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May, the force, is with them

IT IS all mapped out, script written, legendary status secured.

Stevie May, on advice from more experienced team-mates, decided to stay at St Johnstone in January to try to win a trophy in Perth. Picture: SNS
Stevie May, on advice from more experienced team-mates, decided to stay at St Johnstone in January to try to win a trophy in Perth. Picture: SNS

How pleased young Stevie May will be to know that, following a couple of transfer windows in which he has had to deal with offers, rumours and uncertainty surrounding his future, his almost inevitable departure from St Johnstone will be immortalised by jubilant team-mates raising him high on to the specially decorated combine harvester lined up to show off the William Hill Scottish Cup around Perth.

Dave Mackay, who will captain the club when they square off against Dundee United at Celtic Park in next month's final, suspects the 21-year-old forward's match-winning heroics in seeing off Aberdeen at the last-four stage on Sunday merely heighten the likelihood of him moving on this summer from the team he has supported since childhood.

The rest is perhaps a little less certain, but Mackay possesses clear visions of May scoring the goal that guarantees the Perth side the first major trophy of their 130 years and him sailing off into the sunset with the heartiest wishes of friends and colleagues ringing in his ears and his place as a bona-fide local hero nailed down good and proper.

"I think he'll be away," confessed the well-travelled full-back. "I think the club realises that maybe they'll have to cash in on him as well.

"If they get an offer that they think is reasonable, I have no doubt that he will move on. He's done an incredible job for us this season with 25 goals, so nobody would begrudge him that move.

"I just hope he'll score the Scottish Cup winner for the club and then move on with the best wishes of everybody. Touch wood that happens. He's had an incredible season and no-one in their wildest dreams would have said he'd have hit the ground running like his after coming back from Hamilton on loan at the start of the campaign."

Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, concedes there were private discussions held to convince May to stay at the club as a bid from Peterborough United was turned down in January amid reported interest from the likes of Aberdeen, Preston North End, Queens Park Rangers and Rotherham United.

The hirsute attacker sought counsel from his experienced team-mates and held on to the dream there may just be a chance of winning silverware with his hometown team. That is now just 90 minutes away from becoming reality and Wright is delighted that the striker's brace against Derek McInnes' side at Ibrox has delivered a very special day in the sun for all connected with the club.

"It's payback for the chairman [Steve Brown] and his dad Geoff as they have put a lot into the club over the past 30 years," said Wright.

"We're delighted for them, although Stevie was never going in January. I know there were bids in for him and no-one believed me, but he didn't want to leave.

"It would have taken an unbelievable bid, but it didn't come on to the table. Stevie wanted to stay. "He's a Perth boy and wants to win something with the club, so it was not a big issue. We're aware he will leave at sometime, but he might sign a new contract and stay another season, so we'll look at it.

"The decision to stay involved three parties: Stevie and his family, the club and some of the senior players. He spoke to people and took advice, but everyone felt it was best that he stayed.

"There were two good offers in for him. They were short of our valuation perhaps and that's why they were not accepted, but I don't think Stevie would have gone to that level even if they had been."

May was given his fair share of abuse by the Aberdeen support during Sunday's match, but Wright believes he has always relished the buzz of being targeted by opposition fans. "I watched him play for Hamilton at Raith one day," recalled the Northern Irishman.

"He had bright yellow boots on and his hair in a ponytail. He got stick, but I think he thrives on it."

Mackay believes Sunday will be the last time Aberdeen's followers single May out for special attention following a display that summed up the striker's tenacity and refusal to let his head drop.

"We hadn't scored at all against Aberdeen this season and, obviously, their fans were singing about Stevie, but they certainly know who he is now," he said. "He's like every good goalscorer. It doesn't matter if he misses 10 chances. He'll still keep coming back and shooting from everywhere.

"It's not arrogance. Just confidence in his own ability. He's a strong lad with a great work ethic, but I think we have that all over our team. It's what we build from.

"We have players who just work their socks off and that's why we overran Aberdeen a little in the second half. Even if it had gone to extra-time, I thought we looked the fitter side."

Mackay believes St Johnstone laid a few ghosts to rest at Ibrox by ending a nightmarish run that had brought seven semi-final defeats in the previous 15 years.

"In other semi-finals, we let ourselves down badly," he admitted. "Against Motherwell in the Scottish Cup a few years ago, we lost 3-0 and the game was over within 10 or 15 minutes.

"In the 4-0 loss to Aberdeen in the League Cup earlier in the season, we contributed to three of their goals and shot ourselves in the foot.

"It is great to get to a final, but nobody wants a runners-up medal. I've already got one of them from the 2003 final when Dundee lost to Rangers and I don't want two.

"It's hard enough losing a semi-final, but losing a final is heartbreaking. In the five years I've been at St Johnstone, this is the biggest high we've had, so we just have to make sure that we go on and win the cup now."

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