St Mirren's dream Europe-clinching season means Buddies legend Tony Fitzpatrick has last laugh

Alex Gogic leads the celebrations after St Mirren's 3-1 win at Dundee set them on the road to Europe
Alex Gogic leads the celebrations after St Mirren's 3-1 win at Dundee set them on the road to Europe -Credit:SNS Group


Stephen Robinson in the past few weeks has spoken about St Mirren clinching a “marquee result” against one of Glasgow’s big two this season.

It appeared as though it may happen on the final day when the Buddies twice went ahead through skipper Mark O’Hara – nearly dampening Celtic’s trophy day celebrations at Parkhead in the process.

The Hoops would eventually secure a 3-2 victory but few can argue that it hasn’t been a marquee season for the Saints.

Even after the opening day of term, when Buddies beat Hibernian 3-2 at Easter Road thanks to a last-minute Alex Greive header, the thought of European football would not have entered the most ambitious of fans’ heads.

However, after 38 games, that is exactly where they find themselves, and it is really no more than they deserve.

Boss Robinson guided the Buddies to a top-six Premiership finish in his first full season in charge so to better that performance is something of an achievement – especially with the current parameters.

It is no surprise that the Northern Irishman has been such a success at the SMiSA Stadium with the former Motherwell manager leading the Fir Park side to both cup finals in 2018.

He has overseen many memorable moments this season with the dramatic last-minute winning goal from Toyosi Olusanya against Aberdeen in March paving the way for another top-six tilt.

But the real decisive moment came against Dundee when Alex Gogic – who to the delight of everyone of a St Mirren persuasion signed a new three-year contract – put his side 1-0 ahead at Dens Park in the battle for European football.

Saints went on to record a 3-1 victory which would all but seal the deal for a place in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Conference League – and that means it may well be an expensive summer for Renfrewshire members of the Tartan Army heading off to Germany next month for Euro 2024.

European football returning to Paisley for the first time in 37 years was rubber-stamped courtesy of a 5-2 win for Rangers over Dundee last Tuesday night – allowing for a party atmosphere when Hearts visited Saints 24 hours later.

Let’s get it right, though. Seven years ago, this club was a defeat away from possible relegation to League One. It is one of these sliding door moments that you look back on and think about now.

Similar to the Václav Hladký inspired penalty shoot-out when Oran Kearney’s Buddies survived in the nerve-shredding Premiership play-off final in 2019.

Now it’s nice to have a spell of relative stability and success at the SMiSA Stadium. With Robinson in charge, the club is in a good place – so hands off any interested suitors.

But as we bask in the glory of a job well done by the playing and coaching staff, one man deserves a special mention to end this

Five years ago, he was ridiculed across the board for the mere suggestion that there might even be a top-four or, at least, a top-six club in Renfrewshire playing in Europe again.

Top four may not have been achieved – yet – but a trip abroad will certainly be enough for the supporters to be getting on with. A legend who played for the club the last time they featured in continental competition.

The one and only Mr Tony Fitzpatrick.

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