ST JOHNSTONE captain Dave Mackay is urging his team-mates to be inspired rather than intimidated by the prospect of achieving legendary status as the Perth club’s first major trophy-winning team in their 130-year history.
Two League Cup final appearances, seven lower division titles and a Challenge Cup victory make up the less-than-stellar honours board of one of Scottish football’s oldest senior clubs.
Mackay is fully aware of the significance of Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup final against Dundee United at Celtic Park and is determined St Johnstone will not be overawed by the prize which lies in wait.
“It could be a huge day for the club,” said Mackay. “In the history of Saints, they’ve never made it to a Scottish Cup final before, never mind win one. There have been League Cup finals, but the Scottish Cup has a little bit more charm about it.
“It could be an amazing day for me, the club and the fans and hopefully we are celebrating come Saturday night. Everyone who is involved will be legends if we win the game.
“A club like St Johnstone is having great times right now, but as every fan will tell you they know the bad times could be just around the corner, so hopefully we can get our hands on that first major trophy.
“I haven’t pictured myself with the trophy – you can’t get that far ahead of yourself because football can be a cruel game at times.
“We have at least 90 minutes ahead of us on Saturday and we need to make sure we are ready for that. It’s about who turns up on the day and whether anyone freezes or whether they rise to the occasion.”
St Johnstone won three of the four league meetings against Dundee United this season but Mackay is wary of reading too much significance into previous form.
“I don’t think we’ve got United’s number,” he added. “I’m sure Aberdeen thought they had our number before the Scottish Cup semi-final, but we managed to beat them for the first time this season. I don’t think past results count for much.
“It’s a Tayside derby but I don’t think it matters who you are playing if you lift the trophy at the end of the match.
“We’ll be underdogs again and I’m sure the bookies will have United as slight favourites. There’s not much between the teams to be honest. It’s probably a 50-50 game but if we are underdogs we are used to that tag.
“People talk about United being a young team, but a lot of their youngsters have two or three years’ experience of first-team football. They have the likes of Sean Dillon and John Rankin in there too, so I don’t think experience is an issue.”
Mackay has become a hugely popular and consistent skipper for St Johnstone since joining them from Livingston five years ago. The 33-year-old intends to savour his second shot at Scottish Cup glory, having played for Dundee when they lost 1-0 to Rangers at Hampden in the 2003 final.
“You do think these things will come around pretty often when you are that age,” he said. “But it’s been 11 years that I’ve waited for this moment. It could be my last final and I have to treat it that way and give it everything I’ve got.
“It is a bonus, because when I was playing in the First Division with Livingston I thought my chance had gone. Luckily St Johnstone took a chance on me and I’d like to think I have repaid them. Unless you are an Old Firm player, then every cup final is a huge bonus.
“I experienced administration with Dundee, then again at Livingston. That’s why it is great for a club like St Johnstone, where things are done the right way, to have an occasion like this.
“We’ve no debt and live within our means. We don’t go chasing the dream like plenty other teams who have suffered as a consequence. It is reward for the chairman and fans that we have finally made it to a major final.”
Saturday is also a special day for Mackay’s partner, Laura, as his career reaches a high water mark.
“I’ve been with Laura since I was 18 and she’s been through it all with me,” said Mackay. “There were the days during administration at clubs when I came home and had to tell her I wasn’t getting paid. So Saturday will be as much for her as it is for me.”