Bookmakers, those most impartial of observers, rate League 1 strugglers Airdrie at 16-1 to overcome Championship leaders Rangers at the Excelsior Stadium tonight and few people would argue with those odds.
Home striker Bryan Prunty is among that select band, however. The 32-year-old accepts that Gary Bollan’s side deserve to be considered outsiders but, having taken part in a bigger upset, he refuses to accept that defeat is inevitable.
On April 21, 2004, he was part of the youthful Aberdeen side which travelled to Glasgow to face runaway SPL leaders Celtic. Teenage team-mates Craig Higgins, Richard Foster, Scott Muirhead, Richie Buckley and Scott Morrison left Prunty – who had been released by Celtic just three months earlier – feeling like a veteran at the age of 21 that night.
Martin O’Neill’s team had gone 32 league games unbeaten since the start of the season, a sequence which included a record 25 consecutive victories. They had also gone 77 games at Parkhead without defeat. Steve Paterson’s Aberdeen, by contrast, were second-bottom and battling against relegation. Few among the crowd of 57,385 gave the visitors any hope but they were in for the kind of shock Prunty hopes to provide tonight.
“We went down there with a team of unknown kids and turned them over 2-1 on a Tuesday evening,” he said. “It was expected that we’d go to Glasgow and get absolutely hammered but it proved that miracles do happen.
“Henrik Larsson scored the opener and we thought: ‘Here we go again…’ but we really caught them on the hop.
“We thought it was going to be damage limitation but I equalised and what came next proved that any team can have a chance against any other team.
“David Zdrilic scored our winner in the last minute but we were under no pressure that night. They had all their big hitters out but I believe that they thought they had only to turn up to win.”
Prunty, who scored both goals in Saturday’s 2-1 success at Brechin, is now hoping to record a career first win over Rangers, who boast a 100 per cent record under Mark Warburton.
“I’ve watched them a few times and the inter-changing between the midfield players has impressed me,” he said. “They’re outscoring everyone else at the moment – James Tavernier, at right-back, looks as though he’ll score about 15-20 goals this season. They’re playing free-flowing football, creating chances galore and scoring lots of goals so it’s vital that we don’t give anything away early on.”
Rangers, who will aim to make it seven victories in a row tonight, have scored 20 goals already this season.
But while their start has been blemish free so far, defender Rob Kiernan insists life has not been easy for the Glasgow giants.
He said: “Not easy at all. It’s obviously nice, but it’s just a start and there is a lot more to come.
“Obviously teams will come and try to stop us playing, so that makes it difficult, but you have to find ways to do that. I think everyone wants to beat Rangers. The more I hear about the more I see it’s a cup final and everyone wants to have one over us but we can only do what we can do.
“I think in every game we’re expected to turn up and win and that’s our objective.”