Steven Craig felt a sudden burst of adrenaline as he approached the national stadium for Ross County’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic.
The forward credits manager Derek Adams with ensuring no nervous energy was wasted in the build-up to the Staggies’ famous last-four triumph against the Hoops.
First Division County’s 2-0 victory at the expense of Neil Lennon’s side stunned onlookers throughout Scottish football and beyond, and set up a final berth with Dundee United.
The Staggies had only set up the tie a fortnight earlier, courtesy of a late quarter-final victory over Hibernian at Victoria Park.
Craig felt Adams’ insistence on keeping his players’ focus off the glamour tie in the lead-up allowed them to embrace the moment once they arrived in Glasgow’s south side.
Craig said: “My recollection, and I think most of the boys will agree, is that it was kind of low-key. There wasn’t a lot of press or a particularly big buzz about the game.
“Derek maybe didn’t realise it at the time, but he did really well just to keep our minds occupied.
“Even after the Hibs result, he kept us occupied on the league where we had things to do.
“Celtic were not spoken about until the week leading up to it.
“We had the sort of mentality in the changing room that, regardless of who was in front of us, if we turned up on the day we could win.
“I knew Celtic weren’t flying high at the time, but they had some exceptional players such as Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady in the team.
“I think when reality hit for me was when the bus got to Hampden Park, and we were just about to drive underneath the stadium. We saw the magnitude of the task.
“The fans were there in their thousands, and I think that’s when we thought ‘this is it’. The boys got a buzz off that.”
Former Aberdeen striker Craig netted the opening goal early in the second half, slotting coolly past goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska following a marauding run from just inside the Hoops’ half.
The 39-year-old says the destination of the strike was never in doubt, adding: “We went in at half-time feeling like we had been very comfortable. The manager just reiterated we needed to keep doing what we were doing.
“The goal came on about 54 minutes. I can remember saying to Andy Barrowman just before kick-off that I would try and get up and support him a bit more, as he was doing the lone striker role.
“When I picked up the ball I was probably 10 yards higher up the pitch than I should have been – I was playing right wing-back that day.
“Andy jumped for the ball with Darren O’Dea, and I just gambled.
“I was all alone. I had momentum, although I was aware of somebody chasing me – it was Lee Naylor.
“I just kept going, but I think Josh Thompson made it easy for me, because his body shape was showing me out to his left side, but I knew if I went the other way he was never going to catch me.
“That’s what made me change my mind, I popped the ball up with my foot.
“It was one of those goals where, once I knew I was through on goal I just knew I was going to score. You don’t get those feelings often.”
The result ensured Celtic ended the season without winning a trophy, but Craig recalls a warm reception from the Hoops’ supporters.
He added: “We got a police escort out of Hampden and some of the Celtic fans were clapping us, which was nice.
“Once the bus got up on the road to Perth it just set in and the bus went quiet – I think we were all shattered.
“It was just a special occasion – one of those times I will never really forget.”