Saints from very start
McDiarmid: Forward didn’t need to think twice about joining
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.”