League Cup final means so much to Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon won three caps for Scotland under Craig Levein but has not featured for Gordon Strachan. Picture: SNS
Paul Dixon won three caps for Scotland under Craig Levein but has not featured for Gordon Strachan. Picture: SNS
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PLAYERS often cringingly tell how they were over the moon at the end of a happy Hampden day. Paul Dixon has an original twist on that. His recollection of a cup winning afternoon for his club at the national stadium is of leaning over on a moon boot.

This afternoon’s League Cup final could provide a reversal of fortune for the defender who only returned to Dundee United five weeks ago. The 28-year-old could win a League Cup medal for his only outing in the competition. Last time he was with the Tannadice club, he was a regular as they won the Scottish Cup in 2010 but has nothing to show for it.

“I played in just about every round – apart from the final [win over Ross County]. People say I should have got a medal. It would be nice to win against Celtic, and get a medal. I went to the game, I was there with my big boot on because I had a broken toe. I got on the park afterwards. I felt part of it then, but once I came in again and all the boys were in the dressing room, popping the champagne, and drinking it out of the cup, I sat down and it hit me that I wasn’t really part of the day. It was hard to take.

“Darren Dods, Damian Casalinuovo and I, whether it was injury or suspension, didn’t play in the final but we had played in rounds before and contributed to the cup win. Maybe not in the final but we definitely did our bit. I think there are medals just for the players and subs on the day. I don’t think the SFA were willing to produce any more so, hey ho.”

It also seems to have been hard to take that Hampden also witnessed what looked to be the flourishing of an international career that seemed to then wilt rapidly. The then Huddersfield full-back was man of the match in the draw with Serbia with which Scotland opened their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign in September 2012. Craig Levein then gave him a second cap four days later at home to Macedonia, but Dixon’s last international outing, in a friendly away to Luxembourg two months later, was with interim Billy Stark in charge following Levein’s sacking. He has never figured in the Gordon Strachan era.

“I was happy with my contribution in the three games that I played. It was three unbeaten and if I never play for Scotland again so be it. I can hold my head up high at the end of my career and say I’ve done it. Even just to do it once would have been an honour for me, to say I played for my country.

“I have said in the past many times that as long as I am a professional footballer then I am available for Scotland and want to play for Scotland. It is the old cliché, but it is every little boy’s dream to play for their country, isn’t it? I obviously have to do it on the park for Dundee United first to get in the manager’s mindset. Last season at Huddersfield I felt I was playing well enough to earn a call up but, like I say, it is the manager’s decision and if he doesn’t pick me then so be it.”

Dixon’s first final follows a red card in last week’s Scottish Cup quarter-final between today’s combatants at the national stadium. The decision of referee Craig Thomson to send the player off and award a penalty after the ball struck his arm as he slid in to block a Leigh Griffith’s shot was about the only call from the officials in the 1-1 draw not disputed. But Dixon is less than convinced that justice was served. “No comment to be honest. I can’t really say. He has made his decision so I’ve just got to get on with it,” he said.

As the week has gone on, the fact that his wife Stef could any time now give birth to the couple’s second son has caused him to reflect differently on his early exit from last Sunday’s cup tie, which means he is suspended for the replay on Wednesday. The impending arrival also caused him to wonder about more than what could be happening on the park in the course of this afternoon.

“I want to make sure my wife is looked after by somebody – because she will only have four days till her due date. As long as somebody is with her just in case something happens, that is all that matters. I don’t want hear a big loud scream from the stand, someone saying ‘would Paul Dixon please come to reception, your wife is giving birth’.

“I’ve contemplated that my red card might be somebody from above telling me I need to be somewhere else on Wednesday night. That was just a fly away thought in my head. You never know with babies, they can come any time.” Finals, meanwhile, rarely come around, but Dixon wants the chance to savour both events.