When Archie met Fitzy
Ah, the days when St Mirren had a fully-fledged Barcelona superstar playing for them...and then there was Steve Archibald!
It was November 1990 and, with the Buddies languishing at the foot of the table, the board sanctioned the signing of Murdo MacLeod from German giants Borussia Dortmund.
Saints manager Tony Fitzpatrick was keen for the deal to go through but personal terms with the former Celtic star couldn’t be agreed.
Fitzy then turned his attention to the Catalan city of Barcelona and landed experienced striker Archibald, who was a free agent, from Espanyol.
Former Liverpool hitman Alan Irvine was then procured from Japanese side Mazda for £20,000, and a successful week ended when cult hero Gunni Torfason bagged the winner against St Johnstone to help the Buddies move off the bottom of the league.
Archibald, meanwhile, made his debut against Aberdeen and a 4-0 mauling at the hands of the Dons, followed by a 4-1 defeat against Celtic, didn’t exactly give the new boy the best of starts.
Then, with their team once again propping up the table, Saints fans received a welcome boost in the shape of Spanish superstar Victor Munoz.
It was hoped that Archibald and his former Barca mate, who had signed from Sampdoria, would help the team zoom up the table.
The superstar duo didn’t come cheap but it would be money well spent if Paisley still had a top-flight football team come the end of the season.
Archibald failed to find the net during the remainder of 1990 and the club was still hovering around the drop zone at Christmas.
But a new year brought a new Archie as the forward showed his true colours.
He netted his first goal in a 2-2 draw with ‘first footers’ Motherwell, before scoring again just 72 hours later in a controversial defeat at Tannadice.
Archibald’s goals then dried up – he would never score again for the under-pressure Saints – and the Paisley club couldn’t escape from the Premier League basement.
However, just as their top flight status was slipping away and the potential for racking up points slowly evaporated, the Miracle on Love Street manifested itself in the form of league reconstruction.
Earlier in the season, the hot topic of reconstruction had been on the table and Saints directors had voted to retain the status quo – keeping a 10-team league in place.
Now, though, there was a sudden appetite for change and the turkeys weren’t about to vote for Christmas...Saints craved a 12-team league!
With their Premier League status secured for another year, the pressure was off.
So, surely it was time for Archie to show the Buddies what he could do?
Well, not really.
Fitzpatrick resigned, with assistant manager Gordon Smith taking over for a week or two but losing all three of his matches in charge.
Paisley-born ex-Celt Davie Hay then took over the reins but Saints were soon cut further adrift at the bottom of the table, finding themselves eight points behind second-bottom Hibs.
They finished the league season with a 1-0 win over the Easter Road club in Archibald’s last game in the black and white stripes.
However, the final ignominy was reserved for the Renfrewshire Cup and a 1-0 loss to Greenock outfit Belleaire Amateurs.
Archibald then signed for East Fife, where he became manager.
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