IT’S SHOWTIME in the showpiece and if Brendan and the Bhoys could spare a thought for your humble scribe’s old ticker and get the job done nice and early I would be much obliged.

I’m sure you would, too, dear reader.

It’s a Scottish Cup Final coming together of the Glasgow foes at a capacity Hampden with millions observing worldwide via satellite TV and the scene is set for the curtain to come down on a memorable return for the Celtic manager.

The third consecutive title – and the club’s highly impressive twelfth crown in 13 years – was delivered ten days ago following a whirlwind start at Kilmarnock with three goals stuffed into the hosts’ net in the first 35 minutes on the way to a 5-0 success.

Something similar – or even identical – would be welcomed at the national stadium today.

But – and, alas, there is always a pesky ‘but’ – things have been known to go alarmingly off script in these all-Glasgow affairs.

A CELTIC GREAT…Tommy Burns was jinxed by Rangers in season 1995/96.

I still break down and sob uncontrollably into my beer in The Flying Duck when I reflect upon season 1995/96. The late and much-lamented Tommy Burns had put together a line-up that was easy on the eye with Paul McStay, John Collins, Jackie McNamara, Tom Boyd, Andreas Thom and Pierre van Hoijdonk all strutting their stuff.

You and I were brought up with Celtic teams playing with a certain pizzaz and panache, an element of swagger and maybe even a hint of arrogance. Jock Stein would have approved of this fine assembly of individuals.

Extraordinarily, Burns’ side lost only once in a 36-game league programme and traipsed in four points behind Rangers. Their solitary defeat came against Walter Smith’s outfit in a 2-0 setback at Parkhead in September 1995.

The other three matches between the city neighbours ended in stalemates. That was Celtic’s problem that particular campaign. They may have won 24 of their outings, but they also drew 11 – and that opened the door for their rivals.

One of the deadlocks came in the New Year fixture when they pummelled Andy Goram without success as the scoreline remained blank. The only time the extrovert netminder was beaten, Phil O’Donnell’s vicious strike cannoned off the woodwork to safety.

That was the evening when Burns lamented: “When I pass away they will put that on my tombstone – ‘Goram broke his heart’. He’s probably the best keeper I’ve ever seen.”

CUP THAT CHEERS…Brendan Rodgers displays his first Scottish Cup, won in May 2017 against Aberdeen.

In fact, Celtic contrived to lose only three games in their domestic crusade that season – all to Rangers. The League Cup bid ended in the east end of Glasgow September 1995 when the visitors broke away and Ally McCoist nodded past Gordon Marshall.

It was a typical smash-and-grab conclusion of the time. Likewise the Scottish Cup semi-final, when Brian Laudrup raced away from the one-paced John Hughes to lob in the winner in a 2-1 victory.

Fine margins, my friends. Three defeats throughout the season and nothing to show for Celtic’s mighty efforts. Dark clouds could locate Tommy Burns even on the brightest of days.

So, please, Celtic dodge the omnipresent banana skin and get the job done with no recriminations to follow. And may I also request getting the business taken care of in the regulation 90 minutes? I’ll even take extra-time if it secures the silverware.

Don’t even think about penalty-kicks. My tremors are just easing after last month’s semi-final escapade against Aberdeen.

That was the afternoon that Joe Hart demonstrated he was as capable from the spot as David Turnbull, Reo Hatate, Luis Palma, Adam Idah and Matt O’Riley when he fluffed his lines.

Thankfully, our retiring goalkeeper is a bit more adept at stopping attempts from 12 yards and his swoop to deny Killian Phillips is the reason the holders will get the opportunity to defend their trophy this afternoon.

Idah, Palma and O’Riley also proved to be a bit more reliable in the spot-kick shoot-out and buried their efforts behind Kelle Roos before Hart’s failure. Paulo Bernardo, Alistair Johnston and Tomoki Iwata then stepped up to score before the much-decorated netminder foiled the Dons’ taker.

So, I am begging Celtic to think of the blood pressure of others on this occasion.

SPOT ON…Joe Hart shows his prowess at saving penalty-kick as he denies Aberdeen;s Killian Phillips.

Enough of this negativity, dear reader. To my way of thinking, Celtic have the better manager and the superior players and, given a fair bounce of the ball without too many unnecessary interventions from outside influences, I am confident they will be presented with their 42nd Scottish Cup once the smoke of battle clears.

I have noticed recently that Jock Stein is being accredited with the quote “Only a fool would predict the outcome of a Celtic v Rangers game”. It wasn’t the legendary manager who uttered those words.

They were written in the late sixties by the former chief football writer of the Daily Record, a wonderful and colourful character by the name of Hugh Taylor, who then went on to tip Celtic to win 2-1.

That’s a fact. I was on the Record sports desk at the time.

I wouldn’t hazard attempting to come up with a scoreline, there are way too many variables to even contemplate getting close to that outcome with any degree of accuracy.

However, I am convinced Celtic will be the acclaimed league and Cup winners of Scotland at some stage today. If they require an extra inspiration or motivation they only have to recall events in Lisbon exactly 57 years ago.

Skipper Callum McGregor, a player who knows a thing or two about winning Cup Finals at the national stadium, puts it this way: “When I get up in the morning, I want to be going back to bed a winner.”

Amen to that.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and the best action images from Celtic v Rangers this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.

Click Here for Comments >

About Author