At 21, Max Kucheriavyi’s six-year journey from Ukraine to Scotland has tested his resolve to the maximum.
The St Johnstone youngster was only 16 when he left his family in Kyiv to go on regular 3,000 mile round trips to Edinburgh in hope of a deal at Hearts.
The departure of Craig Levein from Hearts – who spotted him while at the 2018 Champions League Final in Kiev with Brechin chairman – left him out in the cold.
Then Covid-19 struck and left Max in limbo again and unable to sign a professional deal as he was under 18.
Alone in Scotland and still fully getting to grips with English, Kucheriavyi was helped into St Johnstone by Levein and Mackie.
Not once, though, did he give up on his dream of making it.
And, after loan spells at Brechin City, Kelty Hearts and Falkirk, Kucheriavyi is making the breakthrough at St Johnstone.
“The thing I admire most about Max is how stoic he is,” ex-Dundee Untied and Scotland boss Levein told Courier Sport.
“Nothing fazes him. And I mean nothing.
“He has been through an awful lot to get to where he is now.
“The long journeys between his home and Scotland, being isolated and without a deal due to Covid and me getting the bullet from Hearts. They all had an impact.
“He’s had a lot thrown at him from an early age.
“A lot of people would have downed tools in Max’s situation during Covid.
“Some would have taken the first chance go home, especially at his age.
“Then the troubles in Ukraine started and Max couldn’t go home to see his family.
“I can only begin to imagine how difficult it has been for him.
“He has been on his own in a foreign country while all of this has gone on.
“But you’d never tell by speaking to him. Max just gets on with it and has shown incredible mental toughness.
“That can only stand him in good stead. He’s 21 now and has already shown he can deal with anything life throws him off the pitch.
“He’s a bright boy, who speaks perfect English and has really settled in Scotland.
“I hope he gets the chance to show what he can do on the pitch.”
Max Kucheriavyi was ‘built in Brechin’
Kucheriavyi netted twice in Saints 2-2 draw with Dundee before the international break.
He is in line for another chance as the McDiarmid Park men host Rangers on Saturday.
And Levein hopes his one-time protege can make his mark in Perth after being built in Brechin.
With nine goals and 10 assists from 23 games at Brechin, Max caught the eye of several scouts.
“I don’t think St Johnstone have another player like Max,” added Levein, who works as a club advisor at Brechin.
“He does his work, rolls his sleeves up, creates and scores goals.
“I don’t think we should pigeon hole him into one position but anyone who has ever seen Max in training will tell you about his incredible technique.
“We were very lucky to get Max at Brechin.
“Because of Covid, he hadn’t been able to play games and there was no reference point for clubs to take him on loan.
“We knew when we got him at Brechin that he could play several levels above the Highland League.
“But he was brilliant at Brechin and we really looked after him.
“The fans and everyone at the club embraced Max. We could see what a talent he is.
“He then left us to go on to score a goal that won Kelty the league.
“I’m not at all surprised to see him forcing his way into the plans at St Johnstone.
“Max is an incredible character and quality football player who will go far if he’s given a proper run of games.”