JAMES Dunne made a positive first impression on St Johnstone supporters when he scored with a stunning left-foot strike on his debut in the 4-0 win at Forfar in the Scottish Cup fifth round last month.
The English midfielder now hopes he can go on to make a lasting impact with the Perth club as he bids to end the uncertainty which currently surrounds his career.
Dunne joined Saints at the end of January on loan from Stevenage until the end of the season, having been placed on the transfer list by the English League One outfit. The 24-year-old former Arsenal trainee found himself the victim of financial problems at Stevenage who signed him from Exeter City for a tribunal-set fee of £75,000 two years ago. He is just one Stevenage appearance short of the point where they will be due Exeter a further £50,000, a scenario they are keen to avoid.
It leaves Dunne anxious about his fate when his loan deal with St Johnstone ends and open to the prospect of making his move to Scottish football a permanent one.
“I don’t know what the future holds because Stevenage have an option on me,” said Dunne. “If they’re not going to pay Exeter the money, I don’t see why they’d keep me for another season and pay my wages. But it is a worry they might take up the option and try to get a transfer fee for me. It’s concerning because just before Christmas they told me I won’t play for them again because of the money situation. So if they take up the option, I could be stuck with another season of doing nothing. I’m enjoying it here because I wasn’t playing in the first half of the season and was training with the young lads.
“It does get you down. I went from having three seasons playing almost every game to not being involved. St Johnstone have given me a chance, I’m back involved at first-team level so we’ll see what happens.”
Dunne joined St Johnstone just before their League Cup semi-final defeat to Aberdeen at Tynecastle but had to wait until the following week’s Scottish Cup tie at Forfar for his debut.
“I didn’t think I’d play in the League Cup semi,” he added. “I knew I wouldn’t walk straight into the team, you have to work for that. The boys had got themselves there, so anyone coming in has to work at it to make an impression. I’ve given my best since I’ve been here so it’s up to the gaffer whether I play now.
“My goal against Forfar was up there with some of the best I’ve scored. It was great because you want to get on the scoresheet as quickly as you can. I’m not an out-and-out scorer, I’ll chip in with five or six a season, but I try to score as many as I can.”
Dunne is well aware of the significance of today’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Raith Rovers at Starks Park as St Johnstone pursue an elusive first piece of major silverware.
“I know the cup means a lot to the club, it’s the same everywhere,” said Dunne. “It’s a great chance to win something. But although Celtic are out, there’s still the likes of Aberdeen in the competition and Rangers are still a big club. If we show the right attitude against Raith, we’ll hopefully get the right result and see what happens from there.
“It’s going to be hard on Saturday and we have to show the right attitude. We did that against Forfar and we’ll have to do it again. Raith are a league below us but they will raise their game like they did against Hibs. That was a fantastic result for them because Hibs are a good side and it shows what they’re capable of. Cup games are always a big occasion, there’s a chance to win silverware and it can help your future. For lower league teams, there are big bonuses involved and it’s a chance to get noticed. So both teams have everything to play for this weekend.”