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St Mirren Sean Graham

St. Mirren fans have not had the best of times of late and manager Danny Lennon has come under a bit of pressure as results have not gone their way in the league,taking one point from a possible 12 in their first four matches and they have already been knocked out of the League Cup by Queen of the South.
But this is all a far cry from one fantastic day last March when the same manager lead his St.Mirren side to glory in a day that they will never forget and I was there to share their success in a day that I will never forget .
Hope my story brings back happy memories for the players, fans and everyone connected with St.Mirren FC.
It is not often that you get the chance to go to a final as a neutral but I was lucky enough to get that chance last season when St Patrick's Day turned into St.Mirren Day after a fantastic Scottish Communities League Cup final match ended in the Paisley side's favour .

Many fans wondered what kind of final this would be as neither Celtic or Rangers had made it through to this final but I can honestly say I witnessed one of the best League Cup finals seen for a long time .

No Old Firm team in the final and this allowed the fans to mingle freely before the game as both sets of excited fans headed to Hampden in anticipation of what lay ahead for them.
Hearts, despite all their off the field troubles, would have had fresh memories of the last time they visited Hampden, a day that the Jambos would not forget in a hurry, the 5-1 demolition of their old rivals Hibernian in the Scottish Cup in May last year.

St. Mirren on the other hand would be hoping to wipe out any repeat of the Hampden heartache they had when they lost the 2010 final to nine man Rangers and they indeed had never won the League Cup in their 135 year history.
So on a wet and gloomy day it would be left to the Paisley Buddies or the Edinburgh Jambos to see which one of these clubs could lift the first piece of silverware of the season in Scotland.

Hearts started the better of the two sides and they took the lead after ten minutes after Ryan Stevenson’s patience and deflected shot beat Craig Samson to send the hordes of Hearts fans inside Hampden wild with delight.

That was just the perfect start for Gary Locke’s men and they looked to increase their lead and they possibly should and could have doubled it after John Sutton headed a Jamie Walker cross against the post.

St. Mirren defended bravely and started to try and catch the Tynecastle men out with fast break aways on the right hand side with the impressive Gary Teale causing them problems.

The Saints tried into the match as it wore on but their first real chance from Goncalves was easily saved by McDonald.

Hearts were always a threat going forward and they had a big physical presence in Sutton and Ngoo and it was the on loan Liverpool striker ( Ngoo) who almost increased Hearts lead as he was inches away from getting on the end of a McHattie free-kick but Samson in the St. Mirren goal scrambled it away.
The Saints could not get a grip on the match at all in the first half and were fortunate to escape again when the tricky Taouil beat the St. Mirren defence but pulled his shot wide of Samson’s left hand post.

Despite Hearts creating chance after chance, they only had the one goal to show for it and St.Mirren made them pay dearly for those missed chances.

A clever ball from Thompson found the impressive Teale down the right wing and despite the Hearts defence claiming for off-side Teale unselfishly squared the ball to Goncalves to roll the ball into an empty net and level the match at 1-1. St. Mirren had weathered the Hearts storm and had pulled themselves back level before half-time and this must have pleased manager Danny Lennon.

Whatever the St. Mirren boss said to his players at half-time, they came out a different side in the second half. Within seconds of the restart, the local hero and boyhood St. Mirren fan Steven Thompson, had found himself with just enough space in the box to fire a left foot shot home after Paul Dommett had whipped a cross in. The delight and emotion that Thompson showed after scoring that goal, showed exactly what it meant to him!
St. Mirren had turned this match on its head and boy did these Paisley Buddies enjoy that!

They now started to enjoy their possession and passing of the ball and they put their fans in dream land when a great one two between Goncalves and Conor Newton, ended in the young Geordie who smashed the ball behind McDonald to give the Saints a 3-1 lead.

Hearts, many would have thought were dead and buried, far from it!

Gary Locke’s men fought back and Stevenson was unlucky not to score after a Taouil shot was saved by Samson and he hit the post with the rebound. It was now Hearts turn to pile on the pressure and it was that man Stevenson again who came close after a scramble in the goal-mouth saw the Hearts man hit the bar with an effort as they threw everything at St.Mirren.

The pressure paid off and after a good run, Ngoo found Stevenson unmarked and this time his low shot beat Samson to make it 3-2 and set up a grandstand finish.
Hearts tried everything they could to break St Mirren down for a third time, Ngoo had an effort off his thigh saved by Samson and turned away for a corner but the Saints defence stood firm and held out for a famous victory, their first silverware for 26 years and their first final win in this competition ever. it was a breath-taking end to a fantastic final and advert for the Scottish game but in the end it was to be the Saints who would come out on top on St. Patrick’s Day and it would be an Irishman who would get his hands on the trophy as St. Mirren captain Jim Goodwin proudly held the cup aloft to the Saints fans before they headed down Paisley way for one almighty party….I think my Saints buddies, Chick Young, Dougie Vipond, Douglas McNeil, Tam Black and Mark Pirie have only now returned back down from cloud nine as Paisley had a party similar to that Scottish Cup win in 87 over Dundee United and boy did they party.

Speaking to boyhood Saints fan and scorer of the second goal delighted Steven Thompson after the match, he summed up what this meant to him and the people of Paisley, " It is going to take a while to sink in obviously, I realise what we have done and I am glad we have done it as I was feeling a lot of pressure in the lead up to the game, you try to block out as much of it as you can but living in the local area there is no escaping it ! I am just so pleased that we managed to deliver for all the supporters and all the young fans that were out there today and maybe for some of the young fans it was their first game and hopefully that has given them a love affair with St. Mirren Football Club".

"It was a big family day today and everyone I know took their kids today and it was an amazing day, one which I hope they will remember for the rest of their lives and hopefully this win will encourage even more fans will come to watch St Mirren on a Saturday."

"This means everything to me, I just want to enjoy it and take in as much of it as I can because it isn't every day that
St.Mirrenwins a Cup!"

The impressive Gary Teale has been involved in football at the highest level and rated this Cup win right up there with the best of his achievements.
"It is right up there! I have been fortunate enough to be involved in an incredible game when I was involved with the national team when we beat France but this may have eclipsed even that!"

“To
come through a cup competition as one of the so called smaller teams in the country and win it, is an incredible achievement and will go down in the history books at the club."

"You see what it meant to the club 25 years ago when they won the Scottish Cup in 87, it is still talked about till this day and the players have their faces plastered around the stadium even now, so hopefully we can have those kind of things as well".

“To
beat Celtic in the semi-final was amazing but if we had not won the cup it would have been disappointing and to be honest we did not play well at all in the first 30/35 minutes and they could have been more than one goal up but we came into the game more and got our goal before half-time to go in level."

" The gaffer said we had not played well and didn't get the ball down to play football at all it was more like a bag of nettles but we started the second half well and just grew in confidence and in the end I thought we ran out worthy winners".

“The
more experienced players in the side tried to get it through to the youngsters not to over play the ball but also to try an enjoy the experience because moments like these don't come around too often in your career and better players than us have ended up with nothing in their careers but when you see what the players at this club have done and the manager also, it was a magnificent achievement to win the cup this season."
St.Mirren manager, Danny Lennon, could not hide his delight at his team's fantastic win but he was also quick to praise Hearts for such a fantastic occasion.

“I
said to the group of players that many players go through their careers and never get the chance to play in a cup final and in reality this could have been our only chance, so I told them to go out and make this an extra-ordinary occasion and to grasp this chance with both hands."

“In
the first- half we didn't get started, I just felt that we got caught up in the occasion and forgot there was a game of football to be played, the second half was a different story! "

“I
was thrilled the way in which we started the second half and I said to big Stevie at half-time the script was written for him!"

“We
had not started in the first half but we got off to a terrific start in the second-half and I was delighted for Stevie, it was real Roy of the Rovers stuff for him, the stuff that dreams are made of."

"As a kid he dreamed of playing in a cup final with his boyhood team and now to live the dream, playing, scoring and winning the cup for St.Mirren was terrific , I love that story !"
But on and off the field this was a fantastic day for both sets of fans.

" It was a real family day, a real
occasion for fans of both sets of fans to walk side by side and I loved that and credit must go to the Hearts fans also for making it such a great occasion"
“We had 17,000 fans who had come out to watch us at Hampden and loads more when we went back to Paisley and I wanted to do it for them. I had planned in my head how I was going to enjoy the moment with them and just to see them celebrate and enjoy the moment with them and deliver that for the Paisley, the ones who were at the game, the ones who couldn't make it, we are a community club and it was great to be able to take this piece of silverware back to those guys and St.Mirren Football Club to win the League Cup for the first time in their 135 year history, is great for us."

But I must say, speaking to guys like Danny Lennon, Steven Thompson and Gary Teale, these guys deserve success as they are not big time Charlie's, they are down to earth hard working pros who have earned this and I hope it's not the last time St.Mirren are at Hampden picking up a trophy! Good guys do come out on top now and again!
Some people who support the so called little clubs, crave for days like this, some wait a lifetime for a moment like this but when it comes round, it is worth it just ask Chick Young, Andy Halley and the gang when the DVD sales blast through the roof, I have even got one in my collection and it's a great watch and a very enjoyable look behind the scenes at what winning the Cup meant to everyone at St.Mirren Football Club.
That day will stay in the history books forever and Danny Lennon and his men should be proud of that- they were all heroes and though the club are going through a difficult time at the moment, they are still heroes and they should be backed all the way and given time to turn things round.

Sean Graham

Follow on Twitter @FeaturesSean


"I am just a guy who has over 40 years of memories of watching various clubs and matches since my Dad took me round the grounds in Glasgow each week before we went to meet my Mum after work and we always went to the Berni Inn where I had scampi and chips !

From watching Aberdeen, Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle, Maryhill juniors and Scotland as well as watching Everton and Manchester United, I have plenty of memories to share for fans to hopefully enjoy and remember."

 

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