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St Johnstone close in on new signing – and he might go straight into Betfred Cup semi-final

Callum Davidson.
Callum Davidson.

Callum Davidson is closing in on a new signing.

And if the deal goes through before Saturday’s Betfred Cup semi-final, the transfer target could go straight into the St Johnstone manager’s Hampden squad to face Hibs.

“We’re still working on it,” Davidson reported. “We’ll see if we can get something done by the weekend, if not by the start of next week.

“Hopefully we’ll get someone in. I think it’s important for the remainder of the season.”

On the possibility of a quick-fire debut at the national stadium, Davidson said: “It depends which one I get.

“There are two or three options. Hopefully we can get a couple in. If one is fit and ready to go, he’ll be put straight in.”

Ex-Arsenal midfielder Charlie Gilmour hoping to earn St Johnstone deal

James Brown, recruited on loan from Millwall to replace Danny McNamara, will be available and Davidson revealed that he has had to curb his players’ intensity on the training ground as they seek to earn a place in this weekend’s starting line-up.

“Everybody’s back, which is great,” he said.

“They’re all ready to go and judging by the way they’ve trained this week, they’re all desperate to play.

“We’ve had to curtail training a bit because it’s been such high intensity. They’ve been having a right go. I’m delighted with that.

“I have 18 players who are desperate to play. Some are unhappy when they don’t play that is just natural.

“I just need to make sure I pick the right team, one I think will win the game, and hopefully once they get the jersey they can go and prove themselves and that is enough motivation for them.

“I am delighted they all want to play and they all want to get to the final.

“I want everyone there and we don’t have any niggles from Saturday, which is good as well.

“We have a lot of games coming up so hopefully Saturday can be the start of an important period in the season.”

Jason Kerr made a timely return against St Mirren last weekend and Davidson was impressed with the way his skipper slotted straight back into the Saints team.

“You couldn’t tell he’d been out for a month,” said the McDiarmid Park boss.

“It’s all credit to him. He’s been desperate to play.

“First and foremost I wanted to get him back in the team and I also wanted to make sure he was available for selection for this Saturday.

“Jason is a very important player for us. He’s my captain and my leader.

Jason Kerr against St Mirren.

“Shaun Rooney has played really well and it gives me a headache for Saturday. Shaun has asked the question with the way he’s performed in the last few weeks and it will be a tough call.”

Leading his team out at Hampden will be an honour for Davidson, albeit a diluted experienced compared to when there are tens of thousands of supporters in the ground, but he views a semi-final as a milestone rather than a journey’s end.

“I’m not sure if I should be buying myself a new suit online,” he joked.

“It’s a big moment but I want to do it in the final – that would be an even bigger occasion.

“My focus is on making sure the lads prepare well.

“I enjoyed playing there for Scotland in front of full-houses but I can’t remember half of them.

Callum Davidson with Gordon Strachan and Mark McGhee.

“And the England game when I was assistant to Gordon Strachan was probably the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced.

“Fans make an occasion, especially in one-off cup games. It’s a pity they won’t be there but the players won’t be in any doubt about the importance of the match.

“When they look back on their careers, they’ll be proud of themselves if they’ve played well in such a big game.”

Davidson added: “Semi-finals are tough occasions. You know that the final is much bigger and that’s the game you really want to be part of.

“I just want to make sure they perform to their best level. Sometimes that will be good enough, sometimes it won’t. I don’t want them to think too much about it.

“We can’t win the league so the cups are important.

“We’ve not had it easy in this competition – we’ve played Dundee United, Motherwell and Dunfermline. But we’ve given ourselves a great chance.”

Hibs manager Jack Ross has plenty of selections options, with those options expanding even further when Jackson Irvine and Chris Cadden were brought in last week.

“They have quality going forward,” said Davidson. “They have signed more players in the window, so they’ll have a big squad to pick from. It is going to be tough.”

There have been two off-field issues Saints have been caught up in over the last 10 days – Hibs’ statement suggesting SPFL assurances over a semi-final postponement if they had Covid-19 issues in the wake of the recent Celtic match, and then Neil Lennon’s criticism of the Perth club’s coronavirus protocols.

Davidson took a straight bat to both of them.

On the Hibs one, he said: “It’s not something I thought about. I just look towards the team playing on Saturday. Anything that happens out with our control or my control is nothing to do with me. By all accounts we’re all good to go for Saturday.”

And Lennon’s claim?

“For me we dealt with it,” said Davidson. “We answered it in a statement to clarify everything. We try our best to follow every protocol and we do. We made sure to shut the door on anything that was maybe said that wasn’t true.”

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