Striker Jason Scotland has revealed 1994 Dundee United Scottish Cup hero Jerren Nixon is one of the reasons why he will be running out for tomorrow’s final against Celtic at Hampden.
Eleven years ago Nixon, once labelled the £10 million man by then boss Ivan Golac, came off the bench to become the first Trinidadian to win a major honour in Europe as the Tangerines shocked Rangers to lift the trophy.
And fellow-countryman Scotland believes it was achievements like that which inspired a whole generation of players from the Caribbean island to make it in Scotland.
“Players like Jerren, Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy came over to Europe and showed they were good enough to do well and that gave every footballer in Trinidad something to aim for.
“As a footballer, you want to play at the highest level you can and, because of these kind of players, we knew it was possible to come over here.
“The standard in Trinidad is nothing like as high as it is here, so, to get better, this is where we want to come and Jerren was among the first to do it.”
Scotland was United’s semi-final hero, grabbing a late winner against Hibs that earned him the Player-of-the-Round award. When he looks beyond personal achievement, he believes that strike was the most important of his career so far.
“I have scored big goals before, ones that were big for me. I scored for the national team against South Korea after they had just finished fourth in the World Cup, so that was big because it proved to me I could do well at that level.
“Scoring in the semi is a moment I will never forget and maybe it was my biggest because it meant so much to the team. Scoring in a final would be even bigger.”
So often a supersub this term, Jim McIntyre’s cruel suspension means Scotland is expected to start the final and he aims to use that chance to show he is more than just a bit-part player.
“Jim is out and a majority of the time I have been the third striker coming off the bench, so it could be me who starts.
“That’s a big thing in a final, so, obviously, I want to do well. I feel I have been effective in games I have started, but I have come off the bench a few times and done well and people have noticed that.
“I think it helps if you start five or six games in a row and when that happened last season I was getting goals. On Saturday, I want to do well from three o’clock.”
Boss Gordon Chisholm will give him that chance and also admitted today that defender Paul Ritchie was close to making the kind of comeback from injury that has not been seen since the days of Lazarus.
It is still less than two weeks since he tore a groin muscle, but the ex-Scotland man has stunned his manager by training with the rest of the squad for the past two days.
“He has amazed me and, from yesterday morning when I would have said he had no chance, today I have to say he might make it,” said Gordon.
“I’ll make the final decision, but I’ll be having a chat with him to see how he feels about it and take things from there.”
With or without Ritchie, Gordon is backing his players to go to Hampden and have a real go at bringing back the cup.
“We have good experience with players like Ritchie, if he plays, Derek McInnes, Grant Brebner and Stevie Crawford, and I feel the whole team has shown in recent weeks that they can cope with pressure.
“Tomorrow will be a different kind of pressure to what we had in the league. It’s the kind we can enjoy and, while we have massive respect for Celtic and what they have achieved, we will go there, enjoy the day and, I believe, play our best.”