Gary Woods interprets it as a sign and it is true things appear to be going the on-loan Ross County goalkeeper’s way just now.
The Northern Lights display that lit up the north of Scotland last weekend felt particularly meaningful to one household. Woods’ wife Pia gave birth last week to a daughter, who they called Aurora.
The inspiration was not necessarily Aurora Borealis, the scientific term for the polar light phenomenon that occurs normally in high latitude regions. “My wife just liked the name, she wanted to call her that,” said Woods, who signed on loan from Leyton Orient at the start of the season.
But he cannot deny that the Northern Lights duly appearing just a few days later seemed significant. “Hopefully it’s a sign for the week ahead and brings good luck for the final,” he said.
Woods already feels lucky after reclaiming the No 1 jersey just in time for Sunday’s showpiece occasion. Of course, his fortune is another person’s bad luck. Scott Fox suffered knee ligament damage against Dundee United recently and so the man of the match in County’s semi-final victory over Celtic must sit out the final.
“I feel for Scott because we get on well and it’s never nice to see someone get injured,” said Woods. “I’m gutted for him on a personal level because it must be terrible to miss out on a cup final.
“But from my point of view it gives me the chance. I played in the quarter-final [against Inverness Caledonian Thistle] and now I’ll get the opportunity to play in the final. You have to take these chances when they come along and hopefully I can do that.”
Woods knows what Fox is going through. He was himself injured for the final two games after playing the majority of the season when Doncaster Rovers won the League One title in thrilling style three years ago. Doncaster broke up field and scored the title-winning goal when promotion-chasing Brentford missed a last-minute penalty. Woods feels he deserves his place in the sun.
His wife and Aurora will be cheering County on from the Highlands. “We called her Aurora, which we’d actually come up with before she was born, then the Northern Lights came out on Sunday night,” Woods said. “We looked at them and I had loads of people texting me about it as well, everything has all come together perfectly.
“It has been a great time for me on a personal level and hopefully the good news will keep coming in the final.”
He is relieved County, unlike Spain-based Hibs, are staying at home in the countdown to the game. “I’m glad we didn’t go away somewhere to prepare,” he said. “I’m not sure my wife would have let me go anyway. The baby has been fine, she’s sleeping well so I’ve been getting a good kip too. My parents are coming up later this week but Pia won’t be taking the kids to the game. They will watch the game on telly.”
Aside from getting used to a new addition to the family, Woods is trying to keep things as close to routine as possible. There is no envy upon seeing newspaper photographs of Hibs players in Spain.
“I don’t think it really matters which way you do it, we’re together here and having as normal as week as we can,” he said. “You can go away and maybe some of their players are unhappy at being away from home for the week. You never know.”
County’s preparations have been hit slightly by two home defeats to Dundee United bookending a fine away victory against Kilmarnock last midweek. Saturday’s defeat to ten-man United after being 2-1 up was hard to bear.
But they have every chance to make amends not only at Hampden, but also against St Johnstone and local rivals Inverness in a season defining six-day period. “Having a game like this and a week like we’ve got coming up is the perfect thing for us after the Dundee United defeat last weekend,” he said. “We made mistakes in that game but we’ve a chance to put it right at Hampden.”