Rangers winger Barrie McKay is a poster boy for perseverance. Although he won a championship medal in the fourth tier in 2013, then manager Ally McCoist considered him to be surplus to requirements and, after only three substitute appearances in four months, he was despatched to Morton for the second half of the campaign.
Although he then played regularly in the Championship, at a time when Rangers were in League 1, McCoist sent him to Raith Rovers on a season-long loan that summer.
Many young players (he turned 21 in December) would have abandoned hope at that stage but McKay knuckled down and he has thrived under Mark Warburton’s more enlightened regime.
He will make his 48th appearance of the campaign in the Scottish Cup final against Hibernian, having already amassed winner’s medals from the Championship and the Petrofac Training Cup.
The Scotland under-21 star admits, though, that his spectacular strike in his first Old Firm match which won PFA Scotland’s Goal of the Season award has been a particular highlight.
“It’s great to have won that, especially since it came in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic,” he said.
“That makes up for losing out on the Rangers Goal of the Season to James Tavernier. Then again, when your right-back gets 15 goals you have to give him an award for something!
“Sadly, my goal at Hampden just missed the cut-off point for the Rangers awards but to win this speaks volumes for the season that I’ve had.
“Hopefully, I can produce another one like that against Hibs in the final and get us the victory in that one but, if the boys play as well as they can, then we should be all right.”
There have been instances in the past, such as the 1994 Scottish Cup final defeat by Dundee United, of Rangers teams winning a title and relaxing to the extent that they were unable to rouse themselves for one more challenge.
Warburton gave his players four days off this week but McKay claims that the manager’s faith in their dedication has not been misplaced.
“You can tell even by watching us play that the manager trusts us; we’ll knock it back to Wes Foderingham if we need to but, when you watch the top European teams, if a player is being marked their team-mates will still give them the ball because they trust in his ability not to lose it,” he said.
“It’s a bit like that on the field with us – even if we do lose it, we believe we’ll get it back. It’s been a big factor that every one of our players trusts the ability of the others.
“Off the pitch it’s the same – the gaffer trusts us to do the right thing and we need to show professionalism by not going out every night.
“So we won’t be putting our feet up from now until May 21st and thinking that the Scottish Cup final would be an easy game. We know that Hibs are a good side and that they’ll make it tough for us.”
Like club captain Lee Wallace, McKay argues that no-one should read too much into the fact that Rangers were unable to win any of their final four fixtures, insisting it will be business as usual at Hampden.
“You could probably say that it’s only natural that there should be a dip in form after the high of reaching the cup final but we certainly didn’t want that; it just happened,” he said.
“So every session we have between now and the final will be high intensity because we train at the same tempo as we play.
“We like to press high and dominate the football because, if you win the ball deep in your opponents’ half, you’ve got more chance of breaking them down.”