BRAD McKAY sat in the Hampden stands last May watching Hearts lift the Scottish Cup and allowed himself to dream. Maybe, just maybe, that could be him in a few years’ time.
The youngster had no idea then that he may well get his wish just ten months later.
The 19-year-old made his first-team debut last weekend in the white-hot atmosphere of an Edinburgh derby and could top even that experience if he is selected to face St Mirren on Sunday.
Hearts take on Danny Lennon’s Saints side in the final of the Scottish Communities League Cup at Hampden and, with first-choice right-back Fraser Mullen ruled out through injury, McKay’s second game in a maroon jersey could also see him pick up his first piece of silverware.
Not a bad start for this lifelong Hearts supporter who is still pinching himself at the events of the past few weeks.
McKay said: “I went to the Scottish Cup final last season and watched the game from the stands – that was as close as I go to the pitch.
“Just to be there and see Hearts beat Hibs to lift the trophy was amazing and I have to admit that I had a tear in my eye at the end of the game.
“Seeing some of the young player in the side that day, I remember saying to myself that could maybe be me in four or five years’ time.
“Obviously, there would be something wrong with me if I wasn’t thinking about playing in a final at some point and now I just might get a chance for that to happen less than a year later.
“There are a lot of good players at the club, though, and the manager has got options, but, if it was to happen, it would be something else, it would be incredible. It has been a good week for me, so I am just taking it one day at a time and waiting to see what comes.”
McKay won’t be short of supporters if he is selected by Gary Locke on Sunday.
“All of my family are going to the game – and they would have been even if there was no chance of me being involved.
“I’ve got a huge family of three sisters and two brothers and then all of my aunts and uncles. One side of my family are Hibs fans, but they’re all going to be supporting me. Some of them were joking with me that they could hardly get the words out when it came to saying ‘well done’ to a Hearts player!
“A lot of them were at the derby and they were clapping me from the Hibs end when I came on!
“Just before the derby I was watching Hearts DVDs from 2006 when we won the Scottish Cup.
“It would be a dream come true, to say the least, to play in at Hampden in a final for the club that I love. Just unbelievable.”
McKay has no doubt spent much of this last week trying to keep his feet on the ground and not build up his hopes of playing in the final. However, the confirmation that young right-back Mullen fractured his ankle in the Edinburgh derby last weekend means that young McKay could yet again find himself thrown in at the deep end.
He did enough to impress in just under an hour against Pat Fenlon’s men, although he admits he feels for Mullen and other injured stars such as Callum Paterson who have contributed so much this season.
He continued: “You’ve just got to get on with it and you can’t afford to get carried away.
“I felt that I didn’t too much wrong on Sunday and you just never know what will happen.
“Fraser is a good lad and it is a really terrible time for him because he had been doing really well for the first team.
“It’s the same for Callum Paterson, who has come into the team and really played a massive part for us over the season.
“He scored one of the goals that got us to this cup final so it’s a real shame for him that he can’t be involved. Dylan McGowan is another one who has been struggling with injury and it is a difficult one for everyone to take because the young boys have made up a big percentage of the side. If I do get picked for the final or I am involved in any way and I get the chance to come in then I will come in and do my job as best as I can. It would be a huge achievement for me.” McKay conceded that he hadn’t been expecting his first appearance to come so quickly, or in such a huge match, but he was more than ready when Gary Locke gave him the nod just before half-time at Easter Road last weekend.
He continued: “It went well. I wasn’t expecting it, but you have got to be ready in football. It was a chance to show what I am made of and hopefully I did that.
“I didn’t try to do anything difficult – I just kept it simple and tried to do my best.
“I went to my bed on Saturday night and it felt like I woke up on Monday morning and it had all been a dream.
“If someone had told me that I was going to be playing in my first Edinburgh derby I would probably just have laughed at them.
“It was incredible – a dream come true for me. I have been a Hearts fan since I was a young boy.
“I didn’t really know what to expect because I have been playing in Under-20 games this season, so it was kind of like being thrown in at the deep end.
“As an experience it was incredible. The older boys kept me right and were always by my side making sure that I was okay, Andy Webster and Ryan Stevenson, guys like that were just brilliant with me.
“It was loud, you couldn’t hear yourself at some points, and I enjoyed it so much.
“All of my family were phoning me and texting me because they are just about as excited as me – and my Grandma was saying that she was so proud of me.
“Everyone was saying that it was unbelievable to see me on the telly and playing for Hearts in a derby.
“My parents took me to the Hearts games when I was younger so it is amazing for them and for me to be now playing for the team that we have all supported for all of our lives.”
Despite relatively poor league form this season, Sunday’s final will be Hearts’ second in the space of just ten months and they have achieved that feat with a youthful squad of players.
And McKay believes there could be even more to come from the rising stars if they are shown some patience by the club’s supporters and management.
“The young boys have done absolutely amazing this year,” he said.
“The squad, as a whole, has become a lot closer this season and the older boys have really helped the younger ones to feel part of everything.
“Everyone is a lot tighter and it has to be that way, I guess, for the young boys to try to mould into the squad. The fans have also been great with the younger guys coming through because I think they understand and they have shown a lot of patience. I think there is a lot more to come from the young boys in this squad. I think that we can achieve things if everyone gives us a bit of time.
“It’s not been the best of seasons. I think everyone accepts that, but, if we were to win the cup, it would be a good consolation for us and hopefully we can build on that next season.”