A Winning Start to the League Cup (1990)
(first published in the match programme for St. Mirren v Arbroath, 22nd July 2023)
St. Mirren v Arbroath 1990
Arbroath visited Love Street on 22nd August 1990 for a Second Round Skol League Cup tie, their first-ever meeting with St. Mirren in this tournament. The League Cup had been rebranded in 1984 when Skol lager assumed sponsorship and, alongside the name change, the tournament had also discarded the decades-long sectional tie format in favour of a much shorter schedule of straight knockout ties.
The St. Mirren Match Magazine had changed significantly since the previous season. After three years of landscape-format issues packed with dense text and photographs, the issue for the 1990/91 season reverted to a larger portrait-style page format with more spacious text, fewer photos and full-page adverts.
The issue was printed black on white gloss paper with a variety of pink, blue and yellow pastel shaded panels throughout the pages. The front cover displayed the Club name on a chequerboard pattern above the match and sponsor details and a player or action photo, issue number 3 for the Arbroath match featuring Saints’ defender Tom Black.
The first of a number of full-page player photos featured Kenny McDowall on the inside cover, opposite a page of team line-ups and match information. Probably as a result of the intense pre-season run up to this first competitive match of the season, there were a number of changes between the printed line-ups and the sides which actually took the field. This situation seemed unlikely to improve soon as the schedule of Skol Cup matches further down the page revealed that, with a successful run, there would likely be two League and Cup matches every week well into the autumn months.
Page five listed the Club Officials alongside a quiz, which offered a prize of two tickets for the next match. Manager Tony Fitzpatrick set the scene for the new season and warned against complacency, given that Saints had been stung before in recent Cup competitions by sides from the lower divisions. The remainder of the page introduced a regular feature offering travel advice on routes to away matches, this one for the forthcoming trip to Tannadice.
Mark Scott’s article on the difficulties of following football whilst on holiday preceded another piece with details and the draw for the new Centenary Cup, the forerunner to the League Challenge Cup. John Byrne then looked through the history books at previous meetings between Saints and the Red Lichties and the centre pages provided facts and figures from the previous season and fixtures for the season to come.
Two pages were then devoted to the visitors, detailing their current squad and past glories, and these were followed by a full-page photo of Tom Black. Another John Byrne piece recalled how Saints almost got their hands on the League Cup in the 1955/56 season and Mark Scott looked at the uneasy relationship between football and alcohol. A photo of reserve player Alex McEwan preceded the final reading matter; an interview with Saints’ Icelandic striker Gunni Torfason and his thoughts on the Scottish game.
Six of the 24 pages were occupied by adverts and the issue was priced at 80p. It is still readily available from programme sites and dealers.
Before a crowd of 2,356, Saints set off with a vengeance and Paul Lambert was denied after just two minutes when his shot was saved by the foot of visiting ‘keeper Derek Jackson. A minute later, the home side were rocked when Gunni Torfason had to hobble off following a clash with Arbroath’s Graeme Carlin. Lambert then had another chance after 13 minutes, but his 20-yard free kick just cleared the crossbar.
St. Mirren took the lead in the 28th minute when Tom Black’s free kick into the penalty box was only partially cleared, but the ball fell to Tomas Stickroth. The German striker swivelled and crashed a rising shot into the top left-hand corner of the net from around 25 yards.
Arbroath fought back and almost equalised with their first shot of the match when Carlin caught a Jim Hamilton free kick on the volley, only to see it come cannoning back off the crossbar.
In the second period, Saints became more and more exposed at the back and had to rely on goalkeeper Campbell Money to bail them out. In 55 minutes, Money’s lightning reflexes came to the rescue when he dived to his left to stop a Stuart Sorbie shot. Carlin again found himself in the clear with only the ‘keeper to beat, but Money saved. Finally, with 13 minutes remaining, the Saints custodian thwarted Hamilton as he prepared to shoot from close range.
Manager Tony Fitzpatrick blasted his players for a full half hour after the match and conceded that his side had been lucky to hold on to the 1-0 win, with Money taking many of the plaudits.