As he sat in the stands watching Steven Fletcher claim a hat-trick against Gibraltar last Sunday night, Sheffield Wednesday’s Scotland striker Stevie May could only look on and think what might have been – and what could be.
Because the 22-year-old is only missing that killer touch in front of goal that could spark not only his club career, but his international fortunes as well.
May has endeared himself to Wednesday fans this season with his hard-working attitude and his willingness to create space and chances.
Those attributes have caught the eye of Gordon Strachan, the Scotland manager, who handed him his senior debut as a second-half substitute against England last November, and continues to involve the front man in his international camps.
May was with Scotland last week as they beat Northern Ireland in a friendly and then racked up the goals against Europe’s newest footballing nation in the qualifying campaign for next summer’s continental tournament.
On each occasion he was behind Fletcher and Steven Naismith in the pecking order, and had to make do with watching on from the stands.
But with each passing international training camp he attends, Wednesday’s £800,000 signing from St Johnstone on the eve of the season is enhancing his footballing education.
“Training-wise just being in and around players like Fletcher and Naismith as we try and qualify for a major tournament is massive. It’s a privilege for me to be involved,” said May.
“I was sat there wishing it was me scoring a hat-trick against Gibraltar because that’s the game everyone wanted to be involved in.
“You want to play obviously, it’s international duty and it’s great to be involved, but I’m just a young player making his way in the squad so I can’t expect to play every time.
“I just need to keep going about my business and keep proving my worth and hopefully next time I’ll be in the team.”
May is benefiting from Strachan’s knowledge of the Championship.
The former Middlesbrough manager is a regular at second-tier fixtures and has paid a visit to Hillsborough to keep tabs on May.
“Gordon’s man-management and motivation skills are as good as I’ve seen,” said May.
“He’s got everyone liking him whether you’re playing or not and that is a big part of the success we’ve been having. He’s got everyone in great spirits.
“We’re going into games now expecting to get results.
“I think he’s shown a lot of loyalty to the players. If somebody’s done well for him he shows faith in them and that’s earned him a lot of respect within the squad.
“It’s got a real club feel to it when you’re away on international duty.”
May is in the Scotland frame as much for his goals in the two seasons before moving south of the border as anything else.
He struck nearly 50 times for Hamilton Academicals on loan and then St Johnstone, the type of scoring return that offers hope to his international boss, and Wednesday chief Stuart Gray, that better days lie ahead.
Gray said recently that he feels May will be a stronger proposition for Championship defenders next season, and from his own point of view, the striker knows he has not done enough during his maiden campaign to justify the hype about his goalscoring prowess.
“If my finishing had been as good as I know it can be, and has been in the past, I could have had any amount of goals,” said May, who has scored seven times in 38 appearances for the Owls.
“There’s a lot of chances I’ve missed. I don’t know what it is; at times things just go for you and you have that confidence.
“Confidence is a big thing for a striker but you just have to make sure it doesn’t affect you.
“I’ll always try and get in that position, and if you miss you just want the next one.
“I still think the goals will come.”
Asked if the switch from Scottish football to the Championship was a bigger step than expected, May added: “The tempo is very high in the Championship, but it is in Scotland as well.
“The defenders are at a higher level.
“In general it is a lot to do with getting a run and I could still get into double figures, and if I was to do that in my first season, I don’t think it’s the worst season.”
May has scored twice in his last six games for the Owls following a drought that stretched to 12 fixtures. Although he did not score in the dramatic win against Rotherham before the international break, his impact off the bench was telling as Gray’s men pulled off a remarkable win deep into stoppage time.
And May believes that resolve will have proven to a lot of doubters that although Wednesday have neither survival nor promotion to challenge for, they are still up for the fight as they prepare to welcome struggling Huddersfield Town to Hillsborough today.
“To say we have nothing to play for is unfair,” said May, who could earn a start today with Will Keane doubtful.
“We’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”