JOHN STEWART has already left a mark on the Scottish Cup.
A member of the Queen of the South side that reached the final three years ago, the striker was responsible for the Dumfries club being there. Having punctuated his loan move from Falkirk with a late goal against Morton in an earlier round, Stewart played a more cogent role in the semi-final with Aberdeen, writes Chris Tait.
His arrival following an injury to Stephen Dobbie caused a moment of angst for Queens. It needn’t have done. Stewart played a cameo role in setting up Paul Burns for his side’s second goal, then took centre stage when he drilled a volley past Derek Soutar for their fourth. It was a moment the first-division club will always remember, and a moment which Stewart will never forget.
He would not repeat the trick in the final – Stewart played the last 14 minutes in a 3-2 defeat by Rangers – but that did little to sour the occasion. He had already been suitably compensated, anyway. His goal against Aberdeen prompted a bow towards the Queens fans, imitating Rangers striker Jean-Claude Darcheville’s celebration on the odd occasion the Frenchman scored for the Ibrox side.
“I was sharing a room with Stephen Dobbie the night before and we had a bet on so I won £20 for it, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it,” said Stewart. “I know it wasn’t exactly a wonder goal but it was still the winner in a semi-final. It was against my old club which made it a bit more special as well, and overall it was a good experience to play in a game that size. To play in the national stadium and score the winner was so special.
“It was probably the highlight of my career to play in the Scottish Cup final against Rangers. If you had asked me to name any club I have ever played with, which one I would play in a Scottish Cup final with, you would never have said Queen of the South. We didn’t have the best team but we had a great team spirit and I think that’s what gave us the cup run we had.”
Stewart’s latest flirtation with the competition was a little brusquer. The striker came on at half-time for Bo’ness United but was unable to prevent the junior side from going down 3-0 to Cowdenbeath on Saturday.
It has been a somewhat itinerant descent into junior football, with brief stops at Ross County, Peterhead and Clyde following his departure from Palmerston. Stewart struggled for form amid such upheaval but he appears to have found contentment with Bo’ness. An accumulation of 10 goals in nine matches is an impressive return.
“Don’t get me wrong, you do come up against some guys who just want to kick you all over the place but there are definitely teams in the league, like ourselves, who want to play football,” said Stewart. “There are teams in the league who can play.”
Stewart, though, remains cautious about his future. Moving from the junior leagues has not proven to be an unattainable ambition for those wishing to establish careers in the senior set-up in recent seasons but the 26-year-old is not hankering for a return. His scoring record means Stewart is enjoying his football, while a career with a media company has offered financial security.
“I think maybe my time has past but you never know if I can keep scoring at junior level,” he said. “I’d like to get back one day but I’ve not set my heart on it. I’m working for Virgin Media and playing part-time football and I’m happy with that just now.”