Let no one tell Paul Dixon that today’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs should be the least of Dundee United’s concerns.
The chance to reach a cup final is special and should not be treated lightly, even if relegation issues cloud the occasion slightly.
Dixon knows the pain of missing out on a Scottish Cup final in 2010, when Dundee United beat Ross County 3-0. He had to look on from the sidelines with a broken foot.
He didn’t have the chutzpah to head to the dressing room and change into his kit John Terry-style while celebrating with his team-mates. “I had a big moon boot on!” Dixon explained.
There was of course some compensation for this boyhood Arab in United’s victory, but he was sickened at not being given a winner’s medal, given his contribution in the earlier rounds.
“It’s maybe something the authorities should look at,” he said. “It wasn’t just me who missed out. It was Darren Dods and Damian Casalinuovo too.”
The left-back has since left and then returned to United, who have so surprisingly struggled this season. Indeed, some date their decline to the League Cup final last season, which they lost 2-0 to Celtic. Dixon took little joy from his most recent Hampden visit.
“These occasions don’t come around often although Dundee United as a club have got to a few finals in the recent past,” he said. “The last final I was a part of was the League Cup final last year but I never played a part in getting the team there.”
But he was at the heart of things when United got to the final six years ago, although he was injured in the semi-final win over Raith Rovers.
The noises at the time were that he would be fit for the final. In truth, however, it was never likely. Dixon admits the hope was of the desperate sort.
“I tried to get back but in the grand scheme of things I was absolutely nowhere near making the final,” he said. “I was in oxygen tents for an hour a day but I was kidding myself. The bone hadn’t even started knitting together again. I was miles off being fit.
“I think as soon as I heard I’d broken my toe I knew I was in trouble. I knew something bad had happened in the game. I walked off and I met Jeff [Clarke, the United physio] at the side of the pitch and told him I thought I had broken my toe.
“I went to A&E that night and they confirmed it. I think then was the realisation I was never going to make it.
“I told the gaffer [Peter Houston] I wanted to give myself a chance and then get a scan the week before. But the scan showed it hadn’t even started knitting together so there was no way we were going to risk it.
“It really hit me when I walked into the changing room afterwards,” he added. “I knew I wasn’t part of actually winning it on the day.
“I joined in the celebrations as part of the team and it was great for the players. But I wasn’t tempted to do a John Terry and wear full kit because I had a big moon boot on.
“I never got a medal either and that was disappointing. I would have liked one. I played my part right up until the final. I played every round to get to the final.
“In the league if you play ten games you get a winner’s medal but if you play right up to the final in a cup you don’t. But it happened and I’d love to get back to another final to make up for missing the last.”
Dixon described the break from league duty as a “relief”. But he believes a win could have inspirational properties and help towards United’s league survival hopes.
“That could give us confidence and create some momentum ahead of the last five games of the season,” he said.
“How would it feel to go down and win the cup? I don’t know. Ask me on 21 May if we get to the final and once we’ve either stayed up or gone down.”