F ARID EL ALAGUI has been inflicting such misery on the goalkeeping fraternity this season that it seems rather contrary to reveal that he used to be one himself.

It is a little-known fact that up until his mid-teens, Falkirk's prolific French striker was a self-styled guardien de but as he kicked about with his pals in the Bordeaux area.

A somewhat accidental conversion in the French amateur ranks laid the groundwork for the player's superb 22 goals in 27 first-team starts this season, but El Alagui clearly still also fancies himself as a credible rival to Michael McGovern as Falkirk's first-choice custodian. As the days count down to Sunday's Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final against Celtic, the Frenchman of Moroccan descent joked that he could yet be persuaded to take a page out of Artur Boruc's book and perform at both ends should the match reach a penalty shoot-out.

"I used to be a goalkeeper when I was about 14," El Alagui said. "Football was just about pleasure. I never even thought about making it professional. But one day my manager saw me playing in a friendly and said I shouldn't be a goalkeeper, I had to play as a striker. We didn't have enough players so he told me to play up front. I said okay and after just one game he thought I was good enough to stay there.

"I've actually had to go back in goals twice since deciding to stay as a striker. All the players said I shouldn't go back in because I had to score the goals but I told them not to worry, and I was able to save a lot of balls as well. If I was the keeper on Sunday we would win, definitely."

He may be the most unlikely French goalkeeper this side of Albert Camus, but El Alagui remains the biggest threat to Celtic's hopes of a smooth passage to the final. Of all the teams Falkirk have played on league or cup duty this term – they have a Ramsdens Cup final to look forward to and are still in the William Hill Scottish Cup – the only defence the 26-year-old has failed to breach is that of Brechin City. "I'm not playing alone on a Saturday," he said. "You need to give credit to everyone else because all they work so hard for the team."

Just perhaps El Alagui has greater powers to thank than his team-mates. The player found a pound coin on the turf as he warmed up for a pre-season bounce game and it became his lucky charm, dutifully taken to every game by a member of the Falkirk coaching staff and given a kiss as part of a ritual celebration after every one of his goals. "I will be taking my lucky pound to Hampden," he said. "It goes everywhere with me so why not."

But then El Alagui's Falkirk career led a charmed life just to get started in the first place. The player – brought to Scotland by Pressley's old Hearts pal Stefano Salvatore – was infamously late for his trial match. He blames the incident on some language difficulties and an errant taxi driver, but genuinely feels some kind of destiny has drawn him to Falkirk. "It wasn't the best start," El Alagui said. "When the agent called me on the Sunday morning there was no organisation and there was a problem before the first game because I got lost in Stirling. First I had a problem trying to get money from the bank because my English wasn't very good, then a taxi driver sent me to the wrong side of town. But I speak about destiny a lot. Sometimes you meet people who help make things happen. Amazingly, it all worked out."

Pressley resisted the temptation to jettison the player there and then and has reaped the benefits, even if he is almost certain to move on when his contract expires this summer. "Why did I decide to keep him after he was late to his trial?" the Falkirk manager asked. "Just his reaction and his apology. I could see he was a good character. He's such a good influence, he's integrated into the group and the players love him. Sunday's a huge stage for him."

Crawley Town have been among the first to show their hand in the pursuit of the player, although most top clubs in Scotland are likely to be interested come the summer. El Alagui craves the chance to gain international recognition with Morrocco, but knows he has unfinished business in Falkirk. "In my mind it will not be my last game," El Alagui said of the semi-final. "Honestly, I want to finish my work here."