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Written in the stars? May would prefer to determine his own fate

STEVIE MAY treats talk of this great day of destiny being written in the stars as the product of weak minds.

Stevie May believes only St Johnstone have control over their destiny in their first-ever Scottish Cup final. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Stevie May believes only St Johnstone have control over their destiny in their first-ever Scottish Cup final. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

He believes that strong hearts will be the deciding factor if St Johnstone are to lift the first major trophy of their 130-year history this afternoon and propel his already-memorable season into some new, celestial realm.

Every time the 21-year-old has turned up at his McDiarmid Park workplace this week, he has been confronted with a poster at the front gate pointing out that the date of the William Hill Scottish Cup final corresponds perfectly with the "May 17" he wears on the back of his shirt.

Official, commemorative T-shirts heralding this grand alignment of the planets remain on sale until kick-off. May has gone as far as to model one in a promotional photoshoot and it seems fair to assume a sizeable percentage of the 15,000-plus Saints supporters inside Celtic Park will be squeezing into them this morning.

The campaign is building. Wild-eyed numerologists now roam Perthshire in their masses, muttering deeply-held beliefs about this being football's own version of the Da Vinci Code.

With his long, curly hair and varied collection of tattoos, May has the look of someone you may consider seeking out at the back of a fairground to decipher the hidden messages within the tea leaves or the crystal ball. Veering a little off-message, though, even the man himself has asked for calm.

Hard work has brought May to this point, preparing for the biggest day of his career in the colours of the club he has always supported. Hard work is what it will take to prevent a terrific campaign, garnished with 27 goals, from ending in desperate disappointment. Nothing more, nothing less and certainly not the theory, as pleasantly diverting as it is, that there is some divine form of mysticism at play.

"It's a nice little coincidence, but I'm not superstitious at all," he stated, in the most matter-of-fact manner. "I'd probably say superstitions are a mentally weak thing. Nothing is going to win us the game apart from ourselves and I wouldn't read too much into things like that.

"No-one even noticed it until after we had won the semi-final. I wish I was getting a cut of the merchandise, though. I've missed out massively. I should have made my own T-shirts and sold them. If someone had said to me come the start of the season that I'd be in a Scottish Cup final having scored 27 goals, I don't think I'd have been able to take them seriously. It's been a season of my dreams, but I'd exchange all that for winning the cup. The excitement's been built up more than normal and we know it's going to be a special day. I just hope it is us who come out on top."

May does not deny that the day has the air of something special, though. For St Johnstone supporters, it may well end with a lifetime of idle fantasies coming true in the moment that famous old trophy, bedecked in blue-and-white ribbons, is raised high.

For some of the players, the same can be said. May looks around his dressing-room and sees a number of men for whom this afternoon is likely to be a defining experience.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for so many," he stated. "There are guys in our team who are coming towards the end of their careers and haven't played in a Scottish Cup final. We know how much it means to everyone and how few chances you get at these opportunities. It's a massive occasion for Perth as a city. So many people have approached me, saying they've never seen this and the buzz around it. I can only imagine how that's going to blow up if we manage to win it."

May, born in the Fair City, was actually brought up in Fife. His parents lived in Newburgh, 10 miles away, and he attended Bell Baxter School in Cupar where football, truth be told, plays second fiddle to the oval-ball game.

"There weren't too many pals at school who were St Johnstone fans," recalled May. "It was mostly Celtic and Rangers. It was a rugby school as well, though, and I was the only person signed up to a football club. It was renowned for everyone playing rugby. I played it a few times and I was all right because I was fast, but that was as far as it went."

There is a singular ambition about May, though. A sense he was never destined to run with the crowd.

It is summed up when he is asked if there is someone, in particular, that he wants to win the Scottish Cup for. "Myself," he replied. "I've wanted to do well for years and years and to get my hands on that trophy would make it all worthwhile. Obviously, I'd be really happy for my parents, but I'd like to win it on a personal note. I'd always be able to look back on the day we won the Scottish Cup."

Key to that may be May's strike partner, Steven MacLean. He was out for four months this season with a knee complaint, but has just signed a new two-year contract and, with his technical ability and reading of the match, must be one of the more underrated footballers within our game.

"Anybody here and anybody who's played with him will tell you how good he is," said May. "His touch, hold-up play and the experience he brings is second to none. He's missed a lot when he isn't playing. It's good to have him back and I hope he can show up again as he did in the semi. If he's half as good as that, it will stand us in good stead."

So there we are. It's all about the players. Nothing about superstition. That means May will gladly be swapping his shirt after the final whistle with a gracious opponent should St Johnstone prevail, shouldn't it? "If we do win, I don't know if I'll hand the jersey over," he said. "I'd need to see how I felt."

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