St Johnstone winger Glenn Middleton is refusing to feel left out as cup fever sweeps through McDiarmid Park.
The on-loan Rangers winger is cup-tied for the Betfred final against Livingston at Hampden a week on Sunday so the nearest he will get to the action is a seat on the sidelines at the national stadium.
However, Middleton is determined to do whatever he can for the club in the build-up, including – he hopes – playing a starring role in today’s Premiership game against Motherwell.
A win away to the Steelmen this afternoon would be ideal preparation for the showpiece occasion eight days later and, despite missing out on the big one, he is contention to make his first start for Saints since joining from the Light Blues.
Thus far, the Scotland under-21 international has been limited to substitute appearances against Aberdeen and Celtic but it wouldn’t be a surprise if boss Callum Davidson hands him a jersey at Fir Park.
Part of things
If so, Middleton will definitely feel part of things.
He said: “The mood here has been brilliant because of the final build-up.
“When I came in on loan on the Monday, they had just won the semi-final with Hibs. Everyone was buzzing, happy and joking.
“Coming into that environment made it a lot easier for me.
“It was then up to me to get up to speed with everyone else and show I am capable of playing in the team.
“Obviously, I’m gutted I can’t play in the cup final.
“It is what every wee boy growing up wants to do – play in finals.
“I’m sure the manager will set the lads up with a game plan and I’m sure they will go out at Hampden and get a positive result.
“But, yes, it will be frustrating.
“You know, I need to do my bit in training throughout the week to help the team.
“Also, I’ll be there with them on the day and it’s up to the boys to go out there and put on a good performance.”
Played against Falkirk
Middleton played in the Betfred Cup for Rangers in a 4-0 win over Falkirk in the last 16 on November 29, coming on as a 55th-minute substitute for Borna Barisic, hence his enforced absence.
He knew before he arrived that if St Johnstone reached the final he would miss out.
Nevertheless, he still has a lot to look forward to and to plan for.
He added: “I’m definitely looking to get game time from the start and you train every day to get games.
“You need to warrant it, though.
“It is up to me to show what I can do when I get minutes on the pitch.
“I would like to think I have done that so far.
“The next chance I get, it is up to me.
“That’s what it is all about. No matter whether you get five, 10 or 20 minutes you have to show something.
“For me that’s being direct or making chances for others,” added the 21-year-old.
“You’re not going to get given anything.
“I am looking to build on the run against Celtic and take it game by game.
“You’re not going to get given anything.”
A welcome outlet for Middleton has been his international experiences with the under-21s and he scored in the 2-2 draw with Croatia back in November.
“When I have been away with Scotland it has been a different platform to show people what you are capable of doing,” he said.
“I think I have warranted my place with the performances I have put in for the under-21s.
“In that last age group I was one with quite a bit of experience behind me and I can still play at that level this year.
“I have to recognise that I am still young and learning with every day that comes.”
Gerrard monitoring progress
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard will be monitoring his progress in Perth after being more than happy to let him join Saints.
Middleton said: “St Johnstone is a very well respected club and they play extremely good football.
“I think that has been shown in the last few weeks with the results the boys have been picking up.
“Wherever you go on loan, you want to play football and for me it is about building myself up in training and showing the manager what I can do.
“Then, when I do hopefully get the chance to break into the team I can stay in.”
Just as they will be watching him, Middleton saw his parent club’s rollercoaster 4-3 win over Royal Antwerp in the Europa League on Thursday night.
He said: “It was a brilliant performance.
“I have been lucky enough to witness first hand the work that has been going in – day in, day out – to get to that stage and I’m sure they will keep pushing on the way they have been doing.”
His priority is Saints, though, and he insists the focus will be on Fir Park rather than Hampden this weekend.
He said: “We won’t be distracted.
“At the minute, every game for the club is massive and we want to finish in the top six.
“This Motherwell match is another massive game for us as we look to keep our momentum going.
“The manager will set us up with a game plan and then we will it is over to us to go out, once the match starts, to go and get the three points.
“I’m sure we will have enough to get a positive result.”