Dundee United boss Micky Mellon discusses Hampden love-affair and Lawrence Shankland's big chance
It is one of the quirks of this pandemic-affected season that Micky Mellon has already been to a Scottish Cup final this season.
The Dundee United manager was sitting socially distanced in the stand as he watched Hearts lose to Celtic on penalties in December. He had been given special permission to attend because his side were playing Celtic shortly afterwards.
Mellon is now relishing the chance to take United to Hampden in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs as he returns to his native city. He did not play a senior game at the stadium during a career spent mostly in England.
Wembley was the setting for some of his greatest occasions although a red card in a play-off semi-final win over Swansea meant he missed out on West Bromwich Albion securing a place back in the Championship against Port Vale in 1993.
He has made up for this as a manager by becoming something of a Wembley play-off specialist. Three years ago next week he led ten-man Tranmere Rovers back into the English Football League with a 2-1 play-off victory over Boreham Wood at Wembley. His Tranmere side secured another promotion back at the famous stadium the following season with a play-off win over Newport County.
Hampden is hardly a mystery to him but it’s a while since he was a regular attender of games there. "I've been loads of times to see different teams,” Mellon recalled. “I'm a Glasgow boy and a lot of times you'd get opportunities to go to games and various cup finals. But I moved away when I was 16.
“I did come up to Scotland for a game v the United States to do a bit of scouting for Barnsley. We were watching a player playing for America. I played there as a schoolboy – for Glasgow Schoolboys, at the old Hampden. It was electrifying!”
This is a word he hopes he can use to describe his own charges this weekend, with perhaps special attention centred on how Lawrence Shankland performs.
The striker will first and foremost be concentrating on getting his club to a first major final in five years but there is also the little matter of the up-coming Euros.
Scotland kick off their involvement with an opening group game clash against Czech Republic in just over a month’s time. Shankland missed out on manager Steve Clarke’s last squad – his place was taken by Kevin Nisbet, who lines up against him for opponents Hibs tomorrow. Mellon urged Shankland to impress the Scotland manager all over again. Time is undoubtedly running out.
“You will absolutely know that Steve Clarke will be watching the game – it is what he does,” he said.
“He is a hard-working manager and he is national team manager so they (the players) know the opportunity will be there to get in front of him and show what you have got. That’s the same for everyone.
“I have not heard him say the door is shut yet. There are a number of places left so why not? If that floats your boat and that is what motivates you – to get in front of him and play well – then yes, go for it. Go and do that.”
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