Micky Mellon has no real lived experience of Scottish football’s usual dynamics despite what his thick Paisley accent suggests.
The 49-year-old left these shores at 17 to pursue a successful playing and management career south of the border.
His frame of reference remains, though, and what he does know is the Old Firm tend to hold all the cards domestically.
The kick-off dates and times for the Semi-Finals of the 2020-21 Scottish Cup have been confirmed.@DundeeUnitedFC v @HibernianFC
Saturday, 8 May – 4pm@PremierSportsTV@SaintMirrenFC v @StJohnstone
Sunday, 9 May – 2.15pm@PremierSportsTV & @BBCOne Scotland#ScottishCup pic.twitter.com/1LCBRVP2Vr
— Scottish Cup (@ScottishCup) April 27, 2021
As much as the Scottish Cup semi-final line up – Dundee United, Hibs, St Johnstone and St Mirren – probably isn’t the norm; for the Tangerines boss it’s “magnificent”.
The former Fleetwood, Shrewsbury and Tranmere gaffer, who checked in at Tannadice last summer, is relishing leading his side into battle at Hampden when they take on the Hibees next Saturday.
Mellon is aiming to cap a “weird” debut campaign in the Terrors hot seat with a major trophy to sit beside a season that’s seen him solidify the club in the Premiership.
‘It’s brilliant for Scottish football because we are all up against it with Celtic and Rangers’
“Who we got in the draw doesn’t really make any difference because, regardless of who you get, it’s going to be a tough game,” he said.
“Now we know it’s Hibs, that’s the challenge.
“I didn’t have a preference because you could really pick any one from the four teams and nobody will be surprised if they win it.
“Everyone who has made it this far will believe this is their opportunity.
“It’s brilliant for Scottish football because we are all up against it with Celtic and Rangers in the same competitions.
“So for these four clubs to get into the semi-finals, it’s magnificent for the game in Scotland.
“It has been a long, long time since that happened and probably sums up how unique this season has been.
“It has been tough for everyone and even me with all my experience, it’s all been new.
“I haven’t met the fans yet, I haven’t even met the club owner yet – it’s been so different for everyone the way we’ve had to work.
“You go to all the grounds, nobody is there and the games have been very different.
“It’s been a weird season but I think it has been a good season and it’ll have a brilliant finish to it with one of these four clubs lifting a major trophy.”
Play-off experience can help Mellon’s United to glory
Despite having never been involved in the latter stages of a cup competition before, as a player or coach, Mellon reckons his play-off experience in England’s lower leagues will stand him and United in good stead.
And, as much as he was delighted with their 3-0 win at Aberdeen in the quarter-finals, the Tangerines boss insists they’ve shown their capable of that level of performance in other games this term.
“This is my first semi-final,” he continued.
“I have been involved in big play-offs before so those would be similar experiences.
“With these games it’s all about the day, going out there and delivering on the big stage when you’re asked to.
“I enjoy them, this is what football is all about. They are different to league games, I love them.
“You want to be managing and playing in big games.
“The experience I have had in the past will help because those play-offs can be life-changing.
“You have to be ready and prepared for them.”
Of their success at Pittodrie, Mellon added: “I was delighted with the performance against Aberdeen but we have had a few of those this season.
“It wasn’t a one-off, we have hit those levels before.
“They have played like that for 45 minutes at Ibrox, against Livingston, Motherwell and against Ross County to name just a few.
“But we are judged from a high standard at Dundee United and we embrace that.
“On Sunday, because of the size of the game people are pointing to it, but to be fair to the boys they have done that before.
“The standard is set now and what it’s about for us is keeping it up, being relentless with those standards.
“That’s the way we have to play football if we’re going to be at our best.
“The best players do that virtually every time, push and push, fight and defend like that, pass like that.
“That’s how the teams near the top of leagues play, no matter what league it is, they get that consistency which enables them to win games.
“The teams who hit a level and stay there are the ones who get to the top – that’s the next challenge, to do it consistently.
“It’s tough, you suffer physically and mentally doing it week in week out, but that’s the challenge because it’s a learned ability.”
No sea of tangerine at Hampden but Micky’s men will ‘just get on with it’
For all he is honoured to be leading Dundee United into one, potentially, two huge games at the national stadium before the season is out, Mellon contends the occasions will lose something without hordes of Arabs present.
In normal times, a sea of tangerine would’ve greeted his troops as they emerged from the tunnel at Mount Florida but Mellon says they just have to get on with the task at hand.
He commented: “It’s massively disappointing there won’t be fans at the semis or the final because we all know the size of the crowds you’d get.
“Football without fans is a very different place, it’s not the same but we have had to cope with that all season.
“When you play in big events like cup semis or finals, that’s what makes it very special.
“But we just have to get on with it, if they can’t find a way to host the final and let fans in then there’s nothing you can do about it.
“It would have been a good option moving elsewhere, so it’s a shame if that can’t be done, but you just have to get on with it.
“The virus is still here, we have to go along with what people say and, hopefully, they’ll deliver us to a place where we can have the supporters back soon.”