For­mer Liv­ingston mid­fielder faces emo­tional day at Wem­b­ley in FA Cup semi-fi­nal

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A50-strong con­tin­gent of Ste­fan Scougall’s friends and fam­ily will form an ad hoc Scot­tish Sh­effield United sup­port­ers’ so­ci­ety at Wem­b­ley to­mor­row for the big­gest day in the for­mer Liv­ingston player’s pro­fes­sional life so far. But the player’s thoughts on FA Cup semi-fi­nal day will dwell in­stead upon one of his near­est and dear­est who sadly can­not be there.

The 21-year-old rarely lets a mo­ment of his ca­reer go by with­out a re­spect­ful nod to his el­der brother Alex, once a promis­ing player with Dun­fermline Ath­letic and East Fife, who was killed in a car crash at the age of 18 just days be­fore he was due to rep­re­sent the Bayview club in a cup fi­nal.

“That is def­i­nitely some­thing that drives me on,” said the diminu­tive Scot­land Un­der-21 mid­fielder. “He’s up there, look­ing down on what­ever I do, and I hope he is as proud as punch that I am play­ing at Wem­b­ley in an FA Cup semi-fi­nal.

“He was a good player too, who got knocked back by Dun­fermline but was mak­ing his way into the first team at East Fife when he passed away. It would be nice to do some­thing on Sun­day that would make him proud and all of my fam­ily proud too.

“We used to kick a ball about to­gether when we were younger – where I stay there’s a wee wall which we’d jump down, a grassy area where we’d play foot­ball. We used to call it down the wall. I’d join in with his friends. It was good for me to ex­pe­ri­ence that and it helped me a lot. I think he def­i­nitely had the abil­ity to go fur­ther in the game but we’ll never know how good he could have been.”

It would be in­ac­cu­rate to call the nar­ra­tive of Scougall’s progress a tall story, given that he stands just 5ft 7in tall in metal studs, but it is cer­tainly a sin­gu­lar one. As re­cently as Jan­uary, the player was grac­ing ram­shackle venues such as Cen­tral Park in Cow­den­beath and, hav­ing been let go by Hiber­nian ear­lier in his ca­reer os­ten­si­bly be­cause of his lack of inches, he was mix­ing part­time foot­ball at Dun­fermline with work­ing on the till at Sains­bury’s in Ed­in­burgh. Scougall swith­ered all the while about jack­ing it all in and ap­ply­ing to join his fa­ther in the roads depart­ment at Ed­in­burgh City Coun­cil.

Now all roads lead to Wem­b­ley and Scougall could be about to coin it in. “I don’t re­ally like to talk about that [what hap­pened at Hibs],” he said. “But it’s their loss and Sh­effield United’s gain. Once I got re­leased I de­cided I was go­ing to give foot­ball one more chance.

“I got taken on by Dun­fermline and took a job in Sains­bury’s. It gave me added mo­ti­va­tion to knuckle down and make the best of it. If that hadn’t worked out, my dad works on the roads for Ed­in­burgh Coun­cil and I was go­ing to ap­ply for a job along­side him. That was the plan.

“But I got my head down, I’ve got a good fam­ily be­hind me, and then my foot­ball ca­reer took off. It’s just amaz­ing how things work out.”

Sh­effield United’s un­likely route to the last four of the cup has taken them past Bar­clays Pre­mier League sides As­ton Villa and Ful­ham, not to men­tion the likes of Charl­ton Ath­letic and Not­ting­ham For­est, teams ranked higher in the English league lad­der.

There is no longer a Scot in the man­ager’s of­fice – Nigel Clough re­placed David Weir ear­lier in the sea­son when United were still deep in the rel­e­ga­tion mire – but the side’s Scot­tish con­tin­gent has swelled to six, adding Scougall and for­mer Queen of the South full-back Bob Har­ris to a mix which com­prised Stephen McGinn, Jamie Mur­phy, Ryan Flynn and Neill Collins al­ready.

Scougall is a Rangers sup­porter who grew up dream­ing of em­u­lat­ing his idol Barry Fer­gu­son, yet is grate­ful to the ad­vice he re­ceived from for­mer Celtic player John Collins. He en­cour­aged Scougall to de­velop his core strength to com­pen­sate for his lack of bulk and the mid­fielder has since made 11 starts since Jan­uary, scor­ing two goals in the process, and is likely to get the nod ahead of McGinn in cen­tral mid­field at Wem­b­ley.

“I never ex­pected to play as much when I first came down from Liv­ingston,” he said. “I’ve come in and hit the ground run­ning but even then I couldn’t imag­ine run­ning out at Wem­b­ley in the first 12 weeks.”

Pic­ture: Getty

LOFTY COM­PANY: Ste­fan Scougall is part of a Sh­effield United side that beat Ful­ham to reach Wem­b­ley.

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