Bell on road to redemp­tion as United liv­ing cup fi­nal dream

The Herald - Herald Sport - - IRN-BRU CUP FINAL -

CAMMY BELL can now speak to the restora­tive pow­ers of Irn-Bru. At a ground where he once en­dured “the low­est point of my ca­reer” and in a tour­na­ment that had pre­vi­ously de­liv­ered only dis­ap­point­ment and frus­tra­tion, the goal­keeper fi­nally found con­tent­ment on Satur­day as Dundee United de­feated St Mir­ren to lift the Irn-Bru Cup.

He and his team-mates may have had cause to reach for the spon­sor’s prod­uct yes­ter­day morn­ing to help soothe the post-party hang­overs, although to­mor­row’s vi­tal league match against Ayr United may have curbed some of those cel­e­bra­tions.

For Bell, this vic­tory – de­liv­ered by Tony An­dreu and Thomas Mikkelsen goals ei­ther side of a Rory Loy strike for St Mir­ren – served as a form of redemp­tion. The Chal­lenge Cup, in two of its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tions, had pre­vi­ously not been kind to the 30-year-old. He was in goal when Rangers lost in the fi­nal to Raith Rovers in 2014 at Easter Road, and only an un­used sub­sti­tute when the Ibrox side fi­nally lifted the tro­phy by beat­ing Peter­head last year. This, then, felt like the first win­ner’s medal in this com­pe­ti­tion that he truly mer­ited.

“It’s third time lucky for me in this fi­nal,” he said. “Last year I was on the bench with Rangers but, to be hon­est, I kind of dis­miss it be­cause I didn’t play a part in them win­ning it. It was tough not to play a part last year. This year is dif­fer­ent and it has been great to play more.

“I’m de­lighted to win it this year be­cause the Raith Rovers game was a re­ally dis­ap­point­ing one for me and for Rangers. It was a tough one to take at the time. Through­out my ca­reer I have had a lot of highs and a lot of lows but you have to learn from ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence, be it good or bad. You have to al­ways en­joy the highs when you come along be­cause there is al­ways some­one wait­ing to kick you back done to earth.”

It was achieved at a ground that pre­vi­ously only held bad mem­o­ries for Bell. Fir Park was where Rangers’ failure to achieve pro­mo­tion out of the Cham­pi­onship at the first at­tempt was fi­nally sealed, Mother­well win­ning the sec­ond leg of their play-off 3-0 to com­plete a 6-1 ag­gre­gate vic­tory.

Bell’s un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to punch clear a loop­ing, de­flected Marvin John­ston shot at Mother­well’s open­ing goal re­mains one of the im­ages of that match and of Rangers’ sea­son as a whole. Bell was hap­pier to have helped cre­ate a more pos­i­tive mem­ory.

“The low­est point in my ca­reer was my last game at Fir Park in the play-off fi­nal against Mother­well,” he re­called. “It was such a dif­fi­cult day for me. I’m a se­nior player and I take the re­spon­si­bil­ity on my shoul­ders. I know that day I made a mas­sive mis­take and I got a lot of crit­i­cism for it. It was up to me to try to move on from that and learn from it. And I have done.

“I think it has made me a stronger char­ac­ter as well. The move to Dundee United has been bril­liant for me. The man­ager has been fan­tas­tic with me and he has even made me cap­tain. I feel like I owe the gaffer a lot and this one was my way of say­ing thanks to him.”

As United cel­e­brated in front of their fans, the St Mir­ren play­ers were left won­der­ing what might have been had they con­verted more than just one of the many first-half chances they cre­ated.

News later in the day that rel­e­ga­tion ri­vals Ayr had picked up three points would have felt like ad­di­tional salt be­ing poured into those gap­ing wounds, but any de­spon­dency was di­luted by the sense of op­ti­mism that the Pais­ley side can still beat the drop into League One. The loom­ing home games against Ayr and Dum­bar­ton al­ready have the po­ten­tial to be hugely sig­nif­i­cant in that quest.

“This was a one-off game,” said de­fender Gary MacKen­zie. “We’d liked to have won it but next week is mas­sive and so is the one af­ter that. They are all mas­sive un­til we get our­selves to where we want to be.

“We can’t dwell on this or feel too dis­ap­pointed. We need to dust our­selves down and keep per­form­ing the way we have done and I am sure we will be al­right. We’ve shown the char­ac­ter in the last few months.

“The gaffer said to us af­ter the game it was hu­man na­ture to feel dis­ap­point­ment. But we can’t change it and we have to take the pos­i­tives from the day.

“We’ve got to a fi­nal and we’ve com­peted with a team that’s fight­ing at the top end of the ta­ble. I think ev­ery­one would agree there wasn’t much be­tween the teams. So we need to re­main pos­i­tive. If we keep putting in the ef­fort and per­for­mances we will be al­right.”

Pic­tures: SNS

CAM BE­FORE THE STORM: Dundee United cap­tain Cammy Bell leads the cel­e­bra­tions at Fir Park as the Tan­nadice side sealed the Irn-Bru Cup.

SIL­VER SER­VICE: Ray McKin­non holds the Irn-Bru Cup

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