Scottish Daily Mail



FOR Jim Goodwin, it’s not enough to be in charge of the nearly men. He’s had his fill of close calls and agonising disappoint­ments

At Hampden tomorrow, the St Mirren manager wants his side to crown a season of progress by reaching out and grabbing a place in the Scottish Cup final. This opportunit­y can’t be allowed to slip from their grasp.

The Paisley side never really got going when they lost to Livingston in the last four of the Betfred Cup in January.

A famous victory over Rangers in the previous round ultimately didn’t count for much.

An even greater source of frustratio­n followed in March when Saints missed out on a place in the Premiershi­p top six — to tomorrow’s opponents, St Johnstone — in the closing few minutes of pre-split action.

In Goodwin’s eyes, it is now time to prove they can get over the line.

‘I suppose it has been a relatively successful season up to now,’ he reflected. ‘The fact we missed out on the top six by two goals is still heartbreak­ing and still really annoys me.

‘It was in our own hands and we should have got the job done but we didn’t.

‘I don’t want us to be that nearly team. We nearly beat Livingston in the semi-final of the League Cup. We nearly got top six.

‘I don’t want this to be another one of those nearly moments. I want us to make sure we go and do whatever it takes on Sunday to get the job done.

‘It’s just about finding a way to win the game, simple as that.’

Goodwin was emphatic when asked if that was a message he would relay directly to his players.

‘Absolutely,’ he continued. ‘We’ve spoken about it already.

‘We want to be recognised as winners. We want to be recognised as a successful team and a successful club. Not a team that gets to big occasions and chokes.

‘We want to be able to go to Hampden on Sunday and have a little bit of swagger about us, a little bit of confidence and belief that we belong in this situation, and just give a far better reflection of the allround team than what we did against Livingston in the League Cup semi-final.

‘I think the more often you get to these types of games, the better the group handles the situation.

‘I don’t think we handled the occasion well enough last time round. This time, the guys have got that experience to draw on and hopefully that will show on Sunday.

‘I believe we are going into this game with a far stronger and healthier squad. I think Jake Doyle-Hayes was suspended for the Livingston game and he’s been a big player for us.

‘We are definitely going in with far better options. Hopefully that will come to fruition at the weekend.’

In contrast, St Johnstone will be without four players due to Covid issues and have signed goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal on an emergency loan from Hearts. Zlamal had a similar spell at St Mirren earlier this season when the virus wrought havoc on Goodwin’s squad.

The Paisley manager expects no less of a test due to the unnamed absences but stresses his players must be positive.

‘I think we could have been a little more on the front foot against Livingston,’ admitted Goodwin (below).

‘Maybe nerves played a part in the whole group.

‘This time round, I think it will be different. The guys will remember that feeling of disappoint­ment and regret after the game.

‘We are going to go there on Sunday and have a great go and see what the final outcome is.

‘It’s going to be extremely tough, as I keep saying. Callum Davidson, for me, is up there for manager of the year. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

‘I’m delighted he’s in the running for it because top six with St Johnstone, when you think back to the start of the season and being rock-bottom, winning the League Cup and now giving themselves an opportunit­y to go and win the Scottish Cup, it’s an incredible season for him and that group of players.

‘They’ve got a real identity. You know exactly what you’re going to get, it doesn’t matter what starting XI they go with on Sunday. You know it’ll be a battle.

‘They’ve got the experience of already being there, winning a semi-final and then winning a cup.

‘We’d love to have that experience ourselves this year.’

Just as St Mirren did in the League Cup, St Johnstone defeated Premiershi­p champions Rangers to reach the Scottish Cup last four.

‘I think every other manager left in the competitio­n was cheering on St Johnstone that night because we all know how good a team Rangers are and how difficult of a nut they are to crack,’ added Goodwin.

‘St Johnstone did great to stay in the game and had a couple of really good counter attacks, forced Allan McGregor to come up with some big saves.

‘The manner in which they won it shows the type of character that’s within the St Johnstone group.

‘Callum Davidson will be saying to his players exactly what I said to mine last time around when we beat them.

‘There’s no point in beating Rangers if you don’t go on and win the cup. Hopefully we can cause a slight upset ourselves this weekend and give the best account of ourselves.’

We missed out on top six by two goals. It still annoys me

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