ST MIRREN defender David van Zanten is bracing himself for an influx of new faces as the Buddies’ Scottish Communities League Cup-winning team is ripped apart.
The Paisley side beat Hearts 3-2 at Hampden on 17 March to claim their first major trophy in 26 years. But as many as nine players named in that 16-man squad could be set to depart.
Danny Lennon has already waved goodbye to keeper Craig Samson after he knocked back a new deal to move to Kilmarnock, while loan trio Conor Newton, Paul Dummett – both sent north by Newcastle – and Rio Ave striker Esmael Goncalves have all returned to their parent clubs.
Sam Parkin and Graham Carey have been released, as has Dougie Imrie, who was not stripped for the final, while Grant Adam and Lee Mair have been told to find new clubs. And Paul McGowan – who struck a second-half penalty in between goals from Goncalves and Newton as Saints clinched victory – is also out of contract and on the verge of moving to England.
Now van Zanten admits the club will have to build again from scratch. The Irish right-back said: “It looks like there is going to be quite a big turnover at the club. I’m just glad I’ve got another year on my deal and that the manager has said that I’m part of his plans.
“We had a cup-winning team but it looks like that is getting broken up now and there will be big changes over the summer.” Saints were 15 points clear of bottom side Dundee when John Brown replaced Barry Smith in February. But they found themselves sucked towards a Clydesdale Bank Premier League relegation fight as the new Dens boss inspired a Dark Blues revival.
St Mirren survived in the end but Van Zanten, 31, says the club’s alarming league slump has forced Lennon into a rethink.
He said: “We got a little bit of a fright at the end with Dundee closing the gap and the manager has looked at things and decided we need to improve. That’s what he is doing now. We all want to improve our league position, we want to get in that top six.
“We felt this year we could have done that but let ourselves down. We gained a lot from the cup win but it probably had a bit to do with our slump.
“The cup win was fantastic but everyone is a little bit disappointed with the league form.”
The potential loss of talisman McGowan could yet be the biggest blow to Saints. Van Zanten is just hoping whoever lines up next term will be able to move the team forward.
“Paul has been a fantastic player for us but I’m still not too sure what is happening to him,” he admitted. “If we lose him, it will be a big loss. But I’m sure the manager will have plans to replace him.”
• Van Zanten was talking at Snow Factor Braehead as he helped launch Scotland’s tallest ice-climbing wall.