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Fitzpatrick's Love Street memories

Love Street, Paisley
St Mirren Park in Paisley's Love Street will host its final game on Saturday before the club move to a new stadium in the town's Ferguslie area

Few people are as closely associated with St Mirren than Tony Fitzpatrick and the former player, captain and manager will find Saturday's match against Motherwell particularly emotional.

The visit of Well marks Saints' final match at their old self-titled ground, which will forever be remembered simply as 'Love Street'.

"St Mirren has a special place in history and the park plays a big part in that," said Fitzpatrick.

"It'll be very, very emotional leaving the stadium, especially for the fans. We're all going to miss it.

"I'm sure it will be a sell-out. Everybody will want to say goodbye."

Fitzpatrick joined the Buddies as a youth player and began the first of two playing spells with the first team in 1973, rejoining the club in 1981 after two years with Bristol City.

The midfielder was a team-mate of many famous St Mirren players, including Frank McGarvey, Billy Stark, Jimmy Bone, Ian Ferguson and Paul Lambert.

Tony Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick helped Saints win the Scottish Cup in 1987

"It's been my life really," said Fitzpatrick. "I joined the club as a schoolboy when I was 13.

"I was looking at different clubs at the time, like Celtic and Aston Villa, but I made my decision that I was going to be a St Mirren player and I've never regretted it.

"I've got fantastic memories of Love Street. There's been some special victories in Europe. It was always special beating the Old Firm and Morton - that was the big rivalry and we always did quite well against them.

"We've had famous players on the park like Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit and Michele Platini.

"In our centenary year, we played the great Liverpool team that had won the European Cup with my favourite player Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.

"We had some really talented footballers too. Even before I played, there were special players like Tommy Bryceland and Tommy Gemmill."

Fitzpatrick was made club captain during Sir Alex Ferguson's reign as manager.

"He was very constructive, a magnificent tactician," said Fitzpatrick

"He was a special man and still is a special man. It wasn't just his management skills. This man had built a community right around Paisley and the districts.

"Everybody loved St Mirren in those days and he built that. He built a club, not just a team."

St Mirren last won a major honour in 1987, beating Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final, and Fitzpatrick has fond recollections of parading the trophy at Love Street the day after that Hampden win.

St Mirren supporters are the most loyal supporters you'll come across
Tony Fitzpatrick

He reminisced: "The Sunday after the 1987 Scottish Cup final, the stadium was full and we went around in the bus and went on the park as well.

"That's a fantastic memory."

As his playing days wound down, Fitzpatrick was thrust into his first managerial post with St Mirren and had a second spell as Buddies boss.

"One week I was a normal player and the next week I was talking about tactics," he said.

"I was player-manager when I first got the job and it was very, very difficult because I had no training in management whatsoever.

"It was a hard time for me, but the players were magnificent, they made it a lot easier, but I always felt I wasn't ready for it.

"We had many really top-class players. Guys like Victor Munoz and Steve Archibald were not just fantastic players, they were great professionals and they showed the young players how to diet properly and what kind of training they should be doing.

Tony Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick has many fond memories of the Love Street ground

"Even though they were in their 30s, they trained every afternoon and used to take the young players out and work with them."

St Mirren began playing at Love Street in 1894 and, though Fitzpatrick knows it will be a wrench for the club to leave Love Street, he feels the move to a new ground in Ferguslie Park is coming at the right time.

"You've got to move with the times," he said.

"They're going back to Ferguslie, where they first originated from.

"Everything's geared for success and success is staying in the SPL.

"St Mirren supporters are the most loyal supporters you'll come across. They're fantastic at home, but they follow you away from home in numbers and I'm sure they'll do the same at the new stadium.

"There are going to be new memories found there."
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