AS ONE of Scottish football’s most decorated players in recent history, it would have perhaps been easy for Ian Ferguson to become nonchalant about his collection of winners’ medals.
An ever-present at Rangers throughout their nine-in-a-row championship era, Ferguson also played in six winning cup final sides for the Ibrox club – four in the League Cup and two in the Scottish Cup.
But the former Scotland midfielder admits the one medal which will always take pride of place in his personal trophy cabinet is the one he earned as an emerging 20-year-old at St Mirren.
Ferguson, of course, scored the only goal of the game in extra-time at Hampden in the 1987 Scottish Cup Final against Dundee United, the last occasion the Paisley club won a major honour.
“It was my first medal and to win it with a provincial club was something special,” recalls Ferguson. “St Mirren had a really good side at that time but there was never any chance of us winning the league because Rangers and Celtic were so strong.
“The cups were our chance and I always remember our manager, Alex Smith, saying that winning five games could get us into Europe. He was spot-on. It was very special and something that will stay close to my heart.
“I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed. It’s been 26 years but I remember it as if it was yesterday. I always remember my dad telling me to enjoy my time in football, because it would be gone in the blink of an eye. That’s what it feels like. It’s amazing.
“When I look back on that game, it was actually one of the worst I played for St Mirren. It wasn’t until our assistant manager, Jimmy Bone, gave me the kick up the backside that I needed that I sprang into action for extra-time.
“There is now an opportunity for someone else to put their name in the history books in the League Cup Final against Hearts.
“No-one else looks back at 1987 and says how disappointingly I played, they always talk about the goal. I hope one of the St Mirren lads takes that chance to go down in history because it has been a long time since the club won a trophy. I would love to see them do it.”
If Ferguson has fond memories of the occasion itself at Hampden in 1987, the celebrations were less memorable. A teetotaller at the time, it was not champagne which was on ice for the Saints matchwinner.
“The aftermath of the final wasn’t what I expected,” he added. “We spent the Saturday night at the Glasgow Airport hotel, because we were going to Singapore on the Sunday morning to take part in an end-of- season tournament. So we didn’t really have time to celebrate properly. I didn’t even drink at the time and I can remember sitting in my room with a bag of ice on my ankle, which I’d hurt during the game.”
Ferguson has lived in Australia for the past ten years, having ended his playing career there before moving into coaching. He was sacked as manager of Perth Glory last month and admits he would consider a return to Scotland if a suitable opportunity arose.
“You are always looking,” he said. “I have been with three clubs in eight years in Australia and reached the Grand Finals of the A League three times, two of those as assistant to Lawrie McKinna at Central Coast Mariners and one as manager myself with Perth Glory.
“But that’s finished now and people ask me if I want to come home. I would definitely consider it if it was the right offer. I have enjoyed my experiences out here and I would like to get back into the game. It’s very hard because there are a lot of good coaches out of work. The only way I would get back in would be if someone took a little gamble on me. ”
Ferguson believes Sunday’s showdown is a 50-50 match-up. “It looks like two teams who are struggling at the wrong end of the SPL table,” he said. “But I have seen both play some decent football this season. It’s going to be an exciting final and a hard one to call.
“For St Mirren, there’s no use beating Celtic in the semi-final and then throwing it away in the final. They will know they have to be at their best again. I always remember the Scottish Cup semi-final for St Mirren against Hearts in ‘87, when we beat them 2-1, and it was a great feeling to know you had made the final. But you have to raise yourselves again to get that trophy in your hands.”