Kevin Holt has never walked out at Hampden Park before but the full-back hopes he can secure a trip to the national stadium with Scottish Championship leaders Partick Thistle.
The Jags are aiming to bring an 20-year wait to reach Hampden to a close and the Firhill club go into their quarter-final tie against Aberdeen at Pittodrie in good form after recording a 2-1 win away to Hamilton Accies at the weekend.
Versatile defender Holt has been a near ever present under manager Ian McCall, missing just three games since joining the Maryhill outfit in the summer of 2021.
The 29-year-old is convinced Thistle are capable of producing a cup upset against Jim Goodwin’s Dons in the North East.
He said: “The boys are looking forward to it. It’s nice to get a break from the league and good to be in a quarter final. We can go there and enjoy it. Hampden is a huge carrot. We’ve had a great start to the season and we want to carry that momentum into the cup, we will be going up there full of confidence.
“Aberdeen are a good team and we will give them every bit of respect. It’s a hard place to go for Premiership sides never mind a Championship team in the cup. They always carry a good crowd, there will be a good atmosphere and we’ll have a good following too.
“All the pressure will be on them. They’re doing well and had a good result at the weekend. The shackles are off us a bit and we are confident we can go up there and get through. Aberdeen are favourites by right but we won’t go there and lie down. We are going there to win the game.
“It would be huge (to reach the semi-finals). From a personal point of view, I’ve never even played at Hampden – not even against Queen’s Park or for a cup tie. It is a huge carrot for me. I want to play there and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of the boys. Not a lot of them will have played in a semi-final or a final.
“It’s not something you get the chance to do very often. It is a tough ask to go up to Aberdeen and beat them to get there but it’s something that the boys will hopefully enjoy – and we will give it everything we have got to get through.”
McCall has built a Thistle squad he believes can last the Championship promotion race this season and Holt reckons facing Aberdeen is the perfect opportunity to prove their Premiership credentials.
He admitted: “I hope so. Obviously there is a long way to go in the Championship this year and there will be a few other sides close with us. But you want to put a marker down. It’s not just the league we can do well, we want to go and test ourselves against those better sides.
“You see Aberdeen doing well. If you can go up there and put a marker down, get a result and get through in the cup... We are looking to show that we are not going there to lie back and let them dictate the game. We are going to go there and play our game – and hopefully give them a lot to worry about.”
Jags boss McCall has a fully fit squad to choose from tonight barring the suspended Kyle Turner and has promised travelling supporters that he will encourage his team to attack and play on the front-foot.
While admitting he would have preferred the advantage of a home tie, McCall is confident his side can thrive as the ‘underdogs’ and boost the club’s financial position by clinching a return to the national stadium for the first time since 2002.
He stated: “It would be great for the players, the board, the supporters and great for the club. We are very aware the league is way bigger. The best team usually wins the league. In the League Cup, there’s been a number of winners of the last ten or 15 years who are not necessarily the best team in the country.
“It would be great for us to get to Hampden and not just emotionally. With my head on, it would be financially great for us as well. We are going up against the third or fourth-best team in Scotland so we’re under no illusions how hard it’ll be.
“For the first time probably since the start of the season, we won’t be favourites going into a game. I’m not bothered either way. We are favourites most of the time and now we’re underdogs. One thing we’re very aware of is it’s an important competition for our club because it was one of our greatest days.
“We do know any turnovers on the ball of any slackness will probably be punished a bit more readily than it is in league games. I maintain and have maintained for many years that the top one or two in the Championship and the bottom two or three in the Premiership isn’t much of a difference.
“Aberdeen have higher ambitions than that so that’ll make it difficult. It’s a cup tie. As long as it’s not Celtic and Rangers - and I’m not saying we wouldn’t have a chance against them - you’ll always get a chance to win a game of football.
‘I’d have preferred the game to be at Firhill. We fancy ourselves against most teams when we’re at home. But I don’t think they’ll be taking us lightly and we certainly won’t change the way we play. We’ll play 4-3-3 and try and move the ball. If we play well, we’ve got a chance.”