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St Johnstone’s 7-2 thrashing of Dundee remembered: Jim Weir, Callum Davidson and Willie Young recall Saints’ greatest derby win

The 7-2 win against Dundee remains St Johnstone's greatest derby victory.
The 7-2 win against Dundee remains St Johnstone's greatest derby victory.

They’ve seen their team win 5-1 at Dens.

They’ve seen that Alan Main save deny James Grady from six yards and secure European football in the late spring Perth sun.

They’ve seen four unanswered goals scored in the Dundee rain and basked in the shared euphoria of Tommy Wright milking the moment and the shared glee of Neil McCann losing his rag.

They’ve watched on laptops and phones as Charlie Adam’s penalty was kept out by Zander Clark and their Tayside neighbours were beaten en route to completing a cup double.

All told, St Johnstone supporters have been spoiled for choice when it comes to derby/it’s not a derby highlights over the last few decades.

None of the above are likely to top any fans’ polls, though.

Not when there’s a story of seven goals, a panto villain throwing a punch at his team-mate and trudging off the pitch to the sound of mocking cheers, and a giant step taken towards a league title.

It’s the story of discarded dark blue and white scarves and misbehaving false teeth sharing the same red ash track.

It’s the story of 7-2, of St Johnstone’s biggest victory against Dundee and St Johnstone’s best.

The teams of Wright and Callum Davidson have claimed more than their fair share of modern era golden moments.

But they haven’t been able to outdo this one.

“We weren’t thinking about the score, or history, during the match,” said the captain of that Perth side, Jim Weir.

“We just wanted to win because we knew how important it was in the league and how important it was for the supporters to beat Dundee.

“To do it the way we did was phenomenal.

“It was a great atmosphere in the ground and a great night afterwards.

“There were 7-2 T-shirts that came out after it and it’s still one of those games Saints fans want to speak about.”

10 in a row

Saturday will be the 25th anniversary.

A quarter of a century reminiscing hasn’t been a chore for Weir. Nor has discussing the run of form his promotion-chasing team, and ultimately promotion-securing team, were on at the time.

The 7-2 was their 10th First Division victory in a row.

Perhaps even more impressively, a spell of eight consecutive league clean-sheets had only been brought to an end in the preceding fixture.

“I scored in the Falkirk game before Dundee so that made up for us conceding a goal and seeing the clean-sheet run finish!” said Weir.

“To go that long was incredible.

“It was those games that won us the league really. I scored my first goal for St Johnstone against East Fife at the start of it.

Jim Weir and Danny Griffin combined very well for Saints.
Jim Weir and Danny Griffin combined very well for Saints.

“It was mostly myself and Danny (Griffin) at centre-back at the time. We struck up a good partnership. And when Stuart McCluskey or Andy Whiteford came in, they did well too.

“I was the talker. Danny was quick and I still had a bit of pace about me as well because I hadn’t done my Achilles by that point.

“We had a good understanding. I’d let him get on the ball – same as I did with Kevin McGowne – Luggy didn’t want me near it!”

Not only were Dundee second top going into the New Year’s Day clash of 1997, they were also the last team to beat Saints at McDiarmid.

The first half was the type of game most people expected.

“It was 1-1 at half-time and Luggy wasn’t too happy with how we’d played,” said Weir.

“I still remember loads about that afternoon – the first goal for starters.

“Roddy (Grant) scored it but I took the block for him. I was lying on the deck while Roddy was running away with his hand in the air! It was from a corner.

“Their equaliser was from a corner as well. It got cleared to the edge of the box and Chic Charnley hit a daisy-cutter through a few bodies and into the corner.

Chic Charnley scored an equaliser.
Chic Charnley scored an equaliser.

“We had a great balance in the team with strong characters who weren’t intimidated if you went a goal behind or a team equalised like Dundee did that day.

“The second half was unbelievable.

“Leigh (Jenkinson) scored a couple of brilliant free-kicks, Tosher (Steve Tosh) got one, Roddy another and Fizzy (Philip Scott) and George (O’Boyle) as well.

“We were relentless in the second half. We battered them.

“Leigh was incredible and the free-kicks he scored were as good as any I’ve seen.

“There are a few games I remember when Leigh was unplayable. Tynecastle is another one that stands out. Coming on against Rangers at half-time too.

“He was so good at going past full-backs. His running style wasn’t the most elegant but he could knock the ball past you and run like the wind.

“And he was one of the best crossers of a ball I’ve ever seen. He just needed a half-yard.

“We had a falling out after a game against St Mirren, when I said he needed to toughen up.

“But he came back at me with the statistic of how many assists he had for our goals and he was right. It was something like 75%.

“Leigh’s strengths didn’t include tracking back to help his full-back and he got away with it more than say John O’Neil would.

“It was a shame he left when he did. I’d have liked him to stay for another couple of years but the money down south was hard to turn down.

“Me and Leigh are still big pals. You don’t keep in touch with many after your career is finished and he’s one of them.”

Never a penalty

7-2 was historic but Weir is convinced the result should have been even more emphatic.

“Dundee got a penalty near the end but it was never a penalty,” he said. “I’ll never forget that!

“It wasn’t me but I could see that it wasn’t a foul.

“Because we were 7-1 up, the referee must have have felt sorry for them. It should have finished 7-1.”

The referee was Willie Young.

“Willie Young was it? There you go, Willie was capable of that!”

Not an admission the man himself is likely to make – even the best part of 17 years into retirement.

“I can’t say I remember the penalty clearly,” said one of the era’s most respected and charismatic officials, who moved seamlessly into the after-dinner circuit with jokes at the expense of the likes of Weir.

“I’d have explained to Jim as I once did with Sandy Clark – a penalty is like a boiled egg. Soft or hard, it’s always a boiled egg.

“It certainly wasn’t a sympathy vote for Dundee.

“Paul Sturrock wouldn’t have complained. He concentrated on the football. The only problem I had with him was when he was a player because he played right on the offside line all the time, which made it a nightmare to know if he was on or off.

“Big Jim was fine as well – the turning circle of a small tanker but he made me look fast at times. I did accidentally send him off once but I’ve apologised to him for it!”

As much as Weir, and the Saints fans, would have liked the scoreline to finish 7-1, in the grand scheme of things giving Jerry O’Driscoll the opportunity to reduce the margin of victory from six to five (still the highest between the two sides) isn’t the Young decision that has entered into Saints folklore and Dundee infamy.

It was sending off Chic Charnley for attempting to land a punch on his team-mate, Robbie Raeside.

Willie Young gave Chic Charnley his marching orders.
Willie Young gave Chic Charnley his marching orders.

“I do remember that incident,” said Young, who has kept a record of all the games he refereed and who he carded.

“The game was actually a sporting encounter – there was only one player cautioned and one player sent off……and it was the same player.

“That wasn’t unusual for Chic.

“He didn’t take defeat well and he maybe felt that some of his colleagues had let him down. He lost the plot a bit.

“Chic and I had an unfortunate history.

“He just couldn’t control his temper.

“I think I sent him off for every senior team he played for apart from Hibs. And he played for quite a few teams!

“He was such a competitor. And a great player. He should have played at a higher level to be honest.

“It was after Dundee lost a goal (the sixth) that it happened. As they were coming back to line-up for the kick-off he got into a furious argument with Robbie Raeside and swung at him.

“It was actually the linesman who flagged to say he’d seen it and I would need to red card him.

“Chic used to self-combust when things weren’t going his way.

“His disciplinary record was pretty poor to put it mildly.

“He didn’t think it was an offence to do that to your own team-mate, until I explained the laws of the game to him.

“I never, ever had another situation like it when two players on the same team were effectively having a fight.

“That was the only time. Not something you expect to see happen.”

Chic’s last stand

Charnley, who played for 15 clubs and had a trial for Sturrock’s Saints, saw red on 17 occasions.

Newly-appointed Dundee boss John McCormack decided it would be the last time he’d get the chance to be ordered off for the Dark Blues and the man whose career peaked with a winning goal for Hibs against Celtic, with Young the man in the middle for that one as well, was moved on without making another appearance.

“We ended up pals before he finished his career and I finished mine,” said Young.

“He knew I wouldn’t stand for any nonsense and if he was losing his temper there would only be one winner.”

Current Saints manager Davidson, then in the middle of his breakthrough season as a young left-back, missed the 7-2 after picking up an injury the week before.

By his own admission, he’s not the greatest at recalling games he has played in.

So it takes something out of the ordinary to make one from 25 years ago that he wasn’t part of stick in the memory.

And it wasn’t just the scoreline or the Charnley sideshow.

“I was in the dugout that afternoon,” said Davidson.

“I think it was Danny who gave away the penalty late on and John Blackley ran down the touchline going absolutely nuts.

“He was shouting and then all of a sudden the shouting turns to mumbling.

“We were all like: ‘What’s he saying?’

“When he turned round we could see that he couldn’t speak because his false teeth had fallen onto the track so he couldn’t put them back in his mouth!

“For the rest of the game he had no teeth in, which was a blessing in disguise for those of us on the bench like me.”

Mixed McDiarmid memories

In the late 90s when Young was given a game at McDiarmid Park, it tended to be a significant one.

“I remember when St Johnstone won 1-0 against Dundee United in 1996,” he said. “Both teams were going for promotion out of the First Division.

“There were fans locked out who watched the game on the bankings through the gaps of the stands.

“That was another happy memory for St Johnstone fans.

“But I was also there when they lost 1-0 against Aberdeen at the end of the 1994 season (their relegation from the top flight was confirmed the following weekend) and I’ve got the picture in my mind of Saints players sitting on the park crying.

St Johnstone went on to clinch the league title later that season.
St Johnstone went on to clinch the league title later that season.

“By the time of this game against Dundee, Paul Sturrock was building a strong side and they went on to do really well.”

They did indeed.

And that first of January afternoon against Dundee was their crowning glory.

The forgotten Dens Park quarter-final: St Johnstone beat Dundee 5-1 25 years ago

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