His affection for the club he also managed on two occasions is undimmed and
the 57-year-old will be at the national stadium on Sunday hoping to see Jim
Goodwin replace him as the last Saints captain to win silverware.
Then again, if it hadn’t been for then manager Alex Smith’s sentimental
streak, he may have missed out on his big day 26 years ago.
“I’d been the captain of the team but I’d broken my jaw and, if that wasn’t
enough, I dislocated my knee as well,” he said.
“Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have been involved but all credit to Alex
Smith for putting me on the bench.
“I came on just before the end of normal time and it was a great feeling to be
on the pitch when Fergie [Ian Ferguson] scored the winner.
“I had been at the club since I was 12 – Alex Ferguson made me club captain
when I was just 17 – and it meant a lot to me.
“The way things have been going, Paisley and Renfrewshire could do with a lift
right now and winning a cup would give the whole area the feelgood factor.”
Fitzpatrick has divined similarities between the current team and the
successful one he was part of at Hampden.
“In 1987 we beat Hearts in the semi-final when we were the underdogs, just
like Danny Lennon’s boys were against Celtic this year,” he said.
“We were also rank outsiders against Dundee United in the final and, although
Hearts have had their troubles recently, they’re still a much bigger club
than we are.
“We had guys in our team – myself, Frank McGarvey and Billy Abercromby – who
were coming to the end of their careers and who wouldn’t get another chance
to feature in a final.
“That description could also apply to Steven Thompson, Gary Teale and Goodwin.
“And, just as we had youngsters like Ian Cameron, Paul Lambert and Ian
Ferguson, Danny has John McGinn, Kenny McLean and Marc McAusland.
“People also tend to forget that we were fighting relegation for a long time
in 1987 – the only thing that’s remembered now is that we won the Cup.
“And, while Dundee have looked doomed for a while, Saints have been second
bottom for four months in a row there, although I don’t believe that that’s
where they’ll finish.
“I think that this St Mirren team deserves to win something. They try to play
the game in the right manner and I’ve really enjoyed watching them this
“Teale, in particular, is proving himself to be the player we all thought we
were getting when he came to the club last season.”
St Mirren also have the distinction of being the last completely Scottish team
to win a major final. All 13 of the players they used at Hampden were Scots
– as, indeed, were all 13 of United’s.
“That makes it even more of an achievement,” said Fitzpatrick, who is looking
forward to savouring the atmosphere at the national stadium for what should
be a family final.
“In some ways it’s a shame that the 3-2 win over Celtic in the semi-final
wasn’t the final itself.
“However, I really enjoy cup finals that don’t involve either of the Old Firm.
It means more to the fans of the other clubs, I think.”