The Man from Loch Ness -or- The Ballad of St Mirren

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I’d like for you, the reader, to take a chair and sit a spell while I regale you with the story about a man from Loch Ness, and a small football club in the town of Paisley in the Renfrewshire of the Scottish lowlands.

The 2014/2015 Scottish Football season had just ended, and the aging first team of St Mirren have been relegated to the Championship. Sensing that a new face was needed, club chairman Stewart Gilmour reached out to the depths of murky waters to bring forth a monster of a personality in John Oglesby – The Man from Loch Ness.

A somewhat risque hire for a managerial role, as he was the same age – if not younger – than a few of the players contracted to St Mirren. At the age of 35, Mr Oglesby was a few years removed from an International Career where he bagged 25 goals in 83 caps for the National Team, where he played as an attacking left winger. A career long history with a faulty knee forced him to end his career at the age of 30. Whereas most athletes would rest on their laurels and join the commentator’s booth – John Oglesby still had that fire for competition and completed his coaching licenses all the way to the the Continental Pro (it does help when you’ve had a successful playing career to afford the fees for such a license).

St Mirren as a squad in 2015 was one that was aging up top, but had some incredible youth coming up through the ranks – albeit they were seen as not ready for prime time – the new Manager thought right quick to get the young boys up to speed on how to reach their potential. Immediately, Mr Oglesby was faced with the adversity of playing a minnow in a pool with a Great White – as Celtic had set their sights on 2 of the young talents that he had pegged as the future for St Mirren. The giants of Glasgow had swooped in and forced the hand of the inexperienced manager into selling Stephen Mallan and Sean Kelly, two players he had pegged to be cornerstones for the team. Mallan, a rising name in Scottish football had what looked to have an amazing future at St Mirren Park, manning the center of the midfield for a decade to come. Sean Kelly flying in as a Left Back would have been a glorious piece to the puzzle – but that was sadly not to be.

With the added revenue from the sale of two such promising players – The brain trust at St Mirren huddled together and along with their somewhat limited scouting department was able to come across a true gem to replace the departed Stephen Mallan. From Cowdenbeath came a shooting star of ability in Lewis Milne. A young 20 year old attacking center midfielder who was every bit the player that the departed Mallan was. To replace Sean Kelly at left back, Mr Oglesby looked to the Academy, where he found a very game Jordan Stewart to keep the opposing wingers honest. In goal, St Mirren went with experience and kept Jamie Langfield between the posts. Up top they stuck with Steven Thompson while giving the young Callum Gallagher time to get his ears dry.

The first season with a rookie manager was a struggle, languishing towards the bottom half of the mid table – John Oglesby kept looking for signs of life on offense as Steven Thompson came off injured in the first few games of the season – and effectively ended his career. Cameron Howieson, the promising young CAM from New Zealand was still too inexperienced to man the #10 role. On direct orders from Mr Oglesby, the scouting team scoured the youth squads from England, looking for talent to bring in on loans to help stay above the relegation zone. Their search were bountiful, but to find a team that would allow their young starlings to compete in the lower tier of Scottish football turned to be a problematic proposition. Fortunately, St Mirren had found 2 takers on their offer for playing time. From Southampton came a fantastic young Advanced Playmaker in Jake Hesketh, and on the Right Wing stepped in Daniel Barlaser from Newcastle United.

The struggles began to give way to success following the January transfer window. John Oglesby finally found a combination of a Starting XI and formation that would get the most out of the talented – yet largely inexperienced squad. A 4-4-1-1 began the nom d’raison at St Mirren Park, and The Buddies soon adopted a menancing, counter attacking personality. Under this new direction, the team became a very fluid squad, working on both ends of the pitch and closing down with the ferocity of a pack of wolves on a wounded prey.

The results were showing, and St Mirren had began their ascent up the table. With one game to go to end the season they managed to topple the fallen giants – Rangers, who were in the pole position in the Championship, to jump ahead of Hibernarian and squeak into 4th place just in time for the Scottish Championship League Playoff. The Buddies fared well in the playoff – especially considering the youthful demeanor and inexperience of the core of the squad – and were able to open some eyes of the followers of Scottish League Football to what is happening in the town of Paisley.

 

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