Wednesday 24th May
Last Sunday, Northern Ireland international Alan Mannus put pen to paper on a new one-year deal, which will extend his time in Perth to a seventh season.
The 35-year-old began the 2016/17 campaign by starting the first four league matches but was then unfortunate not to play in a match away to Partick Thistle due to a sickness bug. Zander Clark stepped in at Firhill that day and the 24-year-old managed to retain the starting spot for the majority of the campaign with some impressive performances.
However, Alan came back into the reckoning at the end of the season to feature in 8 of the last 9 matches and helped the club secure a fourth place finish and bring European football back to Perth.
“I’m delighted to have signed a one-year deal. I didn’t think I was going to get the opportunity to sign one so I’m glad it’s worked out as I’m very happy to stay for another year here. I didn’t want to go elsewhere so when they spoke to me about staying it’s all I wanted to do.
“Over the course of the season I played about 18 games which isn’t too bad and I’m happy with how I played in the matches I did play in. I feel I was able to contribute to a season where we did really well again. I obviously didn’t play as much as I have the last few years but that’s just football and you get on with things.
“Throughout my career I’ve always said I’ve never looked at it like someone being a ‘number one’ and someone being a ‘number two’, it’s the person who’s selected to play and that’s the way it goes."
On Sunday against Rangers, Alan joined his teammates in taking their children out onto the park before the match, carrying out his young son, Mason.
“My wife, Leanne, came up to the game last Sunday with our son. She hadn’t been up in a while because she’s been looking after Mason, who is 14 months old now. Sunday was his first game and I was able to take him onto the pitch at the start when we walked out and then he got to play on the pitch post match. It was special to do that with him.
“Afterwards my wife was saying to me about how nice everyone was to her and to my family who had come over, that the fans are such nice people. And it’s things like that make you want to be at a club like this where people go out of their way to help you. It’s a real family club and that’s what I like about it. I’m fortunate to be part of this club and to play here in my career. Why would I want to go anywhere else?
“The club has been brilliant towards me. When I came over on a one-year contract I didn’t expect to stay for much longer than that if at all. I didn’t think I would have the chance but the club has been good to me and the supporters have just been amazing to me. I didn’t expect to get treated as well as I have done by the club but even more so by the supporters.
"Things fans say to me in person or by singing my name at games, it’s very special to me. I’m surprised how well I’ve been treated even this year when I’ve not been involved in games, I’ve had supporters saying things to me that helped keep me positive. Because obviously it’s difficult when you’re not playing but the support from the fans keeps you going.”
Since arriving in Perth from Shamrock Rovers, Mannus has been able to see the development of Zander Clark first hand and enjoys a very positive relationship with the 24-year-old.
“My relationship with Zander is really good, as I think all the other goalkeepers get on really well together. We have me, Zander, Mark Hurst and Ben Mackenzie who all work together and train together well. Paul [Mathers] takes the training and does an excellent job. I know I’ve progressed as a goalkeeper since Paul’s come in and I’ve got a lot out of his training. I was ready when the chance came up to go straight back in and a lot of that was down to his training.
“With Zander, I get on really well with him and we room together when on overnight stays. I think he’s a really good person and he’s been at the club since before I arrived and I’ve been able to see him progress and get better every year and he still keeps improving.”
Arriving at McDiarmid Park on 21st July 2011, Mannus had to bide his time due to the form of Peter Enckelman, but after making his debut on Valentine’s Day that season in a Scottish Cup replay against Hearts, ‘Al’ never looked back and started the remaining 13 matches of the campaign.
When Enckelman moved on in the summer, Mannus was given the number 1 jersey and from that point on his impressive performances have been instrumental in Saints achieving five top six finishes in a row, European victories over Rosenborg and Luzern, and lifting the William Hill Scottish Cup.
He has made 203 appearances in total for the club, and celebrated his 200th by keeping a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Aberdeen last month at Pittodrie, the stadium where made his first league appearance for St. Johnstone.
At last Sunday’s Supporters’ Player of the Year Awards night, Alan was presented with a special framed photograph to mark that 200th appearance.
“First of all it was very kind of the club to present me with that. I didn’t think I would receive something to mark it so it was kind of them to go out of their way to put that together for me.
“In my first year at St. Johnstone, I didn’t play for 6, 7, 8 months so at the time I was thinking I wouldn’t even play one game for the club. But I remember playing my first league game and thinking that no matter what happens that playing a game in the SPL was something no one could take away from me. I was then really happy to make my 50th game, and then my 100th, and then beyond that to 200.
“I never thought I would get to 200 games at the top level in Scotland. When I came over here when I was 28 I remember thinking if I got the chance to play - could I play at this level? I believed I could get that opportunity to prove myself but to get over 200 appearances is something I obviously never expected to achieve. For me to play football in Scotland is something I’m very proud of.”
The Toronto-born goalkeeper will be hoping to add to his 203 appearances after the short summer when European football comes to McDiarmid Park for a fifth time in six seasons.
“Getting into Europe again means a lot to the team, the supporters and the club. It makes going into next season that bit more interesting. You know we’re coming back from the summer not just to play friendlies but to be looking forward to European matches. It gives things a bit of an edge coming back and makes it more exciting.
“My biggest memories of being at the club have been the European games like Rosenborg away and home, the Luzern matches. There have been other ones as well but those two stick out the most because of the success we had against them. It’s quite an achievement to be involved again and it’s something to look forward to.”
But before he returns for pre-season training, Mannus will be hoping to add to his 9 Northern Ireland international caps in matches against New Zealand and Azerbaijan this summer.
“We meet up on Monday and play at home on Friday against New Zealand and then are away in Turkey training for a week before playing in Azerbaijan. I get this week off following the Rangers game before meeting up with the Northern Ireland squad who I’ll be with for the next two weeks. It would be nice to be play some part in the New Zealand game but we’ll have to see what happens.”
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