Saturday, January 07, 2012

Scottish Cup: Shock and Awe

A January weekend to cast off the shackles of league pressure and revel in the romance of what is, at this stage, the most egalitarian of our competitions.

A Scottish Cup weekend. Breathe in the fresh air of potential shocks and brace yourself butchers, bakers and candlestick makers making SPL defences look like part-time amateurs.

The Old Firm both travel to the north-east and the live TV coverage follows them, hoping for excitement and scares amid the trawlers and seagulls.

Cowdenbeath manager Colin Cameron is adamant Sky have made the wrong choice.

Celtic fighting their way out of jail in Peterhead and Rangers looking to avoid a smoking in Abrbroath are all well and good but Cameron feels it should be Hibs in Fife for shocks this weekend.

Hard to argue with him. Cowdenbeath have form, home advantage and nothing to lose.

Hibs have a haunted look, seem scared of their own shadow, lack fortitude in defence and are searching for invention in attack.

Apparently Cowdenbeath haven't beaten Hibs since 1930. Hibs haven't won the cup since 1902. Maybe something will give in 2012.

It's going to be an interesting Saturday afternoon at Central Park. Not to say an uncomfortable one for the green half of Edinburgh.

Across the capital Hearts entertain Auchinleck Talbot. Exactly the sort of fixture that the cup should throw up. If not one where a shock seems likely.

One never knows though. Isn't it about time we had a seismic upset of this kind? It might be. But I still can't see it happening.

Where else might we look to see (relative) giants a tumbling?

Aberdeen have offered much entertainment in this area in recent years but they should be able to negotiate their way past Forfar.

Dundee will be relishing having a go at Kilmarnock in front of the BBC cameras and that should be enough to ensure there's trepidation on the trip from Ayrshire to Dens Park.

Motherwell will be happy enough at facing Queen's Park at home while Dundee United will be respectful of the trip to Airdrie but feel consolations that it's a fixture that no longer holds the same terrors as it used to for "big" clubs.

Hamilton's trip to Paisley looks intriguing and St Mirren will be expecting a rough afternoon while St Johnstone and Brechin might have offered more interest if it was being played at Glebe Park.

An SPL club will fall in Inverness where straggling stugglers Dunfermline will be on the look out for some cup cheer. I'd back Inverness to come through that one though.

Elsewhere I'm drawn to Livingston v Ayr with the visitors enjoying a recent tradition of upsetting bigger odds than they face in West Lothian.

Ross County have haunted SPL clubs in recent seasons and will be looking to progress beyond their home tie with Stenhousemuir while Falkirk will hope to make the best of home advantage against East Fife to set up a shot at some more giantkilling in the next round.

Raith Rovers host Morton while Queen of the South visit Partick Thistle in the sort of fixtures that could provide enthralling games even as attention is drawn elsewhere.

Not, perhaps, a weekend stuffed full of shocks. But more than one SPL team is likely to fall and a couple of lower division sides will fancy their chances of making a statement.

All of which should be enough to, even briefly, engage us with a competition we should celebrate more.

It will also give those in favour of a more inclusive top flight the ammunition they need to fire off their annual volley of "look at what Minnow X did to Sort-of-big-club Y" tirades.

At least one player that we've probably hardly heard of will finish this weekend a hero. An Adrian Sprott for 2012.

Other players will wake up on Monday morning and have to face the season ahead knowing they've played their part in bringing shame and humiliation to their club.

That's the thing about romance. There are winners. And there are those left sitting on the kitchen floor drinking vodka from the bottle while snivelling wretchedly.

Makes for a great weekend though.

The Scottish Football Blog blogathon took place in November in aid of Alzheimer Scotland and the Homeless World Cup. You can still donate to help two great causes.