You could forgive Darren McGregor if he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry on Sunday as his Buddies pulled off one of the greatest results in their recent history.
The talented centre-half, who is recovering from a serious knee injury, was reduced to the role of spectator while St Mirren were defeating Celtic 3-2 and clinching their place in the Scottish Communities League Cup Final.
And McGregor knows there is no chance of him being back in action in time for that final showdown with Hearts on March 17.
However, the 27-year-old defender would love to see his team-mates go on to win the famous trophy in his absence.
McGregor told Express Sports: “The team have been brilliant without me. I genuinely think that, man for man, we can match any team in Scotland.
“Hopefully, I’ll be back in training by March but it will still take about four weeks to get to grips with the rigours of that again – and then you need to play reserve games and stuff before you can even think about the first team.
“I’m content with the thought that I might not play again until next season but I’ll do everything in my power to get back before then.
“If I could get in and be back around the dressing room again on match days – even just to be on the subs’ bench – before the end of the season, that would be a huge psychological boost. It would be massive for me.”
Everyone in the St Mirren family – including coaching staff, physios, team-mates and supporters – have rallied round Darren from the moment he was stretchered off the pitch after tearing his cruciate ligament against Hibernian back in August.
That was the second time in two seasons that he had suffered a serious knee injury and there are sure to be some sceptics who wonder if he will ever fully recover.
However, when you speak to Darren, he remains impressively upbeat.
He said: “The knee is good. My mindset is better than it was at this stage of the last injury.
“I’ve recently started on the anti-gravity treadmill machine, which reduces the amount of weight and stress I’m putting on my knees when I’m running and is really the start of my next stage of recovery.
“I’m now looking to be running again soon, which will be a massive step forward.”
Darren has been working closely with Saints physio Gerry Docherty, who is careful to strike the right balance between encouraging the player to put himself to the test, without pushing himself too hard, too fast.
“I take everything a week at a time,” said Darren. “Gerry breaks up my rehabilitation in such a way that I don’t look beyond the end of that particular week.
“The first month of recovery after the injury was very light. In the second month, you start progressing towards more dynamic weights, which then get heavier. Then the cycling and the swimming come into play.
“I just look at everything as little chunks which I take week by week and that definitely helps. I’m more than halfway through now, so that’s a huge positive.”
Having already battled back from one serious knee injury, Darren always knew what he was up against.
“Gerry can look back on the progress I’m making compared with last year as he keeps records of all the training we do together,” said Darren. “He had a look back and said I might be three or four weeks ahead of where I was at this time last time round.
“However, just because it’s the second year on the bounce doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to be back quicker.
“They’ll constantly assess my progress and make sure we’re careful in everything we do.
“A lot of people think that, with this injury, you can be back running in a couple of months but that’s not the case,” he said. “It takes that time for the injury to heal and when you get to the running stage – even with the anti-gravity treadmill – that’s a good indication that you are getting there.
“I’ve still got twisting and turning to come, which is the biggest hurdle as it’s all about how the knee reacts when put under pressure from loads of angles.
“I’m pretty confident that I’ll be back running on the grass again soon and, from there, I’ll go on to the final stages of twisting, turning, pivoting and jumping.
“That’s when I’ll know I’m really getting closer, so I’m looking forward to it.
“Just being on the grass again will make me start to feel more involved with the team.”
Darren is full of praise for Gerry, whose expertise, dedication and support has played a huge role in his recovery so far.
He said: “In my mind, Gerry is the man who has got me through this, so I want to get back fully fit again for him.
“Whenever I’ve been down mentally, Gerry has been there and has truly been invaluable to me.
“So has the gaffer, Tommy Craig and the whole team. They’ve all been fantastic.”
Darren impressed during his first season at St Mirren, bagging several supporters club’s Player of the Year awards for the 2010/11 campaign.
And he is determined to play many more games for the Buddies in the years to come.
“St Mirren have been really good to me,” he added. “There’s no getting away from the fact that I’ve had really bad injuries in both of my knees, so I’ll need to wait and see how the first quarter of next season goes and see if the knees can take the rigours of the game.
“I’m fully confident that they will.
“I might be a wee bit apprehensive before playing again but, when I get on the pitch, the buzz I’ll get from being there and competing will take over.”