BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
STEVIE MALLAN has vowed not to celebrate if he finds the net against St Mirren – even if it costs him a tenner.
The 22-year-old is returning to Paisley for the first time since leaving the Buddies for Barnsley in the summer of 2017 and is assured a warm welcome from the Saints faithful.
Mallan emerged through the youth ranks, ultimately bagging 29 goals from midfield in 112 appearances for St Mirren and cementing himself as the jewel among their academy products.
His affinity with his former employers means he has refused to rise to the bait set by his Buddies-daft mates, who have dared him to go wild if he hits the target.
“If I did manage to score I don’t think I’d be one of those guys who celebrated,” smiled Mallan. “I respect the club too much. I know boys who don’t celebrate get a lot of criticism – but I was there too long. I owe them too much.
“A few of my St Mirren supporting mates have been saying: ‘I dare you to run over and celebrate! I’ll give you a tenner! I don’t think so.
“St Mirren are a team who are close to my heart after everything I did there so it will be weird playing against them but I can’t wait because it’s a great place to play football.
“I hope I get a nice reception because I gave them a lot of my life! I was there for 16 or 17 years as a boy then first-team player and I felt I left on a good note. The last season I was there we stayed up and I left them in a good position.”
The turnover at St Mirren – on the pitch and in the dugout – since Mallan last turned out in black-and-white is stark, with Jack Ross making way for the brief reign of Alan Stubbs before he was replaced by Oran Kearney. The first-team squad has been similarly rebuilt.
It has created a sense of uncertainty for Mallan, despite the familiarity.
“You’d be lucky if there is a handful of players still there from my time,” he continued.
“There have been a few managers since then. There’s [Stephen] McGinn, Jack Baird, Cammy Smith who are still doing well, but it’s a different team.
“They are a very different team from the past and no-one knows what is going to happen because there have been so many changes, even just since the start of the season.
“All we can do is go off the performances we have had recently and try and do the same again.”
Mallan, meanwhile, is desperate to shake off the disappointment of Hibs’ Betfred Cup quarter-final exit against Aberdeen on Tuesday night, in which the playmaker missed his penalty as the Dons progressed from a fraught shootout.
“I have seen people saying I am better from 20 yards than I am from 12 – it looks like it!” Mallan added ruefully.
“The boys have helped a bit. It was my first penalty shoot-out and my first extra-time as well so you just have to take it on the chin and move on.
“All the boys were very disappointed on Tuesday. The performance itself was very good and the manager said that, it was just one of those games where we couldn’t get the ball in the net. That’s what made it even more frustrating.
“It was a bit of a heartbreak but we want to bounce back as early as possible and this game is the best place to do that.”