Remember when you hadn’t heard of Zoom?
A time when you didn’t have to walk back to your car because you’d left your face mask lying next to your loose change and your wine gums?
The days when being sat outside a pub in the freezing cold, pretending you were enjoying yourself, was a sure-fire sign you needed to reassess where your life was going rather than the accepted social highlight of a week?
Feels otherworldly, doesn’t it?
A bygone age when St Johnstone weren’t the team to avoid in a semi-final cup draw and weren’t a ruthless big-game machine, clinically taking care of their opposition every time they arrived at the country’s national stadium.
Scottish football stereotypes may revert to what they once were when the fans start coming back and old normal becomes new normal.
But by the time that happens, the club which habitually fell at semi-final hurdles, was more used to being patronised than feared and couldn’t win at Hampden, may have both major cup trophies in its boardroom.
There’s no getting away from it, for all that Saints have enjoyed a golden era of sustained league success, a few European jaunts and that 2014 day in the Celtic Park sun, this 2020/21 season is an unprecedented phenomenon.
For them, and any other club of their standing.
Even if they lose to Hibs in a couple of weeks, this can’t and won’t be topped.
Chris Kane with a MASSIVE goal for @StJohnstone! 😱
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) May 9, 2021
Back to back cup finals for St Johnstone.
Saying it quickly doesn’t make the impact of those seven words any less profound.
The best analogy I can come up with for this team and what they are doing is of a backstroke swimmer in an outside lane of an Olympic final who powers to the wall, hasn’t thought about or looked at what is happening around him, and only realises what he has done when it’s all over and his name is at the top of the big screen with a glowing number one next to it.
These Saints players and coaches have used the bubble circumstances to their advantage, honing their attacking and defensive patterns on the training ground and shutting their minds to distractions, even when those distractions involve team-mates being sidelined as a result of a coronavirus outbreak.
Perhaps if there had been a big open-top bus parade and all the rest of it after the Betfred Cup triumph, it would have been different and the edge would have been taken off the collective effort.
Instead, the football, football, football life and the machine-gun nature of this concertinaed Scottish Cup campaign have helped them stay in their lane.
Now they only have two weeks and one match left to hold their focus before breathing it all in.
With this sort of momentum and self-belief – not to mention their recent record against Hibs – confidence should be high in Perth that they will do what was the utterly unthinkable a few weeks ago and complete this double.
The story of the semi-final?
One team didn’t take their golden chances and the other made them pay for it.
Lee Erwin and Collin Quaner won’t sleep tonight – both missed from no distance at all when it was easier to score.
Chris Kane, the hero of Ibrox who was unfairly relegated to a bit-part because of the big man with the beard and the gloves who assisted him, finished off a near post opportunity and three minutes later supersub Glenn Middleton scored with a superb free-kick.
What a goal from Glenn Middleton! 💥
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) May 9, 2021
The only glimpse of St Johnstone past was the nail-biting climax brought on by a late St Mirren goal but the defensive, bodies-on-the-line solidity that followed it was very much in keeping with St Johnstone present.
Craig Bryson signed a new one-year contract the day before the game and the veteran midfielder was heavily involved in Saints’ early attacks.
His first effort from 25 yards out on six minutes was comfortably dealt with by St Mirren keeper Jak Alnwick.
Moments later, after excellent work on the left from David Wotherspoon, he couldn’t keep a back post shot down.
It was a pretty even opening to the contest, with Richard Tait nearly getting on the end of a long St Mirren free-kick into the box.
The Buddies had a two for the price of one penalty shout on 18 minutes.
That the ball struck Jamie McCart’s hand in the box wasn’t in doubt but it came at him with no time to react and referee Willie Collum was content that his right arm was in a natural position.
Collum didn’t agree that McCart had kicked Kristian Dennis’s boot as he attempted to get his shot away either.
The spell of football after that incident was dominated by Davidson’s men.
Starting to pin their opponents back, they came close with shots from Shaun Rooney and Chris Kane.
And they should have taken the lead just after the half-hour mark.
Jake Doyle-Hayes spotted space behind Rooney and his long diagonal was volleyed first-time into the danger area by Dennis. Erwin timed his run off Liam Gordon’s shoulder perfectly but was denied by a wonder save from Zander Clark who made himself a wide obstacle to beat on the six-yard line.
As high-class as the stop was, it had to go down a missed opportunity.
Saints started the second half better than they ended the first but they were nearly the authors of their own downfall on 54 minutes – Rooney specifically.
Under no great pressure he tripped himself up on the edge of the box and as the right-back was dragging himself back up, Clark was making a fine save low to his left from the man who accepted his gift, Ilkay Durmus.
Wotherspoon was the player who looked likeliest to be the creative spark for the Betfred Cup winners and a trademark turn inside set-up the opportunity to go for the top corner with a left foot curler.
His effort didn’t have enough dip to find its target, however.
There haven’t been many players who have got the better of Rooney in a head-to-head since the turn of the year but Durmus was giving him all sorts of trouble.
He skipped past him on 63 minutes and delivered an exquisite ball into the six-yard box which was begging to be finished by substitute Quaner.
Instead, there was a mishit shot from point-blank range that brought back memories of Chris Iwelumo all those years ago for Scotland against Norway.
We can safely call it THE turning point as less than 10 minutes later the Perth side were a goal up.
A slick move opened up the St Mirren defence and Kane slid in at the near post to get on the end of Middleton’s cross and in front of Joe Shaughnessy to guide his angled shot past Alnwick.
Within three minutes 1-0 had become 2-0.
Middleton’s left foot 25-yard free-kick was sweetly struck but Alnwick’s footwork left a lot to be desired.
You wouldn’t say he redeemed himself when he produced a magnificent reflex save to keep out a Rooney header that had goal written over it but it did keep St Mirren in with a slight chance.
That slight chance would have become a good deal weightier had Quaner not missed the target with another sitter – this time an 81st minute header that soared over the bar.
It was closer than his shot but that was nothing to boast about.
Conor McCarthy was more clinical when he headed home a Jamie McGrath free-kick on 86 minutes and, with, St Mirren understandably throwing everybody forward, Eamonn Brophy almost scored a dramatic equaliser seconds later.
There were some more fraught moments to endure, particularly when Shaughnessy was launching long-throws into the box, but Saints stood firm.
Arguably the unlikeliest double in Scottish football history is within touching distance.