Saturday, March 12, 2011

Scottish Cup: A Biblical Epic

An itsy bitsy weekend for the top flight clubs with the Scottish Cup quarter finals spread out over Saturday and Sunday and Rangers and Kilmarnock squeezing in a league clash tomorrow.

But a day with an almost biblical narrative: Saints, David and Goliath, a prodigal son and no doubt some sinners by 5pm this evening.

St Mirren v Aberdeen

Both clubs have survived scares to get this far. St Mirren quite comfortably negotiated a way past Ayr United in the last round but needed a replay to hit Peterhead for six back in January.

Aberdeen got half a dozen against East Fife to set up a huff and puff performance against Dunfermline settled only by a 92nd minute own goal.

Mindful of that game at Pittodrie the neutral might be less than enthralled at the prospect of the BBC cameras tracking Craig Brown's every move.

Still, it could be a belter.

In the league this season the two sides have met twice and have a win each. Aberdeen did the business in a 2-0 home in January while St Mirren prevailed 2-1 in October.

Following that defeat in Paisley, Mark McGhee's Aberdeen travelled to Celtic the following week and lost 9-0.

All seems a long time ago now.

Aberdeen will be favourites here. They were poor on Monday in losing to Dundee United but, with both top six dreams and relegations nightmares out of the way, the cup offers interest in a season that's dwindling away.

St Mirren, trapped between the safety of teams like Aberdeen and the anguish of Hamilton, still have other battles to fight.

An away win for me.

Brechin City v St Johnstone

Brechin, I often quite cruelly feel, is the sort of place one drives through en route to somewhere else you don't really want to be.

Not today though as the cathedral city bedecks itself in red and white to celebrate a Scottish Cup quarter final.

Second in Division Two, Brechin are a side whose 105 year history (following the merger of Brechin Hearts and Brechin Harps, wiki fans) has been marked by a stolid underachievement.

I don't mean that to be as disrespectful as it sounds. They are every inch the lower league side, the sort of side that helps make Scottish football what it is.

So a quarter final is a rare achievement and we should be thanking Brechin for allowing us to rediscover some of the romance of the cup in the dully predictable Scottish game.

And an added layer of intrigue offered by Brechin manager Jim Weir who spent 13 years of his playing career at St Johnstone.

Romance, David v Goliath stuff, divided loyalties. The BBC commentators might be slightly annoyed that the powers that be chose Paisley over Brechin this afternoon.

Brechin's lofty league position seems based on goals (43 in 24 games) and a solid defence. Much is also being made of their fitness which could dent one of St Johnstone's most obvious advantages.

I'm a giant feartie-cat who loves stories like this.

Brechin in a semi final, just a couple of years of being kicked out of this very competition.

Brechin in a semi final just a year or so after David Will, Mr Brechin and FIFA administrator, died.

It would all bring a tear to glass eye.

But they have to beat St Johnstone to get there. I'll back the magic to continue - if only for a bit - with a scoring draw today.