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CELTIC FACE CUP DELAY

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SCOTTISH Cup holders Celtic, who have won the trophy for a record-breaking four successive seasons, face a delay before they get the green light to defend their trophy.

The SFA have promised fixture dates for the delayed competition “will be released as soon as possible”.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday confirmed most of Scotland’s lower league clubs will finally be able to play competitive football again.

All professional football below the Championship has been suspended since early January due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

That included Leagues One and Two, the Highland and Lowland Leagues, the Women’s Premier Leagues 1 and 2, as well as the Scottish Cup.

The East, South and West of Scotland Leagues, Scottish Junior FA Leagues and North Caledonian League were also affected.

However, the government chief has confirmed that clubs in Leagues One and Two, as well as those in Women’s Premier League 1, will now be able to resume their respective campaigns.

SCOTTISH CUP GLORY 2017…Tom Rogic celebrates the Hampden winner against Aberdeen.

In a boost for the national competition, Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that certain Highland League sides will also be able to return to action in order to play in their respective ties.

The news will be welcomed by clubs who want to finish their seasons without the need for them to be called early.

Clubs in the Championship, Leagues One and Two had already agreed to play a shortened 27-game campaign.

SCOTTISH CUP GLORY 2018…Callum McGregor turns away after smashing in the opener against Motherwell.

But it remains to be seen whether the third and fourth tiers may now have to play even shorter seasons.

The SFA, in a statement, said: “The Scottish FA welcomes news from the First Minister that Scottish Women’s Premier League 1 and SPFL League One and Two can return to football activity immediately.

“The parameters under which that return is allowed follows discussions between the Scottish FA and representatives of each league and based on the current SPFL Premiership and Championship Joint Response Group Protocols, including a requirement to undertake PCR testing once per week.

“Scottish Women’s Football Premier League 2, Highland League, Lowland League, East, West & South of Scotland Leagues, Scottish Junior FA Leagues and the North Caledonian League all remain under temporary suspension and their return to football activity will be reviewed in line with the Scottish Government’s road map out of the Covid-19 crisis.

SCOTTISH CUP GLORY 2019…Odsonne Edouard is congratulated by Scott Sinclair after his second goal against Hearts.

“We will continue to liaise with representatives of those leagues in the coming weeks to establish appropriate return to football protocols.

“The Scottish Cup has also been given approval to resume, with all clubs in the competition given permission to participate subject to compliance with PCR testing requirements.

“Revised Scottish Cup fixture dates will be announced as soon as possible.

“The SPFL and SWF will also update on the respective league fixture schedules in due course.”

SCOTTISH CUP GLORY 2020…Ryan Christie curls in the breakthrough goal against Hearts with Christophe Berra getting a close-up view.

Celtic have lifted the trophy on four consecutive seasons, starting with a 2-1 victory over Aberdeen when Tom Rogic got the last-gasp winner in May 2017. That was followed by strikes from Callum McGregor and Olivier Ntcham in a 2-0 triumph over Motherwell and then Hearts were downed 2-1 with Odsonne Edouard claiming a double on the iconic date of May 25 in 2019.

Neil Lennon saw his players complete the unprecedented quadruple treble in the dramatic penalty-kick shoot-out against the Tynecastle club five days before Christmas last year.

Ryan Christie, Edouard (pen) and Leigh Griffiths were the marksmen in the 3-3 extra-time stalemate and keeper Conor Hazard was the hero in the spot-kick finale when he saved twice for the Parkhead side to win 4-3 in the showdown with Kristoffer Ajer walloping in the deciding goal.

The Hoops are due to play either Falkirk or Arbroath in the third round of this season’s competition.

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