"Sheer relief" as St Johnstone fans bond with players again for long delayed celebration on emotional night at McDiarmid Park

There was a feeling that Callum Davidson had allowed himself to be carried away by emotion when he declared, on more than one occasion on Monday night, that securing Premiership survival with a play-off win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle was a better achievement than winning two major trophies.

The St Johnstone fans seemed to bond with the team again on Monday on an emotional night at McDiarmid Park (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
The St Johnstone fans seemed to bond with the team again on Monday on an emotional night at McDiarmid Park (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

No one can argue he is not in the position to judge. He has been at the helm for both of these extremes. How St Johnstone went from being only the fourth club in Scottish football history to win both major knockout cups in a single season to scrapping to save their top-flight skin 12 months later cause puzzlement for a long time to come.

There will be a post mortem. The manager stressed such a scenario cannot be allowed to happen again and it’s certain he will be preparing to sit down with chairman Steve Brown to ensure that it doesn’t. Davidson's own future - which was a matter of debate as recently as 8.30pm on Monday - seems secure again.

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The fans, players and Davidson himself were entitled to enjoy the occasion after St Johnstone finally turned on the style. The final 45 minutes of the campaign were as well as they have played all season as they swept Inverness away after an uncomfortable opening half.

“That’ll be Cove Rangers away next season then,” one fan reported overhearing at half-time in the toilets in the East Stand. St Johnstone’s Premiership future appeared to be in serious doubt after a stay of 12 seasons. Inverness were the more menacing team.

The mood of home supporters did not improve when they returned to their seats to learn that Glenn Middleton had been replaced by Stevie May, the Scottish Cup hero from 2014. Injury has taken its toll on the striker. It seemed he was slowly fading from the scene at McDiarmid Park.

It was a restorative night in Perth. May scored within a couple of minutes of the re-start. Even Davidson himself seemed rejuvenated after the toughest of seasons. Afterwards it looked as if the weight of the world had fallen from his shoulders. The pressure was felt throughout the club.

“When the third one went in, I dropped to my knees because I knew then it was over, we were staying up,” said Cammy MacPherson, scorer of his side’s second, with reference to Callum Hendry’s decisive strike. “It was sheer relief.”

Hendry’s calm finish saw the party start in earnest and Shaun Rooney supplied the coup de grace. Davidson was in the thick of it. Why not? It is the first time the manager has been able to celebrate properly with fans. Last season’s double cup success was played out in front of banks of empty seats.

While not bigger than winning two cups, the retention of Premiership status was more important in terms of the club’s future development. Knowledge that some very significant players were being seen for the final time also fed in to an emotional night.

Davidson confirmed afterwards that out-of-contract goalkeeper Zander Clark was leaving the club. Cup hero Shaun Rooney is also now a free agent.

This might not have been the best way to draw a line under their McDiarmid Park careers but it was as good as could have been expected in the circumstances.

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