Supersub Glenn Middleton has proved to be St Johnstone’s man for the big occasion.
The on-loan Rangers winger came off the bench to secure the Perth club top six football at St Mirren’s expense and now he has helped knock them out of the Scottish Cup with a goal and an assist – and, more importantly, take his own team to the brink of a domestic double.
Middleton set-up Chris Kane for the opening goal of a tense Hampden Park semi-final before his 25-yard free-kick gave Saints the breathing space they would end up needing.
Like the team as a whole, Middleton has found his rhythm at just the right stage of the season.
And he is writing his name into club history.
Get this on repeat ♻️#SJFCLive
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) May 9, 2021
“I just had to be as positive as I could and make as much of an impact as I could,” he said.
“Whenever I got the ball I just had to make something happen. It was as simple as that really.
“You just have to back yourself all the time.
“It’s easy to do it when you are winning 3-0 or 4-0 or whatever and anyone can do that.
“But you have to have the confidence and that comes from doing the right things every day.
“That’s something that’s big at the club every day when you’re in.
“The maximum standards are asked of you every day and that’s what puts us in such good stead.”
The former Scotland under-21 international added: “I am really enjoying scoring the goals.
“I’ve missed it. There is no other feeling better than working hard in the week then getting a game at the weekend and scoring the winner.
“Long may it continue.
“The first goal for Chris was just a case of ‘one v one’ and that’s what I love.
“Getting in that situation and just being as positive as I could be in that moment. It’s just lifting my head and putting it across for Kano.
“It was a great finish. I think he has made that look quite easy – but it’s very easy to put it over as a few other lads did in the game.
“Obviously the free-kick is something I have practiced, so it was great for that to come off.”
Middleton, who was signed at the end of January, was a St Johnstone player when the Betfred Cup was won but an early-round appearance for Rangers prevented him from being in the thick of the action the last time they were at Hampden.
If Saints can follow-up one trophy win with another, he will truly feel part of the McDiarmid Park cup story this time around.
“It was circumstances out with my own hands,” he reflected. “I was cup-tied and couldn’t play.
“But being in the back seat gave me the drive to really be a part of something – and winning something.
“I saw what it meant to all the lads and it was obviously a massive day for everyone at the club.
“I’m just desperate to be part of something like that so hopefully we can keep doing the right things.”
You don’t need to be steeped in the A to Z of St Johnstone to know that beating Hibs in the Scottish Cup final would be the stuff no supporter or player would ever have dared dream about when this season got underway – or even a few weeks ago for that matter.
“It would be massive,” said Middleton.
“That’s what everyone is sort of building up for now.
“I think, for the first time, there was maybe a wee bit of pressure on us today.
“But I think everyone has handled that perfectly.
“We had a game plan from the start and we carried it out as well as we could.
“It’s a massive shame for the fans that they can’t be here.
“It’s not the same without them but I’m sure everyone was back home in their armchairs jumping up and down where we won.
“I hope we’ve made them all proud.”
A coronavirus crisis presented an unwelcome challenge in the build-up to the semi-final and impacted manager Callum Davidson’s game-day options.
It provided more motivational fuel, though.
“When it all happened everyone knew to pull together,” said Middleton. “It was as simple as that.
“We have a very talented squad and everyone knows their job and how to stick to it. I think that was shown today.
“No matter the circumstances we all stick together to get a result.”
“For me it’s a matter of taking things day in and day out,” he said.
“I am learning as much as I can in training. Then when it comes to the games I’m just trying to get minutes. Whether it’s five, 10 or 90 it’s up to me to make the most of it and to show everyone what I’m capable of on the pitch.
“I still have two years left at Rangers so I’ll just take things one day at a time. I can’t fail to learn from a loan deal like this.
“Even in the loans which haven’t gone to plan I’ve learned so much. This one of going a lot more positively.”
That, Glenn, is quite the understatement.