Tom English - St Mirren fall from grace; Hailing Tony McCoy

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Stephen Thompson and Jim Goodwin show their disappointment
St Mirren were hammered 5-0 by relegation rivals Motherwell

You don't need to be Albert Einstein to figure out what has gone wrong at St Mirren, but the great man nailed it when he talked of the definition of insanity.

He described it as somebody doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

There are boffins out there who dispute the providence of the quote, ascribing it instead to Benjamin Franklin or Mark Twain or assorted other brain-boxes, but what is unarguable is that the thrust of it is applicable to St Mirren as they meekly make their exit from the top flight of Scottish football.

Doing the same thing over and over again means making one dreadful signing after another and expecting things to come right.

It means picking the same players and putting them in the same positions where they have failed multiple times before and hoping that things come good.

It means replacing one failed manager (Danny Lennon) with his failed assistant (Tommy Craig) and replacing another failed manager (Craig) with his assistant (Gary Teale) and expecting some sort of footballing enlightenment to occur.

And it means ignoring the lessons of the past. In seven of the last eight seasons, St Mirren have got to early April - the 32-game stage of the league campaign - in 10th or 11th place in the table - usually 11th.

Stewart Gilmour and Tommy Craig
Chairman Stewart Gilmour and former manager Tommy Craig presided over poor results

In five of those eight seasons, they had only one club below them at this point of the season. They survived in different ways.

They played their way out of trouble on a few occasions, but on others they hung on to their status because there was at least one other club in a worse state - Dunfermline Athletic, Gretna, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Falkirk, Hamilton Accies, Dundee, Hearts.

Any team that continues to flirt with danger is likely to be caught out in the end. St Mirren have had as many lives as a cat in the past decade, but they've run out of time now and it's entirely their own fault.

In the last two seasons alone, their business in the transfer market has been largely hopeless.

Last season, they brought in Christopher Dilo, a goalkeeper who played 13 matches and then vanished, and Danny Grainger, who played 15 times and was then sent away to Dunfermline. They brought in Greg Wylde, who has been a bit-part player for them - and not a particularly effective bit-part player - and Eric Djemba-Djemba, a colossal embarrassment before disappearing out of Glasgow with his reputation as flat as those caps he used to wear.

The names Jake Caprice and Stephane Bahoken are two more that bombed. Of the business done, only Mark Ridgers, the goalkeeper, is still contributing regularly.

And this season's incoming list has again been awful. James Marwood was signed and was quickly sent away again, to Forest Green in the English Conference.

Ross Caldwell failed and is now with Morton. Isaac Osbourne hasn't played since February. Callum Ball, a striker who got two in 24 games, has been out since January.

Yoann Arquin has played nine matches and has two red cards and no goals. Of the summer influx, only Jeroen Tesselaar has appeared in the team on a consistent basis.

That's more than a dozen signings - the list is not exhaustive - and only two of them are playing regularly in the team. With a hit-rate like that, no wonder St Mirren are in the state they're in.

Look at the teams closest to them at the foot of the table - or, to put it correctly, the teams that are motoring away from them.

Motherwell bought wisely in January, bringing in Stephen Pearson to bolster a previously soft-touch midfield, and Scott McDonald who, apart from scoring three goals in six games, offers the type of exuberance in his personality that is like a shot of adrenaline to a one-time beaten dressing-room.

Pearson and McDonald have not only elevated Motherwell on the pitch, they have done it off the pitch as well. Their experience and leadership has been a big factor in Motherwell's recovery from apparent doom.

Scott McDonald celebrates scoring for Motherwell
Striker Scott McDonald has helped Motherwell improve their form

Ross County are an even more stark example of a club bringing the right guys in at the right time. Raffaele De Vita has scored three times in eight games, including what turned out to be the winner in their games against Motherwell and Dundee United. Craig Curran has scored five goals in his 13 appearances, including the goal that won a point against Dundee and the decisive goal in their victories over Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock.

Where are St Mirren's Pearsons and McDonalds, Da Vitas and Currans? Where are the replacements for the good players they have lost?

Conor Newton, Paul Dummett, Paul McGowan and Darren McGregor all exited and those gaps were never filled. It seems like the club's survival policy amounted to hoping against hope that one of their rivals would stumble more often than they did.

Motherwell and Ross County went out and improved their lot. St Mirren sat there and waited for one or both of them to mess up.

Teale gets the blame, just as Craig got the blame before him, but the real problem here is with Stewart Gilmour and his board and their awful decision-making both in the appointment of two managers who had been part of administrations that had already been deemed not good enough and also by their hapless work in the transfer market.

The powers-that-be at St Mirren saw the warning lights flashing a long time ago - or ought to have - and continued doing what they'd always done - the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome.

It's not nice to see a club relegated - as St Mirren surely will be - but that's what happens when those at the top fall asleep at the wheel.

McCoy takes place among sporting legends

Tony McCoy is nearing the end of his racing career and, although all of us who have marvelled at his genius in the saddle these past two decades will feel flat when he goes, surely the greater emotion will be joy at having been around to witness a maestro in his pomp.

I wish I could have appreciated Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and George Foreman when they were at their best, but I was too young. I wish I'd seen a young Pele play. Or an imperious George Best.

What joy it would have been to be able to witness Bobby Jones create history. What a delight it would have been to be of an age to see Barry John or Gareth Edwards up close, week after week.

McCoy stands proudly in that pantheon - and it's been a privilege to watch him, interview him and try to understand him and what drove him to those stratospheric heights. Now that his career is turning for home and he's becoming more reflective as opposed to his previous self who only had eyes for Towcester next Tuesday, we're hearing so much from him that is fascinating.

Tony McCoy with his plaque as a Grand National legend
Tony McCoy was inducted into the Grand National Legends wall of fame

"For me, it's just my own stubbornness and my own peace of mind that drove me to do what I'm doing, retiring," he told the Limerick Leader last week. "I'm not happy about doing it. It is probably the right thing, but what I'm hoping is that people will never be able to say I didn't retire at the top.

"I think you live in fear every day of being not as good as you were. Sometimes the fear totally overrides the enjoyment, you know?

"I don't feel it when I am riding the horses - it's the in-between. It's when it's over. And it's not something that I developed six months or a year ago, it's been there all my life. All my life. Sometimes it has been the ruination of my life."

McCoy spoke about what was expected of him and how difficult it has been to match those expectations, though, remarkably, he has managed it year after year. He said the biggest problem he has is that he's Tony McCoy and there's a burden that comes with that, a standard he has set for himself that's hard to repeat.

"I'm not bigging myself up for one moment, but I think, if I changed my name, I could carry on riding for another two or three years, no problem," he said.

He could change his name, but AN Other would be rumbled soon enough. No name change or clever disguise could camouflage his greatness in the saddle. As soon as he won on something that had no right to win, he'd out himself in an instant.

"The sad reality of sport is that, at some point, if you carry on too long, there will be a dip," he added. "And you don't want to be one of the people who had that dip, who carried on too long. That was always my fear."

McCoy versus his inner-demons? A great battle, no question. And one that can be added to his list of unforgettable victories.

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