A year ago St Johnstone’s Brad McKay was kicking himself after an early-season encounter with Hearts failed to go to plan.
At the club he had grown up supporting, he had been unable to command a first-team place and had opted for a fresh start in Perth, but in the first head to head between his former employers and his new club he slipped up to gift the Gorgie side a goal as they went on to win. He then landed himself in hot water with the footballing authorities due to some ill-advised comments.
It all added up to a torrid start with his new club and one which undermined him, with the defender eventually going out on loan to Dunfermline in a bid for regular games.
On Wednesday, he exorcised some of his demons, coming on as a substitute to head home the winner as St Johnstone progressed to the quarter-finals of the League Cup at the expense of Hearts.
“It was obviously nice to come off the bench and score the winner,” said McKay. “I get my mates tickets to come and watch the game and if I’m not playing, I usually tell them not to bother coming up. But I texted them to say: ‘I’m on the bench – but I’ve got a strange feeling about this’.
“It seemed to be written in the stars, that one. Obviously my return to Tynecastle last season wasn’t how I planned it. But this is a bit sweeter for me.”
The goal also allowed him to pay tribute. “I spoke about it in the car on the way up, what I would do if I scored. I’ve had quite a tough month or two, personally. There have been birthdays of people who are no longer with us – I’ll keep who it is private – but that is why my celebration involved me pointing upwards. Because that goal was for them.”
With his vital contribution, he also staked a claim for more regular involvement in a team intent on building on recent success in the league and cups.
“I feel a lot better this season. I’m settled now, I feel a lot more part of the group. I don’t know what it is, I just feel really good – better than last season – and I’ve been waiting patiently to get a chance. I have been working really, really hard in training. And, funnily enough, I’ve been working tirelessly after training on heading – attacking corners especially.”