ST JOHNSTONE yesterday tied up Stevenage midfielder James Dunne on a loan deal through to the end of the season. And the 24-year-old goes straight into the Perth squad alongside striker Chris Iwelumo for tonight’s Tayside derby clash with Dundee United.
One-time Arsenal youngster Dunne is eager to kick-start his career after a managerial change edged him out of the picture at Boro. So the box to box midfielder made an eight-hour drive north to tie up the deal in time for training at rain-lashed McDiarmid.
“It was a week ago that I first heard of St Johnstone’s interest and I got the call on Friday night that the deal was probably going to be on and I should have a bag packed to head north. I know the SPFL is a good quality league and I jumped at the chance to come up. This is a step up for me coming to Scotland.
“There was a managerial change from last season and for whatever reason I’ve not been getting regular games at Stevenage. It has been very frustrating.
“We didn’t have the best of seasons as a club last year, but, on a personal level, I got the awards from the fans and the players. But it hasn’t been happening for me this season. Now I can put it behind me and kick on.
“I haven’t played since before Christmas but I’ve been training and I’m ready if the manager wants me in the squad for the Dundee United game. I was ready to play at Stevenage and it’s the same here.”
Dunne starred at Exeter City for three years before a £125,000 switch to Stevenage. He said: “I was at Arsenal as a kid to 18 or 19 and it is a club where you get a great grounding. But I left for Exeter and had three great years there.
“I was in the same group at Arsenal as left-back Keiran Gibbs – we were quite close – and midfielder Jack Wilshere. They’ve done really well, but most of the lads are playing somewhere or other in the Championship, League One or League Two. We got great coaching there and it has served me well.”
Dunne missed out on Saturday’s glamour FA Cup clash with Everton as Stevenage crashed 4-0, but he would love to savour cup success in Scotland. Saints face Aberdeen this weekend in the League Cup semi-final and then Forfar in the Scottish Cup.
“I listened to the cup game on the radio coming up the road. By the sound of it they were worthy winners. Obviously it would be great to play in a cup semi-final up here, but that is down to the manager. I’m just looking forward to getting my chance to play up here because there are exciting matches coming up.”
Manager Tommy Wright was delighted to add to his squad. He said: “It’s good to get two new faces in at a crucial stage of the season. Obviously we got Chris on board and now James is here. With Murray Davidson out for the rest of the season after knee surgery that changed our priorities a bit and James was on our radar.”
Saints, unbeaten in their last three games, are in sixth place in the table, two points behind their Tayside rivals and midfielder Chris Millar believes his side have all the incentive they need. Jackie McNamara’s men are without a win in six matches, including a 3-0 reversal against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on 29 December.
Millar believes the evening is set up for the Saints to continue their good form and leapfrog United. “Our form had dipped, but we have worked hard to take seven points from nine and if we could make it ten out of 12 that would be great,” the 30-year-old said.
“There is also the incentive to go above them and put us in a good place before the League Cup semi-final against Aberdeen next week.
“When you are on a bad run it is sometimes hard to get out of it. But United are a young side and they are going to be inconsistent at times.
“The next game you play gives you the chance to end that poor run and I am sure that is what the manager will be saying that to them.
“Before their bad run started, they were on fire, scoring four goals at a time and they scored four against us earlier in the season, so they are capable of scoring goals. But we can take a lot of confidence from the 3-0 win over them.”
Millar is excited about the prospect of striker Chris Iwelumo making his debut: “He has experience, he will take the pressure off Stevie May to score goals and, with Steven McLean out, he gives us a different option. He is big, and strong, physical and so he will add a different dimension to the team.”