Although technically it is down to alphabetical order it is quite apt that my last Championship report card is also the easiest and probably the most positive. It is safe to say that if you are a Buddie then life is quite good at the moment and the last 12 months have been some of the best in recent memory. They also have, at the moment, one of the best young managers in country leading their charge back to the Premiership. Things are on the up regardless of whether they win the title this year or not (I am a Dundee United fan so have to remain optimistic). The free scoring Saints have provided this league with the best performances and best individual players we have seen this season so it is looking more and more likely that they have enough to get them over the finishing line.
The form guide has been full of green this year as only 4 defeats and 3 draws have meant an impressive points haul of 38 in the first half of the campaign. This averages out at 19 points per quarter (with 17 being the enough to win the Championship over the past few seasons). Two big wins over Dundee United in Paisley also show that when they need a result, more often than not they get one. I must say I have always been thoroughly impressed with the way Jack Ross sets out his team and the manner in which his side wins matches. They have great attacking flair but they are also streetwise enough that gradually as the season has gone on they have been able to grind out important results. The fact that they have so many different goal scorers in the team also shows just how potent St.Mirren are when they are on their game.
The amazing thing about how well St.Mirren are doing is that if I was to write a mid-term report for last season we would be talking about potential League One football. The Buddies didn’t win any of their first 14 games last year and they already have more points now than they ended up with in the whole of last term. Despite losing Stevie Mallan in the summer the team have been strengthened with some very smart signings, including top goalscorer Gavin Reilly and the permanent signing of Cammy Smith. From an outsiders point of view the, still fairly fresh, board seem to have all the right ideas and could be seen as the envy of some other clubs (remember, I am a Dundee United fan). The supporters and the club all seem to working for the same goal and even if they did not gain promotion this year things are looking incredibly bright. I suppose one challenge that may face the club in the near future is life after Jack Ross and making sure that the next managerial appointment is as positive.
One final point I want to make regards St.Mirren’s stance on Project Brave. I have always kept an eye on them because of the investment in youth development. They have probably been one of the more consistent producers of young talent in the country over the past 6 or 7 years so I was interested to hear why they hadn’t applied for ‘Elite’ status. It stems from the additional costs required to reach ‘Elite’ and the club felt that hiring more staff will happen but at the moment things are working well and within budget. Another sensible move by the board.
January Wishlist – There is no real desperate need to sign anyone in January. St.Mirren’s squad is already very strong and contains a plethora of attackers. I have seen a few suggestions that an enforcer type midfielder might be useful for additional strength in the middle and to maybe help see out games but to be honest as long as everyone is fit there is no need to add more than 1 or 2 and even then it would be mostly for cover.
Player of the Season (so far) – Take your pick. In any other season people like Stephen McGinn or Gavin Reilly would be up there but you can’t really look past one of the best young prospects in the country for this. Lewis Morgan has been simply outstanding this year and he has been rewarded with a move to Celtic. The decision regarding his loan back to the Saints for the remainder of the season is a fantastic piece of business that will benefit both Morgan and St.MIrren.
Predicted Finish – 2nd. Just to clarify the prediction of 2nd is more hope than anything else due to my own allegiances. I must admit as the weeks go by it is looking more and more likely that St.Mirren might end up as title winners in May. Before the festive period it looked like Dundee United were in the driving seat however the Buddies have gone on to notch some impressive results and now have a clear advantage over Csaba Laszlo’s side. There may well be a sticky spell ahead but the only reason I say that is down to pure chance given most teams go through 3 or 4 games a season when things slow down. I can but hope…
Manager Grade – A. Is Jack Ross the best young manager in Scotland? He is probably close. Almost everything you hear about him is positive. The players praise his man management, his coaches praise his training sessions and it helps that as a person he is very engaging, intelligent and willing to help others. The big worry for any St.Mirren fan is actually someone else losing their job because Ross will be mentioned anytime there is a vacancy. There would have been a few nervy fans watching on as Hearts were looking for a new manager earlier in the season and again when the Derek McInnes saga was rumbling on. I have even seen a few mentions of a possibility of him being on the Stoke City shortlist. One thing is for sure, if he wins the league and then moves on then there will not be a single fan with anything but positivity towards Jack Ross.
Overall Grade – A. I am of course delighted as a United fan to say that things are wonderful in Paisley. In all seriousness though there is a slight feeling of jealousy as, at the moment, things seem to be sitting very nicely both on and off the pitch for St.Mirren. They seem to be heading for the Championship title and they have given themselves a little bit of breathing space over the coming weeks. A couple of freak results may derail things but to be honest there is a big part of me that thinks it is now St.Mirren’s title to lose. It is a great time to be a Buddie.