LEE CROFT believes there is no-one left in the Scottish Cup for St Johnstone to fear as they attempt to create history this season.
The Perth club’s failure to win a single major honour in their 130-year history has been well documented, but it remains a startling fact that they have never even reached the final of Scotland’s showpiece domestic cup competition.
Losing semi-finalists on seven occasions, most recently when agonisingly edged out by Rangers on penalties in 2008, their quest for the elusive honour continues this weekend when they face Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park in a quarter-final.
The elimination of holders Celtic in the previous round has heightened hopes of glory for all the remaining clubs and Croft insists St Johnstone are ready to seize their opportunity. Making amends for their League Cup semi-final defeat to Aberdeen last month, when Croft missed a great chance to equalise when the game was in the balance, is an added motivation.
“It would be great for the Saints fans to win the Scottish Cup because the club hasn’t even been to a final of this competition before,” said the 28-year-old Englishman.
“As players, this is a chance to put that right and go down in history. It would be great for everyone at St Johnstone because the fans would love a day out at the final.
“But every team left in the competition will be thinking that and, once you get to the last four, it’s anyone’s trophy. With Celtic being out, it has opened the competition up but there are still plenty of good teams left.
“The way we went out of the League Cup was really disappointing but we have a chance of getting back to another semi-final now. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put the Aberdeen defeat to bed. I played my chance that day through in my head a few times but I’m over it now. I put it down to a good save, really!
“If we’d equalised, then I think the game would have been very different because we played well. But we didn’t and they got us on the counter a few times to score their goals.
“We played them again at the weekend in the league and did well, so there’s nobody in the competition to fear. There are some good teams left in it, but to think about anything else, we have to get past Raith Rovers first.
“St Johnstone have been in a lot of semi-finals in recent years but we’ve not been able to take that next step. But first it’s about getting through against Raith and we know that won’t be easy.
“They got a great result to knock out Hibs in the last round and that shows how dangerous they are. I’m good friends with Kevin Moon, who plays there, and we know they’re a decent side. They’ve struggled in the Championship a bit but it’s the cup, so they’ll fancy their chances.”
Croft knows all about the odds being upset in cup football, having been part of the Oldham Athletic side that knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup in the fifth round last season. The closest he has come to ultimate glory in the English tournament was as a Manchester City player in 2006, when they lost 2-1 at home to eventual runners-up West Ham in the quarter-finals.
“We had a good side at City then, with lads like David James, Trevor Sinclair and Shaun Wright-Phillips,” recalled Croft. “But it was nothing like the team they’ve got now. But that was a big disappointment, because we were at home and it was a great chance to get to Wembley.
“I did okay at Oldham in the cup, beating Nottingham Forest and Liverpool last season and then going out to Everton after a replay. I’ve got a decent record and, hopefully, I can keep it going on Saturday.”