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St Johnstone transfer business assessed: Will 5 signings be enough to keep Craig Levein’s team in Premiership?

Two forwards, two defenders and a midfielder have been brought to McDiarmid Park.

St Johnstone's five January signings.
St Johnstone's five January signings. Images: SNS and Mark Percy.

Craig Levein’s first transfer window as St Johnstone manager closed with five new signings (four of them permanent) and one loan player returning after a brief spell back with his parent club.

The Perth boss now has the group of players whose collective task it will be to keep the McDiarmid Park club in the Premiership.

Courier Sport has assessed Saints’ January recruitment business, breaking down each area of Levein’s squad.

You can’t get everything you want in one month – but has he got enough?

Overall numbers

As it stands, more players have come in than gone out – but not by much.

Callum Booth, Luke Jephcott, Jay Turner-Cooke and Dara Costelloe are the four who have moved on.

Jay Turner-Cooke.
Jay Turner-Cooke. Image: SNS.

That total could yet grow, with Sam McClelland an obvious candidate for a short loan spell in the Championship to get game-time now that he’s close to recovering from injury.

And there is sure to be lower league interest in Cammy Ballantyne before their window of opportunity closes at the end of February.

Whatever happens, though, the Saints squad is still bigger than you would ideally want.

It will now fall to Levein and Andy Kirk to manage that potentially problematic situation.

A much larger cull will take place in the summer when a lot of contracts run out.


Had he been fit, Ross Sinclair would have been best-served by a Championship loan.

Given there have been complications with his elbow surgery, unfortunately this season looks like being a write-off for the former Scotland under-21 international.

The most important news for the remainder of this campaign is that Dimitar Mitov’s excellent form didn’t attract any transfer interest.

Of all the clubs fighting to stay up, Saints will have the best goalie.


McClelland being made available for loan tells you that Levein is well covered for central defensive options.

Andy Considine, Liam Gordon and Ryan McGowan have been the three regulars, with Kerr Smith joining Luke Robinson and Dare Olufunwa as first team-ready options at the heart of the Saints defence.

Levein has gone on record to say that, despite switching to a back four mid-game in two of his last three fixtures, a back three will continue to be his formation of choice.

It will be the end of February/start of March before Drey Wright is likely to become a wing-back option on the right but David Keltjens already looks to be a solid recruit for that position, albeit his strengths appear to be weighted more to the ‘back’ half of his job title rather than the ‘wing’ one.

You could also say that about Robinson and Tony Gallacher on the other side.

Getting proper attacking width into the team remains an area in need of improvement, exemplified by last Saturday’s draw with Motherwell.


As with Mitov, keeping Dan Phillips would have been as big a transfer priority for Levein as any new signing he could make.

It remains highly unlikely the Trinidad and Tobago international will extend his stay at McDiarmid Park beyond May but deadline day came and went without a bid being lodged or any word of a pre-contract agreement being signed with another club.

Craig Levein is a big fan of Dan Phillips.
Craig Levein is a big fan of Dan Phillips. Image: SNS.

He’s a key player.

Levein will hope that the same will soon be said of Connor Smith.

Saints haven’t looked as mobile in midfield after the mid-season break as they were before it and the former Hearts player could be the man to correct that balance.

Expect Smith to get a lot of game-time.

He can play out wide – as was the case when making his debut against Motherwell – but the 22-year-old is certainly not a winger.

Whenever Saints do switch formations away from the wing-back system, it remains to be seen whether they now have the players who can make things function more effectively in the final third.

Up front

Benjamin Kimpioka hasn’t hit the ground running but Levein is confident that he’ll come good.

The former Sunderland forward doesn’t look like a prolific finisher in the making but, as long as his link-up play sharpens up and he can chip in with a few goals, his speed across the ground will open up space for others.

St Johnstone striker Benji Kimpioka.
St Johnstone striker Benji Kimpioka.

Stevie May is likely facing a struggle for game-time. He didn’t even make the match-day squad last Saturday.

DJ Jaiyesimi can do a hold-up job, as can Chris Kane if he stay fit.

The last January recruit, Adama Sidibeh, brings with him curiosity and risk factors – and exciting potential.

The seventh tier of English football to the top level of the Scottish game is a big leap to make in one go – even for a forward with an impressive track record of finding the back of the net and possessing the ‘power and pace’ Levein spoke of earlier this week.

Saints don’t have the wherewithal to compete for a Curtis Main, a Kevin van Veen or even a Michael Mellon.

Centre-forward gambles had to be taken.

Neither Kimpioka nor Sidibeh is going to be a Callum Hendry-style saviour.

As was the case before the window opened, chief goal-scoring responsibility is still likely to rest with Nicky Clark.

The hope is that the cast around him will give him the best chance to flourish.