KENNY Miller played a role in keeping Celtic and Rangers apart in the William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round draw but believes the game in this country needs to see them face each other at some stage of the tournament.
Former Scotland striker Miller, who lifted the Scottish Cup with Celtic in 2007 and then again as a Rangers player just two years later, conducted the last 16 draw at Hampden yesterday afternoon.
Amid fevered anticipation of a first Old Firm fixture for almost two years, neither club emerged from the pot for any of the first five ties drawn. Miller then pulled out holders Celtic and saw them paired with Premiership rivals Aberdeen.
Rangers were in the last tie drawn, where they will face either Ayr United or Dunfermline at Ibrox. Hibs landed a home tie against Raith Rovers as they continue their latest bid to be reunited with the old trophy for the first time since 1902, while an in-form Dundee United side also have home advantage for their tie against Queen of the South or St Mirren.
League 2 outfit Albion Rovers, the lowest-ranked side left in the tournament after their shock fourth-round win over Motherwell, have a home tie against Stenhousemuir.
Miller admitted he turned up at Hampden convinced Celtic and Rangers would be drawn together, but he now hopes it is an event saved for the final itself at Parkhead on 17 May. “I was feeling to see if the balls were going to be hot, cold, heavy or something, but there was nothing like that going on,” smiled Miller.
“When the first five ties were drawn without either of them coming out of the hat, I thought it was a stick-on. It was primed that I was going to have some part in pulling them out of the hat. But it wasn’t to be. Not this time, anyway.
“I think everyone would love to see it happen – media, fans, everyone. And I’m sure the players would love to take part in that fixture again. There is no doubt that Scottish football would benefit from it. I think we need it, to be honest.
“It would bring an attention back to our game that has been missing for the last couple of years without this game. It would be great now if we could see it in the final. That’s what I would like.
“Obviously you wish everyone still in the competition all the best but I think everybody would like to see the Old Firm game at some point. If it was the spectacle at the end of the season, it would be a fantastic thing for the game here in Scotland.”
There are many observers who believe it would be a mismatch between a Celtic side operating at Champions League level and a Rangers team currently in League 1 as they try to rebuild following their financial collapse.
“I don’t agree with that,” said Miller. “Not because it would be an Old Firm game, but just because it would be a cup tie. Look at Albion Rovers beating Motherwell – there’s no-one in Scotland who would have predicted that. So anything could happen.
“Forget Rangers for a minute – anybody left in this competition could beat Celtic. Anybody could beat Rangers. It’s one of the joys of the cup, what we love about it, the opportunity for a shock – and for that one day when the underdog wins.
“If you look at the Rangers squad at the moment, Ally [McCoist] says he’s quite happy with what he’s got and that it’s as good as, if not better than, anything in the top flight outwith Celtic. So there’s no reason why they couldn’t compete in an Old Firm cup tie.”
Should Celtic reach the final this season, they will play it on home soil. Celtic Park has been chosen to host the showpiece occasion as Hampden is unavailable while it is prepared for the Commonwealth Games.
“That would give Celtic a slight advantage but it’s not like it would be in a league game, with a dominance of the home support,” added Miller.
“For a cup final it would be split more or less 50-50. In that sense, that takes a lot of the advantage away from Celtic. If it’s an Old Firm final, I don’t know if I would go to it – I might just sit back in the house and watch it.
“If I did go, I know what end I’d be sitting in. It would be a great game. I think everybody has missed the Old Firm game over the last 18 months, so it would be nice to see it again this season.”
Miller believes the Scottish Cup carries added significance for both of the Glasgow giants this season.
“It’s even more special for Rangers,” he said. “They’re going to be runaway winners of their league, there’s no doubt about that. It’s about whether they can translate to a step up and compete in this cup competition. Because, at the start of the season, there was a lot of talk about them wanting to win a major trophy this year – and this is the only one that’s left. For that reason, it would mean a hell of a lot to Rangers if they could go on and win it.
“When you are playing for Rangers or Celtic, you set out to win every competition you are in. The fact that both are out of the League Cup means they’re left with the Scottish Cup.
“I think both teams will be looking to win it in order to call it a successful season.
“Rangers are obviously looking to move through the leagues, that’s their main priority, but it would be great if they can win the cup. But Celtic need to win it if they’re to deem this season a success.”
Draw in full
Alloa Athletic v Dumbarton
Clyde or Stranraer v Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Hibernian v Raith Rovers
Albion Rovers v Stenhousemuir
Brechin City or Forfar v St Johnstone
Celtic v Aberdeen
Dundee United v Queen of the South or St Mirren
Rangers v Ayr United or Dunfermline Athletic
Ties will be played on 8-9 Feb