He may have missed St Johnstone’s last League Cup final with a long-term injury but Jim Weir was the club captain at McDiarmid Park back in 1998, after arriving at McDiarmid Park four years previously.
The centre-back, who served Saints for 13 years as player and coach and was awarded a testimonial season, gave Courier Sport an on-the-pitch and off-the-pitch insight into the 14 men who were selected for the historic Celtic Park clash with Dick Advocaat’s Rangers that ended in a narrow defeat.
From the ‘Sultan of Brunei’ to the man who nutmegged Paul Gascoigne twice at Ibrox, the roller-skating Lycra-clad midfielder to the ‘Spice Boys’, it was a squad packed with talent and personality.
And it’s a squad with a bond that will last a lifetime.
ALAN MAIN – Spent 11 years at Saints over two spells and, like Weir, had a testimonial. His Perth highlight was undoubtedly the stunning reaction save to deny Dundee’s James Grady in the final game of the 1998/99 season, which ensured Uefa Cup football. Was unlucky to not be capped and is now working in the oil industry.
JW: “There’s no doubting Alzo was a top goalie.
“He had that daft goalkeeper mentality but he certainly gave the back four confidence, which is what you want.
“He was a really good talker and with the pass-back rule coming in, he was very comfortable with the ball at his feet and could turn defence into attack.
“When you look at modern-day goalkeepers he did lack a bit of height but in terms of shot-stopping and from set-pieces, he was excellent.
“When he came for crosses, he wasn’t one of those goalies that I’d worry about.
“He kept himself to himself a lot. You wouldn’t have described him as a mixer as such but, having said that, I can remember some cracking nights out with him and when he let his hair down he went for it and he got on with the rest of the lads. We maybe didn’t see that often enough.”
JOHN McQUILLAN – Was a Saints player for five years and barely missed a game through injury. Still regarded as the right-back who comes closest to matching 2014 Scottish Cup captain Dave Mackay over the last three decades.
Taken by Paul Sturrock to Dundee United but didn’t look the same player at Tannadice and was only part of one Tangerines’ win in 26 appearances.
Turned to landscape gardening after football.
JW: “If you look at the St Johnstone teams since John left the club, he could have played in all of them. He would look at home in the Premiership just now, no doubt about it.
“He was a really tough full-back for a winger to get past and had a proper never-say-die attitude. He was aggressive enough with it, even though he was quite quiet as a person, and at times he would explode when you least expected it.
“John had everything that I like in a full-back but he was a modern-day over-lapping one as well. He had a great partnership with John O’Neil down our right-hand side.
“There was nobody who didn’t like John in our dressing room.
“He was honest, hard-working and just because he wasn’t in your face didn’t mean he didn’t mix.”
GARY BOLLAN – The Dundonian left-back had three seasons at McDiarmid Park after Callum Davidson moved to Blackburn Rovers.
Fell just short of the 100 appearance mark before moving to Livingston, who were big-spenders at the time.
Has managed four senior clubs and is still in charge at the last of those, Cowdenbeath.
JW: “Gary had evil eyes as a player!
“When we were playing the top teams they had their flying wingers like Kanchelskis and (Didier) Agathe and I can tell you, they hated playing against Gary Bollan.
“Gary would just bully them. He had no fear. He was strong obviously, quicker than you might think and had a change of pace as well.
“He was a good footballer too. For his size he was very good in the air and he had a great shot on him.
“And 50-50 tackles? I think he used to set himself up for them on purpose! He loved them. It was like ten pin bowling when he went through a winger.
“In the dressing room, if somebody over-stepped the mark, I was the type of person who would say it to them and Bobo was the same.
“We were great pals and we never fell out with each other but I can remember when we were training at Kilgraston one day, and he did David McClune.
“It was getting near to the end of the season and I think he was going to leave on a Bosman. Sandy Clark had left him out of the team and his frustrations boiled over on the training ground.
“That was the closest me and Bobo came to coming to blows with each other because I let him know what I felt of his tackle.
“I knew he was frustrated but I wasn’t happy that a young player had got injured and would out for a few weeks. I’m sure he would look back and know he was daft that day.”
DARREN DODS – The big centre-back played more for Saints (168 appearances) than any other club in a long career that lasted 23 years. His 11 goals showed the aerial threat he carried.
Is still involved in football with Fife Elite Academy and scouting for Raith Rovers, after being sacked by Brechin City in 2018 despite taking them up to the Championship the year before.
JW: “Dodsy was signed in the summer of 1998 after I got my Achilles injury. He formed a great partnership with Kerny (Alan Kernaghan) and it took me a while to get back in.
“To play against he was an absolute nightmare. Opposition players hated it. He was clumsy and he would be all over the back of a striker.
“He was conscious of his fitness and worked really hard – I think he went away and did speed training.
“And he was obviously a big asset in both boxes with the way he could head a ball.
“Out of everybody, he was the one who probably took the most stick in the dressing room.
“Having Kano (Paul Kane), Roddy (Grant) and Biscuits (Allan Preston) in the Edinburgh car with him wouldn’t have been easy. They terrorised him!
“He’d give it back, though.”
ALAN KERNAGHAN – A classy central defender with impeccable credentials, it was quite an achievement for Paul Sturrock to entice Kernaghan to McDiarmid Park from Manchester City, first on loan and then permanently.
He earned 22 caps for the Republic of Ireland and was part of Jack Charlton’s 1994 World Cup squad. As a manager, he nearly took Clyde into the top flight but was less successful with Dundee. Is currently a Rangers community coach in Northern Ireland.
JW: “Kerny started his career as a striker and had played at the top level before he came to St Johnstone.
“What a footballer Kerny was.
“He had that squeaky voice you would constantly hear next to you. It was the worst voice ever. It could be annoying at times – there was one game at Parkhead I remember when I’d had enough of it! But he was an organiser.
“Because he was such a good footballer and his demands were so high, at times he was maybe a bit harsh with the way he put it across to other players but I loved playing with him beside me, particularly when we were under pressure.
“He got the nickname the Sultan of Brunei off Kano because he was as wealthy as him.
“But he wasn’t a Billy big-time. He fitted in really well and was popular in the dressing room.
“When he got a drink in him you couldn’t keep him off the dance floor. Kylie Minogue’s Spinning Around is the song that sticks in my mind when I think about Kerny.
“I was with him in Austria in 2008 to do our Pro Licence. The day we flew out was my birthday.
“It was the Saturday and we’d been told we weren’t starting the course until the Monday.
“Ian Durrant, Ally McCoist, Craig Brewster, Gus McPherson and Owen Coyle were in our group. I was on a strict budget and they were all big-spenders! It was quite a squad.
“We obviously went out for a few beers and me and Kerny stayed out really late until about four in the morning.
“We were absolutely hanging the next morning. I thought I’d have the whole Sunday to lie about with a hangover but the door got chapped at 10 in the morning and there were two mini-buses to take us to watch Russia training.
“One of the buses had to stop twice to let me be sick! It was the worst hangover ever.”
JOHN O’NEIL – A right-sided midfielder rather than a traditional winger, he was a key creative influence, arguably the key creative influence, in this Saints team after arriving in 1994 from Dundee United (where he had scored in a Scottish Cup final).
After moving to Hibs he was capped once for Scotland. Is now thought to be working in the haulage industry.
JW: “Del was an incredible footballer. He wasn’t the quickest but he didn’t need pace to get past players. He’d give that wee feint, could chop it inside or out off both feet and deliver great crosses into the box. He was a good finisher as well.
“He was just an all-round brilliant wee footballer.
“Paul Sturrock was hard on the guys playing wide – you’d call it the graveyard shift.
“They would be getting judged on hitting the byeline and getting crosses over but also on the defending they were doing. They had to be everywhere.
“He was amazing for us and you could see his style of football fitting perfectly into the modern-day game – a wide player just as happy coming inside as going down the line.
“Just Del being there made you laugh!
“There was always something you could slag him about. He was the first to have a mobile phone at the club – it was that big he needed two mates to carry the batteries.
“Or he’d be wearing the worst pair of trainers you’d ever seen.
“I’ll never forget a trip we had to Ireland and the last thing Luggy said to me before we all went on a night out was: ‘Look after O’Boyle and Del – you know what they’re like. Make sure there’s no hassle in the town.’
“We were in Temple Bar and got split up. The first set of guys got into a pub but the group I was with didn’t.
“There were four or five of us – myself, Leigh Jenkinson, Attila (Sekerlioglu) and a couple of others. I was raging with the big group. We went somewhere else and I had my angry head on.
“Anyway, I got absolutely wrecked and it was Leigh and Attila who had to bring me back to the UCD College where we were staying. We were sharing dormitories and you could see everybody who was coming in.
“I had one arm draped over Attila and the other over Leigh. My feet were getting dragged along the deck, I was that drunk.
“The group that Del was in had ended up getting back before us and I’ll never forget him shouting out a window to the rest of the players: ‘Hey lads, come and see this. Look at the state of Jimmy Two-touch!’ That was what he used to call me. What a guy.”
PHILIP SCOTT – A Scone boy who was signed by Alex Totten and came through the Saints youth system. Of his 27 goals from midfield, 13 came in the First Division championship-winning campaign under Sturrock.
He grabbed doubles on three consecutive Saturdays, the middle one on the day the league title was secured.
Was signed by Sheffield Wednesday for £100,000 but injuries meant he didn’t even reach double figures for appearances and had to retire at the age of just 29. Is now a fitness centre manager.
JW: “Obviously Fizzy had a real talent for getting from box to box and scoring goals.
“He got a big move on the back of it before his injuries kicked in.
“He wasn’t a brilliant tackler but we had Dasovic and Kane to do that. His strength was breaking forward and getting on the end of a cross or a cut-back. Having a midfielder who could finish like him was a real asset for us.
“Fizzy was one of the Spice Boys. He was a local lad who knew a lot of folk about the town on a night out.
“Us defenders would think he was a bit pampered, a bit soft, always needing a massage or complaining to Davie Henderson, the physio, about something.
“He used to take a lot of stick for that but he could handle it. All the young ones could at the time – including Callum (Davidson) when he was coming through. They held their own.”
NICK DASOVIC – The nomadic Canadian international took his football boots across Europe to professional leagues in Croatia, Sweden and France before putting down roots in Perth.
He remains the only St Johnstone player to score in a League Cup final, an honour he will want to lose at the weekend. Dasovic is in the Canadian football hall of fame and is the under-19 head coach at the Vancouver Whitecaps academy.
JW: “Midfielders didn’t get pigeon-holed in those days like they do now but, looking back, he was the screener in front of the back four.
“He was brave and brilliant at getting on the ball and keeping us in possession. He had great energy and would always be willing to take the ball and to look for it, which is something I’m always going on about to midfielders when I’m managing.
“He wasn’t a Kernaghan in terms of 50 and 60 yard passes. It was about breaking it up, winning the ball and making simple passes.
“And, as he showed in the semi-final and final, he could pop up with important goals.
“Nick was a neighbour of mine so I spent a lot of time with him and his family. We’re still close and keep in contact.
— Nick Dasović (@NickDasovic04) January 23, 2021
“When he’s come back down the years, to do his coaching licence and things like that, I’ve put him up. It’s always great to see him. In fact, one of my daughters is going to Canada in the summer and she’ll be staying with Nick for a spell.
“One day he roller-skated into training. He had this outfit on that was incredible – lycra and everything!
“Before we went down to train at the North Inch I put it on under my tracksuit and he didn’t see the funny side when I took the tracksuit off and showed off all the lycra!”
PAUL KANE – Played more football for his beloved Hibs than any other club but Saints arguably saw the best of him. Along with Main’s save, his goal got him a place in Perth folklore in that game against Dundee.
Already had business interests in Edinburgh, including pubs, at the tail end of his career and that remains the same today. Is a well-known media ‘go-to’ man to talk about Hibs.
JW: “I’d come up against Kano when he was at Hibs and Aberdeen but it wasn’t until you played and trained alongside him that you appreciated just how good a footballer he was. He had everything you would want from a midfielder.
“He had a right nasty streak in him, he was a good talker who had a presence and put high demands on his team-mates, he could play with both feet, he could pass it (simple, splitting defences and long) and he was an unbelievable finisher as well.
“His finishing was that good you could almost say he could have played up front.
“He was a brilliant finisher in training and he scored the goal against Dundee which got us into Europe. More often he’d play in a defensive midfield role but he’d play as a 10 no bother as well.
“He was definitely one of my favourite midfielders who played in front of me in my career.
“Kano wasn’t frightened to tell you if he wasn’t happy and I was the same so we had a couple of fall-outs but we always left it on the park.
“You wanted him on your team in training and even more so in a game.
“And anything you wanted to buy, he’d get it! Between him and Biscuits, I don’t know how they did it.
“I was through at his house in Edinburgh and even his wife talked about it. She wasn’t allowed to go and buy anything there and then if she saw something she wanted in a shop.
“She had to tell him and he’d go and do a deal with the guy. Nothing would get paid full price – there was always a deal to be done.
“Kano and Biscuits brought a lot of their Edinburgh pals into St Johnstone and they were great lads to have about the place. We used to have some good nights through at his pub.”
MIGUEL SIMAO – Developed in the Boavista academy and then the Portugese lower leagues, Simao made his Saints debut in Sturrock’s last game in charge.
Will be remembered for the two goals he scored against Finish side Vaasa, setting up the famous glamour Uefa Cup tie against Monaco.
After two years in Scotland he was forever on his travels and didn’t reach three figures for games played anywhere. Now an agent back in Portugal.
JW: “He was inconsistent but you can say that about a lot of wingers.
“Miguel was more of a traditional winger than say Del, who would cut inside more. He played through the middle for us as well, though. I think he did that against Monaco.
“He certainly wouldn’t have had it easy with Gary Bollan behind him!
“Miguel was in with the Spice Boys. He’s a lovely guy – a nicer lad you couldn’t want to meet. He was pals with Fizzy, Nathan Lowndes, Kieran McAnespie and the other younger ones.
“They were all close. Callum would have been in that group before he left.
“Sometimes foreign players can come in and don’t mix and sometimes they can find it hard. Rachid Djebaili is a guy you’d put into that category.
“You need strong characters in a strong dressing room.
“Miguel didn’t have a problem. He was popular in the dressing room and he certainly added value to the team.”
GEORGE O’BOYLE – A career that was never dull started with Manchester City and Bordeaux and led to Dunfermline and then St Johnstone, with the two Scottish clubs paying near to a combined half-a-million pounds for the striker.
He scored just the one goal for Northern Ireland but it will forever be talked about as it was in a 1-1 draw with Germany.
A seven-year Saints career came to a sad end by hitting the front pages and being sacked after drug-taking allegations in a Perth pub.
Back in Belfast, he set-up a successful industrial cleaning business, and has also managed. He parted company with Harland and Wolff Welders in December 2019.
JW: “You’d describe George as a likeable rogue.
“He’s up there with the best strikers I’ve played with, that’s for sure.
“The way Luggy liked to play with his 4-4-2, we’d be looking to hit the second striker, switch the play and then get crosses in the box.
“There was nobody better than bringing the ball in and switching the play than George O’Boyle.
“He was so good with his back to goal, taking it from one full-back and getting the ball out to the other side. Then he’d get himself in the box and he was a lethal finisher.
“He was basically an out-and-out number nine who was great to have in your team. He could play just off as well, though. Sometimes Luggy would play Roddy as the target and George would be hitting it into his feet and then looking to get on the end of a cross.
“I’ll never forget when he nutmegged Paul Gascoigne twice in the same game at Ibrox.
“He even called the second one, which is the worst type for a player to take – saying ‘megs’ before he goes on to do it!
“I can remember Gazza saying that he’d never been done twice like that in a game and I’m sure he gave George his top walking off the park because of it. It was unbelievable.
“It was a real shame what happened at the end of his time at St Johnstone but the fans remember the player he was and so do his team-mates from my time. We all hold him in high regard. Paul Sturrock loved him and so did the chairman.
“He’s the type of guy who like to enjoy himself and liked to enjoy life. Gary Farquhar was his big pal, who was another lovely lad. They were two peas in a pod. Then it was Gerry McMahon for a spell.
“Sadly, he got involved in the wrong thing. Had it happened in today’s game, I think it would have been dealt with differently.
“I don’t know the whole story or the whole truth and I’m not really interested in it. But I felt for George because I liked him. He knows he made a mistake and he paid the price for it.
“I don’t think there’s been another striker like him at St Johnstone since. Who knows what he’d be worth in the current market.”
ALLAN PRESTON – Schooled at Tannadice under Jim McLean, ‘Biscuits’, like a few others in this team, found his football home in Perth at the peak of his career.
Being able to play left-midfield and left-back proved to be invaluable for Sturrock and then Sandy Clark.
His spectacular goal against Hearts in the semi-final was the one he’ll forever be able to dine out on but it turned out that he didn’t have long left as a professional footballer, a hip injury ending his career officially in 2000.
Coaching and management has been followed by splitting his time between agency (representing Kieran Tierney among others for the Stellar Group) and media work.
JW: “He played as a wide midfielder and a left-back for us but he wasn’t a born full-back like Gary Bollan, that’s for sure.
“The boys in that Edinburgh car are still very close. You wouldn’t call it a clique because everybody mixed but it was the heart and soul of the dressing room.
“We didn’t know that Biscuits’ hip was as bad as it turned out to be and that he was coming to the end of his career at that time because of it. I do remember a bad ankle injury he had.
“Biscuits was the one who would load the gun and somebody else would fire it for him! Luggy used to give him a hard time and say he’d be winding opposition players up into a frenzy and somebody else would get done but that’s maybe a bit harsh.”
RODDY GRANT – A cult hero with Saints fans who enjoyed two highly successful periods in Perth.
The first was under Alex Totten and the second under Sturrock and Clark. As with Main, the split service didn’t stop him being awarded a testimonial.
You can take your pick of his most celebrated goals but the header against Airdrie in 1989 will take some beating. Finished his career in the lower leagues but has been back at McDiarmid for over a decade and is currently an associate director.
JW: “What can you say about Roddy that hasn’t already been said. To think he’s still at the club as a director!
“You could write a book on Roddy by himself! He was daft as a brush.
“The fans loved him and he was really popular with the players as well. Everybody liked Roddy.
“Me and him had a few run-ins down the years but not in a bad way.
“Roddy and George would look on me as Captain Sensible. I can remember us being down south for a pre-season trip and Roddy soaked my bed. There was no way I could sleep on it. I had to sleep on the floor all night.
“That was the sort of thing he used to get up to. If there wasn’t mischief or carry-on, he’d be right in the middle of it.”
NATHAN LOWNDES – Signed by Sturrock, the Englishman who was schooled at Manchester City and then Watford, made an instant impact on his first start (for Clark), scoring twice in the League Cup quarter-final against Hibs.
He then set-up O’Boyle’s goal in the semi. Lowndes, top scorer for Saints with 11 goals in 1999-2000, like Bollan and Main, left Saints for Livingston before returning to England.
Post-football he has settled in Perth, is a police officer and has been coaching at the Saints academy.
JW: “Nathan was brilliant at getting in behind and was a good finisher with both feet, in the box and from distance.
“He scored a great goal at Tynecastle, talking a ball from a throw-in and curling it into the top corner. And nobody will forget the night he had against Hibs on his debut in the League Cup quarter-final. He was brilliant in that game.
“When he went down to Livingston he was a player who was hard to play against. It was a shame he got a bad back injury and needed an operation.
“The season of the cup final when I came back from injury – it was about my third game – we were playing at Tannadice. It was a pouring, wet night and the game should probably have been cancelled but Danny Griffin put us 1-0 up from a free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
“Nathan got booked for a silly foul about 10 minutes into the second half and within a minute he got a second yellow.
“I was screaming at him. My eyes would have been popping out of my head. I was calling him for everything. Thankfully we held on and he told me afterwards he was never so grateful to hear a final whistle!”