Anton Ferdinand, the experienced St Mirren defender, was only on the park for 37 minutes of the Paisley side’s anxious play-off victory over Dundee United on Sunday afternoon but tried to exert his influence beyond those parameters.
Ferdinand came off the bench to make his first appearance in six weeks for St Mirren but having been over similar nervous ground before in his career he was able to talk the younger players in Oran Kearney’s squad through the latter stages of the season, right up until the decisive penalty shoot-out started.
“I spoke to some of the boys before they took their penalties,” the 34-year-old explained. “I told them to pick a spot and be assertive. I have missed a few myself and I know what the pressure is like. I thought we handled that superbly.”
Goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky was the hero of the afternoon as he denied United three times from the spot, with Ferdinand an enthusiastic cheerleader.
“The goalkeeper has been fantastic since he came in and to save three penalties was just incredible,” he said. “It was a real team effort on Sunday and that’s one thing the manager made clear to us.
“I’ve done all I can the last few weeks to help the team. That’s just in my DNA. When you play for West Ham from a young age that’s drummed into you.
“You help the younger lads. I was a young lad once, I know how hard these high-pressure games can be. I played in these games. Sometimes it was Teddy Sheringham giving me advice, the next time it was my brother.
“I had people there for me so I will be there for the others. To see their faces and to see what it means to the fans and supporters is great. The club deserves it and it deserves to be in the Premier League for another season.”
St Mirren’s immediate future in the top flight is secure but what comes next for Ferdinand remains to be seen.
Coy about what his next step might be, Ferdinand has hinted that it is likely he has played his last game for the Paisley club.
“I have no idea what the future holds,” said the defender. “Do I still want to play football? Yes, I think that much is clear. I have no idea if that will be here.
“The sun was shining on the football club at the weekend. I came on and I thought I did well. I enjoyed it. I have tried to help steady the ship and I think I managed to do that.
“It was an emotional day. These lads might not appreciate what they have done, what they have achieved. But in a few years’ time I know they will. It will start to sink in.
“If it’s to be my last game then it’s a great way to leave.
“We will see what the future holds.”
Kearney will take a holiday now and a break from the pressure of the season’s climax. There have been repeated suggestions of a return to Northern Ireland but from St Mirren’s perspective there is an obvious requirement for stability.
“To see the manager come through it all has also put a big smile on my face,” said Ferdinand. “He’s one of the good guys in football and for me he deserves all the praise and all the success he gets.
“It’s important that the club keep the manager here, that’s for sure. He has achieved a lot in a short space of time and there’s definitely something for him to build on.
“As a player, it’s not really my place to talk about that. But he has been successful here and the club needs some stability and momentum.”