Daily Record

Buddie Banter: Young Saints proved they have got the brains and the guts to grow from near misses

Daily Record logoDaily Record 9/04/2021 08:00:00 Ben Ramage

"Experience is vital. I've played a lot and I've grown as a player this season. When you look at St Johnstone, they've finished in the top six for a number of years and a lot of their players have grown used to doing that. It was the first time for a lot of us, myself included. I'm sure we'll be even better for that experience next season."

When I heard this answer to a potentially difficult question about missing out on the top six coming back down the phone to me, I had to double check that I was in fact speaking to a 19-year-old teenager.

Ethan Erhahon has proven his worth on the pitch countless times already in a superb breakthrough season, but it struck me as remarkable that such a young talent also had his head so clearly screwed on tight to his shoulders.

Indeed, that appears to be a common theme throughout the squad.

Centre back Conor McCarthy had the unenviable task of speaking to the media ahead of Saturday's Scottish Cup clash with Hamilton, which, unsurprisingly, saw the 22-year-old forced to relive that heart-breaking and dramatic late draw the last time he visited New Douglas Park.

Much like Erhahon, he answered difficult questions with aplomb, reiterating that the Buddies had to "stick together" and try to regroup with a strong Scottish Cup run.

Just as the Saints managed after their disappointing Betfred Cup semi final loss to Livingston in January, the Paisley side bounced back with confidence and composure.

They didn't quite match the five goals they managed to put past Dundee United at Tannadice following their gutting trip to Hampden, but they certainly did prove to everyone watching that they aren't about to lie down just because they suffered a tough knock in the ring.

Instead of allowing this season to fizzle out, the Buddies look hell-bent on ensuring they have something to celebrate come the end of their tumultuous campaign.

Having avoided a tricky tie against the Old Firm and the rest of the Premiership top six in the next two rounds of the Scottish Cup, they've certainly got a serious chance of getting back to Hampden for another shot at a semi final next month.

Erhahon was absolutely right when he pointed to the fact that many of St Johnstone's players had experienced finishing in the top six before.

While Jim Goodwin has strived to bring in players with similar experience, there remains a large part of the Saints squad which has yet to taste that success or face the pressure of having to win to help their club achieve a massive goal.

The same could have been said ahead of the clash with Livingston in January in the Betfred Cup.

Goodwin took a risk by fielding a very young side to face the Lions and ultimately narrowly lost out to an early sucker punch.

But every single Saints player who played that day will be better for that experience, especially the club's youngsters whose development forms such an important part of St Mirren's ambition going forward.

You don't know how good you are, or how you're going to react to a tough situation, until you're thrown in at the deep end.

The likes of Erhahon, McCarthy, Cammy MacPherson, Kyle McAllister, Jake Doyle-Hayes and Dylan Connelly will all be better prepared for their next big encounter, having already faced a crucial semi final clash and a top six decider this season.

If they can get past Inverness Caley Thistle and then topple Kilmarnock or Montrose in the fifth round, they'll have another chance to prove that they're the ultimate comeback kings of Scottish football.

With everything they've learned from their heartbreaking experiences this season, I certainly wouldn't put it past them to go all the way to next month's final.

Then this determined group of Buddies would have grabbed themselves another shot at writing themselves into the St Mirren history books.

9. huhtikuuta 2021 11:00:00 Categories: Daily Record

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