May 8 2009 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Friday
Swan-song for skipper James
AFTER four years skippering St Johnstone, defender Kevin James will bow out tomorrow away to Airdrie United, with nothing but fond memories of his time at Perth.
His final season was wrecked by injury but James, who scored 12 goals in 76 starts after being targeted by Owen Coyle to provide the foundations for radical reconstruction work required at McDiarmid Park, insists he will leave with a sense of pride rather than sorrow.
An exemplary leader on and of the park, James has already been linked with interest from Queen of the South and Ayr United. Manager Derek McInnes, who will hand James a swansong appearance against relegation threatened Airdrie, insists there will be a clamour for his signature.
McInnes has kicked off contract talks with several players since the weekend title winning celebrations but yesterday confirmed what James already knew.
The manager said: “Kevin was the first player I spoke to. I believe he will be a big asset to the club which signs him. At the start of the campaign I had placed huge importance on him. But he had problems this season with injury and by the time he was fit again the defence was settled.
“But Kevin has been totally professional and a great influence in the dressing room as club captain.
“Owen Coyle made him one of his first signings, from Falkirk, and appointed him captain. And Kevin has served this club well.”
With Kevin Rutkiewicz and Liam Craig one booking off a ban they won’t’ figure tomorrow. Others will also be assessed, with Paul Sheerin rated doubtful with fluid on the knee. Euan McLean looks set to get a run in goal.
James said: “I may be leaving after four years but I’ve had a brilliant time. The club had staved off relegation before Owen came in and he was the reason I came here.
“We finished second twice and reached cup semi-finals galore. Now, under another fine manager, the club are bound for the SPL.
“Owen has gone on to prove his worth at Burnley and Derek McInnes will do likewise next season in the Premier League.
“Maybe a couple of players will come in but the club is run so prudently and professionally that I have no fears for them. Unlike others, the chairman isn’t one to go chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
“But he will back his manager and he has a really good squad here.”
James admitted it was no surprise when it was confirmed he wouldn’t be given a new deal.
“I knew before going out on loan to Ayr this would be my last season here. When the manager confirmed that I appreciated being told quickly and now I can find myself another club. There has been some interest but nothing concrete yet.
“I am fit – I just couldn’t get back into the team with Stuart McCaffrey and Kevin Rutkiewicz playing so well.
“I was unlucky with injuries this season, I had a cartilage op and then I did a disc in my back in the warm-up at Dens but played on because we didn’t have options.”
James is adamant that losing out on the title to Gretna didn’t hurt him as much as others.
A two times winner with Falkirk, he explained: “We didn’t have anything to lose because winning the championship that season wasn’t in our own hands - unlike at the weekend against Morton. Everyone was down, me included, but it wasn’t ours to win.
“I’ll never forget the way our fans took over New Douglas Park that day. They were unbelievable. It didn’t happen when I was at Falkirk. I’m glad they’ve now got the title they wanted so much.
“I’ll be sorry to leave but I am taking way some great memories.”
James, who will warrant a rousing ovation from Perth fans planning a party atmosphere, won’t leave with a championship medal after just five starts.
But he stressed: “I am a firm believer you have to earn rewards in football and I haven’t played enough games. The boys that played deserve the honours. I don’t want a medal for being part of a squad or on sentimental grounds.
“I have been happy to help the management in my role as club captain.”
SAINTS fans making for Airdrie tomorrow are being encouraged to wear fancy dress to celebrate the championship triumph. Diehard fan John Kaylor said: “We are all wearing loud or Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, garlands, hats and lots of taking balloons. We are having a party!”