Sam Cosgrove only needs a Scottish Cup winner’s medal to complete a personal journey that would tax the imagination of the Roy of the Rovers writers.
Three years ago, someone who started out as a kid at Everton couldn’t even get a place on the bench for English sixth-tier side, Chorley FC.
Fast forward to last weekend, and his double at Dens Park saw him join Adam Rooney and Niall McGinn as the only Aberdeen players to score 20-in-a-season in the last 20 years.
It’s quite a turnaround for Cosgrove, who also had spells at Barrow and North Ferriby before Derek McInnes snapped him up from Carlisle United 15 months ago.
Cosgrove admits it’s a long way from those unglamorous locations to Hampden and this afternoon’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic.
Those lower-league experiences, however, only reinforced the striker’s belief that he was good enough to make the grade at a much higher level.
Cosgrove said: “Self-confidence isn’t a thing you can produce when you’re struggling to get games down in the Englsh Conference.
“I remember near the end of my loan spell at Chorley, they brought a new striker in and I was left out of the squad.
“After hours travelling to the game, I remember having to sit there and watch the match, thinking: ‘What’s happening here?’. It does hit hard and isn’t nice.
“But I was always under the impression that if I worked hard, my chance would come and I’d take the opportunity.
“That experience was character-building, and a necessary step towards getting to where I am now.
“Then it becomes about the resilience all footballers have got to have. It’s a cruel industry – but there are rewards if you do well.”
Cosgrove’s strike rate of 18 goals in the last 22 games is all the more remarkable as he only managed two in his first 22 matches after signing for Aberdeen.
Despite the doubters, Dons manager McInnes never lost faith in someone he believed could deliver the goals needed after Rooney’s departure to Salford City last summer.
22-year-old Cosgrove himself admitted: “I even shocked myself a bit when the goals started flying in last December.
“But I took it in my stride, and it’s led me on to scoring more, with most of my goals pretty much coming in the last couple of months!
“It’s a good feeling coming into this semi-final with a bit of form.
“I had a bit of a dry patch before Dundee last week, but my performances have still been up there and I’ve still been doing good stuff for the team.
“I’ve spoken about Adam Rooney, his achievements in the last three seasons and the plaudits he got for that.
“Now I’ve got hopefully half-a-dozen more games to kick on and score even more goals.”
Getting the winner this afternoon is a dream that Cosgrove is confident can become reality as the Dons attempt to end Celtic’s domestic domination.
He knows how tough that will be after losing the Betfred Cup Final to them earlier in the season, but he is convinced it will be Aberdeen’s day.
“You can see why they are where they are – the strength in depth, their quality and their mindset.
“They’re a group of winners. But so are we.
“We don’t like being in their shadow, so we want to break out of that.”