St Mirren: An insight from north of the border

Ahead of Saturday's pre-season opener against Scottish Premiership outfit St Mirren, long-standing Buddies supporter Dave MacDonald has spoken exclusively to to give the Bolton faithful the low-down on what to expect this weekend.

Dave - how long have you supported St Mirren for and how did you come to do so?

I went to my first game as a wide eyed five-year-old, so I guess that means I’ve been following the Buddies for 41 years.

I was born in Paisley, and my dad and his dad were Saints fans. I’ve always been a big believer in supporting your local team, so whilst Rangers and Celtic are within a few miles of Paisley, there was never any doubt which team I’d follow.

It’s a decision I’ve never once regretted, even through the darkest of dark times, and there have been more than a few of those!

How familiar are you with Bolton Wanderers’ exploits of late and the club in general?

I’ve a friend who works at the club so I probably know a little bit more about Bolton than most other Championship clubs.

Obviously the club went through a really difficult period just prior to being relegated to League One a couple of seasons ago, but it was great to see them bounce back to the Championship at the first attempt and I was pleased that they managed to survive last season - just!

I’ve been to Macron Stadium twice, staying in the hotel both times – it’s a terrific setup and hopefully this season we will see them establishing themselves again as a top half team. What a difficult league the Sky Bet Championship is though!

You recently lost your manager Jack Ross to Sunderland – what was the reaction amongst the club’s supporters following that announcement?

We were naturally gutted. At the end of 2016, we were rock bottom of the Scottish Championship and looked certs for relegation to League One.

He re-built our squad in the January 2017 transfer window and we never looked back, going on a tremendous run that saw us seal survival on the final day of the season.

We then rampaged our way to the title last season, winning it by 12 points. It was a hell of a journey and Jack had a tremendous rapport with the fans.

That said, we appreciate that Sunderland is a massive club with huge potential so whilst we were really disappointed to see him go, I think the majority of fans understood why he left and will wish him every success.

What is the consensus on your new boss Alan Stubbs – a former Wanderer?

Jack was so popular that his replacement was always going to find big shoes to fill!

I think, to be honest, the initial reaction was a bit mixed. Stubbs did really well with Hibs, landing them their first Scottish Cup in 114 years but then obviously didn’t fare well at all at Rotherham.

The fans have started to warm to his appointment now though - he speaks very well (like Jack) and his recruitment to date looks encouraging with plenty more to come.

He’s fiercely ambitious for the club and that’s what the fans want to hear. We don’t want to merely “survive” in the top flight - we want to have a right go at finishing as high up as we can and we want to see the Buddies playing good football along the way.

The new gaffer has promised that, so we will just need to see if he can deliver!

You won promotion to the top flight of Scottish football earlier this year. What would you attribute that success to?

A very good manager, a very capable squad of players who were extremely well drilled, and a togetherness between supporters and the team that had been really lacking before Jack came in.

We also embarked on a fan ownership project just before Jack was appointed and it created a perfect storm of goodwill that certainly helped change the whole atmosphere around the club.

Lewis Morgan was arguably the difference at key times of the season - he subsequently moved to Celtic, such was the impact he made last season, but it was a real team effort and there were so many heroes in that team, none more so than our captain Stephen McGinn.

You’ve recently signed a former youngster of ours in Jeff King - what are your expectations of him?

I don’t know a huge amount about him to be honest. I’ve read a bit and listened to his interviews and he seems hungry and ready to get stuck in, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he can bring.

The last player we took from Bolton was Aaron Mooy and he’s done pretty well for himself, so more of the same wouldn’t go amiss!

What are the St Mirren faithful expecting from Saturday’s friendly clash?

I think we’re just keen to get a look at the new players and get a feel for the style of football Stubbs is going to bring.

We’ve got five new recruits in so far and the promise of a good few more to come. There might be a couple of trialists on the field for us on Saturday too and that always generates a bit of interest.

The result isn’t massively important, but you know, it’s a Scotland v England clash, so we do want to win!

Who should we be keeping an eye on in the St Mirren team this weekend?

Cammy Smith is a tremendous talent and very important to the team, and as I’ve mentioned our captain Stephen McGinn is the heartbeat of the side, but the next big thing at St Mirren is Kyle Magennis.

He’s recently just extended his contract with us which was tremendous news. He’s destined to go on to much bigger things, terrific talent.

And finally, a score prediction?

I reckon we might be a bit ahead of Wanderers in our preparation and we’re at home so I’ll go 2-1 to the Buddies.

I hope you all have an enjoyable trip north, but I’ll stop short of wishing you success for the other game happening later on Saturday afternoon!

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