ST JOHNSTONE manager Tommy Wright signed former Scotland striker Chris Iwelumo yesterday but insisted the veteran is not coming to Perth to fill the boots of Peterborough target Stevie May.
Darren Ferguson, the Peterborough manager, last night confirmed a fresh move for May, but Wright laughed off the bid from the English League 1 club and stressed that his £1 million-rated Scotland under-21 star could seal a lucrative deal to the Championship or even the Barclays Premier League if he lingers at McDiarmid Park and adds to his current 20-goal haul.
St Johnstone had been keen on a loan move for Blackburn Rovers striker David Goodwillie before the transfer window closes at the end of the month but Wright yesterday turned his attention to Iwelumo, with the 35-year-old signing until the end of the season.
Iwelumo, the former Wolves and Burnley forward, left English League 2 side Scunthorpe earlier this month. He played four times for Scotland but his international career is best remembered for his infamous miss in a goalless World Cup qualifier with Norway in 2008.
“Chris has signed through to the end of the season with scope for playing his way into a longer stay here,” said Wright. “I have been looking for presence in that area of the team and Chris is a powerful striker and holds the ball up well.”
St Johnstone face Dundee United in the Premiership on Monday and have a League Cup semi-final against Aberdeen to look forward to next weekend, and Wright added: “He could be a very good foil for Stevie May at a crucial time of the season. He certainly isn’t here as a replacement for Stevie. He could also give Stevie a breather at certain times during games.
“Chris has a knack of scoring goals and he comes here with a wealth of experience. He has played at international level and in the top flight in England. He is a real professional and he will be a big influence in our dressing room, especially on the younger lads. He may be in the twilight of his career but he still has a lot to offer. His enthusiasm was obvious when we met and discussed the prospect of
coming back to Scotland, which he left at 19.
“He may be 35 but he is fit and in great condition. I have no concerns whatsoever about his age. He will add a different dimension to us.
“Chris is available for both cups and that is a bonus. He will train on Saturday and go into the squad for Dundee United.
“He made it clear he wants to play at as high a level as possible for as long as he can. And he could help us achieve our goals in the next few months. He sees this as an important stage of his career and his appetite for the game is crystal clear.”
But, if Peterborough manager Ferguson gets his way, then Iwelumo and May will not be linking up for long. After being left frustrated in his attempts to prise May away from Perth last summer, Sir Alex Ferguson’s son is now thought to have had a £500,000 bid rebuffed for the in-form 21-year-old.
“We’re interested in him but our bids keep getting turned down so we can only try,” said Ferguson. “We have been really patient and we have obviously been after him for a long time.
“One of the problems we have now is that he’s done that well that he has generated a lot of interest.
“The chairman [Darragh MacAnthony] and director of football Barry Fry keep bidding away but we’re not getting any joy. They’re very, very good bids as well. We’re still trying and persevering but it’s a bit frustrating at the moment.”
Wright, though, made it clear he believes May can set his sights higher than League 1 when he leaves St Johnstone.
He said: “There have been a couple of inquires from Peterborough and they have been knocked back.
“We are consistent. Until our valuation is met he will remain our player. And, even if a club meets our valuation, it will be down to Stevie.
“No-one is going to get Stevie May on the cheap. That won’t happen. He will go eventually and for the market value. He may or may not attract clubs from the Championship or even the Premiership.
“He just has to keep playing and scoring goals. He is on target now, hopefully, to get 30 goals and that should create even more interest in him.
“He is capable of doing that. The target was 20 at the start of the season. I said if he played and stayed in the team, he had the ability to score at least 20 goals.
“The consistency he has shown has surprised me and he is developing all the time. His link-up play is improving quite dramatically, but he knows there is a long way still to go.
“I have had a conversation with Stevie to make him aware of the inquiry because we keep him up to date. He said he wanted to stay to the end of the season, at least. We know we are going to get bids and Barry Fry and Darren Ferguson obviously know a good player. That’s why they keep coming back in.
“But the chairman has a number in mind and, until that is met, nothing will happen.
“On the evidence of what we have seen this season and what I think he will develop into, I believe he is of a higher standard than League 1 in England but Peterborough and Rotherham are good clubs with ambitions to get into the Championship. They probably think Stevie could make a difference as they go for promotion.”
Meanwhile, St Johnstone have succeeded in overturning Steven Anderson’s red card against Hearts.
The centre-back was sent off for a foul on Dale Carrick during Saturday’s 3-3 draw, which referee Brian Colvin deemed to have denied the Hearts forward an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
But the punishment has been downgraded to a yellow card for unsporting conduct for deliberately playing an opponent’s legs.
The Scottish Football Association disciplinary tribunal’s decision means that Anderson will be free to face Dundee United on Monday night.
Saints have goalkeeper Alan Mannus and defender Tam Scobbie suspended for the Tannadice game after both were hit with two-match bans for their part in a mass brawl that erupted after Hearts scored a second goal in the closing stages.