Saturday, April 14, 2012

Scottish Cup: Aberdeen v Hibs

After a week of shrieking SPL outrage, the weekend positively bristles with anticipation and longing.

All eyes are on Hampden.

All stout Scottish footballing hearts are surely longing for an outbreak of football amid the stressful stramashes of the last couple of days.

I imagine there are but few people in Scotland who don't share the view that the ideal scenario for this season's Scottish Cup is for Hibs to beat Aberdeen today before going on to beat Hearts in May's final.

There's the romance you need right there. The magic potion to salve the wounds of a game that has been left feeling distinctly grubby.

110 years of of anguished despair ended by a ragbag collection of loan stars and short-term contracts.

Hollywood would come knocking for the film rights. Hibs and the Scottish Cup meet The Mighty Ducks.

Or maybe that's just me.

The reality is that Hampden is not a happy hunting ground for Hibs.

On my first visit to the national "stadium" - please note, young 'uns, that misty-eyed nostalgia about the Hampden of old ignores the shithole it had become by the 1980s - Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen demolished Hibs 3-0 in the 1985 League Cup final.

Sort of set the tone.

In 2000 a Scottish Cup semi-final took the two clubs to Hampden for a 6.15 kick-off one Sunday evening.

A crowd of little over 20,000 saw a Hibs team featuring the masterful Franck Sauzee and the majestic Russell Latapy undone by Andy Dow, a man who was typically neither masterful nor majestic.

Memories are made of this.

Fair to say that this Scottish Cup semi-final glistens in the gloom of the season so far for both Hibs and Aberdeen.

If SPL life has been uninspiring at Pittodrie it's been woefully incompetent at Easter Road.

That makes this a rather unlikely semi-final and certainly not one that you would have predicted after watching the three previous games between the two this season.

A Scott Vernon penalty - a disputed penalty at that - is all that separates them after 270 minutes of mediocrity.

Mediocrity might in fact be a charitable description of the 0-0 draw at Easter Road in September, a game that will fancy its chances in the always hotly contested "Worst SPL Game of the Season" award.

So there it is: Hampden history suggests an Aberdeen win and recent history suggests a game that will live short in the memory.

It probably won't be as simple as that.

Hibs discovered a hitherto unseen resilience to beat Inverness a couple of weeks ago and improved on that performance in drawing with Motherwell last Sunday.

Aberdeen stopped a run of seven league games without a win last weekend as they secured a clean sweep of SPL victories over Dundee United.

Fluctuating form makes this a hard one to predict. Toiling in the league, both clubs have plotted and plugged their way through the cup draw.

A semi final is a nice bonus, a Scottish Cup final has the potential to turn a poor season into a good one.

Right now I'd take an 89th minute winner being deflected into Aberdeen's net off Garry O'Connor sizeable rump.

That's the fan talking though.

Searching for some vestige of neutrality I have to say this one looks too close to call.

Hibs have looked like a shadow of a football team at times in 2012 but they've still managed to get the job done in the cup.

Aberdeen, slightly fully figured but not in the most robust of footballing health, have struggled to make the most of any superiority they have over Pat Fenlon's team.

Fag paper margins, the difference between a cup final - and possible European qualification - and the anonymity of being losing semi finalists.

A big day for the managers. As Craig Brown has strived to find a working formula at Aberdeen he's been forced to watch the Motherwell team he deserted thrive.

Pat Fenlon has found the misery at Hibs seeping like damp through the fabric of the club. It can't have taken him long to realise that he needs to transform the whole attitude of Easter Road as much as he needs to transform the team.

Both will know what a big deal a Scottish Cup final or, whisper it, a Scottish Cup win would be for their clubs and what a boost it would be for their standing among supporters.

Oddly Fenlon, the younger man by close to three decades, has more experience at the business end of tournaments and more of a track record in sealing the silverware deal.

Will that mean anything on Saturday?

Probably not.

But woe betide any player on either side who doesn't grasp just what this game will mean to his manager or the fans.

There's of a throwback feel to a Hibs v Aberdeen semi final. A big chance to recapture a hint of past glories in forgettable seasons.

May the best team win.

Or, of course, Hibs.After a week of shrieking SPL outrage, the weekend positively bristles with anticipation and longing.

All eyes are on Hampden.

All stout Scottish footballing hearts are surely longing for an outbreak of football amid the stressful stramashes of the last couple of days.

I imagine there are but few people in Scotland who don't share the view that the ideal scenario for this season's Scottish Cup is for Hibs to beat Aberdeen today before going on to beat Hearts in May's final.

There's the romance you need right there. The magic potion to salve the wounds of a game that has been left feeling distinctly grubby.

110 years of of anguished despair ended by a ragbag collection of loan stars and short-term contracts.

Hollywood would come knocking for the film rights. Hibs and the Scottish Cup meet The Mighty Ducks.

Or maybe that's just me.

The reality is that Hampden is not a happy hunting ground for Hibs.

On my first visit to the national "stadium" - please note, young 'uns, that misty-eyed nostalgia about the Hampden of old ignores the shithole it had become by the 1980s - Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen demolished Hibs 3-0 in the 1985 League Cup final.

Sort of set the tone.

In 2000 a Scottish Cup semi-final took the two clubs to Hampden for a 6.15 kick-off one Sunday evening.

A crowd of little over 20,000 saw a Hibs team featuring the masterful Franck Sauzee and the majestic Russell Latapy undone by Andy Dow, a man who was typically neither masterful nor majestic.

Memories are made of this.

Fair to say that this Scottish Cup semi-final glistens in the gloom of the season so far for both Hibs and Aberdeen.

If SPL life has been uninspiring at Pittodrie it's been woefully incompetent at Easter Road.

That makes this a rather unlikely semi-final and certainly not one that you would have predicted after watching the three previous games between the two this season.

A Scott Vernon penalty - a disputed penalty at that - is all that separates them after 270 minutes of mediocrity.

Mediocrity might in fact be a charitable description of the 0-0 draw at Easter Road in September, a game that will fancy its chances in the always hotly contested "Worst SPL Game of the Season" award.

So there it is: Hampden history suggests an Aberdeen win and recent history suggests a game that will live short in the memory.

It probably won't be as simple as that.

Hibs discovered a hitherto unseen resilience to beat Inverness a couple of weeks ago and improved on that performance in drawing with Motherwell last Sunday.

Aberdeen stopped a run of seven league games without a win last weekend as they secured a clean sweep of SPL victories over Dundee United.

Fluctuating form makes this a hard one to predict. Toiling in the league, both clubs have plotted and plugged their way through the cup draw.

A semi final is a nice bonus, a Scottish Cup final has the potential to turn a poor season into a good one.

Right now I'd take an 89th minute winner being deflected into Aberdeen's net off Garry O'Connor sizeable rump.

That's the fan talking though.

Searching for some vestige of neutrality I have to say this one looks too close to call.

Hibs have looked like a shadow of a football team at times in 2012 but they've still managed to get the job done in the cup.

Aberdeen, slightly fully figured but not in the most robust of footballing health, have struggled to make the most of any superiority they have over Pat Fenlon's team.

Fag paper margins, the difference between a cup final - and possible European qualification - and the anonymity of being losing semi finalists.

A big day for the managers. As Craig Brown has strived to find a working formula at Aberdeen he's been forced to watch the Motherwell team he deserted thrive.

Pat Fenlon has found the misery at Hibs seeping like damp through the fabric of the club. It can't have taken him long to realise that he needs to transform the whole attitude of Easter Road as much as he needs to transform the team.

Both will know what a big deal a Scottish Cup final or, whisper it, a Scottish Cup win would be for their clubs and what a boost it would be for their standing among supporters.

Oddly Fenlon, the younger man by close to three decades, has more experience at the business end of tournaments and more of a track record in sealing the silverware deal.

Will that mean anything on Saturday?

Probably not.

But woe betide any player on either side who doesn't grasp just what this game will mean to his manager or the fans.

There's of a throwback feel to a Hibs v Aberdeen semi final. A big chance to recapture a hint of past glories in forgettable seasons.

May the best team win.

Or, of course, Hibs.

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