“You’ll never have to buy another drink again.”
It’s a phrase that Conor Newton still has ringing in his ears.
He hasn’t been back to Paisley since his second loan spell ended in 2014 – but one goal has set him up for life if he ever decides to return to the town.
When St Mirren fans talk about their side’s League Cup 2013 triumph, they really mean the moments the ball hit the back of the net.
Newton, who was on-loan from Newcastle United, has never been a prolific goalscorer. Even he admits he probably shouldn’t have shot from the edge of the box while the clash remained finely balanced at 2-1. “I should have taken another touch,” he laughs down the phone, “I should have taken my time... not that anyone was complaining.”
As history would have it, Newton’s snapshot, while finding himself faced with just Hearts keeper Jamie MacDonald, would find the back of the net.
The masses roared as the red-headed Englishman with a Geordie accent gave their side a 3-1 advantage, while 150 miles from home.
But still Newton maintains that in hindsight the occasion may have got the better of him.
“Watching it back I have to wonder what I was doing,” he says.
“I think the moment just took over. I’ve just looked up and seen the keeper and thought why not. If anyone else was to do that I would have been shouting and screaming at them.
“But you’re in a cup final, and sometimes you have to be greedy. Thank God it went in because I could have got all sorts of grief if it hadn’t.”
For much of the game, St Mirren, and their supporters, were on tenterhooks, finding it difficult to break down a stubborn Hearts side. Ryan Stevenson’s early goal, taking a deflection off of Newton’s old mate Paul Dummett, saw the Gorgies deflate the Geordies in the Paisley ranks.
Isma Goncalves’ strike levelled things up before Steven Thompson famously fired his hometown team into the lead shortly after the break.
But Hearts were always in pursuit of the leveller – before Newton played a deft one-two with Goncalves before thumping home.
Two goals in the lead, Saints would have been forgiven for believing the trophy was theirs. But with just under half an hour left to play, Newton is adamant that you couldn’t be any further from the truth.
“From a neutrals point of view it must have been a fascinating match to watch,” he admits, “But to play in? It was terrible from a nerves point of view,
“It was end to end and we were just so nervous.
“We came back from behind – but when Ryan Stevenson scores to get Hearts a goal back, they were piling on the pressure in the end. We were clinging on for dear life in all honesty.”
When Craig Thomson blew for full-time, it brought an end to 26-years without a major trophy for St Mirren. For a generation, it was their first glimpse of the Saints lifting some silverware when Jim Goodwin collected the League Cup before lofting it in the air in front of the black and white masses.
Being so far from home, there was a little piece of Newcastle at Hampden, with a family caught up in the occasion and becoming Buddies for the day.
So as the whistle pierced the chilly Glasgow air, Newton looked up to his family to share the moment with his nearest and dearest.
“When that final whistle goes it was just relief and elation,” he added, “You see the fans celebrating and you realise just how much it means to everyone.
“Obviously I wasn’t a St Mirren supporter, I had only really been at the club for a few months, but you got caught up in the moment.
“My family filled a bus from Newcastle, the whole Newton clan, around 30 of them where at Hampden so to be able to share those memories and have them there to see – that was special.
“It really was the romance of the cup. St Mirren fans won’t mind me saying it, but they aren’t a massive club, and no one really expected us to get as far as we did, especially when you consider we played the likes of Aberdeen and Celtic just to get there.”
The infamous parties went on in Paisley for days, with Newton’s strike sparking days of bevvying on the streets of the town as the players took in the adulation of the support at every possible opportunity.
Mobbed by fans telling him they loved him, the midfielder was more than happy to share the moment.
And although he has hardly been in the town since that day, Newton says one promise never passed him by, joking: “I was told I would never have to buy a drink in Paisley again – and one of these days I’ll have to take them all up on that offer.”
Newton’s burst on to the scene was something which he explains happened literally over night.
At the age of 21 he got the all in January asking him if he would be interested in joining up with Newcastle teammate Paul Dummett, who had been at the Buddies since the start of that season.
Having been forced to bide his time in a Magpies youth team littered with talent, he admits he jumped at the opportunity to link up with a senior side.
However, one training session with Paul McGowan and Jim Goodwin, he laughs, opened his eyes to what it would take to make an impression in Scotland.
“I was more than aware what I was getting myself into because Paul had been at St Mirren for the previous six months,” Newton explained.
“In all honesty the move was a bit unexpected because I hadn’t played much football, let alone at senior level. It was daunting because I had never really been among experienced players before apart from being used as a mannequin from time to time in Newcastle training, where you were basically invisible.
“I went up in the middle of the night and stayed with Paul at first and it was a fantastic time. I wasn’t really in the set-up at Newcastle so to be given the opportunity to test myself in Scotland was one I really looked forward to.
“I remember the training being really difficult on the first day, thinking ‘I’m really going to have to up my game here if I am going to get any sort of chance’. Going in for a challenge with McGowan on day one opened my eyes to everything it would take.”
Looking back, that St Mirren team that won the cup in 2013 was the strongest in some time. Newton admits that he was shocked to see the side relegated a couple of years after his departure back down south.
Having watched from afar as the team started to struggle, Newton highlights the talent and personalities in the squad that Danny Lennon and Tommy Craig had built over that period.
“Down south sometimes people laugh at the game in Scotland,” he added, “But I was blown away by the talent which we had in that St Mirren side. Kenny McLean, Paul McGowan and John McGinn were all unreal players.
“Gary Teale, Jim Goodwin, David van Zanten were all great, experienced pros to have around the place too. Goody obviously had a bit of a reputation but there was no one you would rather have alongside you, these guys helped me straight away.
“Looking back it was a real good group of boys. There is a lot of guys who have gone on to great things.
“All you have to do is look at Graham Carey, he is flying at Plymouth and I think he scored 20 odd goals in League Two last season. Carey is a boy who struggled to even get in the team at times at St Mirren.
“Sean Kelly got a move down south for a while, and Jason Naismith was coming through the ranks too and has gone on to have a good career.”
Newton is now turning out for English National League side Hartlepool United following stints at Rotherham United and Cambridge in recent seasons.
With a young daughter, he revealed that he was always on the hunt for a move closer to home this summer, with Hartlepool coming along at the perfect time.
However, although only four years since that day at Hampden, Newton concedes the cup final drama feels like forever ago.
But that’s not to mean he doesn’t still revel in the glory...
“I look back on the whole cup experience as the best in my career.
“I maybe didn’t appreciate as much as I should have back then, but looking back everything just fell into place at the right time.
“St Mirren will also hold a piece of my heart because of that. It was the best time of my career, and I have the fondest of memories.”
2-2 draw today. Reilly and Morgan.
Last week was a boot to the stones, so it'll be interesting to see how the players respond.
Needless to say, it should be a flying start, with Saints pressing Queens and dictating the pace of the game - we are at home, after all. The front line will need to be as good as they've been as a unit, as I can see us shipping a couple of goals given the experience and potency of the Queens strike force.
Not too confident of the win today.
3,764 in attendance.
Apart from Shull the walloper.
This will be a very difficult game, likely to be goals as both teams are better going forward than they are defensively.
Missing the game due to my father in laws 70th birthday meal, which was re-arranged from yesterday due to him wanting to watch the rangers get humiliated. Might be a few trips to the toilet as I try to watch on my phone.
Correct, They made it very clear at the recent Q&A that they have a lot of time for Darren and see a future for him but he was not quite ready for the championship and the ideal scenario was for him to get a decent loan deal and get first team experience.
Darren needs game time. He was out for a large chunk of last season with injury and has played this season in the first team out of position. McCart has played 20 Premier League games as a centre half so is far more experienced than Darren. Good move for everyone as far as I can see. And it is only for 3 months.
Whyte isn't even a defender , he's a midfielder. If we'd played Whyte at CB tomorrow and lost, then everyone would have been on JRs case , especially when you consider that if McCart hadn't signed with us he would be playing for ICT , Dundee Utd or Raith, who were all lining up to sign him , this weekend . We nicked in and nabbed him simply because we need what he can bring to the team at this point in time !
Past history is usually a good guide for upcoming events, added to the fact we were sitting top of the league before the match and had sold out every supporters bus i would say the 300-400 story is deflecting bullshit from stewards and officials who f**ked up and dont want to admit it.
Behind us now, hopefully all involved will learn from it and move on.