CELTIC are one team who can sympathise with this evening’s Scottish Cup Final opponents Inverness Caley Thistle over their lack of game time in the countdown to Hampden.
Billy Dodds’ Championship side have complained about having the best part of a month idle which is hardly ideal preparation for a showpiece occasion against Ange Postecoglou’s champions.
The Parkhead side, though, have been in a similar position – and it cost them the opportunity of winning their second European Cup in four seasons.
MILAN MISERY…Celtic defender Davie Hay in action against Feyenoord playmaker Wim van Hanagem.
Back in 1970, the Hoops only had one meaningless game between the Scottish Cup Final against Aberdeen at the national stadium on Saturday April 11 and the showdown with Feyenoord in Europe’s elite competition in the San Siro Stadium in Milan on May 6.
The only match separating the two Finals was a non-event league encounter against St Mirren in Paisley when both clubs went through the motions as Jock Stein’s team, who had previously clinched the title, won 3-2 and made sure the players came through unscathed.
Club legend Davie Hay, who played at right-back in the games against the Dons and the Dutchmen, recalled: “Big Jock was concerned about the lack of competitive football for his players before the European Cup Final.
“We had a bounce match in Fraserburgh to try to keep the rust out of our limbs, but there can be little doubt the inactivity between the two encounters that mattered did us no favours.
“We lost 3-1 to Aberdeen at Hampden and I’ve already had my say often enough about referee Bobby Davidson’s performance that particular day.
DELIGHT…Bobby Murdoch takes off in celebration as Tommy Gemmell and Bobby Lennox get ready to embrace after the left-back’s opening goal in the San Siro.
DESPAIR…Bobby Murdoch bows his head as Tommy Gemmell retrieves the ball from the back of the net as Feyenoord celebrate their extra-time winner.
“It was a disgrace, but it’s in the history books now and there is little point in harping on about it.
“The match in Paisley was one of those affairs where the home lads appeared to be looking forward to their summer holidays and we were making sure no-one sustained an injury that would keep them out of the match in Milan.
“Fair play to Feyenoord on the evening. They were the better team, no argument about that. We were slow out the traps and that was most unusual for us.
“We will never know just how much the lack of match practice counted against us that night, but it certainly didn’t do us any favours.
“Nor did the game going into extra-time, that was the last thing we needed. We were only three minutes away from a replay – there were no penalty-kicks back then – and, like every single team-mate – I genuinely believe we would have won a second game.
“For a start, we would have been better prepared.”
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report and best action images from Celtic v Caley Thistle this evening – only in your champion CQN.