Stevie May has become the player the Aberdeen fans love to mock, which doesn’t bother him. What does concern the 21-year-old is that he hasn’t yet scored against Aberdeen this season. In fact, he hasn’t scored against them ever.
Also providing him with some incentive ahead of this weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final clash against the Pittodrie side is the target of scoring a first goal at Ibrox, which he hopes will help fire St Johnstone towards a maiden Scottish Cup final appearance.
There is therefore every chance that something significant might occur on Sunday. If the Aberdeen fans are taunting May, then he hopes it is because he has given them something to be anguished about. That wasn’t the case in January, when the Pittodrie side enjoyed a fairly comfortable afternoon at Tynecastle as they defeated St Johnstone 4-0 in the League Cup semi-final. May become a target as they celebrated in the stands. They sang a song that wondered “who the f***” is Stevie May. Unsurprisingly, he is now determined to give them a reason to know exactly who he is.
“I think most fans dislike me for some reason or another, but especially them,” May shrugged. “You kind of ignore it but, in the end, it would make it that bit sweeter if we were able to turn them [Aberdeen] over in the semi-final.
“Why do they dislike me? They must not like my hair!” he pondered. “I’ve had it cut now, so they might take a fancy to me …”
Although his hair is indeed now slightly less long, May was not born to fade into the background. Tattoos paint a tapestry up both of his arms and he arrived at McDiarmid Park for the club’s media day in a sports car. He is not bothered if he attracts attention. As principal goalscorer and obvious danger man, he knows that being the subject of abusive songs from the stands comes with the territory.
“You don’t really hear too much of it when you’re playing, your mind is just focused on the game in hand,” he said. “I think at 1-0 in the League Cup semi it wasn’t that noticeable. At 4-0, it was a bit harder to ignore. But I would never let something like that affect me in a negative way. If anything, it spurs me on to do well.”
He compared his goal drought versus Aberdeen to the one he experienced against Partick Thistle last season while on loan with Hamilton Accies. The Thistle fans were the ones who enjoyed targeting him most last season. “I know the Aberdeen fans have made a bit out of me not scoring against them this season – and it was similar last year, when I was at Hamilton, because Partick Thistle were the team I couldn’t find the net against,” he recalled.
However, he earned some personal satisfaction when scoring the winner for St Johnstone at Firhill in January. He struck again against them last month. Those mockers among the Aberdeen support have been warned.
“They [the Thistle supporters] gave me a bit this season but eventually I managed to score the last time we played against them,” said May. “It makes it all that much sweeter when you do something like that. Having said that, I don’t care if one of the Aberdeen players kicks it in on Sunday, as long as the ball goes in their net and we get to the final.”
With still five Premiership games to go, May remains on target to beat Paul Wright’s post-war record of 18 top-flight goals for the club – indeed, he has already equalled it. But helping St Johnstone claim their first ever place in a Scottish Cup final would be sweeter still. The Scotland Under-21 internationalist agrees that Sunday’s game is the most important of his career. He has some experience of a Scottish Cup semi-final already but the game was already lost when he came on as a substitute, with Motherwell having raced into a 3-0 lead before half-time three years ago.
“This is the biggest game of my career, you could definitely say that,” said May. “A massive semi-final, getting one step closer to winning the Scottish Cup. For the club, it’s also the next big step.
“We’ve done everything else, gone into Europe, consistently finished in the top six, but we’ve struggled to get past this barrier,” he continued. “We seem to get to the semi-finals easily enough every season, whether it’s the League Cup or Scottish Cup, only to fall at the last hurdle.
“If it’s going to be any season that we get through and go on to win the Cup, it might as well be this season.”
Now firmly established in the St Johnstone starting-team, there is more resting on his shoulders, although the Perth side have been strengthened by Steven MacLean’s return from injury. Still, May is revelling in St Johnstone’s underdog status.
Not only has he failed to score against Aberdeen this season, so have the rest of his team-mates. In four games so far against the Pittodrie side, including the League Cup defeat, the aggregate score stands at 7-0 in Aberdeen’s favour. Indeed, St Johnstone have won only once in their last ten meetings with Aberdeen. However, May is confident that Tommy Wright’s team can come out on top in the clash that truly counts this weekend. “The build-up has been good so far,” he said. “It’s been something we’ve had in the back of our minds for some time now, so we’re glad it’s here. We’re all ready to go.
“We definitely get the impression of being outsiders,” he added. “You can see from previous fixtures all season that Aberdeen have got the better of us.
“We’re underdogs but we’d rather be that, because it means we’re not under pressure. All the pressure is heaped on Aberdeen, especially after they’ve won a cup – and they’re favourites not just to beat us, but also to win another [trophy]. There is less expectation on us than there was in February, definitely. The League Cup is massive but the Scottish Cup is that much bigger, the one everyone wants.”