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Romance of the Scottish Cup is still alive

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Jim Spence | 12:28 UK time, Sunday, 13 March 2011

Brechin's 2-2 Scottish Cup draw with St Johnstone was not just a great game of football, it also emphasised everything that is good about the Scottish game.

Firstly, referees don't get many plaudits, so hats off to Steve Conroy, who, despite understandable concerns over a pitch that was a mud-bath in places, let the game go ahead and handled it with real common sense.

And well done to Brechin and their volunteer army for getting the pitch playable after a night of snow and rain.

But, mainly, a huge well done to both sets of players who showed terrific skill and commitment in equal measure in extremely trying underfoot conditions amid driving rain.

Brechin City's Ewan Moyes closes down St Johnstone's Chris Millar

Brechin City's Ewan Moyes closes down St Johnstone's Chris Millar. Photo: SNS.

It would have been easy in the conditions for a couple of liberties to be taken in tackles, but every player on the field played hard but fair, showing respect for opponents.

The crowd of 3,500 was raucous, everyone who works at the community-owned club was their usual hospitable self and the match itself see-sawed, with Brechin going ahead through a penalty, falling behind and then levelling for a draw and a mouth-watering replay.

With legendary Saints fan Stuart Cosgrove presenting Off the Ball, from Glebe Park, I even got the chance to meet up with his great mate, Mike Mason, who went to school with me in Dundee and who I hadn't seen in years.

And, fortunately, despite pitching in with a fork to help hard-pressed fans and staff get the pitch playable, no injuries have been done to my ageing bones.

All in all, it was a great day out and proof that the magic of the Cup is still alive.


  • Comment number 1.

    Glad to hear you are still in one piece Jim. Heard you peching a bit on the radio after your horticultural efforts.

    The commentary on the game was brilliant and have just seen highlights online. Great match. Never a penalty but Brechin deserved a replay. Hope someone televises this one so they can earn a few bob. Will hurt the already poor attendances at Perth though.

  • Comment number 2.

    Makes you wonder why the beeb televised StM vs Aberdeen which was always set to be a snore..though Saints were by far the better team and should have won had they taken their chances. The Dons were very poor.

    Listened to bits of this game on the radio. Sounded a good match as was the game ealier today between DUtd/ Well.

    Two good games in the earlier round as well.

    The Ibrox game was a cracking football match to watch and the replay pure football theatre Parkhead style. For all the unsporting behavour of some Rangers players, two of whom really deserve to be hammered by the SFA, in any other context the game would have benn considered handbags. In Junior football this type of encounter would have been considered as pretty tame.

    All in all thus far not too shabby a competition thus far this year.

    But no minnows in the final or qualifying for Europe please! Enough damage to the coefficient has been done in recent years.

  • Comment number 3.

    Agree with #2, Brechin's game should have been shown live. As well as the TV money, they could have made some extra cash by placing adverts along the hedge.

    Overall, this year's cup has been a good one, and it could get even more interesting if Inverness win on Wednesday.

  • Comment number 4.

    Agree in that I like others listened to the game and watched the highlights. Sounded like a smashing match and would have undoubtedly been better than the St Mirren / Aberdeen game although as a supporter of one of the smaller teams in the SPL I recognise the rights of their supporters to the occassional match on the telly as well.

    re "It would have been easy in the conditions for a couple of liberties to be taken in tackles, but every player on the field played hard but fair, showing respect for opponents." the penalty that never was kind of undermines that but again I agree that Brechin deserved a replay.

    Traditionally we expect the smaller team to get one bite at the cherry and normally the club from the higher division to see them off at the replay but this time I have a sneaky suspicion Brechin could still surprise us in this match.

  • Comment number 5.

    Two small teams playing in front of 3,500.Apart from the Old Firm matches the rest of Scottish football is a very poor standard.I bet the TV companies are praying no minnows get through to the finals.

  • Comment number 6.

    Wouldn't the romance of the Cup be even greater if more Juniors were allowed in. The 1st round would be much more interesting.

    Also, the last 32 should be played in middle Nov so that any small teams (and bigger teams) which get through have a better chance the game will go ahead.

    Actually, if more teams were to enter the 1st round you could get rid of one round altogether.

  • Comment number 7.


    More juniors should be allowed in absolutely agree. Don't quite know how they decide which junior teams get in to the qualifying rounds but I remember Irvine Meadow going to Easter road last year and giving the Hibees a game.

  • Comment number 8.

    #6 If all the Junior sides were allowed in then the number of teams would be very close to the 256 needed to have an all-in 8 round competition. Doing that, the Cup could be played rounds 1-5 every 3rd Saturday from September to November and rounds 6 to 8 (the final) one per month from March to May, perhaps the 1st Saturday of each month, so everyone would know which weekends were cup games. By avoiding December to February, the competition would also miss much (but not all) of the winter weather.
    Think that idea should be filed away under the "too clever for the SFA" category...

  • Comment number 9.

    Uriah Heep ....Having seen the penalty incident again on tv, I can't disagree with you, but in general the game was played in a great spirit.

    piorek and Rob04 I agree with you both on the juniors. That all comes back to pyramid systems etc. It's hard to see why the junior game isn't simply incorporated into the the whole SFL structure along with the Highland League and East of Scotland.

  • Comment number 10.

    It seems to me that the Scottish Governing bodies are just so resistant to change to a point where it almost becomes illogical. Most big businesses in Manufacturing, Services and even the public sector understand the need to re-align their business to meet changing market dynamics. They also understand how to grow either through organic means or where appropriate acquisition. However, football falls between two stools - they ought to respond to shifting market demand (ie a business model - understood by the clubs) but the institutions want to behave like some out-moded gentlemen's club - the kind that make up daft rules like keeping jackets and ties on till the committee say you can take them off. What a load of old rubbish!!

    We are a small country with ideas above our economic muscle and I agree its time we had an integrated football governing structure.

  • Comment number 11.

    Uriah Heep

    Is fear the key ? some of our senior clubs at lower level might not relish the challenge from the ambitious juniors and others.

    But if we are going to claim to have a truly representative SFL it cannot be by invitation only. Merit should be the key.

  • Comment number 12.

    Couldn't resist joining in here Jim despite having been away and not seen any of the weekend games.

    "But if we are going to claim to have a truly representative SFL it cannot be by invitation only. Merit should be the key".

    I would be grateful if you would explain why only merit should apply to the SFL when it's not so long ago that you, amongst others, were in favour of "fixing" the SPL to end the Old Firm monopoly.
    I struggle to see the difference in the arguments.

  • Comment number 13.

    morbhoy, I always enjoy your contributions. I think you refer to my blog of 18 December where i talked about the Old Firm being so dominant that a handicapping system might be in order.

    To quote "I'm a believer that the man who crosses the line first wins the race, but maybe the finances are so lop-sided in our game that some kind of handicapping system is needed to give others a fighting chance.

    A play-off with two legs home and away between, let's say, first versus third and second versus fourth, culminating in a play-off final at Hampden, would be a real potential money-spinner for broadcasters and could pull the fans out in their droves.

    We were told radical change was needed, play-offs at the top of the top league might be a real start."

    The key words are "Maybe and might" I'm throwing the argument in for debate not definitively saying we should. I would have no truck with any competition which was fixed...but some would argue the SPL is fixed anyhow, since the gap in spending power betwen the Old Firm and the rest is simply so disproportionate that there is hardly any chance of anyone outside of the Glasgow giants winning the league.

    As to the point I made regarding entry to the SFL, do you think it right that ambitious clubs cannot get entry to what is effectively a closed shop.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think you are absolutely right on the issue of league entry Jim. It has been a closed shop for far too long. As a kid growing up watching the juniors it always mystified me why these clubs were not allowed to compete in the same league as the pro's.

    But you can't use words like 'merit' at the bootom end and then 'handicap' at the top end. It won't happen Jim and you know it. Radical for you may be handicapping the big two but for me its about league entry, summer football, games on a Friday night, lowering ticket prices, welcoming families into grounds and changing the fan culture where the match is the event and the rivalry isn't sectarian.

    Since 1893 there have only been about 16/17 non-OF winners of the Scottish League. Aren't people used to it by now? Irrespective of that, the Champs are the team who finish first over the season and thats what distinguishes a cup from a league. Play off for whatever else you like.

    And the 'same teams' is a 'problem' in every league in Europe. Teams like Wigan, Blackburn etc, are only in the EPL to make up the numbers, they have no hope of winning it without massive financial injections. A future level playing field may be in a Euro league for our big 2.

  • Comment number 15.


    I'd be more than happy with an extra 3 or 4 Juniors from each of the 3 regions.
    80 teams in the 1st round including all 30 Football League teams would get rid of one round. The last 32 would then become the 3rd round.

    Jim Spence

    I'm obviously more pessimistic than you because I can't see a pyramidal structure ever happening. I mean you have the East Scotland League and the East Juniors basically overlapping and yet they have no thought what so ever of integrating. Non-League football in Scotland is unfortunately so full of self-interest and parochialism as to prevent any forward movement.

  • Comment number 16.

    #2 - If a 'minnow' got into Europe, and by this I assume you're meaning Brechin, they could surely do no worse than Motherwell in 2008/09, Aberdeen in 2009/10 or Hibs this season (all gained 0 points)?

    And little worse than Rangers in 08/09 or Dundee Utd this season (0.5 points each).

    Personally, I don't care if our cup entrants (into the Europa League) are from a wee village, it's a massive day out for them and one that will live long in their memories. This, in my opinion, far outweighs any perceived benefits from having a non-minnow compete in their stead - a non-minnow that as often as not will perform as poorly as the much maligned minnows.

  • Comment number 17.

    Actually I wrote that before the draw and never considered Brechin as the 'minnow' getting into Europe. Much as I would like to see them progress in the competition, failing to finish off a bigger club at home will probably come back to haunt them.

    I think that Motherwell and Dutd will probably have a better chance in the Europa leauge than Brechin. It might not work out like that as you show but I'm an optimist!

    The 'minnows' I thought of were Aberdeen who really are woeful to watch!

  • Comment number 18.


    Actually now I think of it didn't Gretna qualify one year? The memories of everything are all they have.

  • Comment number 19.

    #2 - 3,500 was the limit of Brechin's capacity, therefore it couldn't be played out in front of any more and was already 7 times the average crowd of Brechin. As for the "minnows" this will come 10 months after a Dundee United v Ross County final was played out in front of the same amount of people as watched the Rangers v Celtic 5th round match at Ibrox. Fans will turn out to watch matches where pricing is correct and one of the Glasgow bile is not involved.

    Jim - couldn't make the game on Saturday, however sounded an absolute peach of a cup tie on the radio (including the build-up, though next time you're pechin on air, take the mic away while not speaking - it was a weird experience listening to your heavy breathing over Richard Gordon's chat!!). Overall, an excellent couple of matches in the Tayside/Angus area and with one of the 4 teams making it to the final, any of them (including Brechin) would make it a good occasion for the neutral Scottish fan, especially if the Glasgae lot don't make it through.

  • Comment number 20.


    People do turn out for cup finals yes they do. They invariably disappear after them as well.

    Don't all teams have a 'bile' element to their support? Don't think that the OF have a monopoly on it do they.

  • Comment number 21.

    #13 Jim Spence.

    Thanks for the response Jim.

    Play offs at the top would be absolute nonsense. Whow actually wins the league, the team that wins most games over the course of a season or the team that wins the play offs?
    If the former then why would fans bother going to the play offs which would really just be another way of parting them from their cash to watch essentially meaningless games and could, in all probability, mean another OF clash?
    If the latter, why bother buying a season ticket or attending during the season when all you have to do is go to the play offs?

    The RFU in England have experienced this with Wasps I think having finished top of the league 3 times but losing the play off final.

    I do agree that a pyramid system is necessary and that junior clubs that wish to progress are able to do so rather than continuity of the present closed shop.
    Whether they would be able compete financially only time would tell but it could also mean the end of a few long established league clubs who would disappear if they dropped out of the SFL.

    Sorry I missed your "heavy breathing" on the radio, are you available for gardening duties when the weather improves?

  • Comment number 22.


    That's the current problem with Scottish football,a "small" team gets to a cup final and everybody wants a ticket but the following game at home is back to normal.
    Nothing to do with pricing in my opinion.

    It's a two way street, both clubs and fans have to combine to improve the standard of players and football played.
    It's too easy to blame OF for everything that's wrong with Scottish fotball.

  • Comment number 23.

    As a St Johnstone fan, I'm upset at our performance... but it was a tremendous advert for the game. The 3,500 is the grounds capacity, and it was full, two sets of fans up for it (show's the merits of not playing the same teams x 3 or 4 times a season) and you could see it meant a lot to Brechin - the whole place!

    Even before this game was played though, we all knew it was shameful that the TV companies (BBC included) did not choose to cover it.
    1) The only non-SPL club left in the tournament.
    2) A great chance of a genuine cup shock.
    3) Tayside derby.
    4) Brechin have three ex-Saints playing for them, an ex-Saint as assistant Manager and a Saints legend as gaffer.
    5) The furthest Brechin City have ever been in the competition.
    6) Before the game we knew that all the other three ties will be replicated at least three times this season in the league, therefore Brechin v Saints is the only thing a bit out of the ordinary.

    What ever happened to the romance of the Cup?! A terrible decision, though I'm not surprised...

  • Comment number 24.

    Rob04 - You make several very good points. Of course the co-efficient is very important. It galls me to say but Rangers' excellent run in the Europa Cup is a case in point. The use of the term 'minnows' is less than helpful however. I do not regard my own side as such but they have signally failed to improve the co-efficient. Brechin could do no worse.

    You are correct when you assert that bile is not the preserve of the OF. It is simply a matter of scale. There are many more OF supporters and, I am sure you would agree, the acrimony involved is so much more deep seated than other rivalries.

    The game needs one single organisation. I entirely share you're sceptiscm. It will not happen. Turkeys have yet to vote for Christmas. Many Junior sides would give so-called senior sides a game. Apropos of nothing I have a soft spot for Bonnyrigg Rose.

    Where you are flat wrong is when the side you support reaches a final. I have not held a season ticket at Easter Road for nearly thirty years. Why ? I live and work in Moray. I get to ICT and Aberdeen games and sometimes Tannadice and Perth if work - and finances - allow. Why should I be denied the chance, however unlikely, to see Hibs lift the Scottish Cup ? We are all fans at the end of the day.

  • Comment number 25.

    Personally I like Cup competitions. Lets face it we could condense the SPL to 4 matches between the OF to decide the league and most seasons it would be a reliable predictor of the final outcome. However, the top 6 SPL clubs are all capable of a bad day at the office in the cup - everything from Berwick to a miserable night in Inverness as I recall along with the brilliant newspaper headline SupercaleygobalisticCelticareatrotious. Was reading the column where Jim McLean was recalling the 91 Cup final which is still one of my all time favourites - Great atmosphere, family rivalry, great game and great goals, extra time and a winner without penalties. Pound for pound way better value than your average SPL match, even at the business end of the season. As for the juniors - they are as well supported as those SPL clubs who regularly get less than 1000 at the match - many as low as 300. So why thwart their ambition.

    We read everyday about the need for radical change in the Scottish game yet we creep forward at a snails pace with nothing but vested interest on show. We are crying out for new ideas, new formats - Johnnytworivers offers an alternative but the idea just falls on the floor and little consideration or acknowledgement of something different. We are all just pre-conditioned to be comfortable with the status quo but its that complacency that has got us to where we are.

  • Comment number 26.


    I used the term in the affectionate sense Hibby. If Brechin get through and win the thing fair play to them.

    OF? Well the latest instalment of cup 'romance' comes around again on Sunday!! Like an ongoing 'War of the Roses' without a divorce. Personally, I thought the last instalment was a storm in a teacup but if it gives politicans another chance to tackle sectarianism and others a chance to reflect on the appropriatness of their behaviour, then so be it. You can never describe it as a 'family' final though. Well you could, but only if the family were in some cases seriously deranged and twisted.

  • Comment number 27.


    I'm available for light gerdening duties, Barmitzvahs, etc as soon as my new fitness regime starts to pay off. You had to put up with my heavy breathing after my Forking efforts last week, so I would pencil that in for around 2014

  • Comment number 28.


    Aye you are right Rob. I must admit to a morbid fascination as to what will happen in this latest round of the longest bout in history. The players will surely be well warned, Lennon is in the stand and McCoist will certainly do his 'contrite reasonable chap' bit beforehand.

    It being a final, same ticket allocation, plenty of time for fans to get tanked up, police feeling bullish etc. leaves me worried. I hope it does not all kick off again. The game does'nt need it.

  • Comment number 29.


    There was a feeling before the last game that it could get nasty. Wasn't surprised that it did after the first cup game at Ibrox. All largely down to the mix of one or two players in both camps it has to be said.

    I liked Jim Jeffries take on it when he said that it showed the passion of the Scottish game around the world and that Neil Doncaster would be delighted about the publicity. After all it was pure theatre with not much football but the first cup game was actually a very good game to watch with the added drama.

  • Comment number 30.


    I agree with the maxim that there is no such thing as bad publicity. It will certainly be pure theatre but I must disagree, these games have nothing to do with the quality of the football.

    One possible approach to try and improve the bile served up may involve both clubs refusing to accept season ticket applications from Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. Indeed ticket applications can be tracked by postcode.

    These teams play in SCOTTISH football. Shed the baggage. Any chance ? No none.

  • Comment number 31.

    I disagree Hibby, I want to see a good quality of football and a Celtic win!

    IMO a big part of the problem comes from communities in the North. These days not many in the Republic would bother with the 'baggage'.

  • Comment number 32.

    #30 - "One possible approach to try and improve the bile served up may involve both clubs refusing to accept season ticket applications from Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. Indeed ticket applications can be tracked by postcode."

    Why should fans that come over from Ireland and behave themselves at Rangers/Celtic matches be denied the chance to have a season ticket? The idiocy of sectarianism isn't restricted to Ireland, you know. Banning people on the grounds of the country they reside in is as bad as the bampots who cause the trouble in the first place!

    Spencey : "You had to put up with my heavy breathing after my Forking efforts last week"

    Mind your language, this is a family forum.

  • Comment number 33.

    #27 Jim Spence

    Cheers Jim, it's in the diary for April 2014,look forward to your assistance which will be considerable after your fitness regime has kicked in !!

  • Comment number 34.

    #31 Rob04,

    I agree, good football and a Celtic win would do me.

    Total overreaction by media,politicians,police and now the latter are warning fans that they'll be arrested for singing sectarian songs, that should be interesting,wonder which end will be empty?
    If there isn't mayhem during the game who will be blamed for any that occurs in the streets?

  • Comment number 35.

    31 / 34

    Firstly - chances of getting good football are almost zero. For a start neither half of the old firm are that good this year. Celtic win? If you can't beat the current Rangers squad then you really are in trouble.

    But here's my issue - I'm a Glasweigan but live in West Lothian, don't support either half of the old firm and every Saturday would be happy to see either side get beat. Not because I have anything against either club or the supporters but because its more interesting in terms of the consequences for league position when teams in the SPL pick up unexpected points from the OF.

    What I don't get is your assertion that the sectarianism is all somehow the down to the Rangers support. No issue is sustained when only one side is at fault. The wider population of Scotland hold you both to account. This is the Scottish League yet Hampden will be awash with Tricolours and Union Jacks. Antagonistic songs (and that's what they are on both sides) will be to the fore and little if any decent football on show. I grant you there will be a little more effort in that regard from Celtic but I doubt it will be pretty.

    The bottom line is that both these sides attract a (minority but sizeable proportion) following from elements who blindly follow the previous generation into this nonsense. Sure there is a majority on both sides who are decent folks who just want to follow their team - I'm sure thats you guys, but the truth is there is a really ugly element on both sides. If you want proof, just look at the sections of the crowd where both sets of fans are closest to each other and you'll hear and see all the sectarian hatred you can stomach - from both sides.

    By all means support your team, look to give the other side a thumping and relish the fact that at this moment in time your team seems a bit better equipped (although I think Rangers have the game in hand and the final league match is at Ibrox so it may be closer than you think) to succeed but please spare us all the 'its them no us' guff. It's just not true!

  • Comment number 36.

    Not sure I was arguing that it was one-sided at all Uriah, though structurally you could comfortably argue that up until the mid-1960's active discrimination was almost wholly one-sided in terms of access to the labour market and higher education.

    Now sectarianism is almost exclusively cultural and attitudinal: and yes it does cut both ways.

    I was associating a part of the problem with 'communities' in Northern Ireland. Being half and half myself (I'm sure most would know what I mean by that), my mum is from the South and my experience over there is that most people in the Republic really moved on some time ago. Some in the 'diaspora' here on the other hand are a different kettle of fish altogether. More 'Irish than the Irish' and more 'British than the British' might be a good way of summing it up.

    And I would disagree with you about the cup games. The first was a good match to watch and the second largely theatre. But far too much was made about the game. As to who will win the baubles this season well who knows to be honest. Despite all the criticism of Rangers this season (much of it unfounded) this is still a team that reached the last 16 of the Europa and might well have been in the QF if they had started the game as they finished. Will Celtic win? I hope so but would I be surprised if they didn't? Well not really, its football after all and anything can happen.

  • Comment number 37.

    @36 Sorry your team lost (something I experience every other week as a Well supporter) and you are right anything can happen. I don't believe we are miles apart on the general point that much of the less attractive behaviour is perpetrated by a few mindless folks on both sides and my real point is that it does neither side any credit. As for the football - I agree these have been entertaining, and as you say 'theatre' but being pedantic (as I am) my point was that the football would not be very good. Surprisingly form the little I saw of today's game the football looked a little better - anyway, you're still favourite for the league and cup

  • Comment number 38.

    A result like this is rare. Scottish football is still dire and this result won't change this.

    Also, it will make no long term difference to Brechin. They (and every other team outside rangers, celtic, aberdeen, hearts, hibs and maybe dundee utd) have a poor support in terms of numbers and will never amount to anything.

    The lack of strength and depth in our game is shocking as is the fact that St Midden's recent home SPHell game against Rangers attracted only 5,400...pathetic for a 'top' division.

  • Comment number 39.


    I didn't mean to imply that bad behaviour was the exclusive preserve of one side or the other but it is a fact that only one club operated a "No Catholic" signing policy for many, many years and only one club has supporters who consistently sing a song that is banned by the police.

    The vast majority of supporters of both teams are decent individuals and the banter between them is good fun but there are lunatics on both sides who spoil matters.
    To blame OF games for all that is wrong in Scotland, not just the west despite being portrayed as such, is absurd.
    The Scottish parliament refused to price drink out of reach of a lot of those who cause the trouble and most clubs are either sponsored by drinks companies or sell packages based on drink being available.
    As for the claim that domestic violence is a result of these games is also ludricous. Those who indulge in such prctices will have done so before and will do so again,nothing to do with football.
    Instead of quoting percentages which can be highly misleading why don't the police publish the actual numbers,names and sentences dished out. If there is so much of this going on the prisons must be full of partner beating thugs!!
    The police are on a campaign to get someone to fund their costs for policing games instead of reducing the presence at " non" games. The same police presence was present at Celtic v Hamilton as at Celtic v Rangers, why?
    The politicians should tackle the causes of trouble such as drink, they and only they have the power but they prefer hot air.

    As for wishing other clubs to do better than Celtic or Rangers,failure to do so is down to several factors;
    OF have and always will have larger support.
    Mismanagement by clubs who made ill advised purchases of foreign players that they couldn't afford just because OF did.
    Supporters who don't support the teams they profess to love by not attending home matches. John Boyle tried all sorts of ways to increase Motherwells gates for example but failed miserably, is that his fault?
    The economic situation,TV and ticket prices all play a part.

    The bottom line though is that without OF there would be no Scottish football worth talking about, no TV deals and no money in the game. Despite the out of proportion nonsense following the game at Celtic Park Scottish football was talked about everywhere and,I live in England, not in a negative way. I haven't met anyone who dodn't enjoy it, great TV as Jeffries said.

    Despite our abysmal showing on Sunday and the long, quiet journey home I have enjoyed the way Neil Lennon has improved our football this season despite the disgraceful threats, etc., that have come his way.

  • Comment number 40.

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