Danny McNamara can’t quite believe how things have gone for him this season – but the Millwall man knows League Cup final-bound St Johnstone have played a key role.
The right-back was one of Perth boss Callum Davidson’s best players in the first half of this season, playing a key role at right-back. An Ireland youth international, McNamara thought he’d be in Perth for the entire season.
But now into the middle of February, he is back at Millwall, recalled by Den boss Gary Rowett and making his debut in the FA Cup against Boreham Wood. He has made seven appearances overall since arriving back in London and a new long-term deal has been signed.
McNamara has told NTOF St Johnstone have played a big factor: “It’s been a surreal last month or so. I didn’t realise it would come around so quickly. I knew I would make my debut against Boreham Wood but I didn’t realise I’d play the next six or seven games so quickly. It’s been an amazing season.
“I didn’t expect to come back as I expected to play the full season with St Johnstone. I was fortunate enough to play pretty much every game and did really well, which got me noticed down at Millwall.
“The whole reason behind the loan was to get as much games as I possibly could in six or 12 months. I was fortunate to get those games and I earned the chance to go back to Millwall. Loan moves are massive, especially if you get a good club like St Johnstone. It’s helped me step into the Millwall first-team.”
In the middle of a pandemic, moving from one side of the UK to the other obviously came with its challenges. Unable to see family or friends in large spells over his St Johnstone stint, it was an isolated lifestyle for McNamara.
But the Perth community made him feel at home: “I wasn’t too fussed about where I was going. Staying away in Scotland was tough the first month or so but once I settled in, it was like home to me once I got to know the boys and things like that. I was living with my parents at the time so it was a big change for them too.
“I have moved out now, I had a house sorted for when I came back. They were gutted! But I wouldn’t change anything about that six months. With Covid, it was train, grab a coffee, go home and watch football on the TV. But I really enjoyed my time in Perth.
“If I was going shopping, I’d see the odd St Johnstone fan and I was given nothing but praise. Everybody was so kind to me in Perth and hopefully fans are allowed back in soon. I’ve said from the start of the season, it’s totally different without fans.
“They give you the extra 10% that we probably needed earlier in the season when we weren’t getting results but dominating games. It’s a shame they couldn’t see me playing live, so I could see them in person and vice-versa.”
It wasn’t complete strangers McNamara was arriving to work with, former Millwall coach Davidson making McNamara one of his first recruits as St Johnstone boss, given the unenviable task of emulating legendary Saints manager Tommy Wright.
But now St Johnstone have a League Cup final to look forward to this Sunday, McNamara believing he’s due a medal after a spot on the bench against Dunfermline at the quarter-final stage, missing most of the games through Ireland U21s duty.
The right-back learned so much from Davidson and he hopes his former manager can lead St Johnstone to glory: “Callum was pretty much the same from when he was a coach to how he was as a manager – maybe more stricter. Working under him was class.
“We had a laugh but we knew when was enough. I was surprised with just how much I learned in six months under him. To do so well, despite results not going our way for the first couple or months or so, the way we were playing was unbelievable. The way he had us playing was very good and he changed things for us.
“If St Johnstone win on Sunday I should hopefully get a medal, would be nice, the easiest medal I’ll ever win! But the boys have done so well to get there. I know Livingston are a good side and love a battle but it’s up to the lads to show they are the better side. I will be watching from home.
“I wasn’t involved in some of the games as I was away with Ireland. I was involved in the last two games. It’s a cup that is winnable and hopefully they can do it.”
Long-term, McNamara is at Millwall, but he thanks St Johnstone once more for their part in that as he targets a senior Ireland call: “I’ve signed a long-term deal at Millwall but it is all down to my loan spell at St Johnstone.
“I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity and helping me enjoy football again, helping me kick on. We have a massive opportunity as we are looking to push for promotion play-off positions perhaps.
“On paper there are some winnable games but anyone can beat anyone in the Championship. My next target is to get a senior call-up with Ireland. But you need to play every week at club level and show you deserve to be there. So I need to work hard and I’ll try and get myself noticed by Ireland manager Stephen Kenny.”
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