Saints from very start

McDiarmid: For­ward didn’t need to think twice about join­ing

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - SPORT -

Dundee may have been keen to bring Denny John­stone to Dens Park, but the for­mer Celtic at­tacker only had eyes for St John­stone.

Tommy Wright is a long-time ad­mirer of the for­ward who built his rep­u­ta­tion on a goalscor­ing spree with Mor­ton in the Cham­pi­onship.

And when the Perth man­ager made his pitch to take the 22-year-old to McDiarmid Park for the sea­son from Colch­ester United, his mind was made up pretty quickly.

“There was some in­ter­est in me from Dundee,” said John­stone, who is push­ing hard for a start in today’s Tay­side derby.

“But I heard about St John­stone’s in­ter­est early on so this was the club I wanted to come to. I had my mind set on com­ing here.

“I didn’t know at the time the man­ager had tried to get me when I was at Celtic. He only told me dur­ing talks be­fore dead­line day and that was a mas­sive in­flu­ence on my de­ci­sion. It’s a big fac­tor in com­ing to a club when you know the man­ager re­ally wants you.”

John­stone is still wait­ing for his chance to im­press Wright from the first whis­tle, but he is happy with the way he has fit­ted in at Saints on his re­turn north of the bor­der.

“The play­ers have been first class with me,” he said. “It feels like I have been here a lot longer than just three weeks. I have re­ally set­tled in quickly. It’s good to be back in Scot­land.

“We have had two big games against Celtic and Hibs since I came in and I have been try­ing to com­pare the stan­dard to down south.

“It is a dif­fer­ent style from in Eng­land but the stan­dard has been good and we have had two pos­i­tive re­sults.

“I think I am get­ting closer to a start. I have been try­ing to make an im­pres­sion com­ing off the bench and in train­ing. Hope­fully if I get in the team I will be able to keep my place.

“Be­fore I came here I knew I would have to wait for my chance be­cause the play­ers have done so well.

“The man­ager has to be fair to the play­ers who have made such a good start. I have to be pa­tient but it’s good com­ing to a win­ning club where con­fi­dence re­ver­ber­ates around the place.”

John­stone added: “Con­fi­dence is the big­gest thing for me.

“Last year wasn’t en­tirely pro­duc­tive so maybe I lost a bit along the way.

“I did well at Mor­ton where I was given free­dom to go and play my own game. I think that was a big thing.

“This is a first for me. I haven’t played at Dens be­fore and be­ing a derby it is a big game for both clubs.”

Even this early in the sea­son Saints have an op­por­tu­nity to lift them­selves 13 points away from the Premier­ship’s base­ment club.

“We are look­ing to put dis­tance be­tween us and clubs around the bot­tom early,” said John­stone.

“We have had a great start and want to push on.

“We look at games as winnable and this is def­i­nitely one of them. Get­ting away from the bot­tom hasn’t re­ally been dis­cussed. The lads don’t think there should be any bar­ri­ers about how well we can do.

“I think the play­ers go into every game think­ing teams will strug­gle to beat us. That is the vibe I have got since com­ing in here. It was clear from day one be­fore we went and got a draw at Celtic.”

There could be a fa­mil­iar face in the Dundee de­fence for John­stone.

“I know Jack Hendry from our time at Celtic,” he said. “We were in the same youth team up to un­der-16 be­fore he moved to Eng­land.

“Like me Jack went down south but he’s back look­ing to play every week. That’s the most im­por­tant thing for any player. There are a lot of play­ers who have left Celtic and have gone on to have very good ca­reers. Look across the league and there are team-mates from my time there do­ing well at other clubs. You get a good ground­ing there at the acad­emy.

“Dar­ren O’Dea might come back in and he has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing at this level. It will be a good test for us.”

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