The Staggies visit Paisley for the First Time - 2001
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Ross County, 1st December 2021)
St. Mirren v Ross County 2001
Ross County’s first competitive appearance in Paisley was a midweek visit to Love Street for a First Division match on 18th September 2001. After six matches of the new season, both Clubs were in the bottom half of the table having amassed six points each, but Saints led with a better goal difference.
Despite reduced gates as a result of relegation at the end of the previous season, the St. Mirren programme improved upon the standards of the Premier League issue and consisted of forty full-colour B5-sized pages, priced at £2. The 2001/02 season issue was packed with a variety of features and was arguably the most colourful Saints publication of the decade.
The front cover carried an action photo above the full match details, issue 4 for the visit of Ross County featuring a photo of Gary Bowman taking on two Inverness Caley Thistle opponents during St. Mirren’s previous home match.
Manager Tom Hendrie’s Team Talk reflected on his side’s opening League fixtures, the results of which had thus far not shown promotion potential. He bemoaned the habit of losing particularly late goals in recent matches but hoped that the return of several injured players, including long-term absentee Ian Ross, would go some way to improving the situation. The manager also recognised the “first” for the Club by welcoming Neale Cooper and his lads from Dingwall on their visit to Paisley.
Two pages on the visitors featured pen pictures of the squad, with facts and figures on the Highland side’s seven-year tenure in the Scottish League. This was followed by Campbell Kennedy’s “Commercial Break” and Club news items in “From the Love Street Files”.
Freelance journalist Bert Bell reflected on the 1961 Scottish Cup clash between St. Mirren and his favourite side Third Lanark when the Buddies overcame the “Hi-Hi” by a record replay score of 8-0 at Cathkin Park following a 3-3 draw at Love Street.
“Where Are They Now” focussed on full back Robert Dawson, brought to St. Mirren from Stirling Albion by his former manager Alex Smith in 1987. Among Robert’s highlights during his nine years at Paisley were two particularly pleasing wins over Rangers; the first in the 1989/90 season opener at Ibrox and the second in the Phoenix Honda Trophy friendly at Love Street in 1995.
Hugh Murray and Paul Rudden
celebrate St. Mirren's goal
“Centre Stage”, a question and answer session with striker Mark Yardley, was followed by a feature on the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden, where items such as Davie Lapsley’s 1959 Scottish Cup Final shirt could be viewed.
Following the 2001/02 St. Mirren team group photo in the centre page spread, the second half of the programme featured Ross County’s veteran defender Brian Irvine in “One to Watch” and was succeeded by a page of half-time teasers in “Trivia Time”. “Highlights from Yesteryear” covered a series of Saints matches played around this date in decades gone by and also included a review of the only competitive clash between the sides thus far, the CIS Cup tie in Dingwall in August 2000.
Lisa Gray looked back at the previous week’s action in “First Division Round Up” and Saints’ 1-1 draw with Inverness Caley Thistle was covered by two pages of photo action, courtesy of the Paisley Daily Express.
The remainder of the issue provided the home side’s statistics and appearances for the season and featured the team lines of the Saints and Staggies squads on the back page.
Notwithstanding competition from televised Champions League matches on the same dry, cool evening, a reasonable crowd of 2,364 turned up to see Saints win 1-0 by virtue of an Ian Maxwell own goal in the second minute. The only other feature of an otherwise uneventful match was the first appearance of ex-Arsenal striker Christopher Wreh as a trialist substitute for Saints in the last fifteen minutes.