Sunday, April 10, 2011

Alba Challenge Cup: Queen of the South v Ross County

It might fly a little under the radar but today's Alba Challenge Cup final is surely a welcome distraction for Ross County and Queen of the South.

County are being tracked by Cowdenbeath at the bottom of the First Division, an unwelcome relegation play-off still a distinct possibility.

Queen of the South are another of our clubs in a financial funk. So grim is the situation that manager Kenny Brannigan has recently engaged in open warfare with his board:

“Things are a total nightmare. Almost every single first team player has been approached by another club between December and now.

“These players are out of a job in the next two months. I have told them to look after themselves and take an offer if they get it. They have kids and mortgages to think about.
“It is a disgrace.

“When you have got the smallest squad in Scotland and are in a cup final and fourth in the first division, it is not the players or the manager to blame. It is the board.” (Dumfries and Galloway Standard)

All of which makes Brannigan's achievement in taking Queens to fourth in the First Division, with third place not out of reach, all the more admirable.

Understandably both Brannigan and Ross County manager Jimmy Calderwood have painted today as a break from the tribulations of the season. This is a cup final football as a footballing stress ball.

Let's hope that the manager's can convey that to their players, allowing them the sense of freedom that will reward beleaguered fans with a game worthy of a national cup final.

They might, unfortunately, not get a huge amount of help from the pitch. McDiarmid Park has been the victim of some harsh conditions since this game was originally snowed off in November. It's showing the strain.

League positions suggest Queen of the South are favourites. The three clashes so far this season confirm that with the Dumfries' biblical superstars enjoying two wins and a draw in three league games.

But a cup final win might go some way to convincing the doubters that Calderwood is the right man to steer Ross County through troubled waters towards the end of the season.

And a trophy would be lend much articulacy to the fight to secure a viable future for Queen of the South.

People might not take much notice of it. But both sides have more than just a trophy to play for today.