Perthshire Advertiser

Jamie’s looking for more of the same on Sunday

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Supporters will not be twirling blue and white scarves above their heads at Hampden Park.

There won’t be the prematch meet-up with friends at Perth train station or the gathering of Saintees in Mount Florida watering holes in the hours and minutes before kick-off.

But at St Johnstone, a determinat­ion remained to make Sunday’s League Cup final one to remember for fans who will be watching the game against Livingston from the comfort of their homes.

Hard-working staff have rolled out a unique range of mementos.

A 68-page magazine was quickly pieced together, a limited edition replica cup final shirt unveiled and there is even an at-home hospitalit­y package for all tastebuds to enjoy.

Player shirts to be worn at Hampden were put up for sponsorshi­p – and sold out within an hour. Hundreds of virtual matchday tickets – priced at £10 – quickly helped boost club funds.

And supporter liaison officer Beverley Mayer has played a starring role in setting up a new online shop for all cup final merchandis­e and various other club items.

This really has been a team game and Saints’ media and communicat­ions manager Ross Cunningham takes great pride in that. The tireless hours of work are all worth it to make the matchday experience for fans unique, special and memorable.

He praised everyone from office staff and media volunteers to the club’s board of directors, chairman and head of football operations.

“There has been a lot of people putting in work behind the scenes,” Ross told the PA.

“Even before the semifinal took place, there was a lot of thought into what we might need to put together and have ready. We wanted to create something really special.

“Hopefully there won’t be any future League Cup finals where fans are unable to attend so we’re just trying to do as much as we can to make the day a special one for supporters.

“They can’t be in the stadium but we know they will still be watching from home. Hopefully the 68page magazine, virtual ticket, replica shirt, at-home hospitalit­y package and all the rest of it adds to the experience.

“We’ll get plenty of media content going out through the social media channels and on Saints TV as the game gets closer – it’ll be another extremely busy week.

“It’s a lot of hard work but I think everyone, including Sam Porter, Lewis Smith and others who I work closely with, have been really grateful to be involved in the build-up. The hours are worth it.”

Saints, Ross says, are truly grateful to all supporters who have been purchasing items and backing the club.

“In some ways you are surprised when things do so well, in other ways you are not because this is one of the biggest games in the club’s history,” Ross said.

“St Johnstone is a family club and one that is closeknit with supporters, players and staff.

“You know it’s a huge game and how excited people are. It’s a huge occasion for the club. The staff are excited, the players are excited, everybody is excited.

“Given the circumstan­ces we’re in, it’s great how supportive the fans have been. It’s really important for the club.”

This month’s Hampden showdown will not be the first major cup final Ross has helped cover.

While he only returned to work for the club in October, he previously spent five years at McDiarmid Park. His journey started in 2012 as a volunteer before moving on to become parttime and then full-time.

He was on duty at Celtic Park when Saints lifted the Scottish Cup in 2014 and now hopes to be a good luck charm at the national stadium.

“The 2014 Scottish Cup final was the most incredible, surreal day,” said Ross. “It was one of the best days of my life.

“I can’t believe I was involved in something like that. I was so proud of what the club achieved.

“I’m a Cowdenbeat­h fan but my dad would take me to plenty of St Johnstone games when I was young and I would definitely consider myself a fan now.

“I went to the League Cup final in 1998 in the Saints end and remember watching Nick Dasovic score and Roddy Grant coming on – and now I’m working with him.

“It’s special for me to be involved and I just hope everything goes the team’s way in the final.”

Jamie McCart hopes St Johnstone can transfer their Fir Park performanc­e to Hampden Park.

The centre-half oozed class at the weekend and at times his dominant defensive duties appeared effortless.

On one occasion in the second half, he intercepte­d a long switch aiming to pick out Tony Watt, cushioned the ball and chopped inside before nudging into the path of Liam Craig for a strike at goal.

It wasn’t the highlight of the game and wouldn’t receive anything more than a passing comment at the time. But it went to further emphasise how comfortabl­e, confident and assured the central defender is feeling.

He has formed a strong partnershi­p with Jason Kerr and Liam Gordon. Saturday’s performanc­e at Motherwell – the hosts could only muster one shot on target the whole game – was the best of the season so far.

And how McCart would love a similar showing when Saints travel to Hampden this weekend.

“We’ve got a good settled back three, Zander behind us and the wing-backs,”McCart said.

“We’re always helping each other out. The boys in front need us to be solid and commanding to let them push on. All round, Saturday was a great day ahead of the final.

“The manager had said that the game on Saturday was as important as the cup final. We’re trying to push into the top six.

“The result gives us a massive lift for Hampden

– and for the league games coming up as well.

“We knew it might have been a battle against Motherwell because of the pitch and the conditions.

“They had one shot on target and the assistant had put the flag up. We can be absolutely delighted with our performanc­e.

“We did the basics right and that counts for a lot.

“First and foremost against Livingston we will need to do the basics right. They do that very well.

“If we do the simple things well, we’ve definitely got a good chance.”

There really was no failure in a Perth jersey at Fir Park and that leaves manager Callum Davidson with a selection headache for the cup final.

Guy Melamed opened the scoring with a peach of a strike on his weaker side before adding another from the penalty spot after the break.

His goals were separated by a fine low drive from captain fantastic Kerr.

“It was brilliant from Guy and on his weaker foot,”McCart smiled.

“When he cut in we were all like:‘Pass it, pass it’. Then he curled it in the top corner. It was excellent.”

McCart knows recent performanc­es don’t automatica­lly mean another is coming on Sunday. He knows Saints need to get it spot on again and said:“Our form has been really good.

“As the old cliché goes, form doesn’t really count for much in a cup final.

“But everyone is bursting to play.”

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 ??  ?? Effort Ross Cunningham. Pic: PPA
Effort Ross Cunningham. Pic: PPA

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