Dundee United midfielder Paul Paton is determined to enjoy the biggest game of his career to help banish his disappointment at missing out on Partick Thistle’s title run-in.
The midfielder suffered a knee injury on March 27 last season that ruled him out for the rest of the campaign, forcing him to watch from the stands as his team-mates secured the First Division championship.
So he is eager to be in the thick of the action when United face Rangers at Ibrox in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals.
Paton, whose move to Tannadice was agreed by the time of his injury, said: “That was a big blow in my career. I had a great time at Thistle and to get injured was a massive anti-climax because I didn’t really feel part of things.
“So it makes me more determined to do well on Saturday.
“I think maybe people thought because I had a move I wasn’t caring but I would have given anything to be on the park for those last games, especially the Morton game at home. It was a massive disappointment for me.”
Paton sat out the win at Falkirk that clinched the title but still lifted the trophy after the final home game with player-manager Alan Archibald, who stepped up when Jackie McNamara left to become United boss.
But looking back, Paton said: “I was a bit embarrassed. I did play 25 league games but I still felt that Archie was our leader and should be the captain.
“To lift it with him was an honour but there was still part of me that was so disappointed I didn’t play more games.”
Playing against Rangers could help wipe away those blues, but Paton said: “It will only be a good occasion if I go and win. I will reflect after the game whether it’s been successful or not.
“As a player you don’t get too carried away. Although it’s the biggest game I’ve played in, I’m 26 years old, I’m not a kid.
“I’ll take it in my stride. That’s why I came here, for big occasions like this.
“It would mean the world to get to a final. I always said I would look back at the end of the season and reflect, and getting to a final would be an achievement in itself.”
The game has intrigued most of Scottish football as the League One champions face their first Premiership opposition of the season, and in the midst of a backlash following their Ramsdens Cup final defeat by Raith Rovers.
Rangers captain Lee McCulloch claimed United were favourites but Paton is trying to ignore the hype.
“I’ve not read many papers to see who is favourite or what’s been said,” he said. “Obviously Rangers had their disappointing result, but they are a massive club.
“They are going to have the majority of fans at their home pitch. If anyone is favourites, you would say it is them, but we will just go there confident in our work.
“We don’t want to talk about Rangers, we just concentrate on Dundee United. If we play to our ability we do well, and we hope to do that on Saturday.”
The former Queen’s Park player, who has played at all 41 league grounds in Scotland other than Ibrox, added: “We only know how to play one way. If we get involved in battles, I don’t think it suits us.
“We have some really talented boys and I have great faith in them that they can go and turn on the style.”
Paton is among the most experienced players in the United team but he has no concerns over the prospect of young players such as 18-year-old Ryan Gauld suffering from nerves.
“The gaffer is a laid-back guy and all the players are laid-back too,” he said.
“The young boys are the most laid-back out of anybody. If you get to know Gauldy, Mackay-Steven, Armstrong, Ciftci, any further laid back and they would be falling asleep. These guys are so chilled.
“It’s water off a duck’s back to these guys, it’s a great attitude to have.”