Sam Stanton will effectively complete a journey from one extreme to the other on the Scottish Cup glamour scale today.
The on-loan Dumbarton midfielder’s last experience of the oldest tournament in the country involved being part of the victory celebrations after parent club Hibs ended a 114-year wait to get their hands on the trophy six months ago.
This afternoon he will run out for the Sons at New Dundas Park for a third-round match against Bonnyrigg Rose, the East Region Super League champions. A freezing day at a tight ground full of character in Midlothian will be a far cry from a packed-out Hampden in the May sunshine. Stanton, however, is relishing his trip into the relative unknown.
“It’ll be a test of character because none of the boys have played there and nobody really knows what it’s like,” he told the Evening News. “It’ll be a big game for both teams. We’re expected to win it but that’ll give Bonnrigg a lift. There have been plenty Scottish Cup games in the past where lesser teams have done well and got a result so it’ll be a tough game.
“I’m fine if it becomes a battle. It’s not necessarily my strongest point but I’m comfortable with that side of the game. It’ll be something different for everyone but we know they’ll be a decent side. It’s good to play different teams and get a new experience. I’m looking forward to it.”
Stanton got a taste of success in the Scottish Cup when he travelled to Hampden with Alan Stubbs’ squad for last season’s final against Rangers even though he was ineligible to feature after spending the second half of last season on loan with Livingston. As a Leith-born Hibs supporter, he was thrilled to be so close to the action on such a historic occasion for his club.
“It was an absolutely brilliant day to experience,” Stanton recalled. “I was with the squad throughout the build-up and on the day. I stayed over at the hotel so it was nice to be involved. I’d have loved to have played, but unfortunately I couldn’t because I’d been out on loan.
“Even though I wasn’t playing, I was still able to enjoy the day. I’m a Hibs fan so it was a day I’d wanted to see all my life. There was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy it. It would have been extra special if I’d been able to play in it, but it was still special for me and lots of people I know. I’d have been there as a fan even if I wasn’t a Hibs player, so it was an easy day for me to enjoy, regardless of not playing.
“I was in the dressing-room and on the bus after the game and went back to the party at Easter Road that night, which was great. I didn’t go on the open-top bus on the Sunday – I left that to the ones who were involved. But it was an experience I’ll never forget. As a Leith boy, it was a privilege just to be so close to it all.”
Stanton remains hopeful that he can re-establish himself at Hibs before his contract expires in 18 months. In the meantime, however, he is enjoying himself on a season-long loan at Dumbarton, where he has started each of the past seven matches. “It’s going well,” he reported. “We’re doing not too badly since I’ve been here and I’m enjoying playing regularly because that’s all I’ve wanted to do. I think my form’s been good. I’ve been playing well and playing pretty consistently so I’m happy. It’s good to get a run of games because that’s what I needed and I wasn’t guaranteed it at Hibs. The manager [Stevie Aitken] is very happy with the way I’ve been playing. It’s always nice when a manager thinks you’re doing well and has a bit of faith in you.”
Stanton remains desperate to force his way into Neil Lennon’s plans at Hibs, but insists he has had no problem maintaining motivation and a positive mindset in light of taking the perceived step down to join Dumbarton, a side who currently sit second bottom of the Championship.
“Dumbarton have shown faith in me, in terms of wanting to sign me and then playing me every week, which is all you can ask for,” said Stanton. “I just love playing football so no matter where I play, I’ll give everything. Hibs was the team I grew up supporting so that gave me even more of an incentive to do well, but I don’t feel any differently playing for Dumbarton.
“I still want to do as well as I can for myself and for Dumbarton. Dumbarton have got a very good squad with good professionals and I’m very happy playing for them.”