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Motherwell can draw on history
Motherwell would be wasting their time should they apply a conventional approach in seeking to halt Celtic’s making of history. The last time a side – Rangers, in this instance – entered the Scottish Cup final looking to become the first to claim back-to-back domestic trebles, Dundee United’s approach under the eccentric Ivan Golac bore fruit.
“On the Friday night in our hotel, BBC showed the scene and it was a party atmosphere,” recalls Craig Brewster, who scored the only goal of that 1994 final. “We travelled from Dundee on the Thursday afternoon and trained at a school on the Friday morning;
we had to get taxis there and back. We were in a leisure centre at lunchtime where I met the captain of East Kilbride golf club, who invited me up to their driving range in the afternoon. It was scorching hot; some of the boys went to Hamilton races.”
Motherwell, who travelled to their Turnberry base on Friday, will be denied such unorthodox ways but they can pull upon episodes such as that from 24 years ago. At the time, Rangers were as dominant in Scotland as Celtic are now. It should be recognised that a clean sweep of domestic honours is a tougher task than many would suggest but that no club has done it in successive seasons – taking into account the Old Firm’s dominance – is remarkable.
Celtic are looking to continue an epic journey of success under Brendan Rodgers by lifting the
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Scottish Cup, thereby entering territory even the genuinely great Scottish club teams could not reach. Motherwell have won the Scottish Cup only twice, the last time being 1991.
“A good thing for us probably was Rangers won the league about six weeks before the end of the season,” Brewster says. “That probably stopped their momentum. And on our day we were a good team; we were just inconsistent. United had been in six Scottish Cup finals and never won so that had to change sometime. I scored early in the second half then Guido van de Kamp made a brilliant save from Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko and I thought: ‘This could be our day.’”
Celtic’s pain in similar circumstances was inflicted in 1970. There was an intense rivalry between Jock Stein, the Glasgow club’s iconic manager, and Eddie Turnbull, who was every bit as extroverted as Golac. Turnbull, earlier a
legendary forward at Hibernian, took great delight in being the Aberdeen
manager as Celtic were defeated 3-1. Celtic, with more than a degree of legitimacy, pointed towards refereeing interventions as their historic quest was abruptly halted.
“By the time you get to the end of the season, the sheer number of games gets to your legs,” says Jim Craig, who won
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14 honours with Celtic between 1965 and 1972. “I don’t think the mental aspect [of a treble] bothers them too much – it certainly didn’t with my generation. What does bother them is you can have a niggling injury from December that isn’t bad enough to stop them playing but can impact on pace, stamina or turning ability. If a few in that team have those problems,
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the overall standard can drop in the run-in.”
It seems incredible now but Celtic played that Scottish Cup final in between European Cup semi-final legs against Leeds. Craig admits Stein’s players “raised their game” for the meetings with the English champions; they duly won. Celtic lost
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the European Cup final to Feyenoord. “Our best days were three-quarters of the way through that season rather than at the end, which is what you need for that treble,” Craig says.
Quite understandably, those from Craig’s era bristle slightly at the notion of Celtic in their current form being equal in status to the champions of Europe in 1967. Last season Rodgers presided over an unbeaten domestic season, another first. “There is no point in comparison,” says Craig.
“One team won a European Cup and one hasn’t, so far. So why bother comparing? If you check the tables between 1966 and 1974, we very seldom were too far ahead. It was pretty tight, pretty close, most of the time. I don’t think you can say that of today but I must stress teams can only play what they are up against. Celtic look like they are going to do back‑to‑back trebles and nobody has done that before so good on them.”
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