As the saying goes, “all good things come to an end.”
This summer, St. Johnstone Football Club says goodbye to three players who have been influential during what has been the most successful period in the club's history. All three arrived at different times over the course of the past ten years, but all three leave having cemented their place in the history books as club legends.
Chris Millar arrived from Greenock Morton back in 2008 while the club was still in the old First Division. He was signed by then manager Derek McInnes, and in his maiden season played a huge role in the club’s promotion back to Scotland’s top flight.
Alan Mannus was next, arriving at McDiarmid Park from Shamrock Rovers in 2011 to battle it out for the number one jersey with the experienced Peter Enckelman. It was a battle that Alan would eventually win and over the years that followed the Northern Irishman has become one of the club’s most celebrated and highly regarded goalkeepers in its history.
And last but not least, Steven MacLean, who arrived in September 2012 and has scored some of the most significant goals in St. Johnstone history. The striker has enjoyed six fantastic seasons in Perth and will be in the memories of Saints fans forever more for his goal on Saturday 17th May 2014.
Although they're moving on, they will always be Saintees, and will undoubtedly always be welcome back to McDiarmid Park in the future.
Chris ‘Midgey’ Millar joined Saints from Greenock Morton in the summer of 2008 on a free transfer. Now in his testimonial year, the midfielder has enjoyed ten successful seasons at the club but will move on to a new challenge this summer.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” Chris said.
“When you first join a club you don’t think that you’ll still be there ten years on. It’s been an incredible move for me career-wise and when I eventually hang up my boots I’ll look back on my time here with great pride having been involved in the greatest period in St. Johnstone’s history.”
The club and the fans will always hold a special place in my heart and I’ll always be a Saintee.
“Obvious highlights for me are the European game against Rosenborg and the Scottish Cup win,” stated Chris.
“The Rosenborg game was one of the best days of my career and I feel like that day I realised my dream of being involved in and winning a big European tie – it was something I’d always wanted to do as a kid.
“The Scottish Cup Final was something else. It’s a competition that every kid dreams about winning when they’re playing in the park so to do that here was just incredible. It meant so much to the fans as well.
“The night after was superb and I think that half of Perth had my medal around their necks! I didn’t mind passing it around for photos because the fans were so happy but I made sure it never left my sight!”
With Midgey departing the club after ten seasons – albeit with a Testimonial match to come in the summer – he had nothing but praise for the fans that have been there over the past decade.
“They’ve been incredible and the messages I’ve received since it was announced I was leaving the club have been really touching. I appreciate every single one of them.
“The club and the fans will always hold a special place in my heart and I’ll always be a Saintee. It really hits home when you see the messages from the fans and I’m just so happy to have been part of what has been such a special time in St. Johnstone Football Club’s history.”
The Northern Irish international has become a fans’ favourite since arriving from Shamrock Rovers in 2011, the club that Alan will be returning to this summer.
Now widely regarded as one of the greatest St. Johnstone goalkeepers of all time, he started his career at Saints competing with experienced Finnish star Peter Enckelman and leaves after enjoying a healthy competition with Zander Clark over the past few seasons.
“It’s been in the pipeline for a few years now,” Alan said, “and the manager and I had agreed that this summer was the right time for me to move on and head back to Ireland.
I’ve had such an incredible time here and I couldn’t ask to have been treated any better by the fans.
“It’s a decision that was made for personal reasons and now that my wife and I have a young son, we want to be back home closer to our family.
“I’ve had such an incredible time here and I couldn’t ask to have been treated any better by the fans, my teammates and the management since the day I arrived here.”
Alan has made a number of important saves and been the man between the sticks during a special era of Saints history, and there are a couple of highlights that stand out for him.
“Scottish Cup is number one without a doubt,” said Alan, “to win that – with what it meant to the supporters – was just amazing.
“From a personal point of view though, I think my other big highlight was my first full season at the club where we finished 3rd and I played in pretty much every league game that campaign. We qualified for Europe and it was a great year, and I proved to myself and those who believed in me back home that I could play at this level.”
With Alan heading back to Shamrock Rovers in the summer, he had a final message for the Perth fans.
“I can’t thank you all enough for everything that you’ve done for me since I came to the club. From the very beginning, you have sung my name and I’m going to miss that.
“You’ve all had such nice things to say about me over the past seven seasons and I’d just like to say thank you. Thank you to all the fans, to my teammates and management past and present, and to everybody involved with the football club. I’m going to miss everybody.”
Macca joined Saints in September 2012 and across six seasons in Perth, he has popped up with some of the most important goals in the club’s 134-year-history.
The lure of one final move in the 35-year-old’s career proved too much and next season he will return to McDiarmid Park in the maroon colours of Hearts – it wasn’t an easy decision for the striker to make though.
“It was definitely made with a heavy heart,” Steven said.
“I just felt like I was ready for a new challenge and it’s something I’m looking forward to. It’s going to be a strange feeling at the end of the season when I walk out of McDiarmid Park for the final time as a Saints player. It’s going to be sad for me because I’ve made great friends here and there are a lot of fantastic people at this football club.”
To score in the final was an absolute dream. It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.
The former Scotland U21 international signed for Saints after leaving English club Yeovil Town. What was to follow was six seasons of magic which leaves Macca’s name forever etched in St. Johnstone’s history books.
He scored in Rosenborg the night that the club picked up a famous 1-0 victory in the Europa League, and he also scored in the next round against Minsk in Belarus. Another European away goal followed against Luzern and it was a night that the striker will never forget.
“That was a special European tie,” said Macca, “for me to score and then the night we spent celebrating with the supporters after that was just incredible. Those are the nights you’ll always remember when you look back.”
Of course, there will always be one day and one goal in particular that St. Johnstone fans will always remember Steven MacLean by. 17th May 2014, Celtic Park, Glasgow – St. Johnstone 2-0 Dundee United.
“Winning the Scottish Cup was just incredible but to score in the final as well was an absolute dream. It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.
“I can’t remember much about the goal though, to be honest! There are about thirty seconds that are just a blur. To say I’ve scored in a Scottish Cup Final and gone onto win it is something that can never be taken away from me though – it was special.”
In typical Macca style, he signed off with a stunning hat-trick in his final game for the club against Motherwell last Saturday. Suspended for the match against Ross County, Steven netted three times and paid tribute to the Saints supporters that he’s enjoyed playing for over the past six seasons.
“I just want to say thank you to every single one of the supporters for their backing, not just for me but for the entire team, over the years.
“They’ve always been absolutely brilliant with me and they’re so loyal. I’ll never forget celebrating with them in Luzern or sharing that special Scottish Cup win with them. It’s been a privilege and I sincerely hope that the supporters and the club will have lots more success to come in the future.”
Saints take on Ross County tomorrow at McDiarmid Park. Kick-off is at 3PM.
Images for this article are courtesy of St. Johnstone Football Club/Perthshire Picture Agency.
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