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St Johnstone made of the Wright stuff

By Stuart McKinley

There's no doubt that Tommy Wright has the stomach for a fight – and he has passed that on to his St Johnstone team.

Just three weeks ago the former Northern Ireland goalkeeper was taken into hospital, with an unplanned visit to the operation theatre the eventual outcome.

Emergency surgery to sort out a gallbladder complaint was required and although he is well on the way to making a full recovery, if ever a pick-me-up was needed Wright got it on Sunday afternoon.

Still in his first season as St Johnstone boss, Wright has guided them to the Scottish Cup final.

And is if that's not enough of an achievement, it gets even bigger because the Perth club has never made it to Scotland's showpiece occasion before in their 130-year history.

Like their manager though, who battled numerous injuries during his career with Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest and Manchester City, which restricted him to just 31 Northern Ireland appearances in a 10-year international career, the Saints did things the hard way.

Trailing to a goal from another Ulsterman, Aberdeen's Niall McGinn, St Johnstone hit back with two goals from Stevie May in the second half to book a meeting with Dundee United at Celtic Park on Saturday May 17.

"I was well aware that we could make history," said Ballyclare-man Wright.

"I know how much this means to the club and the supporters. They have had to put up with a lot of disappointments in the past, losing semi-finals along the way.

"I spoke about it at the team meeting and to be honest didn't focus on the game too much.

"I knew we had worked on a few things so I just said to them that we can't change history but we can create it."

And after creating one piece of history, Wright now fancies another by doing a double over cup final opponents Dundee United by not only beating them on the big day, but also pipping them for fourth place in the league.

"There is a belief about this squad that it could be our year," said Wright.

"We can beat anyone on our day and we showed it here.

"I'm so proud of the players for how they went about it. Most people thought that for us to win this game we would have to go in front but we did it the other way.

"To go behind and come back and win the match like we did showed great character."

In the final, Wright will go head-to-head with United boss Jackie McNamara, after the two had a touchline spat, with the Ulsterman claiming what his rival boss said was a 'cheap shot.'

Both have since received bans, Wright's suspended until the end of the season, but they will shake hands on cup final day, now that the hatchet has been well and truly buried between the pair.

"I've had plenty of messages from people in Scottish football and beyond. It just shows that although we're rivals on the park everyone gets on well away from the football," said Wright.

"A few weeks ago Jackie McNamara and I were having a wee go at each other but he and Darren Jackson were among the first to send me a message. I really appreciated everyone getting in touch."

As for the cup final, Wright said: "Dundee United are favourites, no doubt, and Jackie knows that. They have a young squad with a lot of talent that everyone is talking about, and we love being underdogs so we're hanging on to that tag.

"There is five weeks to go but we have got to refocus on the massive game against them this weekend.

"We still have hopes of catching them in the league and we want to finish fourth."

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