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United won't play Souttar and Gauld, claims Saints manager

The St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright played a psychological card ahead of the William Hill Scottish Cup final last night by claiming Dundee United would not risk playing two of their vaunted youngsters from the start.

Tommy Wright has begun the psychological battle
Tommy Wright has begun the psychological battle

Wright identified defender John Souttar, 17, and playmaker Ryan Gauld, 18, as the two who would not be on from the start at Celtic Park. The pair were lavishly acclaimed earlier in the season before both experienced a dip in form. St Johnstone will be without full-back Tim Clancy in the final after he ruptured his Achilles tendon in training. Wright said it was impossible to imagine how the 29-year-old was feeling about suffering an injury so close to the season's showpiece fixture.

Clancy's absence will affect Wright's thinking ahead of the first Scottish Cup final in St Johnstone's 130-year history, but the manager sounded as though he had already given considerable time to contemplating Jackie McNamara's United selection.

He dismissed the common perception that United were young and inexperienced. "Dundee United have got experience," he said. "Gavin Gunning, John Rankin, Sean Dillon, Paul Paton. He won't play his young players. John Souttar and Ryan Gauld won't play. Andrew Robertson [20] will be the only player without a lot of experience in his team. Gary Mackay-Steven has a lot of experience and so does Stuart Armstrong.

"I don't buy into that 'young and inexperienced' [angle]. They've got a good team of players who have got experience in the league. We think we've got experience and a blend of youth as well that we can call upon.

"I just feel Gauld and Souttar won't play," he added. "I just feel that, when you look at it, Souttar hasn't done particularly well against us or against Stevie May. I feel he won't play him. Ryan Dow normally does okay against us so I think he'll go with Dow in there instead of Gauld, and bring him on later on."

Stevie May has scored five times against United this season: a hat-trick in December and singles in March and April, in three games St Johnstone won by 3-0, 1-0 and 2-0.

Wright said the cup final ought to suit him, too. "I hope it's tailor-made for Stevie May. He's got better as the season has gone on. He's improved all round as a player and he loves scoring goals and playing every week.

"He's in the game to be successful so you could say the occasion is set up for him. But we have proved in recent weeks that we've got goals from other areas of the pitch and we don't just rely on Stevie for our goals."

St Johnstone have sold more than 15,000 tickets for the final and Wright said he hoped even a fraction of that increased support would commit to coming regularly to McDiarmid Park. Their average league crowd this season was 3806. "I hope being in the final will get people coming back. We finished third last season and the crowds dropped by 500. This season we have played well at home, averaging two goals at home, but the figures are only a little bit up," said Wright.

"We've had supporters' meetings but nobody has been able to put their finger on why. I just hope that if we win the Scottish Cup then it would make a difference."

Wright also revealed there had been a breakdown in his relationship with Steve Lomas. Wright had been his assistant manager at McDiarmid Park but declined Lomas's invitation to move with him to Millwall last June, to Lomas's apparent irritation. "It's not my doing," said Wright. "He hasn't spoken to me since I told him I wasn't going to join him at Millwall. I'll always be grateful to him for giving me the opportunity here, but I felt the club he was going to wasn't right for him."

That opinion seemed to be vindicated by the fact Lomas was sacked in December.

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