Tommy Wright to re­main as man­ager of St John­stone un­til 2022.

Kennedy happy to take over role of McDiarmid Park penalty taker

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ERIC NI­COL­SON

Tommy Wright may have al­ready led St John­stone through the most suc­cess­ful era in the club’s his­tory and to their one ma­jor tro­phy tri­umph.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t keep the good times com­ing for a lot longer.

The Perth boss has signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion through to 2022 and his am­bi­tions are as high as ever. And, with more cup suc­cess a goal, the process of keep­ing his star play­ers at the club can be stepped up.

“Play­ers like sta­bil­ity,” Wright told Courier Sport. “We’ve started talk­ing to play­ers about new deals and one of the ques­tions they ask is ‘are you go­ing to be here?’

“So hope­fully me com­mit­ting my fu­ture will have a pos­i­tive ef­fect on play­ers stay­ing.

“I know that it’s the chair­man’s club but I’ve al­ways looked upon this as my club.”

Per­se­ver­ance paid off for Matty Kennedy, who has ended a wor­ry­ing run of penalty misses for St John­stone.

Tony Watt, Liam Craig and Danny Swan­son have all failed from the spot in re­cent weeks and when the Perth side were given the chance by ref­eree An­drew Dal­las to make it 2-2 against Hearts, David Wother­spoon was the first player to show will­ing.

Kennedy man­aged to per­suade his team-mate to let him take it – and the sub­se­quent clin­i­cal fin­ish made it a wise de­ci­sion.

“I ac­tu­ally grabbed the ball from Spoony and asked if I could hit it,” said the for­mer Kil­marnock and Ever­ton winger.

“He said ‘no’ at first. Then he asked me a cou­ple of times and I was ac­tu­ally walk­ing away when he fi­nally said ‘on you go’. It was great he changed his mind.

“I wasn’t both­ered about the three boys miss­ing pre­vi­ous penal­ties. I just put my­self for­ward.

“I blanked ev­ery­thing out and my form has been good.

“I ac­tu­ally missed one for Hibs in the Scot­tish Cup when I was 18 but I took them for Ever­ton and Cardiff un­der-23s.

“When I was on loan there was al­ways a penalty taker and at Cardiff Peter Whit­ting­ham took them.

“He’s got one of the best records in Eng­land so there was no chance of get­ting one off him.”

The come­back draw con­tin­ues Saints’ Premier­ship mo­men­tum and the goal made it four in six for Kennedy.

“It was great to get an­other goal and that is seven un­beaten,” he said.

“That’s a good record for any team, in­clud­ing Rangers and Celtic. We are ob­vi­ously do­ing some­thing right.

“It was dis­ap­point­ing to lose two goals from set-pieces but we played well again.

“We work hard in train­ing on de­fend­ing them but it showed the char­ac­ter of the boys to come back twice.

“Peo­ple might be say­ing it is a soft penalty but I wasn’t think­ing about that.

“I have seen the high­lights and it looks like it was never a penalty. But they don’t show the tug on Gordy.

“He went to jump and head the ball when the boy has tugged him a lit­tle bit and he was off bal­ance.”

Aberdeen’s mid­week win at Ibrox was all the warn­ing Saints needed ahead of to­day’s game at Pit­to­drie.

“This is an­other big test for us be­cause Aberdeen are a right good team,” said Kennedy.

“They bounced back from the cup fi­nal de­feat. To go to Ibrox and win is a state­ment at any time.

“We had a draw in Perth against them but we are a lot bet­ter now.”

Man­ager Tommy Wright re­ported that Scott Tanser, Danny Swan­son and Steven An­der­son could all be avail­able.

The Perth boss, mean­while, has called for an end to ref­eree-bash­ing in the wake of Wed­nes­day’s con­tro­ver­sial penalty de­ci­sion at McDiarmid Park and the re­ac­tion to it from the Hearts camp.

“We are at the stage where who­ever shouts the loud­est about ref­er­ees gets heard,” he said.

“I have tried to take a leaf out of rugby’s book and try to ac­cept de­ci­sions that go against you.

“We could have made a song and dance about a cou­ple of de­ci­sions, in­clud­ing a penalty shout.

“There was a shirt pull on Liam Gor­don for our penalty.

“The ref­eree told me and the play­ers he saw a clear shirt pull. Be­cause cam­eras don’t pick it up doesn’t mean it didn’t hap­pen.

“Hearts didn’t com­plain on the pitch. There was no mad protest at the time.

“They were only con­cerned that Har­ing was go­ing to get an­other book­ing and be sent off.

“He told one of our play­ers he thought it was soft but said he did pull his shirt.

“Yes, ref­er­ees have made mis­takes, like we all do, but what wor­ries me is that there seems to be a cul­ture de­vel­op­ing that it is all right just to come out and bash the ref­eree.

“Some pun­dits say man­agers should be al­lowed to come out and crit­i­cise ref­er­ees. But as a man­ager, I know if I was get­ting that level of crit­i­cism I cer­tainly wouldn’t be happy.

“How do we help them and make the sit­u­a­tion bet­ter?”

Wright added: “Turn­ing pro­fes­sional might im­prove things, in­tro­duc­ing VAR cer­tainly would help even if it’s not per­fect.

“Man­agers have a re­spon­si­bil­ity too. It might win favour with your fans com­ing out and bang­ing your chest but let’s face it, it doesn’t get you any­where.

“I think we need a con­struc­tive di­a­logue be­tween man­agers and ref­er­ees.

“We have a meet­ing about rule changes at the start of the sea­son but not one with the ref­er­ees them­selves.

“Maybe we should get to­gether at times dur­ing the course of the sea­son, with su­per­vi­sor John Flem­ing, who has a dif­fi­cult job on his hands.

“But, ul­ti­mately, the ref­er­ees are cry­ing out for VAR. The big ques­tion is where the money comes from to fund it.”

Pic­ture: PPA.

Chair­man Steve Brown looks on as Tommy Wright puts pen to pa­per on a new con­tract keep­ing him at McDiarmid Park un­til 2022.

Pic­ture: PPA.

St John­stone’s Matty Kennedy train­ing ahead of to­day’s clash with Aberdeen at Pit­to­drie.

by Eric Ni­col­son

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