• Angus McGregor

2020/21 Season Preview - St Johnstone: Talented Young Players To Ease Wright Loss

Tommy Wright's reign at St Johnstone has come to an end following 7 great years where he has got the club into Europe and won the Scottish Cup. His final season ended abruptly with the pandemic cutting the season short but Wright was able to pull of one final miracle, by getting the club into the top 6 despite never once being positioned higher than 7th in the league table. The 2019/20 season was a mixed bag for Saints, with a poor start seeing them sit bottom for 10 game weeks but from December onwards showcasing a lot more stability that saw them climb up the table, far away from relegation threats.

For fans of the Perth side, the emergence of two bright young talents were the highlights of the 2019/20 season and have given great hope for the future. Northern Irish midfielder Ali McCann gained many plaudits last season, with the 20-year-old cementing his place in the Saints midfield, making an impressive 29 league appearances, amassing to over 2000 minutes of valuable first-team experience. The central midfielder has not looked out of place in the top flight with only club captain Jason Kerr making more appearances in all competitions. For a talent so young to be relied on heavily shows how McCann was performing last season and should be fully expected to kick on once again this season. Such a bright talent with dual nationality, hopefully, Steve Clarke can convince the young midfielder to turn out for the Tartan Army in the future. The midfielder is highly intelligent in both defensive and attacking phases, with the midfielder solid in breaking up play and starting up attacks immediately.

The other of the bright talents comes in the form of Callum Hendry, son of former Scotland and Blackburn Rovers defender Colin Hendry. Joining the club following a spell at Blackburn, Hendry broke onto the scene last season by taking his opportunities coming off the bench. Hendry only made 5 starts in the 2019/20 season with a further 15 appearances off the bench and yet still ended up as the Saints top goalscorer with 7 league goals. This was one more than the unfortunate Stevie May who made 20 starts last season showcasing how Hendry has made the most of his appearances so far. Hendry has proven to be an instinctive finisher, keeping calm in tight situations where he can only get minimal touches in before firing at goal. The same can be said in one on one positions, his finish versus Rangers a prime example where after some great harrying, he is patient when bearing down on goal before easily dispatching the ball into the back of the net. 22 in both age and shirt number, Hendry has a bright future as a talent who knows where the goal is and will be one of the leading men for the Saints this season.

St Johnstone's team on paper perhaps doesn't seem the most glamorous but when looking further into their squad, it really is quite exciting. The two aforementioned youngsters are joined by other fresh talents such as the centre-back partnership of captain Jason Kerr and Jamie McCart. The young duo at the heart of the defence made a big difference following McCart's arrival, only losing once since the defender's arrival, a 3-0 loss to Celtic when McCart came on after all 3 goals had been conceded. Combined with the talented Zander Clark, St Johnstone's backline has great prospect within it that has already been shown in such little time. With more game time alongside one another and the mentorship of the new manager and former Saints defender Callum Davidson, this duo could end up being one of the league's most impressive partnerships.

There's a good mix within the Saints squad with some familiar faces in the form of Murray Davidson, Chris Kane and David Wotherspoon who will add experience to the squad and help with the progression of these young players. Stevie May was starting to show some more productivity towards the break and the emergence of Hendry may even help take some off the attention off the former Aberdeen striker. The Saints may notice the loss of Tommy Wright the most this season with Callum Davidson taking over in his first managerial role. What goes in Davidson's favour is that it is a club he knows inside and out and will already be familiar with the club's tactics and intentions. Still, it is a big job ahead of the new manager in what looks to be an ultra-competitive season.

The lack of big names within the St Johnstone squad might make many think they're in for a poor season, especially with the loss of Tommy Wright. The Northern Irish manager will undoubtedly be missed at McDiarmid Park but there is certainly a bright future within this squad. A new manager and a fresh-faced squad with genuine talent and quality make St Johnstone quite the dark horse this season. The club managed to finish 6th despite half a season of dross, could they push on even further this time around?

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