlikely 1 – 0 win. Pat Jennings had an inspired display in goal that night, and despite being reduced to ten men when Mal Donaghy was sent off, McClelland played a key role in marshaling the defence to secure an unforgettable victory. It was no disgrace to lose 4 – 1 to France in the quarter finals.

After a few games with Irish and Welsh clubs his playing career had effectively started at lowly Mansfield Town where he made over 100 appearances. In 1981 he joined Rangers for a fee reported of £90,000. Whilst at Ibrox he won two League Cup medals and appeared in European competitions. In 1984 he was transferred to Watford for £225,000 and after 5 years at Vicarage Road he joined Leeds United in 1989. He was part of Howard Wilkinson’s squad that won the First Division title during the 1991/92 Season.

In the summer of 1992 Alex Totten brought him to Perth and as a player he made 33 appearances plus 1 substitute.

In his first game in charge he could not have had a tougher baptism – his old team – Champions Rangers at Ibrox. He selected the following Saints team: – Andy Rhodes, Kevin McGowne, Paul Deas, Sergei Baltacha, John Inglis, Sean McAuley, Harry Curran, Tommy Turner, Paul Wright,  Vinny Arkins, John Davies. Subs: – Steve Maskrey and Philip Scott.

The match was not one to get excited about. The fact that Andy Rhodes was by far Saints star man speaks volumes as Saints defended gallantly with a backs to the wall strategy. This worked until the 56th minute when Richard Gough scored with a header. Saints never really looked like getting an equaliser so when full back David Robertson scored the ‘Gers second with only 2 minutes remaining it was game over.

John McClelland’s first Managerial role was not a particularly successful one with his St Johnstone record showing – P45 W11 D19 L15 F47 A58 giving a win ratio of just 24%.

16 December 1964 – St Johnstone 3 West Ham United 4 – Official Opening of Muirton Park Floodlights

On this day in 1964 St Johnstone officially opened their new floodlighting system with West Ham United, the 1964 FA Cup Winners, providing the opposition for this friendly encounter.

To set the background, after their promotion to the First Division in 1960 Saints were the only higher level team that did not have floodlights. Accordingly, during the winter months kick off times were brought forward to 2.15pm and even then there was no guarantee that the match would finish in daylight. Money remained tight with Manager Bobby Brown needing funds to strengthen and improve the team. A floodlight system was installed during 1962 but the SFA adjudged that these lights were not suitable for competitive games and therefore could only be used for training purposes. The St Johnstone Aid Fund and Supporters Club embarked on various fund raising initiatives. However successful these were there was a limit to what they could achieve and, what really made the lights come on, was the transfer of Jim Townsend to Middlesbrough for a then record fee of £20,000 in February 1964. Townsend was a youth internationalist who had been spotted in 1962 by the Manager and quickly signed from Port Glasgow Juniors.

In July 1964 local Electrical Contractors James Scott & Co were awarded the contract and the lights were first used in a League match against Hearts on 28 November 1964 and again for the match with Dunfermline Ath on 12 December 1964. For the record Saints lost both games 0 – 3 and 1 – 3 respectively.

West Ham United were an established First Division team famous for the way they played the game and under Manager Ron Greenwood had developed a conveyor belt of high quality young players including Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters.

Saints team that evening was: – Mike McVittie, Charlie McFadyen, Willie Coburn, Bill McCarry, Ron McKinven, Willie Renton, John Flanagan, Neil Duffy, Jackie Coburn, Jim Kerray, Felix McGrogan. Subs: – Jim Richmond, Gordon Whitelaw.

Unfortunately, Bobby Moore was injured and had to watch the game from the stand. So West Ham United lined up: – Standen, Bond, Burkett, Bovington, Brown, Peters, Brabrook, Boyce, Byrne, Hurst, Sissons.

Despite rain, sleet and snow making playing conditions extremely difficult some 4,900 fans still turned up to watch what turned out to be a highly entertaining match.

Saints players wore a new all-white tracksuit for the pre-match ceremonies with the Chairman Mr. A.M.Lamond officially opening the floodlighting system.

The match got underway in torrential rain and it was the visitors who created the first couple of chances. Brabrook shooting over the bar before Byrne fired straight at McVittie.

Saints hit back and the “Hammers” keeper made a great finger tip save from a McGrogan 20 yarder, turning his fierce shot over the bar. Renton and McFadyen in turn had attempts saved by the custodian.

Then in 22 minutes England Internationalist, Johnny Byrne, put the visitors ahead. Receiving a pass from Sissons, he dribbled around a couple of Saints defenders before firing a low shot into the net from 10 yards range. 0 – 1.

Saints tried hard to get back on level terms and Kerray saw his shot saved by Standen. Then Saints best chance when Duffy saw his close range effort beat the goalie only for John Bond to clear the ball off the goal line.

Stung by this West Ham immediately went down the other end and Byrne put them 2 – 0 ahead when he had the simple task of side footing a Hurst pass into the net with 27 minutes on the clock.

Ten minutes later and it was that man Byrne again. Sissons was again the provider racing down the wing before supplying the perfect ball for the striker to register his hat trick. 0 – 3.

As the game flowed from end to end there were chances created but not taken before the referee blew his whistle for half time.

After the break Richmond and Whitelaw replaced McKinven and J.Coburn with McCarry moving to centre half and Richmond filling the right half position.

In the early stages of the second half Saints piled on the pressure but despite some close calls the visitors defence stood firm. Saints defenders had to be alert to the Hammers fast breaks.

Then in 63 minutes Saints pulled one back when Richmond fired a cannonball of a shot into the top corner of the net from 20 yards. 1 – 3.

This merely spurred the Londoners into scoring a fourth on 78 minutes. A really fine passing move involving Peters and Byrne ended with Hurst slotting the ball home to make it 1 – 4.

Many a team would have given up at this stage but not Saints who showed tremendous character and virtually straight from the restart Willie Renton scored with a shot from a tight angle which went in off the post. 2 – 4.

Two minutes from full time Jim Kerray scored to cap an excellent comeback. 3 – 4.

There is no question that West Ham were the better side on the night but every Saints player can be proud of their performance in dreadful conditions.

The Perthshire Advertiser report states “ West Ham turned on some beautiful exhibition football which gained the whole-hearted appreciation of the crowd. Their display will be a talking point around Perth for a while to come.”

For me as a young Saints fan ( and a lover of good football ) it was a treat to watch such an exhibition of fine passing play from a quality team.

At the end of that 1964/65 season West Ham United won the European Cup Winners Cup, defeating TSV 1860 Munich 2 – 0 in the Final at Wembley.

In 1966 Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst ( alongwith  Bobby Moore ) would make highly influential contributions as England won the World Cup ( with the assistance of a Russian linesman!). This however should not detract from the undoubted talents that these players displayed at Muirton Park 49 years ago today.