From Dundee outcast to Scotland number one - Scott Bain's big break
|Euro 2020 qualifiers: Scotland v Cyprus|
|Venue: Hampden Date: Saturday, 8 June Time: 19:45 BST|
|Coverage: Listen to BBC Radio Scotland and follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app|
From securing the league against the club that once released him to winning a cup against the team he once supported, Scott Bain's season has had a cinematic air. "Brad Pitt can play me," smiles the man who went from the wilderness of Dundee to the folklore of Celtic. "Actually, no, not Brad Pitt," he says. "DiCaprio. He's younger."
Bain can laugh now - and he does. Why wouldn't he? All that silver and the promise of more. And Scotland caps to boot. Three so far and, almost certainly on Saturday against Cyprus, a fourth. We can begin his story as a teenager being rejected by Aberdeen or drop into his world as a young man carrying plasterboard into garages as a part-time labourer in Edinburgh. But we won't. We'll start at Dundee, the very place where it could all have ended.
It's October 2017. Bain is Dundee's best player. Maybe a little bit too sure of himself, but possibly with good cause. Big talent, big ego. The lads in the dressing room get it. They understand. A little bit of moaning from the goalkeeper from time to time is a small price to pay given what he brings to the team. 'Bainy' could get ahead of himself, but he's a hard worker, a good lad.
On 28 October, Dundee are losing 1-0 at half-time at home to Hamilton. Chaos ensues at the break. Bain tells manager Neil McCann where to go. In the days that follow the lads tell the goalkeeper to wind his neck in, that no good will come of it if he doesn't back down and apologise. Bain makes a stab at contrition but it's half-hearted because, in his bones, he doesn't think he has anything to be contrite about.
McCann gets heavy and fines him. Bain refuses to accept it. McCann banishes him to the youth team. Bain sticks to his guns. It's a mess. An older voice at the club sizes up the situation and concludes that the over-arching issue here is that Bain needs away, that he has outgrown Dundee, that his talent is such that it should be deployed at the top of the table not the bottom. He needs to fly.
'Football has a funny way of cream rising to the top'
Could anybody predict what was about to happen? Not in a lifetime. A loan deal to Hibernian that lasted 30 days, a loan to Celtic that became a permanent move that became history. Three trophies and clean sheets in 71% of his games including 13 in a row in domestic football.
"I wouldn't change anything that happened at Dundee," he says. "I don't regret a thing. I stood up for what was right and it can be difficult for players to do that. You can be forgotten about real quick in football. I felt it was right to stand up and say I wasn't accepting it [the punishment] and whatever comes with that, you have to take it. I was happy to take the consequences."
He says he can laugh now, but those were dark days. He carpooled with Kevin Holt, Jack Hendry and Lewis Spence and there were times when he didn't want to get in the car and on the road again for training with the youngsters. "I just didn't want the manager at the time to have any effect on ruining my career," he explains.
"People fall out. Words are said in the heat of the moment but I've not got any animosity or hatred towards him. What happened, happened. It could have been handled better on both parts but we've moved on. Football has a funny way of cream rising to the top."
When the news broke that McCann had lost his job at Dundee, Bain tweeted a meme of the actor Ryan Gosling (from La La Land) suppressing a laugh. It was taken as a deliberate pop at his former manager. "It might have gone off in my pocket," he says, before addressing the controversy. "That's why I don't use social media much any more. At the time it was still pretty fresh [his issue with McCann]. I was probably still hurting a little bit.
"It's never great for somebody to lose their job. I know how hard it is in football to recover. I never wanted to see Dundee go down either. It was a club that put a lot of faith in me. I've got a lot of love for that club even though it ended badly. It was a big part of my life."
'Exciting times' ahead for Scotland
Bain calls his move, and success, at Celtic - plus his elevation with Scotland - a series of sliding doors moments. Craig Gordon gets injured so Brendan Rodgers signs him on loan. Then Dorus de Vries gets injured and he gets some games and a permanent deal. Gordon gets injured again and Bain becomes Celtic's number one. Allan McGregor retires from international football and Bain becomes Scotland's first choice.
"When I first went to Dundee, I used to travel with Kevin Thomson and Kevin had a lot of belief in me," he says.
"He used to say, 'you're good enough to play at the top; you just need a bit of luck'. I texted him a couple of weeks back saying, 'what about that for luck?'"
Rodgers used to say that, for the life of him, he couldn't understand how any manager could fall out with Bain, who he saw as a model pro. Without question, the demands of being a Celtic player have changed him. At Dundee, he was used to being the main man. At Celtic, he's a cog in a much bigger wheel and it suits him.
"The pressure is phenomenal," he says. "Somebody is always watching you. If you slip, you'll get found out."
The rise through the ranks of the Scotland squad was another plot twist that he didn't see coming. At 27, he's got many good years ahead of him in Steve Clarke's new era, which begins in earnest with Saturday's Euro qualifier against Cyprus. Having won his first three caps in Mexico, Kazakhstan and San Marino, this will be his first experience of being a Scotland starter in his own national stadium.
"We have fantastic players who can hurt teams," he adds. "If we can get a system that everyone's happy with and get ourselves well organised, then there are going to be exciting times ahead."
On all those car journeys to and from Dundee, Kevin Thomson was right. All Bain needed was a break.