League Cup final: McAusland aims for Paisley pride

DOWN in deepest Paisley, just off the Neilston Road, at postcode PA2 7RW to be exact, you can find Lapsley Avenue, named after David of that ilk, captain of the St Mirren team that won the Scottish Cup in 1959.

Born a Buddy, Marc McAusland knows that the present squad in black and white stripes won’t automatically be honoured with their own street names should they beat Hearts and win the Scottish Communities League Cup on Sunday, but he knows that victory will confer the Lapsley-like status of local legend on manager Danny Lennon and his men.

McAusland explained: “Thommo [Steven Thompson] and the older players in the dressing room keep reminding us that the St Mirren teams that won trophies in the past became instant legends. Some even had streets named after them like Lapsley Avenue while other guys like Tony Fitzpatrick are known by everyone in the town.

“All over the stadium there are pictures of the 1987 team that won the Scottish Cup. Maybe I’ll not get my own street but there’s a real incentive for us all to go up and lift the cup.

“It will be nice to think that in a few years’ time people will still remember who you are.”

McAusland is anxious to succeed for his St Mirren-daft family, especially his father Bryan, a successful local businessman and long-term director of the Paisley club.

“It’s massive for my dad to see me hopefully playing in a cup final,” said McAusland. “He’s my biggest critic, always pulling me up for things I should have done better. He’s never slow to give me a rollicking if he thinks I’ve been slow or done something wrong. He doesn’t give much away but I know he’s very proud to see me doing well.

“Him and the other directors have given a lot to the club over the years so it would be nice to repay them with the trophy.”

McAusland’s family ensured he was taken along as a child to the former ground at Love Street: “I was a ball boy at the club when I was about eight or nine and I’ve been here for a good while now.”

Indeed he has – apart from one early spell on loan to Stranraer and a season on loan to Queen of the South, 24-year-old McAusland has always been a fixture at his home town club and he is modestly aware that he has a duty to accept the baton of responsibility as a true Buddy and pass it on to future generations of Paisley youngsters.

“Tommy Turner was my hero when I was a ball boy,” said McAusland. “He played at sweeper, so as a centre half he was someone I always watched. He won the first division championship so he’s a bit of a legend among the St Mirren fans. Hopefully we can go on and become legends too if we can lift the cup on Sunday.

“And there might be younger guys now, maybe ball boys as well, looking up to us and hoping to go on and become like us one day.”

Like every St Mirren supporter, McAusland shudders to recall the club’s last appearance in the final of this competition three years ago, when they were beaten by a late Kenny Miller goal after Rangers were reduced to nine men.

“I didn’t play in it but I went to the game as a fan,” said McAusland. “You could see after the game how gutted the boys were, and the ones who are still here have spoken about how difficult a day that was. I felt they should have won the game that day so hopefully we can turn it around on Sunday.”

St Mirren go into the final with some good news for their fans who have such collective regard for the man known as Cheesy – it looks very likely that McAusland will be staying around.

He said: “I’m out of contract in the summer but I’m negotiating just now with the gaffer and hopefully we can get something sorted sooner rather than later. There’s been an offer so hopefully we can close the deal.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying it here and I hope we can get something sorted to keep me here for a few more years.”

McAusland continues to develop as a player, and suggestions that Scotland manager Gordon Strachan might care to take a look at a much improved and more confident centre-back are not so awry.

A commanding display in victory on Sunday might just be what the Gord ordered: “Hampden is the national stadium and everyone is going to be watching, and it’s going to be on the telly. If you’re going to make your mark then Sunday is the perfect opportunity to do that. Hopefully I can put in a good performance and help the team pick up the cup.”

And who knows, in years to come, McAusland Avenue, Paisley, might well be sought-after address.