Amateurs should not miss out on Hampden
Every sport has its own field of dreams, the venue where those who love their game of choice aspire to appear at and compete on.
For football in Scotland it is Hampden Park that is the arena where legends are made and cup finals won. But have recent events conspired to show that even our traditional home of Scottish football is not immune to the commercial preferences our game has developed at the expense of the love and romance of our national sport?
I am making reference to the decision to prevent the Scottish Amateur Cup final being held at Hampden, the stadium which has hosted this level of the game's showpiece match for around 100 years.
Hampden Park was the setting for Sunday's Old Firm cup final. Photo:SNS
There are as always perfectly viable reasons for such a decision to be reached by those who own our national stadium and indeed the possibility of the tradition being continued is a possibility but with the caveat of a price to be paid.
But are these excuses acceptable in the face of the great joy and excitement those who play football at amateur level get from earning the right to grace the hallowed turf, or in the anticipation these players will have as they drive into the bowels of the stadium on cup final day and make the long walk from dressing room to the pitch?
I do not believe they are. As a youngster I always dreamt of playing at Hampden and was fortunate to do so in both a semi-final and final.
There should be no attempt to dilute the experience of Hampden Park and, while my memories were ultimately of losing matches there, the incredible pride in walking in the footsteps of Scottish football giants lives long in the memory of those who achieve it.
Therefore do not let this decision be another step towards a further detachment between those who love our game and those who administer it.
At a time when the average fan feels an ever growing distance between them and club, a compromise would surely show that there is still room in Scotland for football dreams to come true and for players playing solely for the love of the game to have their historic day at Hampden.
A further argument for the axing of this fixture could be the possible damage to the playing surface but given the condition of the pitch during the Co-operative Insurance Cup final it would seem that it is already suffering badly.
Whether this is as a result of a severe winter or the regular staging of pop concerts is debatable but what is clear is that the pitch is not befitting of the centre piece of our national game at present.
The players of the Old Firm deserve credit therefore for producing an entertaining match in difficult underfoot conditions and none more so than Steven Whittaker of Rangers.
I blogged around a year ago on the need for versatility in today's game and there surely cannot be a better example of a player capable in so many different roles than Steven.
His performance as a make-shift centre-half only highlighted his ability to produce performances in almost any role, adding to impressive displays as a full-back on both sides and as a central midfielder.
We are very quick in Scotland to laud the talents of those from beyond our borders and on many occasions point to the Dutch model where players are educated in playing all over the park and coached to be proficient with both feet.
Does Steven Whittaker not fit all this criteria given his defensive capabilities, his ease in a midfield role, his threat going forward and his use of the ball from both sides?
Should we then not use his abilities as a great example to our young players aspiring to reach the top levels and be more vocal in promoting our own talent as the benchmark?
Our national team is on the cusp of an exciting period, let's jump on the positivity bandwagon and allow our best amateurs their day in the sun at Hampden and give more credit to those professional players our system can produce.