With celebrations continuing unabated in the streets of Perth yesterday, Tommy Wright has been described as the club’s finest ever manager by St Johnstone chairman Steve Brown.
A season of unparalleled success peaked with Saturday’s Scottish Cup victory over Dundee United, when St Johnstone ended a 130-year trophy drought to secure a first major triumph. More than 25,000 supporters packed the streets yesterday as the open-topped bus made its way from McDiarmid Park to the Horsecross Plaza, on an afternoon that made a mockery of claims that Perth is not a football city.
It was a day like no other in the Fair City and Brown later hailed Wright as being without peer in St Johnstone’s history. The claim means the chairman believes Wright is ranked above other such towering figures as Willie Ormond, under whom the club tasted European football for the first time, and Alex Totten, who masterminded promotions from the old Second Division to the Premier Division in the space of three seasons.
After only one full season in charge, it is a measure of the impact the Northern Irishman has had since stepping up from assistant manager to replace Steve Lomas last summer. With a year left on his contract, Brown quipped that he had offered the manager a new deal amid the celebrations back at McDiarmid Park on Saturday night – “and he doesn’t realise he’s signed it!”
More seriously, he added that “it was in hand”, as is a deal to secure the in-demand striker Stevie May on a longer contract as the club look to capitalise on their unprecedented success.
“We’ve talked about it but it was on the back burner until after the final,” said Brown, with reference to Wright’s new deal, which he expects will be “a minimum” of another two years. “It’s very similar to Stevie May, it’s all been discussed for months.”
He added: “We’ll thrash out the details. We know where we are, I’ve spoken to Tommy. He’s no interest in going anywhere and I don’t want him to go anywhere, either. There has never been a better St Johnstone manager than Tommy. I don’t think St Johnstone have ever had a better season. If anyone says they have, they’ll have to explain their rationale. We had two away victories in Europe to start with, including Rosenborg.
“We’ve had a top-six finish with three games to spare, did that at a canter, really. We got to the League Cup semi-finals, albeit we were soundly beaten.
“Derek McInnes [at Aberdeen] won manager of the year and it was thoroughly deserved. But I think, if the votes were taken after the final, it might be different. Tommy is definitely the best ever in our history. Without a doubt, without doubt.
“If you take into account the size of club we are, he’s worked miracles. And, away from football, he’s great. You can’t not get on with him.”
Brown described the scenes in Perth yesterday as “very emotional”. An open-topped bus made its way down from McDiarmid Park stadium at just after midday and reached the High Street, led by Perth Pipe band, just before 2pm. The squad and club officials were later treated to a civic reception as the city took the opportunity to salute their heroes on a historic weekend.
“I lost it a couple of times,” said Brown. “People beside me lost it, as well, and I’m not ashamed of that. It’s going to take days to realise what we’ve done. The manager has been telling me now for months: ‘The name’s on the cup, the name’s on the cup’. I’m saying ‘no way’.”
Brown’s caution was understandable; a supporter since the early 1980s, when the club’s prospects looked bleak, he has had a front-row seat in the life of St Johnstone since his father, Geoff, bought the club in 1986.
“We went up to the Premier League but I think we only got something like 11 points that season. Then we went down like a lead balloon. It got to the stage financially where St Johnstone were tinkering on the edge of going out of business. That’s when my father came in.”
He added: “The magnitude of it, as a supporter from the early 80s, when it wasn’t too clever, it’s something else. Back then it was common to get knocked out of every tournament early on. To have a Scottish Cup victory is just unbelievable.”