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Mannus happy in football's corner

Visiting teams have often spoken of the need to show battling qualities when they step out at Celtic Park so presumably St Johnstone will be able to rest easy tonight knowing that they have a player who knows how to handle himself.

Alan Mannus, the St Johnstone goalkeeper, dabbled in mixed-martial arts as a teenager growing up in Belfast; training at the same club that produced future Irish champions.

His own aspirations never rose above sparring but that has not prevented Liam Craig from trying to arrange a bout between the goalkeeper and burly defender Frazer Wright. Debating who would win is only a wind up among team-mates, and a way of keeping spirits up ahead of a testing trip to face Celtic tomorrow.

Still, the physical demands of mixed-martial arts are what helped Mannus to muscle his way into a position of such prominence. "I've seen how much training and dedication goes into it so I've always hated it when people who've been to one class go around saying they are fighters," he said.

"I loved it and I still miss it. But I had to stop to concentrate on football. If I hadn't gone full-time I'd probably have tried it competitively. But trying to combine the two wasn't on because you see guys dislocating their shoulders and stuff. I'd like to try it again but I fancy playing football until I'm 40 so that will have to wait."

One man whose patience must be wearing thin is Callum Davidson, the full-back who has been out injured for three months. However, he could be recalled when St Johnstone face Celtic tomorrow.

"Over the last three or four years, teams haven't liked playing against us and we have to get back to that. That is a compliment and it served us well during our recent good run," said Steve Lomas, the Perth side's manager. "We have to focus on ourselves rather than Celtic."

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