Far Eastern Joy for St. Mirren - 1987

(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Motherwell 31st July 2022)

Hard on the heels of their Scottish Cup Final victory over Dundee United in May 1987, St. Mirren jetted off to the Far East to participate in the inaugural Epson Cup Football Tournament, organised by the Football Association of Singapore.

The four-team competition, contested by St. Mirren, English First Division side Southampton, Perth Azurri of Australia and Mexico’s Universidad Autonoma was the first tournament to be sponsored by a reputable electronics company. The sides were to play on a round-robin basis, with the top two teams meeting in a one-off Final and all matches would be played at the National Stadium in Singapore.

The Epson Cup

The Epson Cup

Epson Cup programme 1987

Epson Cup programme 1987

The 17-strong St. Mirren squad included recent signing Keith Walker from Stirling Albion, who notched up a couple of appearances. However, Paul Chalmers, Les Fridge and Derek Hamilton failed to feature in any of the matches.

The tournament kicked off with a double header on Thursday 21st May, Saints meeting Universidad in the second match of the evening. Substitute Keith Walker, making his first appearance for the Club, had the ball in the net but it was ruled offside and the match ended 0-0 in front of an estimated crowd of 5,000. Two days later, an estimated 6,000 witnessed another goalless draw, this time between the English and Scottish Saints. The following day, the Buddies returned to face Perth Azurri for the penultimate group match, the winners of which would progress to the final. Before a meagre crowd of just 1,500, the Australians took the lead after 25 minutes, but Kenny McDowall equalised with a powerful header five minutes before the interval. McDowall scored again eight minutes from time to send Saints through with a 2-1 victory.

The Final took place on 27th May, when St. Mirren met the Mexicans of Universidad Autonoma. A crowd of 7,000 saw yet another goalless draw after ninety minutes and, with both teams failing to find the net after extra time, the match went to penalty kicks. Saints’ Billy Abercromby, Peter Godfrey and Kenny McDowall all scored with their efforts, but so did the Mexicans. Goalkeeper Campbell Money almost uprooted the net to put St. Mirren ahead again and then proceeded to save the fourth Mexican spot kick. John Butler then kept his nerve to give Saints a 5-3 victory and, with it, custody of the Epson Cup.

A 28-page A4-sized programme was produced for the tournament. This was printed black on white gloss paper, the only colour appearing on the gloss card outer cover. Inside there was a welcome from the Chairman of the Football Association of Singapore and photos and details of the organising committee.

Three pages were set aside to explain the Regulations of the Tournament, including Financial Aspects, Registration of Players, Format of the Competition and the role of the Disciplinary Committee – all very dry reading indeed!

The St. Mirren squad with the Epson Cup

The St. Mirren squad with the Epson Cup

The centre pages then set out the timetable of fixtures for the seven days of the tournament, which included two Rest Days.

The second half of the issue contained significantly more reading then the first, but not in a very balanced way. Four pages were devoted to Southampton, including a team photo, history of the Club and detailed biographies of the players, Perth Azurri were granted two pages of photos and pen pictures and Universidad had to be content with a single page of squad names.

St. Mirren were last, and certainly least in the eyes of the hosts’ programme editor, being represented by a single page squad photograph reproduced from the previous January’s “Shoot” magazine. At least Saints increased their visibility and standing afterwards by returning with the trophy!

Acknowledgements to a dozen organisations concluded the issue, which contained seven pages of adverts.

This programme has to be considered as one of the rarest issues involving St. Mirren. Despite its relative modernity, it has never appeared on any dealer’s lists or auction sites to my knowledge, and I am aware of only a couple of other copies in existence.