TOMMY Wright was about to go under the knife yesterday but he was still picking the team to face Hibernian tomorrow.
The St Johnstone manager was bracing himself for gall bladder surgery in a Perth hospital but was still issuing instructions for caretaker Callum Davidson and coach Alec Cleland.
The Northern Irishman has spent three nights in a hospital bed after being struck down by severe stomach pains and misses a game that assistant Davidson has billed the biggest of the Perth team’s season, as they bid to secure their top-six status at the capital club’s expense.
Davidson took training yesterday in Wright’s absence and said: “Tommy was going for a scan and, if that went well, he’d get keyhole surgery. He should be out on Friday but he’s said he won’t come to the game. That’s more down to doctor’s orders than anything else.
“He’s still picking the team, definitely. We’ve been in regular contact this week and we always discuss it together from Saturdays forward, so we’ve been in regular discussions about what we’re doing and what we’re thinking. That won’t change.
“I think he’s feeling a bit sorry for himself. But he’s going to leave it up to me and Alec during the game. We do it anyway. We batter off the team during the week and come to the same decisions most of the time. We’ve watched the videos and we’ve figured out what we think the gameplan will be to get a result.
“This is shaping up as the biggest game of our season and, if we beat them, then we’re all but in the top six. Win and it puts Hibs out of the equation.
“Hibs are a big team so, if we can get into the top six again, it would be a massive achievement for the club. Tommy has always spoken about it and it’s our goal this season – it would be huge for a club like St Johnstone. But, again, it will be a tough game for us.” Davidson has tasted under-20s management this term since being promoted to the assistant manager’s role last summer. “I’ve never been a caretaker manager before – although I had 15 minutes when Tommy got sent to the stand against Dundee United at Tannadice last week. Probably the fact that I’ve taken the under-20s this year has given me a massive insight into preparing the team. I’ll tell the players what I want of them, what I expect, and wee bits and bobs tactics-wise.
“I have lost it a couple of times with the under-20s, which is unlike me because I’m a pretty calm guy. But I do enjoy that side of it. I probably didn’t to start with, talking in front of the lads, but now it’s fine. You get on with it because if you are talking about something you know you are okay. It’s when you talk about something you don’t know, that’s when you struggle. Alec’s been there before and Alisdair Stevenson will be helping us out as well.”
Hibs are four points off the pace and Saints have a game in hand over the Easter Road side, but Davidson stressed: “Hibs are a tough team and Terry Butcher has got them working extremely hard.
“First and foremost for us, we need to match their workrate and then, from there, we’ve got to win the second balls. Do that and we’ll have a chance. If we don’t do that, then it’ll be a tough afternoon.”