Sheffield United midfielder Stefan Scougall can scarcely believe his luck.
The young Scot played his last game for Livingston at Dundee in January in front of a crowd of 4,300 and on Sunday will walk out at Wembley in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Scougall’s rapid rise owes much to United’s unlikely march into the last four – if they beat Hull City they will become the first team from the third tier of English football to reach the FA Cup final in more than a century – but the diminutive 21-year-old has seized his chance.
The Blades paid an undisclosed fee for Scougall on 23 January and, after making his debut at Bramall Lane three days later in the 1-1 fourth-round draw against Fulham, he has become a regular starter for manager Nigel Clough.
Scougall looks more like a youth-team player than the heartbeat of Clough’s hard-working midfield, but played a key role for the Blades in their extra-time replay win at Craven Cottage and subsequent cup triumphs over Nottingham Forest and Charlton.
Clough’s Sky Bet League One underdogs upset Aston Villa in the third round and will have plenty of neutrals on side on Sunday when they bid to add another chapter to their fairytale run.
“It’s been great,” said Scougall. “Since I first came in it’s been first-class. If you had told me I’d be playing at Wembley before the start of the season I’d have thought you were absolutely joking to be fair, an absolute joke.
“But it’s coming up and what an unbelievable feeling it will be. Hopefully I’ll get the nod. If I’m honest I didn’t think I’d quite hit the ground running as I have.
“But that’s down to the help I’ve had from the coaching staff and the players already here.
“I could have never imagined in a million years I would come down and cement my place in the team and get a trip to Wembley to look forward to.”
The Blades have a strong Scottish contingent in their squad with the likes of Jamie Murphy, Neill Collins, Ryan Flynn, Bob Harris and Stephen McGinn all helping to make Scougall feel at home.
“All the players and all the coaching staff have helped me settle in and I think that’s been the main reason why I’ve hit the ground running,” he said.
“All us Scottish boys kind of look out for each other.
“We’ve got a wee clique as you can imagine, but it’s not just them, it’s been all the players, it’s been brilliant.
“Sometimes I think we speak a different language to the gaffer. We have to speak a bit slowly, but it’s all good banter.”
The Blades must lay the ghost of their last visit to Wembley in 2012 when they lost a heart-breaking penalty shootout to Huddersfield in the League One play-off final. This time they face Premier League Hull.
It is the club’s first appearance at Wembley in the FA Cup since 1993 when they lost 2-1 to city rivals Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-finals. “Without doubt this is the biggest game I’ll have played in,” Scougall added.
“I said that when we played Charlton and now it’s on a new level, at Wembley in front of 70,000 people. It’s absolutely incredible.
“It’s going to be a great day out on Sunday, more so for the fans because they’ve not had the best of seasons.
“Obviously the first half anyway, before the gaffer came in, so hopefully it’s a great day out for the fans and a day of work for us.
“We want to go out there and put on a good show and hopefully get to an FA Cup final.”