JAMES McFadden last night signed a deal with St Johnstone and insisted he still has a burning desire to succeed – and prove his doubters wrong.
The 31-year-old former Scotland international has been biding his time for the right offer and the right club since leaving Motherwell in the summer. With striker Steven MacLean ruled out for up to six months after knee surgery, Perth manager Tommy Wright has put his faith in McFadden to answer the distress call.
McFadden has signed through to the end of the season and was given an hour in an under-20 game with Aberdeen to play his way into contention for the weekend clash with St Mirren.
The former Everton, Birmingham City and Sunderland attacker insisted he is still driven by his passion for football rather than a Perth payday.
He stressed: “If I didn’t have the hunger any more I would have just given up and if I thought I had nothing left to give I would say so.
“I wouldn’t play on to squeeze some money out of a club for another year or whatever. This is a chance for me to show people I’ve still got what it takes. I had doubters last season and it’s now up to me to prove them wrong. I have a point to prove – you have that every time you go on the pitch. But I’ve had doubters all my career. People said I wasn’t good enough to play in the first team, then for Scotland and then in England. It’s about being mentally strong. I’m only 31 and I still have plenty more to give.
“If you speak to anyone who knows me I just love playing football. I hate having days off. I’d much prefer being in training. In my mind I don’t feel any older, I still feel like I’m a kid, really. I still play in the street with my kids. I’ve been doing okay – but young James is only 8 and he’s getting better! But seriously, I feel sharper now than I have done for a couple of years. And when I get match sharpness I’ll be looking to do better than I did last year.”
McFadden, who has been training with Partick Thistle, might have strutted his stuff on the Premier League stage down south but he insisted: “I’m not a diva. I have been at some big clubs with great facilities but I started at Motherwell when they were in administration.
“We didn’t know if we had jobs back then, so it’s not as though I’ve been used to the top-class facilities and stadiums all my life. I know what Scottish football is like, I know the constraints and that some weeks we’ll be playing in front of a few thousand people. But I’m here because I love playing football and I still want to achieve things. I need to play. I’ve been sitting about on a Saturday not knowing what to do with myself. The last few weeks have been very frustrating because I know I should be playing. But you have to stay strong.”
Thistle manager Alan Archibald had been trying to put a deal together to keep McFadden at Firhill. But the striker said: “I spoke to the manager here and he was very keen to bring me in. I got a good vibe off him. He wants me to play as a centre forward or off a striker which is where I see myself playing.
“I’m glad he wants me to do that and it was good to hear because I’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince managers to play me there. So to come in and straight off the bat be playing there, that’s what I want.
“Towards the end of last season I played alongside John Sutton at Motherwell but I can’t remember the last time I had a real run of games up front. I’ve played in all sorts of positions and I’m comfortable playing all over the park.”
The 48-times capped international insisted: “Contrary to belief, I am a team player and will play wherever the manager asks me to play. I won’t spit the dummy out and demand to play where I want. But I do think that you’ll get the best out of me playing up front.
“Stevie May has left here and Steven MacLean is injured so I know we’ve been a bit short up front. So I’m looking forward to doing my bit for the team. I’ve been keeping my fitness levels up because I’ve been waiting on a call like this. I just need games now. If the manager needs me on Saturday I’m certainly up for it. I’m ready.”
Delighted manager Wright said: “I think this is the perfect fit for us. I expect James to provide us with quality and a spark in the final third. He will create, retain the ball and score goals. That is why we have brought him in.”