Alan Kernaghan’s four years with St Johnstone turned out to be the “purple patch” of an illustrious career.
And the classy centre-back who played in the last League Cup final for the Perth club 23 years ago will be keeping his fingers crossed the modern-day Saints players won’t be singing the blues on Sunday.
Kernaghan was a former Republic of Ireland international who had been part of Jack Charlton’s 1994 World Cup when he was persuaded by Paul Sturrock to come to McDiarmid Park, first on loan and then on a permanent transfer.
It proved to be a hugely successful spell for player and team, with Saints reaching the 1998 cup final, where they lost 2-1 to Rangers, finishing third in the Premier League and then enjoying a Uefa Cup adventure the following season.
So, although, Kernaghan spent a short time as a player/assistant manager at Livingston, he will have no divided loyalties this weekend.
“I can’t say I’m surprised it’s taken so long for Saints to reach another League Cup final because it’s never easy getting that far in any competition,” said the 53-year-old.
“It’s tough reaching a final. You need to have a lot of things going for you, including a bit of luck on your side.
“The current team deserve just as much respect as we got, if not more.
“Obviously it helps that they’re not playing Rangers or Celtic.
“It’s maybe not going to be billed as a big, high profile final but the four semi-finalists would all have fancied their chances of going on to lift the cup.
“Livingston have been producing some great results but so have Saints. It will be down to which side brings their A-game.
“I’ll certainly be supporting Saints.
“I was only at Livingston for a short time so I haven’t the same fondness for them.
“When Biscuits (Preston) and I were there it was probably a little bit too early for us.
“In hindsight we didn’t have the experience to deal with exceptional circumstances and having to build a team in 20-odd days or whatever it was. We were up against it and probably didn’t realise it at the time.”
Kernaghan had been used to the bright lights of the revamped English top flight before crossing the border. He was one of the chosen few who starred (a loose term) in the Sky Sports video launch of their glitzy new product. To the soundtrack of Simple Minds’ Alive and Kicking, players from the Premier League’s first 22 clubs were shown in all manner of weird and wonderful activities (he was having a laugh and a joke in the showers with Gordon Durie, David Hirst, Vinnie Jones and Tim Sherwood).
Of its time, let’s just say.
It was perhaps little wonder that McDiarmid Park’s dressing room held a down-to-earth appeal for its star addition.
“We were all in it together, on and off the pitch,” said Kernaghan, currently a community coach with Rangers in Northern Ireland where the set-up has expanded from four staff to over 50.
“We enjoyed each other’s company away from football. That was the driving force for us.
“I have great memories of my time in Perth. It was very much a purple patch for me.
“I had been brought through at Middlesbrough, where everyone mucked in together. But at Manchester City there was none of that togetherness, relying on your team-mate to help you out if you were having a tough time. That was missing there.
“But it was back to what I had been used to coming to Saints.
“Paul did a lot of the groundwork and Sandy (Clark) added a bit onto it. Nathan (Lowndes) came in and he was pretty much the Jamie Vardy of our team in that era. He gave us legs to run beyond defenders. George (O’Boyle) was a great striker in and around the box and held the ball up with his back to goal. And Miguel (Simao) also gave us a bit of movement up top.”
On the narrow loss in the final, the ex-Dundee manager reflected: “That was a top class Rangers team.
“You looked down the left side and they had Arthur Numan, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Jorg Albertz, all inter-changing, passing and moving.
“They played like Man City do now under Guardiola. That was down to the Dutch influence, with Advocaat the manager. And that Rangers side had big characters like Barry Ferguson and Lorenzo Amoruso.
“We were massive underdogs going into the final, like we were in most games around that time.
“We had lost a league game 7-0 in Perth not long before, when Kano (Paul Kane) was sent off.
“You just had to write that off and be ready to go again quickly.
“We never feared games against Rangers and Celtic and that was shown with results that season.
“My first game for Saints was against Rangers the previous year when we lost 2-0. But we were a totally different team going into the final. We had a very different mindset.
“We were a lot more confident in ourselves and the way we played, despite that result at McDiarmid.
“The plan was to camp in our own half and hit them on the break at some stage.
“We lost an early goal but fortunately Nick Dasovic quickly levelled it, otherwise we might have been in bother.
“We had good players of our own but we were a proper team. That was our strength. And we were in the game right until the end.”