BY MARK GODFREY
It’s so hard to stick to things that you’ve promised to see through to the bitter end; but 9 months, 5 clubs, 7 rounds and several hundred miles later we’ve finally reached the conclusion of our marathon journey to the Scottish Cup final. If any of you have bothered to keep up, let’s recap.
We started back in mid-September in the picturesque border town of Hawick following South of Scotland amateur side, St. Cuthbert Wanderers. Staying with clubs from the south west, we then joined Junior heavyweights Auchinleck Talbot and then promotion chasing Division One side, Stranraer, who were on the verge of a surprise quarter-final place before succumbing to Premier League Inverness Caledonian Thistle after a replay in the Highlands.
After a brief stop up north, we’re now following Dundee United. The Tannadice Park club are trying to capture their third Scottish Cup in the final at Celtic Park. Their route to the end of season showpiece hasn’t been an easy one; as well as Caley Thistle, they’ve had to knock out other top flight teams in Kilmarnock and St.Mirren.
The semi-final draw paired them with Rangers at “neutral” Ibrox where the new First Division champions ensured the Taysiders had to work hard for the 3-1 win. An 11,000-strong Tangerine Army were rewarded with a return visit to Glasgow where they will come up against the club from 25 miles along the banks of the Tay – St. Johnstone.
The Perth side have had a decent league campaign, finishing comfortably inside the top 6. This will be their first ever appearance in the Scottish Cup final.
If this season’s results between the two are anything to go by, then the omens for Saints are good. Except for the 0-4 reverse back in August at Tannadice, Tommy Wright’s men have won the following three encounters without conceding and although they will go into the game as slight underdogs, St. Johnstone will feel they have every chance of breaking their Scottish Cup duck.
Jackie McNamara will be trying to repeat the club’s 2010 success with around 30,000 fans expected to make the trip across the country. His side have experienced a patchy run of results in recent weeks as the season looks like it’s begun to take it’s toll on many of the younger and inexperienced United players. However, the travelling masses will be hopeful that the big occasion will lift the squad one more time before the summer break.
Personally, I’ll be cheering Dundee United on for the final. Having watched them on several occasions this year I’ve been very impressed with their blend of youth and older talent to create an entertaining side to watch; whether in defeat or victory. Most impressive and consistent has been left-back Andrew Robertson, who has gone from the lowest tier of league football with Queen’s Park to international recognition in less than a year. The 20-year-old has a distinct similarity in style to that of the Everton and England man he has been rumoured to be in line to replace at Goodison Park – Leighton Baines.
The Tangerines also hold a special place in my affections being one of the finest club sides of the 1980’s in Britain and one that I always looked forward to seeing on the rare occasions Scottish football was televised in England.
Not that I have anything against St. Johnstone should they prevail. Indeed, during a month spent in Perth back in 1993 learning to fly an aeroplane for an aborted career in the RAF, my first trip to a Scottish football game was to McDiarmid Park. The 1-3 defeat to Hibernian somewhat livened up by the numerous pre-match whiskies consumed in the Twa Tams and Scaramouche pubs. Happy days.
The final kicks off at 3.00pm on May 17th and is live on Sky Sports 1 and BBC 1 Scotland.