Northern Ireland man Tommy Wright has confounded expectations to guide a smaller football club to take the Scottish Cup against some of the established giants in the competition.
Tommy, 50, led Perth club St Johnstone to a 2-0 final victory over Dundee United on Saturday.
A Ballyclare man, he has guided St Johnstone to their first ever major trophy in the 130-year history of the club.
Tommy previously played locally for Brantwood and Linfield before having a big career as a goalkeeper with Newcastle United, Manchester City, Hull City and Notts Forest.
He also won 31 caps for Northern Ireland and managed Lisburn Distillery, Limavady United and
Irish Football Association President Jim Shaw yesterday paid tribute to Tommy.
“It is a fantastic achievement for the whole club,” he told the News Letter.
“I think coming from Northern Ireland and going to manage in Scotland has been a great achievement for Tommy.
“The problem is that this is a reasonably small club based in Perth which probably has limited resources.”
He noted that St Johnstone had to beat Aberdeen in the semi-final and Dundee United in the final – two clubs with a strong history of winning major competitions.
“Tommy also won the league cup with Distillery in Northern Ireland which was no mean achievement either. It all suggests that he has some significant management talent.”
After Saturday’s final, Tommy himself said of the win: “It means everything in terms of my career, it’s the pinnacle of my career to win the Scottish Cup, but more importantly it means a lot more to a lot more people – the supporters, the players, my staff, and (owners) Geoff and Steve Brown who have put a lot into this club.
“For us to get the first major trophy, words basically can’t describe how I feel. It’s so special to so many people.”
Tommy recently told the BBC of his feelings after winning the semi-final.
“The final whistle went and this might sound strange but there were a few seconds there where I had a real empty feeling,” he said.
“I had a moment of, I don’t know, sadness, maybe.
“Me and my wife Anne lost our son, Andrew, 20 years ago. He was five. Eight weeks premature and then born with severe disabilities. He couldn’t talk but he could, if you know what I mean. With his eyes. With his smile.”
His experience was: “The final whistle. And then Andrew.”
From the age of 12 Tommy was pounding the roads of Ballyclare at a rate of 80-100 miles a week. He was given an athletics scholarship to a North Carolina college but he never went and moved into football instead.