Written by Graeme MacLeod June 27th 2024

Ross Tokely takes charge of the team for the very first time tomorrow night as we welcome St Johnstone to Station Park. And there are some interesting connections between the two clubs which we have looked into ahead of this opening pre-season friendly of the summer.

St Johnstone were our first ever Scottish Cup opponents 99 years ago. The Perth side earned a 6-1 home victory in the First Round of the 1925/26 competition in front of a crowd of 4000 people. It would be over 30 years before we were to appear in the competition again with the Saints having gone on to lift the trophy twice, in 2014 and 2021.

One of the most influential coaches in the history of Nairn County initially joined us from St Johnstone. Johnny Mathers spent a decade with the Perth club as a player before accepting a player / coach role at Station Park in 1947.

That spell was to only last a season and he then moved on to coach Millbank Rangers, a local Welfare League side where he nurtured the talents of a number of local players who went on to make the move to Station Park.

In 1952 and after a spell as a coach with Elgin City, Mathers was back at Nairn County and brought in players such as Ronnie Fraser, Jimmy Ewing, Charlie McInnes and Les Cameron with the likes of Tommy McGillivray and Jimmy Follen already part of the squad.

The team reached the final of the North of Scotland Cup in 1953, unfortunately going down 3-1 to Inverness Thistle before a crowd of 5200 at Telford Street in Inverness.

Mathers final season, the 1954/55 campaign, saw us finish sixth in the table, our highest placing in a full season since 1938/39.

He left to join Stirling Albion that summer and dinner was held in his honour at the Victoria Hotel, where he was presented with a writing set in commemoration of his work for the club.

Three of the most talented players to pull on the yellow jersey in our 115-year history turned out for St Johnstone prior to arriving at Station Park.

Legendary defender Andy Cadenhead arrived from the Perth club in December 1963.

Just two months later, he was in the team that won the North of Scotland Cup with a 2-1 win over Clachnacuddin at Telford Street before 2000 fans but the team fell short of lifting championship by just a single point.

The same fate befell the team in the league the following season as they were pipped to the post by Elgin City while also going down in the finals of the Highland League (Morganti) Cup and Inverness Cup.

However, there was further trophy success for Cadenhead, when he captained the team to the North of Scotland Cup with a 3-2 replay win over Caledonian at Grant Street.

His final honour for us was the 1966 Qualifying Cup, which we secured with a 4-2 aggregate win over Fraserburgh.

His services to the club were honoured with a testimonial match against Dundee in April 1971 and in 2014, Andy was voted into the Nairn County Team of the Century.

Another member of the side voted by the fans as our greatest ever eleven also joined us from St Johnstone – championship-winning captain, Dave Cochrane.

He was brought north by manager Innes MacDonald in 1975 and in his first season with the club, skippered us to title glory with a 2-1 extra time playoff victory over Fraserburgh.

He missed the Inverness Cup success the following season through suspension, so that championship victory was his only medal in his time with the club as we went close to retaining the league title but ultimately fell short.

Cochrane remains to this day well in the conversation of the greatest and most influential ever players to have played for Nairn County. He moved on to Elgin City in the summer of 1980 who he went on to manage before taking on a coaching role under his former teammate, Harry McFadden back at Station Park in the mid-1990s and then managing Nairn St Ninian.

Gary Farquhar’s impressive displays in the Highland League for Brora Rangers earned the young midfielder a move to St Johnstone in 1994.

After four years at McDiarmid Park, he returned north to join Inverness CT and it was in 2001 that he first pitched up at Station Park with his trademark Mizuno boots.

The set piece specialist quickly became a crowd favourite and although he featured in four semi finals, he fell short of ever playing for us in a final, departing just months before we lifted the North of Scotland Cup in 2005.

Gary moved to Wick Academy and went on to play for Brora Rangers, Inverness City, Strathspey Thistle, Fort William and Rothes. He was among the nominees for the Nairn County Team of the Century in 2014.

Five years later, David Hannah arrived at Station Park for the first of two spells.

David had been a Scottish Cup winner with Dundee United in 1994 before spending three years at Celtic, where he won at Scottish League Cup.

After three years back at Tannadice, time in Cyprus and a season with Ross County, he spent two seasons with St Johnstone from 2004.

He joined us on the eve of the 2010/11 season and moved on to Formartine United midway through the campaign. However, the move to North Lodge did not work out and he re-joined us on a short term deal before the season was out but his time away meant he was ineligible for our 4-0 Highland League (Morganti) Cup final win over Fraserburgh. David made 23 appearances for us across his two spells.

Sean Webb’s time at St Johnstone coincided with that of David Hannah.

The four-times capped Northern Ireland international spent four seasons at Ross County before moving to Perth in 2004 where he played for a year.

Two seasons back at Dingwall preceded time down south, over in Iceland and back home in Northern Ireland before he joined us in 2012 at the start of the a four-and-a-half year spell.

Sean won the North of Scotland Cup in his first full season at the club and captained us in the final of the same competition the next season and the final of the 2016 Highland League (Morganti) Cup before moving on to play for Huntly and Clachnacuddin. He made 158 appearances for us, scoring 12 times.

Tomorrow night’s match kicks off at 8.00 pm and tickets are available to buy here: https://app.fanbaseclub.com/Fan/Tickets/SelectType?fixtureId=5642

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