Review of last season – It isn’t very often that a club can claim to have had a season in which they made history but that is exactly what happened with St.Johnstone last year. The season started with former assistant manager Tommy Wright taking charge of the side as the replacement to Steve Lomas. Wright was thrown into the deep end with a European tie against Rosenborg but he managed to secure a historic victory against the Norwegians away from home. In the league Wright turned St.Johnstone into a highly effective team, that were difficult to beat and difficult to score against. This solidity coupled with the goal scoring of Stevie May meant St.Johnstone finished 6th and in the top half of the table for the third season in a row. However ask any Saints fan about last season and every single one of them will not talk about the performances in the league or in Europe. Instead they will talk about Parkhead on the 17th of May and St.Johnstone winning the Scottish Cup for the first time in their history, beating Dundee United 2-0. It was a magnificent achievement for the club and a day that will live long in the memory for the St.Johnstone supporters that have been waiting their whole life to see the Saints win the cup.
Players in – None
Players out – Nigel Hasselbaink (Free), Paddy Cregg (Free), Tim Clancy (Free), Chris Iwelumo (Chester), Scott Gray (Airdrieonians), Andrew Steeves (Forfar Athletic), James Dunne (End of Loan)
What they still need – This is an awkward thing to address. The squad itself still needs a few additions, an experienced defender, a ball winning box-to-box type midfielder and another striker to offer competition to Stevie May and Steven MacLean. However whether or not they will actually get any of these players is another issue. There has been some controversy recently surrounding Tommy Wright’s playing budget for this year and for the time being the chairman Steve Brown has pretty much declared that signings will not be happening until they are in a situation in which they are needed.
Expectations this season – The Scottish Cup victory was such a high for the club that it almost overshadows everything that has been going on at St.Johnstone recently but the new season starts shortly so now it is time to look forward. Saints fans will be concerned about their incredibly tight squad so they will be looking forward to seeing some of their younger prospects and hoping they can make the step up. The club has also now set the standard for themselves in terms of league placings so another top six finish will be a target for the team.
Key player – This is a pretty obvious one. Despite almost daily stories linking him with a move away from McDiarmid Park Stevie May is happy and settled at St.Johnstone. Last season May scored 20 league goals and 27 in all competitions. He is a wonderfully gifted forward that has transformed himself both physically and mentally in the last couple of seasons. He is now very physically strong and he uses his power to great effect. His finishing is superb and he has a natural eye for goal. It is unfortunate that there is every chance he may leave St.Johnstone at some point in the near future, but for the time being the fans and the club will be relying on him to net the majority of their goals.
Young player to look out for – With the announcements regarding the lack of summer signings this will be an important year for a few of St.Johnstone’s younger players. Many of them will see this as their golden opportunity to land a first team spot and show what they can do. Young striker Chris Kane for example is a very talented forward who has loan experience behind him and will look to challenge May and MacLean. The prospect that many Saints fans are most excited about however is midfielder Scott Brown. He is the type of hard working, dynamic midfielder that St.Johnstone need and he can make a first team spot his own this year if he gets a run in the side.
Opinion on St.Johnstone – There are both positives and negatives to the current situation at St.Johnstone. It is true that they have a tight squad and that they might not cope well if injuries and suspensions strike. The chairman is taking a gamble in hoping that the squad is ready for the new season despite no new faces. Keeping the same squad together (whilst losing a few) might seem a bit of a risk but this is still the same side that won the cup. It is the same side that had a very good league campaign and it is the same side that caused so many teams problems last year. Yes it is a gamble, but actually there is something to be said for having a bit of consistency in your squad. Surely the aim for every manager is to build a team and then keep that group together? It is good to have a few new faces every new season but those new faces don’t have to come from elsewhere, they can be a collection of young players graduating to the first team. As long as St.Johnstone can keep May and as long as they have a bit of luck regarding injuries and suspensions then the Perth side can perform well again this year.
Prediction for this season – 5th