The 2021/22 campaign was a watershed moment for St Johnstone defender James Brown on two counts.
First, he managed to really sink his teeth into a domestic season – the 24-year-old featuring in 25+ games for only the second time in his career.
And there was even better news to come for Brown, who would make his full debut for the Maltese national team in the friendly game against Venezuela on June 1.
While the result isn’t what the defender would have wanted – Malta would go down 0-1 to a goal from Everton striker Salomon Rondon, it was a proud day for Brown, who was to represent the country of his grandfather for the first time.
It’s a testament to his performances in a struggling St Johnstone team that Brown was able to secure his international call-up. The Saints finished last-but-one in the Scottish Premiership, narrowly avoiding relegation to the Championship, and they will be hoping for better in 2022/23.
And that may be forthcoming. In the latest Scottish Premiership football betting odds, St Johnstone are priced as the seventh most likely team to win the title, according to the bookmakers, and so they can be much more positive of a less stressful campaign at the wrong end of the table.
For the versatile Brown, who can play anywhere down the right-hand side, as a left back or in central defence, he will be looking to kick on and maintain his place in the Saints’ starting eleven. If he can, he will be hoping to be selected for Malta’s next UEFA Nations League game against Estonia on September 23 and the friendly against Israel four days after that.
Running the Rule
Any Maltese football fans looking to catch Brown in action for St Johnstone might just have a few opportunities to do so from the comfort of their armchair this season.
The broadcaster Sky Sports has committed to showing 48 live Scottish Premiership games this term, and while those are yet to be confirmed it’s likely that a handful of St Johnstone’s plum fixtures will be chosen.
While their season opener at Motherwell is unlikely to be shown, the Saints then travel to Ibrox to take on Rangers on August 13 before welcoming the Gers to McDiarmid Park on November 5. The third game between the teams takes place on January 28 in Glasgow.
Brown will have to wait until October to strut his stuff against the defending champions, Celtic. The Saints will welcome the Hoops to Perth on October 8 and February 4, while an early Christmas present for Saints fans will be their trip to Celtic Park on December 24.
With Dundee relegated last term, there will be only one set of Tayside derby fixtures between St Johnstone and Dundee United – the Tangerines will enjoy hosting duties at Tannadice Park on October 1 and February 18, with the Saints repaying the favour on January 2.
The post-split campaign will kick off on May 6, and this season Brown and St Johnstone will be hoping they are competing in the top six division – rather than facing the dreaded relegation group once more.