This season is coming to an end but, while others stumble over the line, St Johnstone will run at it full pelt.
Tommy Wright’s men may have had a slow start to this league season but a steady middle and another strong finish saw them securing fourth place and a return to European competition, and today they also stand on the brink of breaking the 60-point mark for the first time.
The achievements are all down to attitude, according to Chris Millar, one of the core of players who have been at the club for several seasons and are well versed in how to help it continually deliver well beyond its means.
“We wanted a European place, but despite the fact that place was decided with a few games to go, we’re not the type to just settle for that. There’s bonus money at stake for a start, but it’s more than that, it’s pride in what you do,” said the midfielder who has enjoyed nine seasons with the Perth side, who wrap up the current campaign against Rangers this afternoon.
In the past five seasons, Wright’s men have lost just four out of 24 post-split games, earning them a European spot in all but one of those campaigns.
“People always ask what your motivation is when the games are supposedly meaningless but we’re constantly setting ourselves targets, right from the start of the season,” added Millar, pictured. “As a team you have to set yourselves goals. To make the top six, catch the team ahead of you, do better than last year for points, for number of wins – all of these things should matter to you.
“We’ve already got more points than we’ve had before in the Premiership, already got more wins, but we want to stretch that mark. When all’s said and done you want to be able to look back on your time at the club and know you hit milestones and did well by them.”
Each year, one or two key players are cherry-picked by rivals or lured down south but time and again the recruitment is right. Replacements are brought in to fit into the jigsaw and the established players quickly educate them on the psyche of the club and the demands they place on each other.
Millar said: “I’m proud of the fact that since I came here there’s been such a steady progression. We won the Championship in my first season, then eight years in the top division, we seem to have built and built. It gets harder each year, not easier. We’ve had Hearts coming back up, Rangers coming back up, next year it’ll be Hibs. But we have a core of players who have been here for three, four, five seasons who all understand the club and understand the challenge. It’s that continuity and consistency we have in abundance.
“And yes, we have players who work hard, but we’ve also got ability – and that gets overlooked sometimes. It’s always ‘St Johnstone? Oh, they’re organised, hard to beat…’ – we’ve got good football players here. Organisation gets you so far but you need ability to execute it and a good manager and coaching staff to get the best out of you as individuals and as a team.”