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Celtic and the Consolation Cup

Chick Young | 12:13 UK time, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

If Scottish football were the school sports the Co-operative Insurance Cup is the egg and spoon race.

Don't get me wrong - a win's a win and I remember partying on Vimto till nightfall after I came second in the three-legged race, won - under suspicious circumstances - by a lad from the Isle of Man.

And so Celtic supporters were entitled to pop their corks in the wake of a victory over the team they most like to thrash.

But as I interviewed players and management at full time on the Hampden pitch I really did get the feeling that both Celtic and Rangers had their minds on other things.

celtic_ribbons_cup.jpg

You can call the Co-op the consolation cup if you like, but if Celtic now don't win the championship it will be no consolation at all.

They were thoroughly deserving winners on a Hampden surface which looked like had had just been hammered down with carpet tacks.

Frankly, I am becoming a little weary of horticultural talk in a football column - it is as if the game's tactics are unfolded in a potting shed.

But what are we scribes to do?

Fir Park looks like Macrahanish beach and now we are utterly incapable of laying a surface worthy of the name of the National Stadium.

Its sticky toffee pudding surface stopped talented players like Aiden McGeady running with the ball, although admittedly he did seem to get the hang of it by the time his pace left Kirk Broadfoot in reverse gear in the game's final throw of the dice.

Even Scott Brown - surely player of the year in waiting despite my earlier shout for Pedro Mendes - at first toiled to stay vertical on a surface which sprung like a bouncy castle.

Brown is now looking every inch the £4m high energy player that persuaded Celtic to burst the bank for him.

Even after 120 minutes of box-to-box action he was reaching pogo-stick heights in his jumps of celebration before the medal ceremony.

In any case the sight of the game's third most prized domestic bauble in the cabinet will surely be enough to lift Celtic on the home run.

Neither club is in great shakes in terms of the European game, but at SPL level Gordon Strachan's outfit seem to have more about them.

Incidentally, that scraping noise you hear is the sound of Strachan's critics digging for cover.

European failure will continue to haunt his season, but he was hardly a Scottish manager alone in that category.

Strachan has now won six trophies in four years at the club - with a seventh in view on the horizon - and if he does win that championship he will have out-performed Martin O'Neill, although I still insist that O'Neill's taking of the team to the Uefa Cup final was his greatest achievement of all.

But then Strachan isn't employed to out-perform Martin O'Neill - or even Jock Stein.

It's not history he is competing against, it's Walter Smith and other SPL bosses.

And in recent times he has bowed only to Gus MacPherson.

Football is a compromise sometimes.

Would Celtic fans have traded the Homecoming Scottish Cup defeat in the knowledge that it would guarantee a Co-op Cup win over Rangers? Probably.

Meanwhile, at Govan they stand at the this-could-be-heaven-this-could-be-hell crossroads.

A season which promised so much could deliver the square root of zilch.

Some crazy, wacky feeling deep within me said Aberdeen were going to win the Scottish Cup - so would someone please scrape the omelette off this column since Dunfermline beat them in a penalty shoot-out at Pittodrie?

And I have already declared my tipping of Celtic for the title.

And it is nearly nine months since they were booted out of Europe.

The natives would be restless if that scenario unfolded and I know exactly what event from their school sports they would want re-enacted.

The sack race...

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