UITE what is to be made of St Mirren last season depends whether you are judging them on the strength of their League Cup triumph, or their arduous league campaign.
If the latter is your barometer then you no doubt have the Buddies marked down as likely relegation candidates. Perennially, Saints do enough and little more to maintain their top-flight status and, to most, it seems like only a brave man fresh from one too many viewings of the Cup Final DVD would predict better this time around.
It would be harsh to call a season in which they gathered their first piece of national silverware in over quarter of a century a disappointment but manager Danny Lennon more than once spoke of aiming for the top six, so a second-bottom finish can’t be considered a roaring success.
Any dissatisfaction with the 2012/13 campaign is perhaps understandable given the wealth of talent available to Saints last term, although they will be without the like of Esmael Goncalves, Craig Samson and Graham Carey this time out.
With heavy defeats endured to Charlton, Morton and Queen of the South during the build-up to the new season, the Greenhill Road faithful have spent the summer with fingers poised over the panic button, but long-serving full-back, David van Zanten, insists the team are paying little heed to the hefty reversals.
He said: “Pre-season games don’t mean much. I think in 2005 before we won promotion that season we had a terrible run of results at this stage so I don’t look on them as telling too much or being too important. They are just about getting game time, working on fitness, sharpness and allowing the manager to experiment and try new things out.
“If we lost the friendlies and started with a win at Inverness next Saturday I don’t think anyone would be too unhappy. Being fit and ready to go for that game is all that matters and is all pre-season is focused on.
“We were all disappointed with our final position last season and we are aiming to improve on it this around. We aren’t setting targets, we just want to push ourselves as high up the table as possible.
“We definitely didn’t take our foot off the gas after we won the League Cup, but it must have had a psychological effect on us, such was the high we were on, and the exact same thing happened to Swansea. Very few of us had experienced anything like it, so it did have a knock-on effect, which contributed to where we ultimately finished.”
Having lost a swathe of top players, including six involved the Cup Final squad, Saints appear thin on the ground but Van Zanten backed the club’s youngsters to stand up and be counted. He said: “The players we have brought in have quality. The two goalkeepers look very good, and everyone knows what Gary Harkins can do as he is proven at this level.
“We have a good crop of youngsters coming through the club at the moment and they are more than capable of stepping into the team. Kenny McLean, John McGinn and Thomas Reilly have all got first-team experience and this is a chance for them and it is up to them to make the most of it.”
One aspect of last term the right-back won’t be repeating is his charity bet which would have seen him wearing a mankini and singing Like a Virgin to the home crowd had he failed to find the net. “Not again, no. I will be leaving the charity bets to someone else this season as I think everyone was relieved when I scored to spare us all.”