Alex Smith recalls his famous Saints glory days
THERE are eight men alive who have walked on the surface of the moon, three alive who have scored in more than one World Cup Final and only two still with us who have won the European Cup with two different teams.
Impressive feats all, but Alex Smith, pictured, is the only man on the planet who knows what it takes to win a major piece of silverware with St Mirren and the 73-year-old is hoping present Buddies boss Danny Lennon can join him by seeing off Hearts in this afternoon’s League Cup showdown.
Smith, currently the caretaker manager of First Division Falkirk where he is more commonly known as technical director, guided Saints to Scottish Cup glory in 1987 when an Ian Ferguson strike was enough to defeat Dundee United.
“There are definitely parallels to this current crop with my team. We had strong powerful strikers in [Kenny] McDowall and Ferguson whilst the current team has the same in [Steve] Thompson and [Esmael] Goncalves, with the boy Paul McGowan in the [Frank] McGarvey role playing just behind.”
The modern-day Saints have spent their week in St Andrews away from the building fervour engulfing Renfrewshire, and Smith feels this was a wise move having prepared his troops in much the same way. “We had the lads away down to Seamill before both the semi and the final and it was invaluable bonding.
“We got in a piano player, and had a great old-time singing karaoke. Only Ian Cameron missed out on the singing as he had his degree exams on the morning of the final so he was allowed to study in his room. Thankfully he passed.”
One issue Smith didn’t have to ponder on the Ayrshire coast was his line-up for the final as he had always planned to go with the 11 who defeated Hearts in the semi-final. Smith also revealed he even allowed one member of his squad to know he was getting a starting shirt well ahead of the 16 May clash.
Clearly enjoying reminiscing on arguably his greatest triumph, he reflected: “We immediately felt the young boys had handled the big Hampden occasion and had justified their selection even though playing Tony [Fitzpatrick] would have been the easier decision. To deal with the semi-final, the big stadium and Hearts equalising after all our dominance was a massive accomplishment for them and it was always our plan to go again.
“Paul Lambert had been left out of our final league game, but I did say to him beforehand I would be playing Tony Fitzpatrick to give him match practice, but not to worry he would be in the Hampden team. He knew a week before the game, and he knew before everyone else as I only asked him not to say anything to anyone apart from his parents and his then girlfriend, which is a big, big ask of a 17-year-old kid.”
Not only Smith will be cheering his former team on, but he feels he can do so with some confidence. “Steven Thompson and Paul McGowan are key as the two of them seem to have a good partnership, and I always think if you have match winners in your team you are a dangerous opponent. The St Mirren support deserve this as they are fabulous.”