Sunday’s televised match at McDiarmid Park, where St Johnstone meet local rivals Dundee, will be Saints 700th match in the Premiership dating back to the inaugural Premier Division season of 1975/76
In the previous 699 games over 19 separate seasons Saints have
Won 211, Drawn 190, Lost 298, whilst scoring 741 goals and conceding 980.
In reviewing these headline stats it is interesting to note that Saints have played more matches against Aberdeen and Motherwell than any other of their Premiership opponents. In fact, of the 70 matches played against each of these opponents, our encounters with the Steelmen have yielded most wins, 28, and most goals scored, 94, than against any other top flight team.
Our “Premier” record over Dundee is much tighter with
14 Won, 13 Drawn, 14 Lost, and 43 goals scored with 48 conceded.
Looking back over particular milestones the very first Premier Division match was played at Muirton Park in front of 3,300 fans on 30 August 1975 and resulted in a 1 – 0 win over Dundee United. In what can best be described as a dour match it was finally settled by a John Muir goal in the 86th minute. However, Saints can also thank Derek Robertson for keeping both points at home as the big goalkeeper had earlier saved a 6th minute Billy Steele penalty kick. The United man fired his shot straight down the middle but the keeper had dived to his right. Fortunately, his trailing leg kept the ball out before being cleared by one of his team mates.
Saints team was: – Robertson; G.Smith, S.Smith; Ritchie, Macdonald, Kinnell; Muir, O’Rourke, Thomson, Cramond, Lambie. Subs: McGregor and MacLeod.
This match proved to be something of a false dawn as Saints managed only 2 further wins and 5 draws during the rest of that miserable season, collecting a record low points total of a mere 11 from the 36 matches played. Unsurprisingly, Manager Jackie Stewart resigned his position in early February 1976 when the writing was already well and truly on the wall.
It would be almost 16 years before the 100th match, which took place on 9 March 1991, this time at Saints new home of McDiarmid Park. A crowd of 5,079 turned up to see a Davie Cooper inspired Motherwell triumph 4 – 1 over Alex Totten’s team. Mark Treanor scored Saints goal from a penalty thus maintaining his 100% record from the spot.
Saints team was: – Hamilton; Treanor, Baltacha; McGinnis, Nicolson, Sweeney; Moore, Turner, Maskrey, Grant, Curran. Subs: Davies (for Nicolson) and Ward (for Grant).
Although Saints had started the 1990/91 season well ( including a memorable 5 – 0 success over Aberdeen at McDiarmid Park ) after the New Year the league results were poor. A run to the Scottish Cup semi-final always maintains interest in a season in which there would be no relegation as another league reconstruction was on its way. Saints finally finished in a comfortable 7th position in their first season back in the top division.
12,000 fans at Pittodrie stadium Aberdeen on 28 August 1993 would witness a 0 – 0 draw in the 200th Premier Division match. As the scoreline suggests, no goals and few thrills, meant John McClelland’s team produced an eighth successive away draw stretching back to the end of the previous season.
Saints team was: – Rhodes; McGowne, Deas; McGinnis, Inglis, Turner; Davies, McAuley, Wright, Ramsey, Curran. Subs: Donegan and Scott, Morgan (for McGowne).
Paul Sturrock replaced McClelland in November 1993 but with three teams going down at the end of the season too many draws would eventually cost Saints their place in the top flight.
By the time the 300th “Premier” game came along on 6 February 1999, the Premier Division had been re-branded as the Scottish Premier League (SPL), with 3 points for a win. Our opponents that day were Dundee United, and just as with that very first match back in 1975, Saints won 1 – 0. A Gary Bollan penalty kept Saints on track for a 3rd place finish and subsequent qualification for the following season’s UEFA Cup.
Saints team was: – Main; McQuillan, Bollan; Griffin, Dods, Kernaghan; Scott, O’Neil, Kane, Grant, Simao. Subs: Robertson, McMahon (for Grant), Lowndes (for Simao), McBride, McAnespie.
Sandy Clark was now Manager and we saw some really exciting and enjoyable matches including a 5 – 0 thrashing of Motherwell in the SPL. Furthermore, there was the added extra of a run to the final of the League Cup. Unfortunately, Rangers would lift the trophy with a 2 – 1 win.
It is perhaps fitting that Dundee should be our visitors today for this landmark game, as the final match of that 1998/99 season also saw our near neighbours visit Perth for what was a thrilling finale. A record crowd of 10,575 rolled up to McDiarmid Park on the last day of the season. Saints had to win and a close match had two unforgettable moments. The first was an Alan Main save from a James Grady header which really was from the “top drawer”. Then minutes later Paul Kane’s header found the corner of the Dark Blues’ net and the stadium exploded in a cacophony of noise as Saints fans celebrated a 1 – 0 win.
Game 400 involved a trip to Rugby Park, Kilmarnock on 10 November 2001 before 6,008 spectators. Billy Stark had replaced Sandy Clark in the Manager’s seat and this match will best be remembered as the one that brought to an end a run of 17 games without a win. Willie Falconer headed home a Paul Hartley cross to bring the 3 points back to Perth but relegation was once more the final outcome.
Saints team was: – Miller; Murray, Lovenkrands; Dasovic, Dods, Kemble; Lynch, Hartley, MacDonald, Connolly, Falconer. Subs: Cuthbert, Russell (for Connolly), Jones (for MacDonald ), McBride (for Jones), McClune.
It would be nearly 10 years before the 500th milestone was reached on 14 May 2011. This was a 0 – 0 draw on the final day of the 2010/11 season at Paisley against St Mirren. For the second season running Derek McInnes had seen his team outperform expectations to consolidate themselves in a mid table place in the top division. The only feature in a typical goalless draw at that time of the season was that it marked the final match for two of Saints favourites – Peter MacDonald and Michael Duberry.
Saints team was: – Enckelman: Mackay, Anderson, Adams, Duberry, Davidson, Millar, Craig, Jackson, MacDonald, May. Subs: Smith, Grainger (for May), Reynolds (for MacDonald), Samuel (for Adams),Durnan, Caddis, McIntosh.
The 16 February 2014 at Celtic Park was the date and venue for the 600th (now) Premiership match in front of 45,239 spectators.
Saints team was: – Mannus: Mackay, B.Easton; Millar, Scobbie, Anderson; Croft, McDonald, Wotherspoon, May, Dunne. Subs Banks, Iwelumo, Cregg (for Dunne), Brown, Miller, Hasselbaink (for Millar), O’Halloran (for Croft).
Our hosts ran out comfortable 3 – 0 winners but our return to that venue on 17 May 2014 will forever go down as the greatest day in Saints history with the Scottish Cup coming to Perth for the first time ever.
In reviewing the player stats in the top division, given the consistency shown over the past 8 seasons, then it comes as no real surprise that Dave Mackay has made the most “Premier” appearances with a total of 223 matches (no subs). Chris Millar is next with 208 (193+15) and Murray Davidson is just one behind on 207 (190+17). Should Steven Anderson appear today, then it will be his 200th (189+10) “Premier” game and his 381st Saints appearance in all competitions.
With 39 goals Paul Wright has scored more “Premier” goals than any other Saints player but Liam Craig with 34 and Steven MacLean on 32 are both closing in on that record.
Let’s hope that Sunday’s match is more memorable than some of the 600 that have gone before.