My Team & I: St Mirren

St Mirren

By Paul Barnes

Twitter: @paulibarnes


Why St Mirren?

Born in Paisley and raised in Renfrewshire, St Mirren are my local club. My father was a big football fan but having originated from Caithness in the Scottish Highlands, he didn’t support any particular side, therefore my Buddie love wasn’t exactly in the genes.

My mother was a friend of St Mirren legend Campbell Money’s wife and at the age of eight she arranged for me to be a matchday mascot. I led the Saints out against Ayr United in 1992 and was immediately hooked.

There was a three-year period when I was in my early teens when I hardly missed a game, home or away. My friend from school was an avid Buddies fan and his father even more so. He used to drive us to grounds all over the country when St Mirren were fighting for a way out of Division 1.

Boghead, Kilbowie, Starks Park, Cappielow, we’d go everywhere…those were the days.

Favourite Player?

I have so many favourites from the side that won the First Division under Tom Hendrie. Junior Mendes, Barry Lavety, Mark Yardley and of course the heroic Sir Hugh Murray. However, my favourite St Mirren player has to be the one and only Tommy Turner.  Often derided for his lack of pace and comedy porno ‘tache, Tommy could play, boy could he play. His best years in the black and white came in his late thirties. He played as a proper old school sweeper. His reading of the game was so impeccable that his snail-like pace didn’t really matter. Calm, composed on the ball, with an instinctive sense to intercept danger, he made life rather boring for goalkeeper Ludovic Roy.

His pace and age finally caught up with him in the SPL but few Saints fans will forget the impact he had on the title winning side of 2000.


Favourite Game?

It would be easy to say the 1987 Scottish Cup final, undoubtedly the club’s greatest achievement in my lifetime. However I’d be lying if I said I remembered it. Truth is I wasn’t long out of nappies and can only cherish the occasion with pictures and footage of that special day.

We thumped Raith 3-0 to win the First Division title on the penultimate day of the 1999/2000 season. There were glorious scenes that day at Love Street.

Despite this, I’m going to plump for a relatively peculiar choice. I’ll take you back to 12 November 1999. Airdrieonians away at the newly built Shyberry Excelsior stadium. It was a Friday night, an unusual day of the week to play a Scottish league football match, but it was the evening before the first leg of the Euro 2000 qualifying play-off between Scotland and England at Hampden so both clubs agreed to move the tie to a Friday evening to enhance the prospects of getting a large crowd in the ground. Saints were sitting pretty at the top of the league and although it was still early on in the season, fans were beginning to believe that a return to the top flight was imminent. A huge away support cheered us on to a 2-0 victory, with goals from Lavety and Yardley, the strikeforce who would ultimately win the league title come May. It was a great night, a professional display, and a night that we really started to believe. Like I say, some will question why this is my favourite match, but I remember it vividly and can still smell, hear and taste the atmosphere of that day. Great times.

Favourite Strip?

Has to be the very first St Mirren kit I owned. It was the home kit from the 1991/1992 season when we were relegated from the old Premier Division, so it obviously wasn’t a lucky kit! But there was nothing like the feeling of that cheap nylon against your skin, with the huge plastic Kelvin Homes sponsor weighing me down as I trudged around the local bog that was the public park. The kit manufacturer was Matchwinner, a classic 80’s/90’s football brand that sadly seems to have diminished into the soccer wilderness.


Worst Thing About Being a St Mirren fan?

Always being in the bottom 3 of the league but rarely succumbing to the drop. I hear you say “That must be great, count yourself lucky that you stay up every year.” However, the fact that we seem to narrowly avoid relegation every season reasons that as supporters, we see our team winning very few games.

My most enjoyable days of supporting St Mirren were when they were in the First Division and winning almost every week. I sometimes wonder if I’d prefer that still to be the case. I mean, is the SPL really such a big deal? But then what does it say about my ambitions for the club as a supporter if I’d rather they were relegated just so that I could see my team winning every week?  Like I say, the pain and turmoil of being a Saints fan is sometimes difficult to fathom.

Funniest Moment?

This is an easy one. As kids, my pals and I used to stand on the East Stand terracing of our old Love Street home. We’d always get a bag of fritters from a local chippy and head through the turnstiles early to watch our heroes warm up. It was only 4 quid to get in. Changed days now!

On one particular Saturday early on in the season we were munching away on our greasy battered spuds prior to kick off when a wayward strike at goal from David Winnie flew straight for me, sending my lunch everywhere and Paisley’s seagulls into a frenzy. Cue raucous laughter from hundreds of Buddies watching on. From that moment onwards Winnie became my least favourite player.

Favourite Moment?

Winning the First Division title under Tom Hendrie in 2000. It was the best Saints team in my lifetime. We thumped Raith 3-0 in our last home game of the season. There were some terrific players in that side: Ludovic Roy, Tommy Turner, Barry McLaughlin, Hugh Murray, Junior Mendes, Barry Lavety and Mark Yardley, to name but a few! A lot of that team were local lads and St Mirren fans. That title meant an awful lot to the supporters and the town, and manager Tom Hendrie will forever be remembered as a Saints legend.

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