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Saints must look to the future

Chick Young | 20:09 UK time, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

So St Mirren Park it is. The new digs have been christened but to be honest I couldn't have cared whether the place was called Hame'lldaeme.

The First Minister will be asked to do the honours on 31 January by which time the flitting of Saints from Love Street a half mile or so round the corner will be done and dusted. The removal lorries are already revving up for action.

There will be tears of course. Saints fans, directors and maybe even one or two of the players will be greetin' at the emotion of it all on the final day, when Motherwell come to call on 3 January and the last man out the door switches the lights off. For good.

But when Alex Salmond unveils a wee plaque inside the main entrance at Greenhill Road shortly before kick-off time in the Kilmarnock game at the end of next month, Saints will be, irrevocably, well into the first days of the rest of their lives. And there can be no looking back.

Not even for a sneaky wee glance over the shoulder.

Love Street, home of St Mirren...but not for long

I had a the guided tour of the new dream home this week, with the full talk from chairman Stewart Gilmour.

It was a bit like when your dear old mum gives you a birthday present and you are hoping and praying that you really, really like it, but fearing deep down that it will be something as useful as a chocolate teapot.

But suddenly, just this once, she gets it right and you scream with genuine delight.

The new ground was never going to be a work of architectural joy, with an entrance like the Arc de Triomphe and a boardroom ceiling like the Sistine Chapel. But neither does it look like it came out of a flat-pack. It's practical, new and shiny. And, most of all, it's paid for.

All of which puts St Mirren in a rosy cheeked, healthier state than just about every other club in the land.

It was a sunny day when I first set my eyes on the place, always an enhancer. But it massaged my eyes.

The pitch is huge, three yards wider and six longer than Love Street and because the stands are lower it seems more expansive still. Land rolling on forever, like the Kansas Prairies have come to Ferguslie Park.

OK, maybe I have taken this too far, but then cowboys have been spotted in both outbacks.

The board was left with no option. Love Street - or the original St Mirren Park as its given name was registered in the... well, wherever you officially register stadium names - is an anachronism.

I will caress its memories till the day I die, and if you have a kid, go take him or her there and show them how football grounds used to be but can never be again, before they wheel in the bulldozers.

But the old place is coughing and wheezing. It has done its time.

St Mirren have been just a couple of steps ahead of the Grim Reaper for too long and in the end were forced to flog the family silver to survive. Just a few years ago they might even have been forced to sell up and ground share with Partick Thistle, which would have been suicide by instalments.

And then along came the supermarket get-out clause.

Build a new stadium, pay off the debts and even have a couple of quid in the bank. It's a no-brainer.

But, of course, football fans become gripped by emotion, recalling childhood days on the North Bank, at Cairter's Corner or other nooks and crannies of the old ground. And the truth is that we're not very good at change.

And yet think on this. In maybe another 100 years - and I wouldn't bank on me to do the reporting - another two or three generations down the line will be in torment when St Mirren are forced to quit the decrepit Greenhill Road - sorry, St Mirren Park - to move again to, well, the Good Lord only knows where.

Maybe to the site of the long-gone Glasgow Airport, which couldn't adapt to the age of space travel. Maybe to the vacated Ibrox Stadium where the local team never survived the way going of David Murray and the swallowing of Glasgow and its own identity by the ever burgeoning Paisley.

But at least all this selling up jiggery pokery and flitting has given St Mirren a chance to be here in 100 years. And there are a few clubs in our professional game who aren't assured of another 100 weeks.


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