George Hunter’s long-term aim is to emulate Stevie May by scoring goals and winning trophies for St Johnstone, but he has a chance to land silverware this Sunday as loan club Spartans take on East Kilbride in the Football Nation East of Scotland Qualifying cup final at Albyn Park.
The striker re-joined Spartans from the Saints on a development loan until the end of this season, relishing the chance to combine training and development team games with competitive action.
With another year left on his deal at McDiarmid Park, the Musselburgh man intends on returning in the summer with at least one winner’s medal in his pocket.
“It’s very different actually playing for something,” Hunter admitted. “Playing in a cup final is obviously good with the atmosphere and all that. We’re quite confident going into the game, we’ve won nine in a row now so hopefully we can take that form into Sunday. We’re in another semi-final and there’s also the Lowland League Cup to be played. There’s a few more medals to play for this season, and obviously we’ll do our best to catch Edinburgh City in the league. It could be a good season.”
A repeat of their previous encounter with East Kilbride – a 1-0 win at K Park in which Hunter scored the winner – will suit him just fine again.
“I’d definitely settle for that again,” he said. “It was a close game but we just nicked it. It’ll be a different game with it being a cup final this time but it should be good and hopefully we get the win.’
Hunter feels he’s returned to Ainslie Park a better player after St Johnstone snapped him up a year ago following a sensational half-season for Spartans Under-20s. The striker isn’t short of examples to follow if he is to force his way into Tommy Wright’s first-team plans in the shape of the May and current Saints team-mate Chris Kane who is from Edinburgh.
“I would say I’ve improved quite a lot,” he appraised. “Just through experience mainly, and playing for something each week while on loan helps; it means a lot to players to pick up points and hopefully trophies. It’s a good standard in the Under-20s league, but playing for points and sometimes win bonuses gives players that extra edge and drive to win. Hopefully next year I can either go out on loan in a higher league or even try and push for the first team. I had spells at Elgin and Airdrie earlier this season – two good clubs – and they’ve definitely helped me along the way.
“You look at Kaneo who’s done brilliantly. He’s probably putting thoughts in the gaffer’s mind to start him because he just keeps scoring. Obviously Stevie May scored so many goals after coming through as well. I wasn’t there when he was, but the others boys still talk about every time St Johnstone scored it was Stevie May, and he obviously won the Scottish Cup with the club as well.”
Hunter’s goals for Spartans Under-20s not only won him his move to Perth, but helped his old team go on and pick up trophies, albeit in his absence.
Sunday is a potential opportunity to enjoy the celebrations that go with it. “We won a few cups with the Under-20s but I wasn’t there at the end of the season when we actually won them!” he laughed. “They had a great Scottish Cup run as well, but hopefully Sunday will be one I’m there for.”