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Leading Saints in final will top my career: Goodwin

When he helped Ireland's U16s lift the 1998 European Championship crown, Jim Goodwin couldn't have imagined that he'd be in his thirties before he experienced another cup final.

While John O'Shea, and for a brief time Liam Miller enjoyed the big time, Goodwin's career revolved around clubs like Stockport, Scunthorpe and Huddersfield before a brief spell with Hamilton resulted in a move to St Mirren, where he quickly became established as club captain.

Tomorrow, the 31-year-old will lead St Mirren out at Hampden in the final of the League Cup with the Paisley side looking to end a 26-year run without lifting a trophy.

St Mirren spectacularly beat Celtic in the semi-final but even that win was laced with drama for the Waterford man, who feared that his yellow card against Neil Lennon's side would leave him on the sidelines for the clash against Hearts.

"I'd been told before the Celtic game that I was one booking away from a ban," Goodwin explained. "I automatically thought I was out when I got the yellow card.

"We were all on a high in the dressing room afterwards but at the back of my mind I was thinking that I was going to miss the final. Then when I got out of the shower, someone from the Scottish Football League came in with the rulebook and told me I was okay.

Fated

"After that, I got the calf strain and I did start to wonder what was going on, if I was fated to miss out. I was concerned, because I'd had a calf strain last year which, after being told I'd be out for around 14 days, kept me out for seven weeks.

"I was told the same when I went for a scan this time and it's now been almost three weeks but I rejoined training on Tuesday and although I was a little bit cautious at first, as the session went on I felt more confident.

"Everyone would want to declare themselves fit for the game because it is such a huge occasion. I spoke to the manager at the start of the week and said the last thing I wanted was to play the final half-fit and be the cause of the team losing.

"It's important that everyone who goes on the park for us is 100 per cent. We are not that good a team that we can afford to carry passengers.

"We need everyone at it. I will be 100-per-cent fit on the day."

The drama of the last six weeks has been nothing compared to the battles and scraps Goodwin has had to come through to make a career in the game.

A sole first-team appearance for Celtic under Kenny Dalglish was followed by a tour of duty across the lower divisions in England.

The demise of Rangers and Celtic's Hampden jitters have opened up Scottish football with St Mirren looking to follow the path of Kilmarnock and Hearts, who both picked up the domestic trophies at Hampden last season.

"When I won the under-16 Euros with Ireland, I didn't give much thought at the time to how big a moment it was," Goodwin added. "It's only now, looking back, I realise what it meant. We beat Spain and Portugal to reach the final where we beat Italy 2-1 at McDiarmid Park.

"I've never played in another cup final since, although I was part of the Scunthorpe team which won League One a few years ago.

"This is the most important moment in my career without a doubt. I'm 31 now and looking to lead a team out at Hampden. It will be a very proud moment.

"From a personal point of view, it could be fantastic to lift the cup but, collectively, as a team, it's been 26 years since St Mirren won something. It would be great if we could create some history of our own. Leading the team out on Sunday, no doubt my stomach will be churning but you can use that energy to drive you on.

"This is why you play football and it's a fantastic moment for this group of players."

Goodwin won't feel too lonely on St Patrick's Day with team-mates David van Zanten and Graham Carey also finding their way to St Mirren after moving to Celtic straight from school in Dublin.


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