October 20, 2014

25 Years Ago Today!

May 16th 1987 means so much to St Mirren fans as it was the last time Saints picked up that famous old trophy, the Scottish Cup.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the 1987 Scottish Cup final between St Mirren and Dundee United.  The Buddies bowled over Inverness Caledonian, Morton, Raith Rovers and Heart of Midlothian to face United who were also in the final of the UEFA Cup.

It had been a pretty much ‘nothing special’ kind of season before St Mirren kicked their first ball in anger in the 3rd Round tie against Inverness Caley on January 31st.  Saints were sitting mid-table without causing too many problems to the teams above them and were well away not to be caught up by the teams below them.

The two biggest news stories of the first half of the season were Billy Abercromby’s three red cards in a league match against Motherwell that earned him a 12 match suspension that led to him being shown the door by manager Alex Miller and Miller’s departure just before Christmas to take over the managerial reins at Hibernian.

Miller was quickly replaced by Alex Smith who brought Abercromby back into the fold – a decision that by the end of the season proved to have destiny written all over it.

A 3-0 win at Love Street against Caley – thanks to goals from Kenny McDowall, Frank McGarvey and Ian Ferguson – steered Saints towards the 4th round draw that would pair them with local rivals Morton.

A trip down the Clyde to Greenock was required on February 21st to face Morton.  Paul Chalmers fired Saints into the lead early-on but the home side equalised through Rowan Alexander just before half-time.  Morton then took the lead midway through the second half when John McNeil scored from the penalty-spot but within sixty seconds Saints were back level again as Ian Ferguson also converted from the penalty-spot.  With his second goal of the day, Chalmers clinched the tie with 5 minutes of the match remaining.

Saints were on the road again for the quarter-final as they headed to the Kingdom of Fife to face Second Division leaders Raith Rovers.  The kick-off for the tie at Starks Park on March 14th was delayed 15 minutes to allow the huge travelling support time to get into the stadium, and the wait was worth it as big Peter ‘Basil’ Godfrey headed Saints into the lead after only 17 minutes.  But it got to finger nail biting time as Saints were having problems killing the tie off but Chalmers eventually settled all nerves down with an 89th minute goal to seal a trip to Hampden for the semi-final.

On April 11th, Heart of Midlothian stood between St Mirren and the Buddies first Scottish Cup final appearance in 28 years. 15,000 fans of a St Mirren persuasion turned up to back their side for the Hampden semi-final which turned out to be a cracker.  Ian Ferguson gave Saints the lead but with 15 minutes remaining Gary MacKay pulled the Edinburgh side level again.  It was no doubt in the minds of St Mirren fans that in the early 1980′s they watched their side lose four national semi-finals and a feeling of deja vu was coming over them but Frank McGarvey put paid to these thoughts as he knocked in the winner from close range.

So, 25 years ago today Campbell Money, Tommy Wilson, Neil Cooper, David Winnie, Derek Hamilton, Paul Lambert, Brian Hamilton, Frank McGarvey, Kenny McDowall, Ian Ferguson and – yes – Billy Abercromby lined up for St Mirren’s first Scottish Cup final since 1962.  And as games go it wasn’t the best but on the 110th minute when Ian Ferguson blasted the ball into the back of the net at the Mount Florida end of the stadium the fans of 110 year old St Mirren erupted and celebrated the goal that would win the cup.

Five months after looking like he was out of the door at St Mirren Park, Billy Abercromby became the first St Mirren captain to hold the Scottish Cup aloft since David Lapsley in 1959.

In goal for Saints that day was Campbell Money who still holds the 1987 Scottish Cup win as one of his most cherished career memories.

He said, “It was a fantastic day for everyone connected with the Club. We were definitely the underdogs that day with the fact that Dundee United had a very good side at that time, they were in the UEFA Cup final that year and they were an excellent side.

“Whilst nowadays it’s quite rare for clubs out with the Old Firm to win the cup we had come close on a number of occasions at the start of the 80′s but that day I think a number of the boys knew it would be the one and only chance we would get and we had to make the most of our chance and we did.”