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%.