Albion Rovers take inspiration from past giant-killing feats

Keeper Ross Stewart is clinging to belief that shock results happen
Keeper Ross Stewart is clinging to belief that shock results happen
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Albion Rovers might be considered a Ross County. Not because today they harbour a threat to Celtic’s Scottish Cup hopes, akin to the Highland club which has twice vanquished the Parkhead side in one-off occasions across the past seven years. Instead, it is because the League One side seem to have a veritable county of players called Ross.

Five of these could feature in this afternoon’s fourth-round tie, that will see them host Scottish football’s relentless superpower at Airdrieonians’ Excelsior Stadium after Cliftonhill was deemed incapable of staging the meeting.

It doesn’t help either that two of these players share the same second name: Ross Stewart, the club’s 21-year-old former Motherwell keeper and Ross Stewart, the club’s top scorer.

Goalie Stewart further complicated matters when he was culpable for an own goal at home to Brechin last month – on the same day the other Ross Stewart bagged a double to secure a 2-1 win.

“It can get a bit confusing,” said keeper Stewart. “Ross signed from Kilwinning Rangers in the summer and for a while every time he scored I would get one mate or other texting to say, ‘How did you manage that?’

“That game against Brechin, I wouldn’t have minded taking the credit for the last two goals –or giving away the blame for me pushing a cross into my own net for the first one.”

Shouting “Ross” in the dressing room of the Lanarkshire side must be one way for manager Darren Young to get half his team to turn around, with the two Stewarts having Ross Dunlop – who helpfully partners brother Michael in central defence – Ross Davison and Ross Gilmour as namesakes.

The keeper, who came through the ranks at Motherwell, is willing to see today’s tie as potentially “a lot of fun” and relishes having to pit his wits against the likes of Moussa Dembele, Leigh Griffiths and Stuart Armstrong who, he admits, can “smash them in from all angles”.

Stewart takes an angle on this afternoon’s tie that offers hope. He points to the fact that three years ago, the club came within 12 minutes of a monumental cup shock at Ibrox that would have taken it into the Scottish Cup semi-finals at the expense of Rangers.

This pitch for the big time was earned because earlier in the competition Albion put out Motherwell at Hamilton’s New Douglas Park. The latter outcome is particularly etched in Stewart’s mind, but so is the daddy of all cup upsets that came 11 years ago.

Stewart said: “I was in the Motherwell dressing room as understudy to Gunnar Nielsen. It was so miserable in there afterwards. Stuart McCall was the manager and it felt like he kept us in there for about two hours before finally letting us away.

“So, we know these results happen. All week the chat has been, not so much about those results, but about Celtic’s loss to Clyde back in 2006. That was the day Roy Keane made his debut and they got really done over by a Clyde team who just went for it. The guys have all been saying that is what we have to aim for.”

Stewart is aiming for a way back into full-time football, believing Scotland caps in the 17s, 18s and 19s age groups and an under-21 call-up, are evidence of his pedigree.

He sees today as a showcase for himself. And if Albion become the first Scottish team to beat Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side and sink their treble bid, it will certainly offer future reward. He said: “I’m from Larkhall and, as everyone knows, many people there are Rangers fans. My friends are no different and if we beat Celtic they say I will never have to buy a drink in the town again.”