Lifting his first trophy as a St Johnstone manager after just eight months in the job will not stop Callum Davidson driving his young team forward.
The Perth boss, who has secured legendary status alongside predecessor Tommy Wright as the only two bosses to win major national silverware for the McDiarmid Park club, views his side’s stunning Betfred Cup success as the start of something special, rather than the end.
Davidson is well aware that Saints’ Hampden stars – of which there were several – will become coveted assets.
But while they are still under his charge he expects them to get better and better.
“I will never stop the young players progressing,” he said. “It is what you want to do as a manager, especially at a club like St Johnstone.
“It’s one of those – can we keep it together? Hopefully we can.
“But on days like these there will be other clubs looking, especially at our back three and Ali McCann, and how well they’ve done at such a young age.
“Like I say, hopefully we can now hold onto the players we have and build on it. We have some huge games coming up and we can’t take our eye off the ball.”
Emotional afternoon for St Johnstone manager
Davidson got his team selection and tactics spot on, making bold calls on both fronts.
The only thing that he failed to control successfully were his reactions after the full-time whistle blew.
“I’m probably a bit emotional,” he admitted. “I genuinely don’t know why that is.
“It’s one of those achievements I’ll probably look back on in 10 years’ time and realise how special it was.
“It’s disappointing the supporters from Perth are not here to enjoy the occasion and make it even more special but it means just as much to me just now and to my family and friends and everyone involved downstairs.
Semi-final hero Shaun Rooney powers in a header and @StJohnstone lead in the Betfred Cup Final! 💥
And just look at how much it means to Callum Davidson and his players 🔵 pic.twitter.com/aBe8D90qOr
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) February 28, 2021
“I’m not an emotional person. I’m pretty level.
“I think it’s just the achievement and seeing the joy on the players’ faces and the backroom staff and the people upstairs and the board, everyone involved in the club.
“That’s when it hits home that it means so much to them as well.
“I’m at the forefront working hard as the face of it all but I have six or seven backroom staff working unbelievably hard and I know how much it meant to them.
“Maybe that’s what makes it emotional for me.”
Matching Livingston at Hampden
Even though Livingston managed to make it their sort of game for long spells, Davidson’s men were able to fight fire with fire when there was no alternative.
“It was a tough game,” he said. “In the first half there were a lot of free-kicks and long balls to deal with, a really tough game physically.
“I thought we matched them, got the goal and for 20 minutes in the second half I thought we were good. The only concerning point was when we were on top we didn’t score.
“But we managed to see the game out pretty well. Livingston are a really good team, they work extremely hard and they make it difficult for you to play. I’m delighted to get over the line.”
In many ways, the first half proved to be a re-run of the semi-final against Hibs.
“We always knew the game’s first 15, 20 minutes would be a bit hectic,” said Davidson.
“Both teams are new to finals in recent years. Look at the age of my back three and Shaun Rooney.
“It was a big occasion for them and I thought they handled themselves brilliantly.
“We had a 21-year-old in the middle of the park as well so we have a lot of good young players there.
“I think the experienced ones helped – David (Wotherspoon), Craig (Conway), Liam (Craig), Callum (Booth). They helped us get through it.”
Shaun Rooney scored in the quarters, he scored in the semis and he has now scored the winner in the final.
“It is fantastic,” said Davidson. “He just needs to watch what he does tonight so he’s ready for Wednesday (when Saints play Hamilton)!
“I am delighted for Shaun as I am for other players. I won’t just single him out.
“The likes of Callum Booth and Liam Craig have come in and performed unbelievably well in the last couple of games while others have missed out.
“That’s football. I am just delighted I have a squad I am happy to pick from and know they can produce what they have done in the last couple of games.”
The speed with which he has become a cup-winning manager is something Davidson has yet to grasp the enormity of.
“I’ll take it!” he said. “I won’t complain.
“I won’t just say: ‘I was lucky’. I think the boys have worked hard and we have had a hard draw as well in the cup we’ve played a lot of Premiership teams to get there.”
Davidson returned to Saints last summer after working alongside Wright, having played for the club over two spells.
The local connection means a lot to the Dunblane man, who has several Perthshire players in his team.
“It’s a credit to Alastair Stevenson when you look at the number of players that actually come through the academy here,” he said. “It pleases me just as much.
“Obviously I was here at the start of their development – Liam Gordon, Zander Clark, Stevie May. There are loads of them.
“It’s great to see them all get their rewards.
“It’s something we targeted with Tommy when we first came in – let’s try and get more young players in.
“It is important for the club but obviously it has been difficult to do it this year but as you saw today, it has massive benefits for the club if you can.”
Davidson sought out his chairman after he emerged from the Hampden dressing room. Steve Brown’s record isn’t too shabby either.
“Two trophies is a great achievement for him,” he said. “He works so hard.
“This is one of those clubs that is well run. We can’t spend money because we basically don’t have it. You saw today the benefits of that.”
Celebrations were as you would expect on the pitch and in the Hampden Main Stand but focus now reverts to the league and, in the long run, marking the cup triumph properly.
“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “The players will just have to realise this is the way it is just now.
“Hopefully we can get something in June when Covid starts to clear and they allow gatherings and we can celebrate with people back in Perth.
“It is really important we do it because you do not win trophies very often. It’s taken 137 years for St Johnstone to win this one so we need to make sure we celebrate properly.”
No Saints fan will argue with that.