Livingston winger Michael McKenna is not one to forget his roots as he prepares for the visit of Stranraer tomorrow in the semi-final of the Petrofac Training Cup.
The 23-year-old is still pinching himself at the prospect of a place in a national final after making the switch from Musselburgh Athletic during the close season.
Livi boss John McGlynn worked closely with the Olivebank club’s former manager – his nephew David – to entice the likeable midfielder to the Energy Assets Arena during the summer. After not kicking a ball between the ages of 18 and 20 due to work commitments, the former electrician is grateful for his time spent in the Juniors.
“I never expected this when I signed at the beginning of the season,” McKenna said. “It’s a chance to get to a final that could be against Rangers, in my first year as a professional. It’s an incredible story.
“There are a lot of great football players in Junior football. If some of those guys could go full time and train every day, they couldn’t not improve. I think there are a couple of players at Musselburgh who are more than capable of stepping up so hopefully [seeing how I’ve done] can drive them on to doing it as well.
“Everybody needs a bit of luck to get to where you want to be and that’s maybe where I got mine [by knowing John]. It all happened at the right time. It’s definitely helped that John is here because I don’t think anyone from Livingston would come looking to junior football for players. But they definitely should.”
McKenna doesn’t conceal his desire of a potential mouth-watering clash with Rangers in next April’s showdown should the hosts prevail tomorrow, and the Glasgow giants overcome East Fife in the quarter-final, then Alloa in the semis.
Although the Lions suffered defeat last weekend to Ally McCoist’s side, McKenna, who admits he is still adjusting to the pace of the professional game, relished such an arduous test.
“Even playing here last week, what a feeling it was to play against Rangers so I can only imagine what it would be like playing in a final,” he said. “The pressure, the hype, it would be incredible, but we have to take care of Stranraer first.
“I thought I would have had to break my way into the side. I did well in pre-season, scored a couple of goals and played a couple of good games, but I know there is a lot more to come. Each game after I’ve come off I’ve been feeling disappointed in myself. I don’t know if my expectations have just gone that wee bit higher, but I know I can get better.
“I think once I’ve scored my first competitive goal I’ll feel a lot better.”
Recalling this time last year to forge a comparison, McKenna said: “I was going away with the Scottish Juniors to Ireland for a few days, so I was quite excited this time last year. But if somebody had said I would be where I am now, I would have thought they were lying.
“I’ve played in a few finals at boys’ club level at Dunbar and got to the semi-final of the Scottish Cup as a kid but haven’t played in any at junior level so this really is such a massive game tomorrow and one I’m desperate to win.”
McGlynn will have defender Craig Sives available for selection as the 28-year-old has recovered from the whiplash he sustained during last weekend’s loss to Rangers.