THE strangest thing for Borders footballer Richard Tait is that he might have been powering home tries at Murrayfield instead of preparing for the League Cup final.

The Melrose-born full-back will walk out at the national stadium next month to face Celtic - the latest triumph in the career of the Motherwell right-back.

But, the defender admitted he very nearly chose rugby over football – with Scotland’s exploits at France ’98 keeping him in the game.

Speaking to the Border Telegraph, he said: “Rugby was really the first sport I played growing up – living in the Borders it was obviously a big part of our lives,” he explained

“I did play football as well, but inevitably it got to a stage where my Dad was getting sick at having to buy me new gear every season!

“So, when I was nine, I had to make a choice, and – and in no small part to the fact that the 1998 World Cup was on at the time – I chose football.

“It wasn’t as hard a choice as I thought it would be. I was never the biggest guy anyway, but I did love the scrappier side of it,” he grins.

Rugby’s loss was undoubtedly football’s gain however, with Tait’s decision looking wiser with every passing year.

He’s taken the long route back to Scottish football, having moved to Manchester when he was eleven and kick-started his career at National League side Curzon-Ashton

Moves to Tamworth, Cambridge Utd and Grimsby followed as he enjoyed a stellar career in the lower leagues in England.

A sparkling resume points to success in three successful promotion campaigns along with an FA Trophy triumph at Wembley with Cambridge.

Lured back to Scotland with Motherwell in 2016 by Mark McGhee, Tait admits he’s over the moon to be back on home turf – with brother Christopher and dad Richard glad to have him back.

He continued: “It’s great to be back, I was a wee bit hesitant coming back up at first – but I was sold on the club as soon as I got back up to Scotland.

“Scottish football is definitely different to what I played in England. The highest level I played at was League Two, but the SPL is a very good standard.

“Obviously being closer to the Borders is another big bonus as well. My dad stays over in Ettrick, and I think him and my brother have seen me play more in the last year than they have in the past decade!”

It’s been a successful homecoming for Tait, Motherwell survived comfortably in his first year at the club and now sit in third-place in his second.

He played the full ninety-minutes for the Steelmen in their 2-0 win over Rangers in the semi-final earlier this month, and now faces one of the biggest challenges of his career: defeat the undefeated.

Celtic are on a 60-match plus winning run, having last been beat in May 2016. Tait admits it’ll be a huge challenge ending the Parkhead side’s remarkable run, but says Motherwell aren’t going to the final as cannon-fodder.

He said: “The win over Rangers was immense. If you could bottle up the way I felt after that game and sell it – you’d be a millionaire.”

“Getting Celtic in the final is obviously a big challenge, but we’re not going to Hampden next month just to enjoy the day.

“We have to go out and play to our strengths: someone has to beat Celtic and I see no reason why it can’t be us.

“If we do win, I’ll speak to the club and see if I can get the trophy down to the Borders, a wee open-bus tour around Kelso would be great!”