Aberdeen v St Johnstone: Wright league stuff

ST JOHNSTONE manager Tommy Wright believes his team’s Premiership feats are more impressive than their William Hill Scottish Cup exploits.

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Northern Irishman has been nominated for the PFA Scotland manager of the year award after guiding the Perth club to the final of the competition for the first time in their 130-year history. He also oversaw two impressive away wins in the Europa League qualifiers and another decent run to the League Cup semi-finals – all while slashing over £200,000 off his playing budget. But Wright insists it is his team’s league performance which has shone brightest.

The club secured top-six football for the third year in a row and could finish as high as fourth if they rein in Dundee United’s three-point lead. Ahead of today’s Pittodrie clash with Aberdeen – who Saints beat to secure their Celtic Park final showdown with United on 17 May – Wright said: “As a club, we budgeted to finish tenth because our budget was cut. Even though we were successful last year on the pitch, our gates went down and we had to make savings. But, within this group, we made the top six our aim. I think we have improved this season and we are on course to surpass last year’s points total. The top teams have been better this year. We got third with 53 points but Motherwell have already got 61, so the competition has been tougher. So I think our league performances have been more impressive than our cup feats.

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“So far we are more than satisfied with how the team has done, especially when you consider the injuries we’ve had. We’ve lost Steven MacLean for 19 games, Allan Mannus for a while, Steven Anderson for three months, Gary McDonald for six weeks and had both Murray Davidson and Tam Scobbie ruled out for the rest of the season, yet coped really well. That shows our depth and how well we have really done to get into the top six.”

Wright has been put forward for the PFA’s manager prize but insisted if he wins, it will be reward for everyone involved in Saints’ efforts this campaign.

“I’m proud but I’m also delighted for so many people who help me every day,” he said. “It’s always the manager who gets praise when things go well, but I’ve got Callum Davidson, Alec Cleland, Stevie Banks and a load of others giving me tremendous support. And you only get recognition if you have good players and I am blessed with a bunch of guys I can trust, so really it’s recognition for everyone at the club.”

Undoubtedly the pick of Wright’s bunch has been 26-goal striker Stevie May, and Gordon Strachan is believed to be considering calling up the 21-year-old to his Scotland squad for next month’s London friendly with Nigeria.

Wright said: “That’s Gordon’s choice and not for me to interfere in it, but I think Stevie is ready for a full call-up. A friendly at the end of the season could be the perfect opportunity for Stevie to be included. If it did happen, it would cap off a tremendous season for him.”

Meanwhile, Aberdeen defender Shaleum Logan admits he could prolong his Pittodrie stint beyond the summer.

The 25-year-old joined Derek McInnes’ side on loan from Brentford in January, but his Griffin Park deal expires at the end of the season. And the Englishman is keen to hold talks with McInnes before making a final decision on his future. However, spending another year away from his Manchester-based family could yet sway his decision in favour of a return south. Logan, who landed a League Cup winners’ medal after just seven games for Aberdeen, said: “I have definitely thought about staying here beyond the summer. Derek and I will sit down at the end of the season and decide what happens. I have really enjoyed my time here so far – it’s been one of the best spells of my career in football with winning the cup and playing at places like Celtic Park, Ibrox and even Hearts.

“Did I think I’d enjoy it this much when I came up? Probably not. It’s surpassed my expectations and I’ve really enjoyed the city and the people up here. I’m sure Derek and I can maybe come to some agreement. We will have to see.

“It’s a job, at the end of the day, so the money has to be right. But, on the other side, you don’t want to work somewhere you’re not happy. I have two kids that I’ve been living away from for the past three years. It’s been a case of coming back weekly to see them. I just have to find the right balance for me. But Derek has given me time off to fly back down to see them. He knows how important that is to me and I really appreciated it.”