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Liam Gordon: St Johnstone players must ensure nobody can accuse them of ‘chucking it’ again

The Perth club is about to get a clean slate with a new manager.

St Johnstone's Liam Gordon.
St Johnstone's Liam Gordon. Image: SNS.

St Johnstone captain, Liam Gordon, will do everything in his power to make sure nobody – certainly not their next manager – can throw the words “chucked it” in the players’ direction ever again.

Steven MacLean’s post-match verdict of his team’s performance in defeat to St Mirren at the weekend laid bare his frustrations and may have played a part in his subsequent dismissal.

Now, as skipper, Gordon has to help ensure a line is drawn in the sand.

“Macca’s an emotional person,” said the double-winning centre-back. “He was that sort of player.

“You can’t take that out of him. That’s what helped give him that success he had.

“It was emotion and passion talking after the game. Sometimes you need those words.

“As players, you just need to take it on the chin. If you can’t take a bit of criticism then you’re not really going to go far in the world of football.

“We had got over that by Sunday. It had been spoken about and addressed.”

St Johnstone's Liam Gordon looks dejected after defeat to St Mirren.
St Johnstone’s Liam Gordon looks dejected after defeat to St Mirren. Image: SNS.

Gordon has already had his say in the post-MacLean dressing room.

“I’ve spoken to boys, pulled them aside and had words with them,” he said. “We’re fully committed as a squad.

“Moving forward, if boys down tools they won’t play. It’s as simple as that.

“They’ll be dealt with. It can’t happen.

“If we lose to a better team having given 110% and run all game for each other, you have to take that.

“But what can’t happen is being labelled as people chucking it or not working hard enough.

“At a club like St Johnstone we can’t have passengers. We all need to be at it or we won’t get results.

“It wasn’t nice to hear and we never want to hear it again.

“We have to set the standards ourselves. 100%. Whether that’s in a game, on the training pitch, in the gym, in recovery.

“If everybody does that then whoever is in the starting XI will have a great chance.

“We have to think ‘what can I do better?’ And keep driving that in training.

“It has to come from guys wanting to work their socks off.”

Others to ‘lean on’

Gordon has other senior pros he can count on to share the McDiarmid Park leadership duties.

“I go around speaking to boys and I’ve got guys I can lean on to bounce things off,” he said.

“If it’s boys needing an arm round the shoulder or a kick up the backside, that’s what will be done.

“That’s how it has always been here. In years gone by it was a much smaller squad, which made it a bit easier.

“It’s obviously a big group just now so it is difficult for boys who aren’t playing.

“But we’re at a point now where everybody has to be together. We can’t have boys feeling sorry for themselves.

“It could be anyone left out. We’re not individuals, we’re a team.”

Succession ends

It is expected that Wednesday night’s clash with Kilmarnock will be Alex Cleland’s one and only game as caretaker boss.

After that there will be a new manager and the Wright-Davidson-MacLean succession will be over.

“It will be different, no doubt about it,” said Gordon. “But it gives the club a clean slate if that’s the way they are going forward and that’s what they think is best.

“As players, we can only go with who is in charge of us. That’s going to be Alex on Wednesday night.

“We will be fully behind him.

“Whoever comes after that, I’m sure all the boys will be on board to give him everything they’ve got.

“If someone is going to come in with fresh ideas – on or off the pitch – there are positives to that, for sure.

“We have no idea what’s going to go on. But for now we simply have to focus on getting behind Alex and Hinchy.

“If it is a fresh slate, it might not be the worst thing.”

Steven MacLean and Liam Craig.
Steven MacLean and Liam Craig. Image: SNS.

For the second time in six months, Gordon found himself paying tribute to departing Saints legends – this time MacLean and Liam Craig.

“Those are guys who I grew up admiring, playing with, guys who’ve coached me,” he said.

“They’ve got families to provide for and, at the end of the day, we’ve just basically done them out of their jobs.

“You feel responsibility. Training has always been good under Macca and Liam. They gave us everything, the detail they went into.

“They couldn’t have done much more. Individual errors and bad phases of the game have done us in.

“That wasn’t to do with tactics.

“As players, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and see what we can do better and get this club back up the league.

“We have a chance, backs against the wall, to show what we are all about. On Wednesday that is something we are going to do.”

Repeat of 2019

Gordon hopes that history is about repeat itself.

Back in 2019, Saints were winless and sitting on a four-point total after nine games.

“At St Johnstone, you are used to adversity,” he said.

“The boys who’ve just come in, I don’t know if they’ve maybe looked at the success we’ve had and maybe expected that.

“Well, it’s different now. We need to buckle up and be ready for a fight and get back to what we were before.

“You’ve got to come into your work day after day and keep doing the basics well. And at some point your luck will change.

“I’ve been through it so many times – start the season badly and it’s a case of ‘St Johnstone are down, they’re finished’.

“Then we come back.

“We’ve got an even bigger incentive to prove people wrong this time.”