Tommy Wright is trusting St Johnstone fans to turn out in their droves for tonight’s testimonial match honouring Scottish Cup winning skipper Dave Mackay.
Mackay, who was forced to quit playing last year after hip surgery, plans to pull on the boots one last time for part of the derby clash with his first club, Dundee.
Injury prevented him taking a final bow before Perth supporters last season and Saints boss Wright knows how highly regarded his former captain is in the Fair City.
And with the added lure of legends from Saints and Dundee, it promises to be a memorable night for a former defender who is assured of his own special niche in St Johnstone history, having become the first club captain to hoist aloft the cup three years ago.
“Fans will always remember him lifting the cup but Dave was about so much more in his time here,” said Wright.
“The team he has been part of has enjoyed success year after year in relative terms for a club of this size.
“To captain the team into Europe, to win away to Rosenborg and Minsk and get a great result against Luzern, this is someone who has played a massive part in the history of the club.
“The cup final win will never be forgotten and I remember fondly his tackle that day on Gary Mackay-Steven, who was forced to limp off, and also a wonderful team goal at Ross County. We won 4-0 up there and he tapped the ball in from the six-yard line, as a full-back.”
Mackay was handed the captain’s armband with the departure of ex-Chelsea star Jody Morris – who will go up against Stoke City’s current Premier midfielder Charlie Adam, guesting for the Dark Blues tonight.
Wright said: “When I came in as assistant manager my first impressions were that he was very quiet with a dry sense of humour and you could see Dave was a thinker about the game.
“Captains do tend to be more outgoing but Dave led by example and people listened in the dressing room because he commanded respect. Ultimately his high level performances on the pitch and their consistency and quality ensured that. That to me is a sign of a true leader.
“I found it easy for Dave to continue as captain when I became manager. It never even entered my mind to change things.
“I knew I could depend on Dave and I wouldn’t have any worries, no matter who he was coming up against on the pitch.
“He demanded high standards of everyone, including himself. He was a manager’s dream really.”
Mackay (36) is intent on forging a career in management and awards have already come his way.
Wright observed: “Dave has already proved he has attributes for being a manager.
“He has knowledge of the game that’s for sure, he has experience and he has done his badges. He will know how to treat people and he will have picked up things in the dressing room and from his various managers that will serve him well.
“Dave is single-minded and determined, with a great work ethic, and I think he will make an excellent manager.”
Meanwhile, Saints fans will no longer have to “dream of a team of Dave Mackays.”
In tonight’s testimonial match with Dundee, every one of the Perth players – current stars and a string of legends – will wear shirts with the Scottish Cup winning captain’s name and number 2 on the back.
While the first hour or so will feature the regular St Johnstone and Dundee first team squads, the closing stages will see legends from both clubs turning back the clock. Names in the frame are Roddy Grant, Danny Griffin, John O’Neil, Darren Dods, Martin Hardie, Paul Sheerin, Nathan Lowndes, Jody Morris and cup winner Frazer Wright, along with Rab Douglas, Barry Smith, Steven Milne, Charlie Adam, Peter MacDonald, Gary Harkins and Dens management duo Neil McCann and Graham Gartland.
- Tonight’s testimonial match kicks-off at 7.30pm and admission at the gate has been pegged at £15 and £5 for U-16s and seniors. The East and West stands will be open, with Dundee fans accommodated in the north of the main stand (turnstiles 6 and 7).