Dundee United skipper Mark Reynolds on deserted Hampden kickabouts and wanting to follow in the footsteps of duo

Mark Reynolds is used to the Hampden echoes since they are what he heard when he was a boy dreaming about being involved in occasions like today, when he leads out Dundee United against Hibs at the national stadium.

Time is running out for Dundee United skipper Mark Reynolds to create some happier Hampden memories (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

While team-mates Lawrence Shankland and Liam Smith, who both played for Queen’s Park, have experience of playing at a near-empty Hampden, Reynolds can remember kicking a ball about a deserted stadium.

His father, Brian, was a coach under long-serving Queen’s Park manager Eddie Hunter. Reynolds, who grew up near Hampden, used to steal onto the pitch at the end of matches and training sessions for a kickabout when nearly everyone else had gone home.

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The banks of empty seats, which will form such a contrast to when he was at the national stadium with Scotland against England four years ago, won’t spook him in this evening’s Scottish Cup semi-final.

“I suppose that’s one of the benefits,” he said. “I’m used to a full Hampden as well and it’s great when it’s packed. The last time I was involved was when I was on the bench for Scotland against England and we drew 2-2.

“You could feel the noise! It's a bit different to being a wee kid running about when you could hear yourself and the echoes…”

It’s just a pity that his recent experiences at the national stadium have mostly proved so agonising, from that finale against England to being in the Aberdeen side beaten by Celtic substitute Tom Rogic's injury time winner in the Scottish Cup final in 2017. He was an unused substitute when the same teams met in the League Cup final earlier that season, with Celtic running out convincing victors.

Reynolds turned 34 yesterday so he knows time is running if he wants to create happier memories for himself in adulthood.

“I have been around Hampden since I was a wee boy because my dad was involved with Queen’s Park," the centre-half reflected. “I grew up there and got the chance to batter the ball about. I have also been lucky enough to play in a few semis and finals.

"I have a great record in semis managing to get to finals but I have never taken that final step and got the trophy.”

It would not simply be a case of getting the trophy – as skipper, he would be the one to hold it aloft, only the third man in United’s history after Maurice Malpas and Andy Webster. It’s something he has dreamt about.

“I think you always dream of lifting the cup,” he said. “As a player, you always want that success. For me, the way I’ve always been, I don’t let myself get too far ahead.

"You dream when you are a young boy. Once you start playing, it becomes a job and a reality that you might actually have the chance to do it.

“Then you remember that you really need to focus on the next game. Too many times I think teams and players have got caught up dream about lifting the trophy when they are so close and they fall at the last hurdle.

“My focus just now is only on performing in the semi-final and getting to a final so I can get closer to realising that dream.”

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