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The Wheel has turned for St Johnstone Betfred Cup hero Shaun Rooney

Shaun Rooney celebrates his goal.
Shaun Rooney celebrates his goal.

Shaun Rooney rounded off the most memorable Saturday night of his career by watching The Wheel.

He should maybe think about applying to the BBC to get on it.

Because the way things are going for St Johnstone’s Hampden Park hero these days, there’s every chance Michael McIntyre would be handing him over a fortune.

A Betfred Cup quarter-final goal at Dunfermline was followed by a magnificent header against Hibs for Saints’ second in the semi, and an equally impressive assist for Craig Conway’s killer third.

On an evening when there were many man-of-the-match contenders in yellow and blue, with Jason Kerr, Craig Conway and Murray Davidson all performing superbly and others close behind, Rooney’s individual display was still the clear stand-out one.

It has been quite the transformation for a player who would have been entitled to allow doubts to seep into his mind that his summer move to Perth was fated not to pan out as he would have wished.

The manager who signed him moved on and the one who he had to impress brought in a loan youngster for his position. Then when he did eventually get a chance, at Kilmarnock, it was a Premiership debut that finished with him sat behind the dugout with his head in his hands after he cost his new team a goal.

Shaun Rooney had a tough afternoon at Kilmarnock.

The arrow on the big wheel has been doing a lot of spinning before it has come to rest, pointing in his direction.

“Those were my celebrations,” said Rooney. “A couple of beers with my dad, watching The Wheel!”

Not only should Rooney’s father have been toasting his son’s weighty contribution to a remarkable result, he should also have been raising a glass to his indomitable outlook. Never has the former Inverness Caley Thistle defender started thinking he was fighting a losing battle at McDiarmid Park.

“I was always going to give it my best shot,” he said. “There’s no point in throwing in the towel at a new club just because somebody has got into the team in front of you.

“That’s not me.

“I’ll never stop working hard and trying to improve. If somebody’s ahead of me, I’ll try and find a way to get better than him, get in the team and make my mark.

“Obviously Danny (McNamara) was doing so well that I couldn’t get in for a while. But I did what I said I would and got my chance.”

Danny McNamara.

That chance initially came as the right-sided central defender in Callum Davidson’s favoured three at the back.

Even though he has developed significantly in that role from an August Ayrshire afternoon to forget, he still views the wider berth as his strongest position.

“I prefer going forward,” said Rooney. “I always will.

“It’s good to know that if the manager wants me to do a job at centre-half, I can. It’s a good thing to have in my locker now. Being able to play another position helps me and the team.

“But I do prefer right wing-back.”

McNamara has returned to Millwall but James Brown has arrived in the Republic of Ireland international’s place to provide Rooney with his competition in the second half of the season.

“James has settled in pretty well and has looked good in training,” he said. “But I have to try and keep my place.

“I sat on the side watching Danny and he was magnificent. He did so well he is back playing at Millwall in the Championship.

“But hopefully I can make that position mine.”

Saints dramatically emphasised their new-found aerial menace from dead-balls at Hampden, with Rooney and Jason Kerr soaring above their markers to bullet home textbook headers.

Jason Kerr’s goal.

This added dimension to their game has the potential of further rewards in the last few months of the season.

“I think we are one of the biggest sides in the league,” said Rooney. “I’ve always thought we should be getting more goals from set-pieces.

“We have been working more and more on set pieces and deliveries into the box with Macca (coach, Steven MacLean).

“It definitely gives us something extra having this in the locker.

“Defenders don’t like sitting in their own box defending long throws, cross balls and free-kicks. They want the ball played in front of them to have a nice easy game.”

Tonight’s opponents Aberdeen haven’t had a nice easy game against Saints on the two previous occasions the sides have met this season. But they have carried good fortune.

“We’re massively due a change of luck,” said Rooney.

“At Pittodrie we were a minute away from going in at half-time 1-0 up, which would have been huge. A poor penalty decision changed that for us.

“We played well against them in both the games.

“In the first one I was sitting watching it from the stand and the boys played so well. Up there I felt we were in control of the match in the first half.

St Johnstone players were furious with ref Alan Muir.
A penalty award that infuriated St Johnstone.

“But they got the penalty just before half-time and the second one hit off Liam Craig. There was nothing he could do about it.

“We played well after that looking for another goal but it never happened. We want the win this time and it doesn’t matter how we do it.”

Saints are closer to the bottom two places than the top half of the table and flipping that around is the immediate goal.

“Definitely,” said Rooney. “That’s what we’re trying to do and it starts tomorrow night against Aberdeen. It would be an important win if we can get it.

“There are a lot of games before the final.

“Livingston are up there challenging for fourth after putting together a good run of wins. I hope we can get up the table and away from the relegation area by doing the same thing.

“The boys are all fighting for the same things and fighting for each other.

“We all want to move this club forward, get into the top six and win a cup final.”

Rooney, or the ‘Bellshill Cafu’ if you prefer, has earned himself St Johnstone cult hero status.

“It’s good to be getting called names like that but I don’t take it seriously,” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of nice messages from pals and supporters. It will make it even better when we get back to playing in front of fans.

“The sooner the better. It might drive us on even more.”