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Shaun Rooney: The prospect of the double-winning St Johnstone legend leaving without playing in front of a Perth crowd is a soul-crushing one

St Johnstone hero Shaun Rooney savours the moment.
Shaun Rooney.

Of the St Johnstone double winners, outstanding performers to a man, there were always going to be four players most likely to be coveted this summer.

That’s not to run down the contributions made by the rest, far from it.

For different reasons, Jason Kerr, Jamie McCart, Shaun Rooney and Ali McCann have been the subject of the transfer speculation with greatest substance.

As far as McCann is concerned, although he is tied-up for two more seasons, the fact he is an established Northern Ireland international not long out of his teens has elevated his profile and worth.

Of that quartet, it’s stating the obvious to suggest that the three defenders are the lowest-hanging fruit ripe for plucking, merely as a consequence of their deals having the least time left on them.

And peculiar to McCann, Saints have proper control.

Not only is he a well brought-up, principled young man who will remain focused on his work and won’t contemplate deploying any of the darker arts to fast-forward a transfer, there is no pressure on the club to panic in this window and accept anything less than the record fee paid by Blackburn Rovers for Callum Davidson all those years ago.

They can wait for interest to build (or not) over the next few weeks and, if that’s how it plays out, during the January transfer window, before having to fret about an asset that may be in danger of depreciation.

The other three are different.

Saints couldn’t have foreseen Rooney’s rise

You can debate whether Saints have been the victims of modern-day short-contract football, an impossible to predict season like no other, failing to fix the roof while the sun was shining or a combination of all those factors.

They arguably should have progressed things earlier and quicker with Kerr and McCart but in the case of Rooney, the first to become the subject of a formal bid in this window, you could not have reasonably expected his employers to do anything differently.

Some would say it was a gamble giving him a deal lasting two years rather than one in the first place and it certainly looked that way half-way into his first season when a loan back to Inverness or elsewhere in the Championship looked a stronger possibility than regular first team football at McDiarmid Park.

Shaun Rooney.

The story of Danny McNamara’s premature return to London and what happened next for the team and his replacement is the stuff of fantasy that still defies all sporting logic now that the Hampden Park dust has settled.

By the time it became apparent that Rooney was transforming from back-up full-back to club legend (after the Betfred Cup final) his agent would have been in no rush to contemplate a contract extension even if Saints had offered it.

This was a summer for options to be kept open from his perspective.

A £300,000 fee would be a decent one

Business reality dictates that if the player and his representative believe now is the right time to have a second, and far more lucrative, attempt to forge a career in English football, Saints’ priority has to be to secure the best price they can.

And, as incredibly successful as these last few months have been for Rooney, you would back Davidson to source a replacement who will thrive under his management.

Stick another £100,000 on the £200,000 bid and to my mind that’s a decent deal for a player who still has much to prove and could leave for nothing in less than a year.

But the surgical, pounds and pence, common sense approach to this potential transfer doesn’t take into account what would be a pretty soul-crushing tale from a supporters’ point of view.

They would be hugely disappointed to see their young captain sold, of course they would.

The same goes for the best midfielder to ever emerge from their youth academy.

And don’t underestimate the appreciation of McCart in the Saints’ fan base either.

Heroes one and all, whose post-Perth careers will be followed with immense pride.

However, those three have established their connections with a St Johnstone crowd. Memories have been forged.

They’ve been applauded, cheered, revered, sometimes criticised from the stands.

Rooney is on their T-shirts and in their hearts.

Four St Johnstone star men – Liam Gordon, Shaun Rooney, Jason Kerr and Jamie McCart.

Yet the man who scored winning goals in two cup finals, hasn’t received the hero-worship that in any other season would have been raining down on him as he charged up the wing, squared up to an opposition forward, clattered into a tackle or arrived at the back post to bullet home one of his trademark headers.

It would be nobody’s fault if the road signposted ‘cold, hard logic’ leads him to Rotherham or another English town with a lower league club.

But it’s hard to shake the feeling that Shaun Rooney, arguably now the most significant individual player to pull on the blue and white in St Johnstone’s history, moving on without playing in front of a single paying supporter is a fundamentally dispiriting prospect that should depress football romantics everywhere.

LONG READ: The Shaun Rooney story – St Johnstone’s cup hero