GAMES at Celtic Park generally aren’t things to get too worked up about – unless a) they are Scottish Cup finals or b) we manage a rare win. 

So as such, losing 3-1 at Parkhead doesn’t get me up nor down. Far better Saints teams than this have taken far worse results from the east end of Glasgow. 

However, the real concerns from the weekend were the results of the teams around us. A win for Ross County at home to Hearts was a massive surprise, and it was also a disappointment to see Aberdeen finally figure out how to win a league game after months of plumbing new depths. 

Livingston are all but down – but only five points covers the four teams from Motherwell in eighth to County in 11th as it stands. With some of those teams coming head-to-head before the split – and weekly meetings between the sides coming up once the league breaks in two – there is an awful long way for the battle to avoid the play-off position to go. 

Our upcoming fixtures could in theory be worse. But we start with the visit of a Dundee side who have had by far the better of the last two games between the sides. The loss of Owen Beck to injury for the remainder of the season will be a blow, but it has been clear that they have quality across the park, and with the pressure now mounting on Saints this game is now massive. 

The remaining two pre-split games are against Hibernian and Kilmarnock – both teams we have triumphed over this season, but also teams who appear to be hitting their stride just at the right time with European places up for grabs in the top-six shootout that certainly awaits the Ayrshire side, and that Hibs look favourites for as it stands. 

I rather suspect that to avoid going into the split in 11th we’ll need to win at least one of these three games. A tall order? Possibly, but then we’ve seen other teams around us pick up freak results of late. Motherwell at Ibrox and County over Hearts are two cases in point. 

The Overlooked XI – An international break special 

Saints players and Scotland do not go hand in hand. 

Indeed, only one current Saints player in the modern era has picked up a cap while wearing St Johnstone colours – Murray Davidson making a brief cameo towards the end of a friendly against Luxembourg in 2012, making him the first current Saints player since Sandy McLaren in 1932 to gain full Scottish honours. 

The worst of it is that while our players have excelled, particularly in the late '90s and the 2010s, other clubs have seen their players picked repeatedly without question. Declan Gallagher, Jordan Archer, Lawrence Shankland while at Dundee United in the Championship, Stephen O’Donnell, perma-crock Mikey Devlin – all straight in with no fuss. 

Look at someone like Zander Clark. It took him until the latter stages of his Saints career – after his double-winning heroics and after several other spells of exceptional form as a top-six Premiership keeper – to get a call up. No cap was forthcoming until he joined Hearts. Jordan Archer, Scott Bain, and even English lower league jobber Craig MacGillivray found themselves in squads first. 

On one painfully absurd occasion Gordon Strachan attended McDiarmid Park when Saints faced off against Hearts. Zander had an inspired game, while Jack Hamilton threw one directly into the net – a not uncommon scenario in his career.

Who was named in the squad the next week? Hamilton, of course. 

I think you can comfortably name a pretty strong XI of Saints players who deserved a cap while wearing the blue. 

The Saints Overlooked XI: 

Alan Main – A phenomenon in the late '90s, but never capped despite making squads. 

Shaun Rooney – The form player of 2021, and easily the best right wing back in the country that season. Couldn’t even get in a squad despite outshining Stephen O’Donnell. 

Jason Kerr – Captained Saints to the top six twice and a double cup triumph. Scotland instead chose guys like Devlin and Declan Gallagher. 

Callum Davidson – A revelation as soon as he emerged at Saints – and another player almost immediately capped as soon as he left. 

Richard Foster – This is a specific and controversial one but there was a double header in 2018 where there was an injury crisis. At the time Saints were flying high, Foster was in great form and there wasn’t a fit Scottish right-back anywhere that came close to him. Scotland instead went with Callum Paterson – a forward who admits hating playing at right-back – in that position. Garbage. 

Allan Preston – Biscuits for Scotland, need I say more? 

John O’Neil – Six years at Saints as one of the most complete midfielders you will see, including stellar seasons between 1998 and 2000. Capped within nine months of moving to Hibs. 

Ali McCann – Poached by Northern Ireland as a teenager because Scotland weren’t interested. 

John Connolly – Before my time but ask anybody who was about in Connolly’s era about him. Possibly one of the finest players ever to pull on a Saints shirt. 

Stevie May – Scored 27 in a season while Scotland played Chris Martin up front. Immediately capped upon leaving. 

Willie McIntosh – Reaching back into the history books to complete this XI, McIntosh was described by Bob Crampsey as “one of the best centre-forwards I’ve seen anywhere”. WWII put paid to his early chance while at Saints – but even scoring a goal every other game in a great Preston North End team didn’t see him capped.