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Story of the cup is no tall tale

A 50-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.

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

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 part-time 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."

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