St Johnstone 2021/22 preview: Callum Davidson can bring more success to Saints after season of all seasons

AFTER landing a cup double and finishing fifth in the Scottish Premiership last term some might question where St Johnstone can go from here.  

But for Saints manager Callum Davidson there is still plenty of room for improvement. 

“[After winning the double] for me it is how we keep that motivation there. I need to keep them motivated and driving forward. That is my job to do that,” he said this week. 

“If the standard slips then it is me who takes responsibility for it. I need to make sure they are fully focussed and they want to go and achieve something great this season as well.   

“We played well last season, I wasn’t happy with some results so maybe that is where we will look to better it.” 

It is easy to forget that the Perth outfit were lingering at the foot of Scotland’s top flight over Christmas and pundits far and wide were rightly tipping them for the drop. 

Davidson must take huge credit for sticking to his guns and his belief in his philosophy, which finally paid off when his team turned their season around in style. 

The turning point was without doubt the League Cup semi-final against Hibernain, where Saints were written off by many due to their poor league form. 

Goals from Jason Kerr, Shaun Rooney and Craig Conway saw Davidson’s team run out 3-0 winners, but despite the one-sided scoreline, it must be remembered that the victors had to dig deep early in the game due to a prolonged period of Hibs pressure. 

The Hampden occasion did not phase Davidson and his players, unlike their Edinburgh counterparts, and that form would continue throughout the remainder of the campaign.  

Livingston were dispatched as the League Cup made its way to McDiarmid Park, while St Mirren and once again Hibs were dismantled at the national stadium on Saints’ route to double glory. 

You would automatically think that St Johnstone’s performance of the season would have been one of those memorable days at Hampden. 

However, Saints’ day of the campaign came when they knocked Rangers out of the Scottish Cup in the quarter finals at Ibrox.  

The team spirit on show that day was epitomised when goalkeeper Zander Clark laid on an extra time equaliser for striker Chris Kane after James Tavernier had given the hosts the lead with minutes remaining. 

Scenes of jubilation would follow and a penalty shootout victory would book the Saints into another Hampden semi-final.  

The aforementioned team spirit was apparent throughout last year’s campaign even when times were hard and Saints could not buy a win to save themselves.  

Davidson will hope that feel-good factor in camp can remain even if he loses some of his top talents this summer. 

Shaun Rooney, Jamie McCart and Ali McCann have all been linked with moves, while skipper Jason Kerr has also attracted interest from south of the border. 

It remains to be seen if Saints will cash in on their young squad or whether they will continue to fend off the interest from England, but they will have to act fast if they do lose some of their prized assets. 

Davidson has already used his contact book to acquire young defenders Hayden Muller and Reece Devine from Millwall and Manchester United respectively. 

Double winner James Brown also made his stay in Perth permanent after he was released from Davidson’s old club Millwall. 

There has been a lack of transfer business at the top end of the park though and after Guy Melamed and Craig Conway were released and Glenn Middleton returned to Rangers, you would suspect Davidson would be keen to bring in some attacking reinforcements. 

Finnish striker Eetu Vertainen has been linked with a move to Perth in recent days and he could fill the void of Melamed who chipped in with a number of crucial goals last term. 

Saints are also rumoured to be interested in former Rangers man Greg Stewart and the forward could provide the creative spark that Davidson will be looking for in the final third.  

A Glenn Middleton return should also not be ruled out with Rangers expected to send the winger back out on loan this season.  

Saints have looked sharp in pre-season but after only having a couple of weeks off following their Scottish Cup triumph, this was probably to be expected.  

Davidson’s team are unbeaten after games against Stenhousemuir, Preston, Aberdeen, Arbroath and Fleetwood with all of the squad gaining required minutes ahead of the competitive action getting underway. 

The 3-4-3 formation still appears to be Davidson’s first choice and why would he change tactics after a hugely successful campaign last term. 

Aims and ambitions will never change at a club the size of St Johnstone with Davidson confirming in his press conference this week that the objective was to stay in the league. 

But if the 45-year-old can keep the core of his double winners there is no reason why they cannot challenge at the top end of the table for European places.  

It would also be short sighted to rule them out of more cup success after their history making double in 2021. 

NEED TO KNOW 

Manager: Callum Davidson 

Captain: Jason Kerr 

Key player: Ali McCann. It remains to be seen whether the Perth youngster will remain at the club beyond the summer transfer window, but if Saints can keep hold of him for another season, he will play a huge role. 

The 21-year-old is now a regular in his national team and never looks phased despite going up against some top talents. One of McCann’s most recent caps saw him up against European Champions Italy and again he was instrumental in the Northern Ireland midfield. 

In: James Brown (Millwall, loan made permanent), Reece Devine (Manchester United, loan), Hayden Muller (Millwall, loan). 

Out: Scott Tanser (St Mirren), Alex Ferguson (Edinburgh City, loan), Glenn Middleton (Rangers, end of loan), Zdenek Zlamal (Hearts, end of emergency loan), Craig Conway, Olly Hamilton, Guy Melamed, John Robertson. 

Last season: The season of all seasons. The most successful campaign in the club’s history as they landed a historic Scottish and League Cup double. Also finished in the top six despite a horror start that saw them bottom of the table around Christmas time. Turned it round and pipped Livingston to a European spot on the final day of the league season. 

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992