Ayr United v Saints preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Friday, 8th July 2011
The pre-season starts here. After Tuesday's closed doors game against Queen's Park, Saints make their first public outing of the summer tomorrow afternoon when they take on Ayr United at Somerset Park.
It's one of our regular pre-season haunts - despite us having had a change of manager - but it may prove a bit more popular than normal. Our summer trips to the seaside are usually during the week, but this time it's on a Saturday, which should see a few more Buds heading down to Ayrshire. Besides, it's the first proper chance to see a number of new players in the stripes - and this morning's signing of Graham Carey may add a few more onto the gate.
Steven Thompson, Gary Teale, Nigel Hasselbaink and Graeme Smith, as well as the returning Carey and Paul McGowan, are all likely to feature at some stage. Teale is more likely to be a sub against his former side as he's a week behind in his pre-season preparations after joining from Sheffield Wednesday. Darren McGregor and Aaron Mooy are also a wee bit doubtful as they've picked up strains and it's better to be safe than sorry at this stage of things.
There will also be at least two trialists playing - not including the mystery Italian and the Aussie midfielder who were supposedly with us earlier in the summer. Both striker Craig Sutherland and Dutch leftback Jeroen Tesselaar have been with the squad for a number of weeks now and it's possible this could be their last chance to win a contract - although comments during the week suggests Sutherland could be with us for a wee while longer.
There may not be a rollercoaster on Ayr beach, but there isn't any need for one when United are about. They've spent the last few years going up and down between the first and second division and are preparing for a season in the first after winning the promotion play-offs last season. It's a far, far cry from the days when Ayr challenged at the top of the first division, were funded by Bill Barr and repeatedly pulled off cup shocks and made it to Hampden. The money just isn't there these days, but you can't doubt the job Brian Reid has been doing - despite some of his fans wanting him sacked last season.
This will be a chance for the Saints fans that attend to pay tribute to Gareth Wardlaw for his efforts last season. The former postie didn't score many for us in his one SPL season, but he did score the goal that kept us up against Aberdeen - cleverly deceiving Jamie Langfield by scoring with his shin. While he hasn't really done well at first division level before, his year in the top flight and season of full-time training should stand him in good stead for the weeks and months ahead. He could join another former Saint up front as Mark Roberts just seems to keep going and keep scoring. Eddie Malone may not have done much while with us, but he is a leftback - something we lack at the moment.
While we've won this friendly in the last few years, pre-season games mean absolutely nothing. Don't get anyone injured or sent off, work on the fitness and it's job done as far as I'm concerned.
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