Paul McGowan is sporting the rosy glow of someone who feels he has been vindicated in his decision to agree a permanent move to St Mirren from Celtic, having initially impressed while on loan in Paisley three years ago.
The midfielder flirted with the first team at Parkhead but never really made the breakthrough and was allowed to leave. On Sunday, however, he underlined his status as a player to watch by emerging as the dominant figure in St Mirren’s 3-2 League Cup final victory over Hearts. In the eyes of many, a Scotland call-up is not far away while he is also attracting admiring glances from elsewhere.
Although a Celtic supporter, McGowan knew he had to move on for the benefit of his career, and Sunday’s victory proved how right he was to make the decision to sever ties with his first club. “It was a sad day when I had to leave Celtic,” he admitted. “I felt that I was good enough to play there but it just wasn’t going to work out and I’m glad I made the move.”
He added: “There are some regrets but St Mirren have been great with me. It’s been a great move and I’ve not got a bad word to say about anything at the club. It’s a community.”
McGowan admitted he felt he had a point to prove at St Mirren, although there were no hard feelings between him and his former boss at Celtic, Neil Lennon. McGowan showed the Celtic fans what they were missing in the semi-final, when he scored a penalty in the 3-2 win. He was again influential in the final on Sunday, and was named man of the match. “Players leave Celtic, especially younger ones, and they go under the radar,” he reflected. “It was a bold move for me to make as I could have stayed there and I’d still be there now, as I’d have had a year or two left on my contract. It’s worked out well for me so I’ve no complaints.”
McGowan admitted that winning a major honour with St Mirren meant more than it would have done had he lifted one with Celtic. “All you have to do with Celtic is win, win, win,” he said. “It’s good for the game that Celtic and Rangers weren’t in the final. There was a full house so what more can you ask for? And it was a good spectacle for the fans.”
McGowan was born in 1987, the year St Mirren lifted their last major trophy before Sunday. He is aware how the Scottish Cup winning-side of 26 years ago are still venerated. “They’re legends in everyone’s eyes so for us to come out and do that was something else,” he said. “Hopefully people will still be talking about me in 50 years, if I’m still kicking about.”