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United may be spirited away

IT doesn't matter a jot to me who wins the Scottish Cup next Saturday.

Ryan Gauld is one of several talented individuals who may find his threat blunted by St Johnstone's collective strength					Photograph: SNS
Ryan Gauld is one of several talented individuals who may find his threat blunted by St Johnstone's collective strength Photograph: SNS

I was lucky enough to play for both clubs, indeed I experienced some of my happiest days at each of them. In their own ways, they both deserve success, but you could make an argument that St Johnstone deserve their turn, just because United have already had theirs. They won it in 2010 with Peter Houston at the helm.

And I do have a feeling it will go that way. Not necessarily because St Johnstone have the best players, but because they have a good collective, a really good spirit. There is no doubt for me that Dundee United have the better individual, technical players, a few big guns who could cause real damage. They have so much to look forward to in the future.

But it was proven again during the week against Aberdeen that they are suspect defensively. They have the odd solid defensive performance, but they don't have enough of them for me. So, while I don't fancy anyone strongly to win this, I just feel it could be St Johnstone's time.

There is no doubt that the Perth outfit is a well-run club. It was typical of the shrewd way that Geoff Brown operated that he made a profit from the six months I spent in Perth. While he paid for me out his own pocket and it was a gamble, he knew he was going to get a return on his money.

His son Steve probably took guidance from his dad so it doesn't surprise me that he has taken over and kept things running in the same manner. They always seem to pick the right managers - whether it is Owen Coyle, Derek McInnes, and Steve Lomas - and once again they have got the right people in there in the form of Tommy Wright and Callum Davidson.

While I loved my time at St Johnstone, the best period of my entire career came at United under Paul Sturrock. Sturrock and John Blackley made me into a Scotland player - I had been in a few Scotland squads whilst at Aberdeen but it wasn't until I went to Dundee United then Rangers that I established myself as the main striker. They didn't just teach me values about football, I learned about life. They knocked a bit out of me, taught me to keep myself in check now and again.

Later on Eddie Thompson took me back to the club and even as coach I had a great time there, though it didn't last long enough in my book. I love the club and feel at home there, I really do.

When the big day comes around this week, there has been a suggestion that Jackie McNamara might change things, but I've got a feeling he will revert to what he regards as his strongest team. There are maybe only three positions in his team which are up for grabs - Ryan Gauld or Ryan Dow in one of the advanced roles, John Souttar or Sean Dillon alongside Gavin Gunning at the back, and Mark Wilson or Keith Watson at right back.

Souttar has made wee mistakes, and still gets caught out with his basic defending for me, but he has to learn sometime. So I am going to say he will go with Souttar, and if he goes with him he might go with Wilson's experience alongside him. Gauld has tailed off, perhaps due to all the press he has had, but I still think he will get the nod.

As for Tommy Wright, where possible he will give the boys who got them to the final the opportunity. With United playing a similar 4-2-3-1 shape to the one Aberdeen use, he can stick with the 4-4-2 from that game, but he will need the full-backs up high and the midfield balanced to match up with Dundee United's five in there. Lee Croft missed the semi-final but has a chance because he is a potential matchwinner, while I wouldn't be surprised if St Johnstone win it from a set-piece because I don't think United defend well from set-plays.

The match takes place on May 17, Stevie May's shirt number, and he is the man United need to keep quiet. If they can do that, then with the quality in their team they have a great chance. If Nadir Ciftci in particular plays well, it is likely things will go in United's favour.

Ever since St Johnstone made it into the final, I have been thinking this is their year. The first major title in the club's 130-year history would be everything the Brown family, father and son, have ever dreamed of. They deserve it. So does Stephen Thompson. But he has had his turn. I don't know why St Johnstone are going to win it. But I just think they will.

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