Steven MacLean scored when St Johnstone beat Dundee United in the Scottish Cup final five years ago to secure their first major trophy
But he’s still tempted to consider winning the cup at the age of 36 might be a better achievement since the pressure to succeed at Tynecastle is far more intense.
The veteran striker has the chance to become a hero in Gorgie when Hearts face Celtic next month.
He’s still very much a legend in Perth after the part he played in the victory in 2014. The win saw fans flood the streets of the city the next day and, to use his own description, MacLean was “rattling” for a week. He was undone by some unhelpful scheduling – he had to report to Largs on the Monday morning for a week-long coaching badge course.
“When I got there everyone was congratulating me and to be honest you still get people coming up to you years after the event,” he said. “Look at the Hearts teams that have won the cup – they have their own hall of fame dinners!
“It [would be] hard to compare because Hearts are a bigger club with more expectation,” he added, when asked if winning the trophy at this stage of his career would be even more memorable. “It was Saints’ first ever win. I think to be honest each one is special.
“The days after the St Johnstone win were special. Late nights and long days!
“I try not to look back as you want to go and achieve again. But when I look back at times with the boys it was great. I did it with my mates and that’s special.”
MacLean has the chance to join an exclusive band of those who have won the Scottish Cup with three different clubs – in his case Rangers, St Johnstone and potentially Hearts. This achievement would be marked out as particularly notable since one of the victories did not occur at Hampden Park.
When MacLean scored the second goal in St Johnstone’s 2-0 victory over Dundee United the game was played at Celtic Park. This was the last final to be played away from Hampden, which was being prepared for hosting the Commonwealth Games later that summer.
He is relishing the chance to secure another winner’s medal at the home of Scottish football. It would involve the classic walk up the stairs to collect the trophy – the only thing missing when he last won it.
“Maybe going up the stairs to collect the cup would be more special,” he said. “Parkhead is a great arena and some would say it’s a better stadium – I’d say that. But Hampden has the history and going up to collect the trophy there would make a difference.”
MacLean was on the bench for Rangers when a Lorenzo Amoruso, inset, header clinched a 1-0 win over Dundee at Hampden in 2003 to secure the treble for the Ibrox club under Alex McLeish.
MacLean was a young player and hadn’t expected to make the squad. It was his first season in senior football and he’d made only four appearances, the last of which had been in February. He was close to being called upon as a weary Rangers struggled to put away Dundee.
“I was actually coming on but Arthur Numan got injured and Kevin Muscat came on instead,” MacLean recalled. “That was the year that we won the league on the final day of the season and I think half the boys had been out from the Sunday to the Thursday. That’s probably why I got on the bench!
“I went up for my medal, but I feel like a bit of a fraud if I haven’t played,” he added. “That’s maybe harsh, but you know what I mean. When you play it makes you feel more special.
“It would definitely mean more to climb the steps having played this time. Coming to Hearts you hope for opportunities but finals don’t come around a lot so you have to take them when you get the chance.”
He was given extra motivation to make it back to a final when reading the match programme before last weekend’s semi-final win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Helping stir memories of five years earlier were photos of St Johnstone’s successful campaign, including one of MacLean joining strike partner Stevie May in celebrating the latter’s goal in the semi-final win over Aberdeen at Ibrox. Reliving these moments had given him “goosebumps” prior to kick-off against Inverness, with MacLean coming on as a second-half substitute. He and his teammates have five games left to earn cup final places – starting against former club Rangers at Tynecastle on Saturday.
“There are 20 boys who have that in their mind now,” he said. “We have to finish the league season on a high above Hibs and then we have a final to look forward to.”