After only starting two of St Johnstone’s last five games, Nigel Hasselbaink knows that he might well figure only as a substitute in Saturday’s Scottish Cup final against Dundee United.
However, even that is far better than the frustration he felt at leaving St Mirren just months before they lifted the League Cup last year, with victory over Hearts.
“I left St Mirren and the club won the League Cup,” he smiled yesterday. “You wonder if your chance to win a trophy has gone. But St Mirren won the League Cup and I now have the chance to win the Scottish Cup, which is better. That’s how I look at it. St Mirren did well to win the cup and I was pleased for them at the time. But this is my chance now and I want to take it. It might not happen again for me in my career.”
“I would love to start the game – every player wants to start a cup final,” the winger added. “But if I don’t then I hope to come on and win it. That is what every player dreams of. I would be the happiest man in the world if that were to happen. Scoring the winning goal would be a dream.”
Hasselbaink has family and friends arriving from his Dutch homeland – indeed, some have already arrived in Scotland ahead of the big occasion.
“The people back home realise how big a deal this is for me and for St Johnstone,” said the 23 year old. “The cup final in Holland is pretty big too. In Holland, PEC Zwolle won the cup. They were in the First Division last season so it was a fairytale for them.
“They will be in Europe for the first time, too. Every small team can win it and Zwolle proves it can happen to anyone.”
For Hasselbaink, Saturday will count as the biggest game of his career. Like several players, he has been taken aback by the level of interest in Perth, indicated by current tickets sales of around 15,000 for the final.
“We had 10,000 fans in for the Europa League games and before this cup final that was probably the biggest game I had ever played in,” he said, with reference to the games versus Rosenborg and FC Minsk at the beginning of this memorable campaign for the club.
“But Saturday will be the biggest. People are coming from all over the world to support us. We have never been in the Scottish Cup final before and it’s an historic occasion for everyone. When I joined the club I didn’t realise they had never won a major cup final.
“I didn’t even realise that not so long ago they were in the First Division. But like I say, this is our chance to make history so we know exactly what is at stake.
“We have done well all season, we tried to finish as high as we could in the league and now we will try to win the cup.”