Mark Ridgers has already tasted Scottish Cup glory, but only from the fringes of the action.
Ridgers was Hearts’ substitute goalkeeper in 2012 when Paulo Sergio’s side defeated Edinburgh rivals Hibernian 5-1 in the final in a result that will forever take its place in Jambos folklore.
The 28-year-old will face his former club with Caley Thistle in the semi final of the competition today, and Ridgers says the opportunity to take to the field on behalf of his hometown club will be an even prouder moment.
Ridgers said: “The big difference now is I have the opportunity to play in it. I’ve never played at Hampden Park, and playing at the national stadium is an opportunity you dream of as a kid growing up in Scotland.
“To be able to do it in the semi-final of a national competition is amazing for me and my family. It is something I look forward to.
“Being there before with Hearts, the same buzz is there, but it is a different ball game when you’re playing, rather than knowing you’re not going to be.
“As substitute goalkeeper, it is hard but you still play a part. I was very fortunate to be in the position to be on the bench.
“I worked hard to get involved in the first team and then that happened. For me to be a part of that whole experience, from waking up on the morning of the game to the end of the night – and not much was remembered, to be fair – was special.
“With it being against Hibs as well was incredible. From the moment we’d won it, driving back to Glasgow you realise just what a big club Hearts is. It was one of those occasions.
“The next day, with the tour bus going around the city, there was nearly quarter of a million fans there. It is one of those memories that will live with me forever.
“It is a medal I’m still really honoured to have and it is one, looking back in years to come, I’ll still tell stories about.”
Ridgers is all too aware of the demands of the Tynecastle support but has played down the notion they go into today’s last-four tie under pressure following last weekend’s 2-1 derby loss to Hibs.
He added: “Many pundits and professionals all around Scotland will be expecting Hearts to win.
“Yes, we have a chance if we turn up and play well because we know we’re a good team. Hearts have had a sticky time results-wise, but let’s not forget they’re still top six and can still finish third.
“Being at Hearts, finishing third and winning the Scottish Cup, that’s a successful season.
“I still follow the club and there is a bit of unrest among the fans, but they can still cause problems for any team. We have to be aware of that.
“We can’t just expect, with them going through a bad time, for us to just turn up, put in a good performance and win. We’re going to have to be right at it.”
Aside from the opportunity to reach a cup final, today’s national stadium appearance will be another milestone for former Ross County and St Mirren goalkeeper Ridgers, who added: “I’ve actually played at every other ground in Scotland and this ticks the last one off. With Ross County at youth levels we played the likes of Berwick Rangers and with Hearts reserves and under 17s and 19s, I played a lot of games.
“Hampden Park is the one stadium I’ve not actually played at. Fingers crossed, by this weekend, I’ll have played in every professional stadium in Scotland.”