ST MIRREN attacker Gary Harkins made the most of ending an 11-week wait for a first-team start with a scoring contribution in his club’s 3-0 Scottish Cup win over Queen of the South on Tuesday night.
Afterwards, the 28-year-old admitted that his insistence on serving imaginative impulses – in an often languid fashion, it must be said – forever makes him the struggling artist in a land of artisans.
Harkins, dropped after a 2-0 defeat away by Hibernian in September since when Danny Lennon’s side have lost only once in ten games, was asked if he was a character who thrived when people doubted him.
“I need to be,” said the man who has shown craft and class at a number of clubs but rarely achieved longevity. “I’m the type of player that people get on my back, quite simply because I can be frustrating.
“I think I know what I can do and I like to show people what I can do. I don’t like to go out there and just do everything dead simple. I like to play how I see it and I enjoy playing that way.”
Harkins “frustrates”, he says, “because I’m not Pele and I can’t do it every time.”
“That happens. I’m going to make mistakes. Other people make mistakes but I’m not going to chase it around like a headless chicken because I’ve not got that in my locker.
“Scottish fans love players who can do that and that’s not really me. I don’t think anyone at any level can do it right every time,” he said of his propensity for playing off the cuff and trying different things.
Harkins, who stepped off the bench because of a suspected toe fracture suffered by Paul McGowan (which has since proved to be only bruising) seems to have tried the patience of managers. He has moved five times in the past six years, despite illuminating the play of Partick Thistle, Dundee and Kilmarnock in recent times.
Maybe he needs to discover the grafting gene. “I’m 28 now, it’d be a bit late,” he argues. “If I change how I see it now, I’m going to have problems. I could go back to centre-half…”
In that early career role Harkins had an unhappy time at Grimsby Town in 2006-07. Following his move to St Mirren from Dundee, this season has been the first period since then when he has spent as much as three months being overlooked for a starting berth.
“You don’t like sitting on the bench at any time so, for 11 weeks, it was a bit of a dig in and it was good to be back on the pitch. It was one of those, you wait as long as you can and think you’ll be back in at some point. Things happen and you’re not back in, so it’s a dig in.
“It’s one of them and, if you’re a footballer and the team is doing well, then you support your team and you’re glad you’re getting the points but you always want to be playing. If there is any footballer in the world that’s happy sitting on the bench then you’d be disappointed in them.”
Harkins would now be disappointed if he found himself back out of the side for Saturday’s trip to Aberdeen, with McGowan expected to have recovered sufficiently to be in contention for the game.
McGowan’s form in the second striker role which Harkins occupied the other evening was a major factor in St Mirren ending a dismal early-season sequence of five defeats and a draw. Harkins now sees himself as the man in possession, however.
“I scored, I played a part in the goals and I would expect to be starting on Saturday and I hope I can do the same and keep myself in the team,” he said.
McGowan was forced to watch the 3-0 win against Queen of the South from the Paisley stands while wearing a protective boot. But scan results have now shown the 26-year-old did not suffer a fracture and Lennon is already including him in his plans for the trip to Pittodrie. “We got the news as I was driving home from last night’s game and it’s very positive,” said Lennon. “We were looking at ten weeks out and that would have been a huge blow because he’s an important player for us. But, with the news confirming there is no break, we’re now pushing to have him back in for Saturday.
“We had to treat it as if was fractured just in case that’s how it turned out, so that’s why Paul was wearing the moon boot.
“But our physio Gerry Docherty is now going full steam ahead to get him back in time for Aberdeen this weekend.”
The win over Queens set up a clash with Dundee United in the fifth round and Harkins joked that he would try to encourage bids for the likes of Ryan Gauld and Gary Mackay-Steven before Saints face Jackie McNamara’s free-scoring side on 8 February.
“It’s probably one of the ones that you would have wanted to avoid,” added Harkins. “But I’m going to phone a few people and, hopefully, sell some of them in January. It will be a tough one but we are looking forward to the next round.”