St Johnstone cup hero Liam Craig: 'I thought I was down and out after relegation with Hibs'
Liam Craig is now at an age where he knows the value of drinking everything in. No photographs were so widely circulated on Sunday evening following St Johnstone’s Betfred Cup final win over Livingston than those showing the 34-year-old hunkered down on the Hampden pitch.
He was alone with his thoughts – and mobile phone. Craig wanted to clarify that he was not driven from the dressing room by match-winner Shaun Rooney’s banter or his singing. Not on this occasion at least.
“I was speaking to my family on the pitch,” the midfielder explained. “They’d sent a card to the ground on Monday. It was saying: ‘Good luck daddy’ and had loads of pictures of moments we’d shared on the pitch.
“Memories like that live forever,” Craig added. “They’ve been through a lot with me – especially when I was relegated with Hibs. That was tough. Then I was out of contract. I’d have loved them to be at the game but I’m just glad I can go back to the house and show them the medal.”
Craig was elsewhere when St Johnstone lifted the Scottish Cup in 2014 having left the Perth club for Hibs at the end of the previous season. He was preparing to face Hamilton Accies in a Premiership play-off after a dismal end to the campaign had dragged Terry Butcher’s side into danger. They lost the tie on penalties despite taking a 2-0 lead into the home leg.
Teammates such as David Wotherspoon and Stevie May were still shaking off their hangovers following the win over Dundee United the previous weekend. Their two spells at the club have been timed to perfection since they have coincided with two major honours. After missing the countdown to the last final, Craig was determined to take in as much as he could, before Sunday’s final as well as afterwards.
“I drove through the town on Saturday after training,” he revealed. “The stadium is on the outskirts so you don’t get a feeling of what’s going on. I made sure I saw everything on social media as well. I didn’t want to miss anything. It took me 500-odd games to win a trophy. I know I’ll not be playing 500-odd more.
“The boys who won the cup in 2014 were a great group and I wasn’t jealous of what they did. But winning a cup with this club was the one thing I hadn’t done. Seeing the photograph of this team going up on the wall at the ground will be a huge thing for me. Hopefully this club will go on to achieve even more success with this young squad.”
Craig waited to be picked up by the team bus on Sunday morning with 17-year-old midfielder Alex Ferguson. Seeing someone at the start of their career before such a significant occasion helped focus his mind.
“I’ve worked all my days for one like this,” he said. “Having lost six semi-finals, eventually winning one to get to a final was great. And then to play in it and win it is incredible. To win it with this club makes it even more special. When I was 28-years-old and didn’t even have a club I definitely couldn’t have dreamt of a day like this.”
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