It’s not been a great season for Scottish football. The pathetic story of Glasgow Rangers and the continued malaise around the national team underline how far Scotttish football has declined.
But the Scottish Cup Final today at Hampden Park has a special ring about it. We’ve become accustomed to old firm cup finals, but the Edinburgh derby Hearts v Hibernian has really divided the Scottish capital.
It’s the first time since 1895-96 that the two clubs have met in the final. Hibernian don’t have a brilliant record in the competition, having won it just twice, the last time in 1902. Hearts, the favourites, have won the Scottish Cuo seven times, the last occasion being 2006.
Hearts’ status as favourities is understandable. They are unbeaten in 10 games against their Edinburgh neighbours and they finished fifth in the Premier. Hibs finished one place of the bottom of the division.
It makes a nice change to see the two clubs lining up at Hampden. Hibs manager Pat Fenlon has a near fully-fit squad for the game, with skipper James McPake – who is on his way back to England – likely to be fit. Fenlon’s team comprises more than half a dozen loanees, with McPake being one of them. Striker Craig Beattie, who has been overcoming a hamstring injury, will be on the bench.
Over at Hearts, Portuguese coach Paulo Sergio, who did well to keep Hearts in the top half of the table despite losing key players in mid-season, may also be on the move soon as he is out contract and in its current cost-cutting regime, they may not require his services.
This cup final can help lift the spirits of Scottish football. Those tired of the “Old firm” will welcome what is sure to be a fiercely competitive game. I’m tipping Hibs to spring a surprise, with Fenlon’s side, for once, being able to look legends like Pat Stanton, Peter Cormack and Colin Stein in the eye.
One point, though – why they didn’t play the game in Edinburgh is a mystery. Surely Murrayfield could have been used?