St Johnstone: Tommy Wright's achievements mean no panic at McDiarmid

Tommy Wright
Tommy Wright's St Johnstone are still searching for their first league win of the season

St Johnstone currently sit bottom of the Scottish Premiership and have endured a difficult start to the season, but surprisingly in the emotionally incontinent world of Scottish football no-one is pushing the panic button. Not yet anyway.

Inevitably, there are disagreements among fans and a widespread frustration throughout the team that we have lost too many early goals and that draws have not been converted into three points. But there is a settled mood at the club and real hope that our fortunes can be reversed.

One of the reasons that most St Johnstone fans do not self-combust as easily as others is down to perspective. I have supported them over a lifetime and have followed them in every single division from the very bottom of the pile to the top. These are good times and to think otherwise defies historical logic.

In 1986, when Geoff Brown took over, Saints were in a perilous state. Officially we were the worst club in Britain and staring financial ruin in the face. From then it has mostly been onwards and upwards: a new stadium, guaranteed full-time football, league titles and promotions, a Challenge Cup trophy, great European nights and a shining Scottish Cup victory that will live with us forever.

Whilst many fans across Scotland want nothing more than a well-run community club, St Johnstone have had that for years. Okay, our last set of accounts showed a £150,000 loss, and whilst we would rather return to profitability, there is £2m stashed in the bank for a rainy day that will inevitably come.

No appetite for Wright to go

When things go wrong there is a default setting in Scottish football - sack the boss. At St Johnstone that cry is much more muted. Tommy Wright is the club's most successful manager ever in terms of successive league positions, the Scottish Cup win and the number of players that have gone on to play international football.

Management objectives are king in all businesses and most of the objectives that the club has set Tommy are being met. The cup success left us with an ageing squad, one of the oldest in the league.

Now we have one of the youngest. The board required that the manager create a pathways for young players and that is more clearly visible now than ever. Club captain Jason Kerr is only 22, his partner at the back Liam Gordon is 23 and a fearless giant of a boy. He was born and bred a Saints fan and once prowled the same streets that I was dragged up in.

Our goalkeeper Zander Clark has played 90 first team games and is still relatively young and importantly for the future one of his promising understudies is Ross Sinclair, another local boy who has been on trial at Liverpool and is currently in Scotland's successful under-19 squad.

Nor are representative honours unique to the men's squad. Rebecca McGowan and Hannah Clark are in Scotland's Under-19 women's squad, starting out on the path that took Lisa Evans and Lana Clelland to the World Cup in France. Evans is now at Arsenal and Clelland scored that wonder goal against Japan and now plays for Fiorentina in Italy.

In the close season, when midfielder Blair Alston moved to Hamilton, Tommy explained that he had taken the decision to create space for another rising young star, Ali McCann, a high-energy central midfielder who is having a great start to the season. Disappointingly, he has already been lost to Scotland and is now part of the Northern Ireland set-up.

'What he has achieved is staggering'

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Saints boss Wright blows kisses to Hibs fans

To say I feel positive is not to hide deficiencies - there are weaknesses. Curiously, St Johnstone's on-field problems parallel the Scotland national team - we can be fragile at the back, and lack a striker that can guarantee 20 goals. The return of our Scottish Cup talisman Stevie May has lifted spirits. He got off the mark in our draw at Ross County before the international break, scoring across the keeper after a brilliantly weighted pass by the mercurial Danny Swanson.

There is excitement in the team, too. Swanson, Matty Kennedy, and a revitalised Michael O'Halloran are all players that excite the fans and the arrival of two loan signings, Jason Holt from Rangers and Anthony Ralston from Celtic, has brought strength in depth. Holt in particular is the type of player that St Johnstone fans have wanted for a while - someone who can see passes and find time in a crowded game.

Another reason that Tommy will be given time is his passion. Blowing kisses to Hibernian fans, falling out with Amy Macdonald and most of all delivering our greatest ever era against the Dundee clubs mark him out as someone passionate in the job. Although we will always be the 'wee team' on Tayside, measured by size of crowd, our recent success has dwarfed the achievements of Dundee and Dundee United, who we beat in the 2014 Scottish Cup final.

Only Willie Ormond comes close to matching his record and his majestic team built around Henry Hall, John Connolly, Kenny Aird and Freddie Aitken famously knocked Hamburg out of the Uefa Cup. But on the home front, they fell at the final hurdle, losing narrowly in the 1969 League Cup final to a Celtic team that consisted of most of their famous Lisbon Lions.

What Tommy has achieved against the financial odds is staggering. The cup victory, followed by open-top homecoming the following day, are moments I will cherish until the day I die. More than 25,000 took to the streets to welcome the victorious team home and I only wish more of them would come to the games. But even that is a subject is I am sanguine about. St Johnstone still attracts a fairly respectable percentage of Perthshire's population and the days when people to abandon their other priorities for football are over, and are not coming back.

For decades, I have argued that a successful club is not only measured by the first team's league position, however important that is to the spirit of the club. As I grow older, I look more deeply at our state-of-health and marvel at the work Saints do in classrooms and in the community, for children with ADHD, for mental health sufferers and for those with vascular dementia. It is light years ahead of the club I supported as a child, when the old Muirton was padlocked for two weeks between games and you shivered outside hoping for an autograph.

We need to change things soon, but I am convinced I have a club that will thrive and more importantly will survive. A win would be nice nonetheless.

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