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End of an era as St Johnstone legend Steven Anderson leaves McDiarmid Park

Steven Anderson.
Steven Anderson.

A St Johnstone without Tommy Wright will take some getting used to.

And the same goes for a St Johnstone without the man who has made a record number of appearances for the club.

Given the fact he spent last season on loan in League One and the second half of the campaign before in the Championship, the shock factor of Steven Anderson’s departure can’t compare to Wright’s out of the blue Saturday morning exit just over a fortnight ago.

But it is another ‘end of an era’ milestone, nonetheless.

With a 43-game gap between his total of 441 matches in Saints colours and number two on the list, Liam Craig, Anderson was assured of his place in Perth folklore.

It is his goal in the Scottish Cup final defeat of Dundee United in 2014 that has gold-plated the 34-year-old’s legend status, however.

Not that he’ll change his mind on what gave him even greater satisfaction than his back post header at Celtic Park six years ago.

“I said afterwards that the clean-sheet was more important to me than the goal and I don’t think many people believed me,” said Anderson.

“But it was the truth.

“Scoring goals is always nice but I’m a centre-half. Keeping the opposition out is what it’s all about – defend like your life depends on it.

“So getting the nil on the 2-0 is what I was more pleased about.”

Anderson’s preference of clean-sheet over goal glory may have raised eyebrows but there will be arguments about the biggest achievement of his time at Saints.

“Obviously the Scottish Cup win stands above everything else we did,” he said. “The whole weekend was brilliant and it was good marking the anniversary of it on Sunday.

“I’d been to six or seven semi-finals before that. Some of them were real heartache, like losing on penalties to Rangers and then the one against Celtic where we played really well but still got beat.

“Other ones like Motherwell, where we felt we had a real chance but didn’t play well on the day, also hurt.

“So to finally get there was a massive thing and once we were in it we were determined to win it.”

Anderson’s Saints career progressed from being a young squad player signed by John Connolly, to a versatile defender often deployed at right-back by Owen Coyle and Derek McInnes and then a regular at centre-half in the Steve Lomas and Tommy Wright era, eventually becoming club captain.

He has never taken the good times for granted.

“Obviously it wasn’t a surprise to learn I wasn’t getting a contract, that’s football and things have to end eventually,” said Anderson.

“It has been a brilliant 16 years and I’m leaving with some incredible memories.

“I came as an 18-year-old who had been playing for Dundee United’s reserves. St Johnstone gave me the chance and things took off.

“We finished eighth in the First Division the year I joined but from then on we pretty much improved every season.

“I have played under some great managers and with an incredible bunch of boys over the years.

“The way I see it is that St Johnstone were good for me and I’d like to think I was good for the club too.

“Playing in Europe was one of the big things. It’s something I’m so glad to have done.

“When you sign for St Johnstone, especially where the club was back then, you don’t think playing on that stage is possible.

“The club had only been in Europe twice in our whole history, but we did it five times.

“It was great playing in different countries, going to places I would never have gone to.

“Going to places like Rosenborg and Luzern was brilliant for the supporters and the fact we got good results just showed what a good team we were.

“It’s been a fantastic time in the club’s history and it’s good to have been a part of it.”

Anderson will now have to endure the Covid-19 waiting game before he finds out where he’ll next be playing his football.

“I’m still planning to play on so now isn’t the time to look back too much and reflect on things,” he said.

“Maybe later in life I’ll look back and think ‘fair enough, I did my bit for St Johnstone’.

“But now’s not the time for that, I want to keep going and think I have another couple of years left in me at least.”

Danny Swanson has also been released by Saints, with Ross Callachan, David McMillan and back-up goalkeeper Max Johnstone also heading out of McDiarmid. Talks are ongoing with the rest of the out-of-contract players.

Danny Swanson looking to follow ex-St Johnstone team-mate Steven MacLean’s top flight lead

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