The Scottish Cup is solid silver and has been presented to ever cup winner since inception in 1874. This makes it the oldest trophy in world football. Weighing in at over two kilos it is a sturdy bit of silver wear. On the inside, however, it carries the magic and mystery of one football’s oldest knock out cup competition. Only 25 teams have been lucky to lift the famous cup creating memories for fans to hold onto forever. But why is the Scottish Cup such a pivotal fixture to the footballing calendar? Perhaps it’s down to seven different clubs winning the trophy in the last decade? Or is it down to the cup providing success away from the Glasgow dominated top flight? Is it that many ‘larger’ teams have had baron spells in the competition? In my mind anyway, it’s a combination of all this and a lot more besides.
The Scottish Cup holds a special place in peoples heart and is the centrepiece of the Scottish football calendar. It provides the tumultuous encore to what is almost always an exhilarating season. The Scottish Cup is open to 102 teams. A mix of teams from the SPFL, Lowland and Highland league structures and also a handful of Junior teams. This diverse mix of teams and lack of seeded draws makes for box office cup matches right through the cup schedule. It is very rare for teams to field weakened sides in the Scottish Cup, unlike our southerly neighbours the Scottish Cup is still an extremely important competition perform well in.
Some teams have enjoyed spells of real dominance of the Scottish Cup from Queen’s Park in the early days. Then to Celtic more recently completing a treble treble and securing their 39th Scottish Cup final victory. Other teams have enjoyed less success in the Scottish Cup and from the top flight of Scottish football, Hamilton, Livingston and Ross County have never won the cup and Rangers will also be hoping to win the cup for their first time since liquidation.
This real clash of fortunes makes for exciting cup ties in the later stages of the cup as the teams without cup wins are desperate to deliver for their fans. This is added to by the fact Inverness and St Johnstone delivered their first cup wins in the last decade. These victories show us the upsets do happen and when they do, they provide memories for towns to cherish forever. Inverness fans will never forget their team lifting the Scottish Cup with 10 men against Falkirk in what was a remarkable game.
In recent years we have also had several magical cup finals – the most famous of which was when Hibernian won the cup in 2016 for the first time since 1902. The Leith side won it in the most remarkable fashion having led before Rangers went 2-1 in front. Anthony Stokes then made it 2-2 and the tie look destined for extra time before a David Gray header in 90+2 sent the Hibs end absolutely wild. The chorus of Sunshine on Leith at the end of the game was an incredible sight for people right across Scotland (outside of Gorgie of course!). Hibernians result made them only the second second-tier team to win the cup. Fans of Dundee will be hoping their team can overcome their 100+ year cup jinx and lift the famous trophy.
Cup shocks are part and parcel of any competition but the Scottish Cup has some extremely famous upsets. The most famous of all occurring in 1967 when Berwick Rangers put the holders Rangers out the cup in the first round. Other more recent upsets include; League 2 Albion Rovers beating top-flight Motherwell with a goal in the last minute of the match. Another famous upset occurred in 2000 when Inverness put out Celtic 3-1 which generated an equally famous newspaper headline “Super Caley go ballistic Celtic are atrocious”.
Not only are cup shocks run of the mill cup scandal is all too commonplace. The most famous of which occurring in the 1980 cup final. A full-scale riot broke out after Celtic defeated Rangers 1-0 after extra time. The riot between the two sets of fans is largely attributed to excessive consumption of alcohol and after the match, the sale of alcohol was banned at sporting events. Although the laws have been relaxed to allow other sporting events to sell alcohol, it is still illegal to sell alcohol within Scottish football stadiums. Similar scenes albeit far less violent occurred after Hibernian defeated Rangers in 2016, a pitch invasion which sparked a huge investigation and over 180 arrests. Other scandals tend to focus along the more familiar and less violent lines of refereeing errors and allocation of tickets.
This season Scottish Cup has already delivered many surprise results and exciting ties; Dunfermline being put out by bottom of League One side Stranraer and the uncommon derby between East of Scotland team Linlithgow Rose and Falkirk. A bumper crowd watched Falkirk prevail despite The Roses’ best efforts.
Many non-league teams are enjoying prolonged Scottish Cup runs this year. East Kilbride and BSC Glasgow have been draw against each other. Meaning there is going to be at least one team into the next round of the cup from out with the SPFL. Bonnyrigg Rose and Broxburn face a tougher challenge joining them as they face previous cup winners Clyde and St Mirren respectively. For every team other than Celtic and Rangers who are battling for the Premier League title this will be their only shot at collecting major silverware this season.
The Scottish Cup this year is incredibly important for several other teams. Hearts new manager Daniel Stendel will be hoping to progress. Making dramatic changes to his squad, including transfer listing their now former captain Christophe Berra, Stendel will be praying to make the last 16. A result which if he pulls off ought to galvanise his team out of relegation form.
Championship leaders Dundee United will be looking to impress against Hibernian. United have been by far the best team in the championship but haven’t been tested. The game against Hibs will show how much they will have to improve to compete in the Premiership. It’s going to be a round of full-blooded fixtures as the 32 remaining clubs are reduced to just 16.
What I and many others in Scotland can’t understand is. Why do teams field vastly inexperienced team to compete in the oldest tournament in global football, the FA Cup? When the Premier League is wrapped up why clubs don’t throw their weight behind delivering success?
Teams like Tottenham changing nearly half their team, against lower league opposition, when they haven’t won a trophy in 10 years seems mental. I’m sure they would have been keen to avoid the dreaded replay. Of course, many of you will be quick to point out it can work and occasionally does, most recently with Liverpool dominating a Merseyside derby with a squad of essentially teenagers. But more often than the not risk won’t pay off and let’s be honest, the fans want to see the stars of the show delivering a cup run and a special trip to Wembley.
As we know English football, especially the top flight is all about money, sponsorship and corporate partners. It’s a refined product with 22 multi-millionaires on the pitch occasionally delivering moments of brilliance. Or perhaps more often failing to clear the first man at a corner or taking a poor touch. Scottish football will never compete in financial or technical terms with English football. But in a knock out cup competition, all anybody wants is, effort, passion, blood, tears and occasionally snotters.
If that sounds like your kind of thing? Then the magic of the Scottish Cup will be forever captured in your heart.