Saints Prevail in Perth (1968) and Annihilate Airdrie (1957)
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v St. Johnstone, 9th November 2022)
St. Johnstone v St. Mirren 1968
Newly-promoted St. Mirren made a bright start to their First Division campaign in season 1968/69, winning four and drawing five of their first nine fixtures. When they travelled to Perth to face St. Johnstone on 9th November 1968, the Buddies were sitting in second place, one point behind leaders Celtic and were the only remaining undefeated senior side in Britain. The Perth Saints, on the other hand, were languishing in third-bottom spot with just six points from their nine matches.
The St. Johnstone programme was relatively unchanged from their “B” Division days of 1955 until 1974 and the only significant differences during that time were a price increase and the introduction of gloss paper in the early ‘Sixties. It was an eight-page issue, slightly larger than A5 size, and printed blue on white paper throughout. The front cover illustration, sandwiched between adverts from local traders, was similar in style to a number of other English and Scottish issues of the period. The match details omitted the year, but this could be found on the fixture list elsewhere in the issue.
“Notes and Comments”, on pages 3 and 6, headlined with the payout of the Club’s record £15,000 fee to Stirling Albion for forward Henry Hall in an attempt to strengthen the Perth side’s attack. His arrival coincided with news of the shock transfer request by Alex MacDonald, who would eventually depart to find success with Rangers and Hearts. A piece on the “Battle of the Saints” summarised the Paisley side’s season thus far and the forthcoming match was anticipated to be “tremendously hard”.
In common with most programmes of the time, the team line-ups occupied the centre pages, surrounded by adverts. The St. Mirren eleven was well established and took the field as listed. The home line-up anticipated the debut of Hall, but showed two personnel changes; McPhee returning from injury to replace the listed Rennie and Connolly replacing Whitelaw.
The only other reading matter appeared on the back page, which displayed the half-time scoreboard for the sixteen First and Second Division matches to be played that day.
In front of 3,562 spectators, St. Mirren edged the first half of a lively match, with Jim Blair’s 35th minute goal being the only one to separate the sides by the interval. Former Buddie Kenny Aird headed home an equaliser from a Hall cross in the 67th minute, but the visitors established a two-goal lead when Peter Kane scored in 73 minutes and Jim Blair netted two minutes later. Nine minutes from time, Ian McPhee reduced the leeway from the penalty spot, but it wasn’t enough and St. Mirren triumphed by three goals to two.
St. Mirren v Airdrie 1957
Eleven years earlier, on 9th November 1957, Airdrie were the visitors to Love Street on League duty. Both sides had amassed only four points from their nine games thus far, but Saints’ superior goal average placed them in third-bottom spot, two places above the Broomfield men, so it was a real relegation four-pointer.
The eight-page programme, issue number 176, was the standard Saints publication of the period with the front cover image of “Cairter’s Corner” displayed above the full match details and advertisement for the next home match at Love Street, a Reserve League clash against Celtic.
The Club Notes discussed Saints' predicament. Defeats by the odd goal, which might well have gone the other way, were seen to be the main reason for Saints’ plight, rather than injuries and unavailability of players due to National Service. It was hoped that the run of fixtures to the end of the year would provide sufficient opportunity to gain points and improve their League position.
Tommy Gemmell’s call up to the Scotland squad for the forthcoming World Cup matches was welcomed, as was the introduction of two new recruits to the Club; goalkeeper George Budd and right-half Donald Donaldson. Sadly, neither of them ever achieved a first team place.
In the centre page team lines, the home side took the field as listed, but the Airdrie line-up showed three changes; Ian Reid for Price, McLean for Duncan and new signing from Celtic Jim Sharkey, who replaced Baillie. The half-time scoreboard on page seven provided the only other reading matter, the remainder of the issue being devoted to adverts.
Despite the home side’s first half dominance, Willie Telfer netted the only goal from the penalty spot after Peter McKay was brought down by visiting ‘keeper Jock Wallace in the 18th minute. However, McKay made the second half his own, netting four goals in the 50th, 71st, 86th and 90th minutes for a final score of 5-0, thus lifting St. Mirren three places higher in the league.
Interestingly, that weekend’s First Division fixtures resulted in five of the nine home sides winning their matches by scoring five goals.