Like any other football-daft youngster in Scotland, Kieran McAnespie would have daydreamt and perfected his post-goal against Brazil in the World Cup finals routine.
There is no disgrace in the fact a two decade-long playing career didn’t take him to such giddy heights after it progressed from the back garden and the public park to the professional game.
But even though the former St Johnstone midfielder never got the opportunity to put an iconic goal celebration into Tartan Army folklore, he had a hand in choosing one for a man who did.
Ask anybody under the age of 30 what a ‘hamper boy’ was and you’ll probably get some weird and wonderful answers.
But for France ’98 that was McAnespie’s job, along with Paul Gallacher, Mark Burchill and Darren Young.
The quartet were identified as potential future Scottish World Cup players and effectively became members of Craig Brown’s squad in all but name.
McAnespie evidently made a lasting impression on the creative star of that team and that generation, John Collins, as the McDiarmid Park academy product would be given a trial with Jean Tigana’s Fulham, and then be signed, on the back of his recommendation.
Less well known is that McAnespie also made an important contribution to making up Collins’ mind on what to do after putting away his famous equalising penalty into Claudio Taffarel’s bottom right-hand corner when the eyes of the world were on Scotland and Brazil’s Paris World Cup opener.
The sprint to the Scottish corner of the Stade de France, the spin in the air and the double thumb point to the name above the number 11 on the back of the dark blue shirt.
For those who shared in the joy at the time – and those who grew up with television and now social media repeats – the images haven’t lost their impact.
“John came to speak to us the day before the Brazil game,” McAnespie recalled. “He asked: ‘If I score tomorrow, what should my celebration be?’
“I don’t know why, but I came up with the pointing to his back and turning round in front of the fans. And that’s what he did.”
As with all international call-ups back then for Saints players, club secretary Stewart Duff was the man to break the news of Brown’s desire to include McAnespie in his support team.
Danny Griffin learned of his selection for the Northern Ireland senior squad when he was on a sponsored walk with Allan Preston in a Perthshire forest. For McAnespie it was in the middle of a round of golf.
It wasn’t a quick ‘yes’ for Craig Brown
“I had a mobile phone back then (something the Perth players would wind ‘Billy Big Time’ up about),” he said.
“Stewart told me I was being invited to the pre-World Cup tour of America and then the tournament in France.
“But the thing was – myself and (fellow Saints youngster) Marc McCulloch had booked a fortnight in Magaluf so I told Stewart that I needed to speak to Marco first before he could confirm it. He was a bit surprised I didn’t say ‘yes’ straightaway I think and was like: ‘Right, OK’.
“When I spoke to Marco he just said: ‘What you phoning me for? Are you kidding me on? Why are you actually phoning me? Go and phone Stewart back and tell him you’re going’.
“Hamper boys they called us. Craig Brown had done it for Euro ‘96.
“Myself and Paul Gallagher went out to America, which was 10 or 11 days, and then after a few days off, Mark Burchill and Darren Young joined up with us for France.
“I genuinely didn’t think about how big an opportunity this was at the time.
“I was never overawed about being a footballer or meeting big name footballers because it was something I’d done since I was a kid.
“Now that we’ve qualified again for the Euros and there’s a buzz around the country again, it brings all the memories back.”
Those memories aren’t just of carrying kit, cleaning boots, putting out cones and running other errands.
This was the full football experience.
Check the wee man out, with me behind him🤭 pic.twitter.com/mHPvTmetWu
— Kiery Mac (@Kierymac23) June 10, 2021
“We did absolutely everything,” said McAnespie.
“In America I played in a bounce game against the New York MetroStars, as they were called then.
“I was an attacking midfielder and I was scoring for fun in these practice games. I genuinely wouldn’t have looked out of place.
“That was how I approached it at St Johnstone when I was training with the first team as a kid. It’s a game of football. I didn’t shy away from it.
“Particularly in Paul Sturrock’s team, I had to look after myself.
“The only thing we didn’t do with Scotland was play in the actual international friendlies or get onto the pitch on match days. And we didn’t get a kilt!
“We lumped the kit, put the kit out, did the boots and anything else the players wanted done. But then we trained with them.
“That was either with the full squad or doing extra with players who hadn’t been involved in a game the day before.
“When it came to that last defeat against Morocco which ended it all I felt as deflated as everybody else. I’d been there for five weeks and felt a real part of it.
“We met Tony Blair when he was doing the rounds in the team hotel in St Remy and I was even in the team photo before the tournament – mind you, they photo-shopped Kevin Gallagher’s face over mine because he couldn’t make it!”
The benefit of hindsight
McAnespie, now a firefighter and a coach with West of Scotland League club Darvel, added: “I spent a lot of time with John Collins, which has all been reported with what happened at Fulham. Before then, if I’d gone anywhere near a gym it was to walk through it at McDiarmid to speak to Biscuits (Preston) and Roddy (Grant) in the physio’s room!
“Darren Jackson, Billy McKinlay, Tosh McKinlay, Craig Burley and Gordon Durie were the jokers. Scott Gemmill and Christian Dailly were a bit more serious. And Jackie McNamara and Simon Donnelly were like brothers, even back then.
“They were all brilliant. There wasn’t one numpty among them. It was such a close-knit group which is what made it so enjoyable to be part of.
“They made us feel involved and like I said, I wasn’t overawed. It’s only with hindsight that I realised what these players have done to get to that level.
“Maybe it was that mental strength that stopped me from fulfilling my potential. My career was a decent one but it probably should have been better.”
Before the Scotland camp, McAnespie had just five Saints appearances to his name – two in the promotion season out of the First Division and three in the top flight.
A combination of rubbing shoulders with the nation’s finest and going back into a club environment where young stars keeping their feet on the ground was a given worked perfectly for the 19-year-old, who went on to feature 20 times in 1998/99, famously scoring in victories against both Celtic and Rangers.
“I just loved playing football,” said the former Scotland under-21 international. “It’s hard to judge whether it was that experience which took me to the next level. Craig (Brown) had told the four of us to kick on, keep doing what we were doing and that they’d keep an eye on our development.
“I didn’t come back to Perth and think: ‘I’m the man’. That dressing room and coaching staff would never have allowed it.
“They’d have knocked it clean out of me – the likes of Roddy, Biscuits, Kerny (Alan Kernaghan) and Weirso (Jim Weir). I’d be black and blue if they thought I was getting above myself.
“I’m thankful for having that football upbringing with them.”
Monday afternoon at Hampden brings another opening game and hopefully another opportunity for a Scottish goalscorer to come up with a celebration that will endure in play-grounds and playing-fields across the country.
Then of course, it’s off to Wembley. And if McAnespie was a hamper boy again, he’d have a good suggestion for Steve Clarke’s penalty taker the night before that one.
“Maybe they should do a Scottish take on the Gascoigne and Sheringham dentist’s chair behind the goal,” he said. “That would go down well with the Tartan Army!”