David Wotherspoon left Hibs a year ago after two successive Scottish Cup final snubs. He held talks with Hearts about crossing the Edinburgh divide, but eventually joined boyhood heroes St Johnstone.
That decision was vindicated amongst ticker tape, tears and the trophy itself at Celtic Park on Saturday.
Wotherspoon’s distress at being left out of the Hibs squad for the 2012 and 2013 Scottish Cup finals led to him leaving Easter Road for a fresh start. Hearts was a possible destination until they entered administration last June. That pushed the midfielder towards St Johnstone, and ultimately to success in a tournament which had brought him nothing but trauma.
He perhaps wouldn’t have expected to exorcise his Scottish Cup final ghosts at the first time of asking with the club he supported as a child. St Johnstone had existed for 130 years without a major trophy win prior to their weekend 2-0 win over Dundee United, which came courtesy of goals from Steven Anderson and Steven MacLean.
Celebrating with partner Sophie and nine-month-old daughter Mia on the pitch at Parkhead, the 24-year-old was entitled to bask in a good deal of relief. “It didn’t sink in straight away, winning the Scottish Cup with my home town team,” he said. “I saw my cousins in the stand, my mum and dad, my missus and the wee one on the pitch. It was so emotional. It is what dreams are made of and it is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
“It was such a massive turnaround for me this season going from sitting in the stand to winning the Scottish Cup. You couldn’t have written it.”
Wotherspoon recalled his emotions at being left out of two cup final squads by former Hibs manager Pat Fenlon. “Anger, despair and everything rolled into one. You work the whole season to this moment and when you don’t get in, it is just heart-breaking.
“These are the things though which make you who you are and you have got to put them to bed and get on with your life. I feel I’ve done that this season by hitting back and it is a great feat for us, the boys and everyone involved at the club.
“I was massively disappointed but it didn’t take me long to get over it because I made a fresh start by coming to St Johnstone. That is what got me through it and everyone at the club has been tremendous and the manager has been top-class with me all season. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Before that fresh start, Wotherspoon spoke with Hearts officials about an instant switch from Easter Road to Tynecastle. “There was interest from Hearts and it came about rather quickly,” he explained. “Hibs said they wanted to keep me, but I felt like my time was up and I had to move on to further my career.
“I felt like I was just going through the motions there and St Johnstone came calling. Alistair Stevenson [former Hibs head of youth, now at McDiarmid Park] got on the phone to me and asked me if I was interested and I told him to put my name forward and see what they say. They came calling and we got everything sorted quickly. Hearts went into administration and I knew straight away that was off the table, so St Johnstone were the main candidates.”
After the difficulties of the last two years, Wotherspoon was determined to enjoy his weekend of cup final celebrations. Manager Tommy Wright had settled any pre-match nerves about his inclusion and set the tone for a fine St Johnstone performance in which the player assisted with the second goal.
“I read some of the manger’s press conferences where he said I wouldn’t be left out the squad, which was great. To be starting was even greater for me and to get an assist [for Anderson’s goal] just made my day. I am delighted. I couldn’t wait to get back to the stadium to celebrate.
“This is the positive. We have been working hard for a day like this. You have to make the most of these days when they come round. Some of the boys are coming to the end of their careers and we wanted to make this one count. I am lucky the final has come round three times although I wasn’t involved in two of them. This one counts and to be a winner is what I play football for.
“It was unbelievable. I didn’t get to celebrate straight away due to getting picked for a drugs test, but I got on the bus and the party started. I was stuck in the room for about an hour doing the drugs test and once I was out, everyone was gone. As soon as I walked down the tunnel, I was selected for the test along with Midge [Chris] Millar and it wasn’t the most enjoyable.”
He soon forgot about that frustration once on the team bus. At the third time of asking, Wotherspoon was ready for a Scottish Cup final party.