Through a combination of the images snapped for public viewing and those left to the imagination Liam Craig’s love affair with St Johnstone and the resonance of a football mission accomplished are perfectly captured.
Choose any break in play you wish on Sunday afternoon and somewhere on the Hampden Park pitch you’d have seen a clenched fist or a pointed arm to help maintain the focus and drive that would be needed to see a young Saints team through a test of mind as much as body.
In the moments after Shaun Rooney’s header found its way past Robby McCrorie and jubilant team-mates followed him to the corner flag like the Pied Piper of Perth, you’d have seen a back already turned as he headed towards the half-way line for a re-start, thinking only of what happens next rather than being absorbed by the most exhilarating of moments.
Protecting a precious one-goal lead for an hour and a bit you’d have seen a midfielder sliding, grappling and spoiling to ensure there would never be anything approaching an onslaught on the Saints box, far less the Saints goal.
As referee Don Robertson reached the count of two minutes of added on time and blew his final whistle you’d have seen a man incapable of processing what to think and who to think of.
A moment that will last forever with a club that means so much to me 💙 pic.twitter.com/PWpL4sgWdZ
— Liam Craig (@lc10media) February 28, 2021
When he first got his hands on the League Cup trophy you’d have seen unbridled ecstasy.
Back in the daylight after deciding the victors’ exuberant Hampden main stand retreat wasn’t the place for a grown man’s tears, you’d have seen a senior pro seeking a bit of calm for a last chance to get his feet on the Hampden turf and a first chance to speak to his loved ones.
What you wouldn’t have seen was Craig driving around the streets of Perth the day before to get a flavour of the look and feel of supporting your local football club in lockdown.
And, in the most moving moment of them all, you wouldn’t have seen or heard him sharing poignant McDiarmid Park dressing room words with the man cruelly denied the same national stadium denouement he was about to get.
Some of these moments will find their way on to the mantelpiece and into photo albums. Others will be memories that will come back to mind in random places and at random times.
The man who seemed destined never to play in a final, let alone win one, has achieved both in the gloaming of his career. And he wanted to cherish every last drop.
Where to start looking back on a week that has strung out his emotions? The bond he shares with Murray Davidson would be as good a place as any.
“I had a moment with Murray on Saturday when it was just the two of us in the dressing room,” said Craig. “That was special.
“He knew he was missing out on the game but that’s the type of man he is.
“His semi-final performance was the reason we got to the final in the first place. It epitomised everything this club is about.
“Him not playing is the only downside of this but he knows what he’s done to help us win the cup.”
It’s pointless speculating whether Craig would have started Sunday’s final if Davidson had been fully fit. Guessing a Callum Davidson team selection is a fool’s game, whatever the fixture.
But what is inarguable is that the 34-year-old, who is second on the all-time appearance list for Saints players, seized his chance when it presented itself, first in the league against their final opponents and then at Fir Park on the preceding Saturday.
As with Callum Booth, that performance at Motherwell proved to be decisive. Not that he allowed himself to feel secure about his place in the team for the big one.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve hardly slept since the Motherwell game last Saturday,” said Craig. “I wanted to play so much and I didn’t want to get beaten.
“I’ve worked all my days for one like this. Having lost six semi-finals, eventually winning one to get to a final was great. And then to play in it and win it was incredible. To win it with this club makes it even more special.
“When I was 28-years-old and didn’t even have a club I definitely couldn’t have dreamt of a day like this.
“I’m 34 now and this morning I was waiting for the team bus with young Alex Ferguson who is 17.
“Some players will win loads of trophies. Good luck to them – but I’m never going to forget this week.
“Listen, the game was horrible. It was rubbish, apart from a great goal for Shaun, but it will be a game that will never be forgotten by St Johnstone fans.
“I know how much it will mean to our supporters.”
He certainly does know. He’s been a Saints player for 12 years over two spells. But it didn’t stop him taking the time to remind himself – by interacting on Twitter and by taking a long route home on the eve of the final.
Tunnel vision might be advisable for some in the run-up to such a huge event but Craig opted for a different strategy.
“I drove through the town on Saturday after training because I wanted to take everything in,” he said. “The stadium is on the outskirts so you don’t get a feeling of what’s going on.
“I made sure I saw everything on social media as well. I didn’t want to miss anything and I don’t want to forget anything.
“It took me 500-odd games to win a trophy and I know I’ll not be playing 500-odd more. To do it for this club and those supporters who have been nothing but brilliant to me means so much.”
My family sent a card to the ground on Monday.
Given the heartstrings tugging that became part of Craig’s working week, it was an achievement in itself being able to find the composed mind space he needed to knit tactics and application together from his pivotal position of centre-midfield.
“My family sent a card to the ground on Monday,” he said. “Wee things like that have meant a lot in the build-up. It was saying: ‘Good luck daddy’ and had loads of pictures of moments we’d shared on the pitch.
“Memories like that live forever.
“They’ve been through a lot with me – especially when I was relegated with Hibs. That was tough. Then I was out of contract before I signed for Saints again.
“I’d have loved them to be at the game but I’m just glad I can go back to the house and show them the medal.
“I was able to speak to them on my phone out on the pitch. Honestly, I had to get out of the dressing room. For a change it wasn’t Shaun being too loud in there. I was getting too emotional.
“It got to me as soon as the final whistle blew. That’s why I had to walk away from the dressing room because I was finding it tough.
“I’ll remember this day forever.”
Breaking his St Johnstone service at Hibs has never been a source of regret or resentment for Craig, even though it coincided with the drought-ending Scottish Cup victory of the club that means the most to him.
But he now has the same silver-plated status as those May 17 greats.
“The boys who won the cup in 2014 were a great group and I wasn’t jealous of what they did,” said Craig. “But winning a cup with this club was the one thing I hadn’t done. It’s incredible to do it now.
“Seeing the photograph of this team going up on the walls at the ground will be a huge thing for me and hopefully the current young squad can go on to achieve even more success.”