HAVING reached their second successive cup final, the concern for Dundee United is who will be available to contest it.
Nadir Ciftci scored the winner in United’s 2-1 win over Aberdeen in yesterday’s League Cup semi at Hampden but the smile was wiped off the striker’s face when he was informed that a booking, to add to the yellow card the club say he picked up against Hibs in an earlier round, means he will be suspended for the final on 15 March.
“It’s devastating, because I am desperate to play in the final,” said the striker, who had just finished dedicating his 83rd-minute goal to his newborn niece, Mariam.
“There is no description for how I felt when the goal went in. My sister Fulya has just had a baby, the first one in our family, so I promised her that I’d score for her.”
But the joy was short-lived, when club officials confirmed rumours of his cup final suspension.
“I didn’t know about it before the game but I was booked and I only found out afterwards. I didn’t go into the match thinking about being booked again, it’s only now that I remember the booking against Hibs away. It’s really hard to take because I’ve gone from a great high to such a disappointment.
“It’s harsh that two bookings can put you out of a final, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. It is what it is, I just have to accept it and, when the final comes around, I’ll be supporting the team in the final.
“I have been wanting to make up for last season’s Scottish Cup, so it means we will have to get to the final of that this season, too.
“That was my first final and I lost it [to St Johnstone], so now we know the feeling of losing and sometimes that’s a good thing.”
Ciftci’s headed winner seven minutes from time did not require too much contact but the Turkish-born frontman was just pleased to see it beat Scott Brown.
He said: “Paul Paton put the ball in but I couldn’t see the keeper coming so I got the minimum touch on it and the ball went into the corner.”
But, while Ciftci will definitely be a notable absentee, United will have to wait until the transfer window closes tomorrow to find out if they will have the services of Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong to call on.
Armstrong, however, the subject of £1.5 million bids from Celtic and Burnley, said the lure of silverware could be the perfect incentive to persuade him to see out the season at Tannadice,
The midfielder, pictured right, said: “I just wanted to concentrate on the game and do as best as I could on the pitch and get through to the final.
“It’s nice to have big massive games to concentrate on and be part of. I’m just happy we are in the cup final and there’s a chance of silverware, that’s what everyone wants in the changing room.”
For Mackay-Steven, who has already signed a pre-contract agreement with Celtic, the interesting scenario would be a head-to-head with his future employers at Hampden next month.
“I’m a Dundee United player and I’ll do everything I can to help the club win trophies,” he said.
“It doesn’t bother me who we get in the final. I’m just looking forward to watching the Old Firm game, like everyone else in the country, and we’ll see who comes out on top.
“It might be a strange feeling but I’ll have no qualms about facing Celtic.”
And with Ciftci missing, the pair’s presence could be key, according to the man who will now be the players’ biggest cheerleader.
“It’s very important that Stuart and GMS stay here because they are big players for us,” said Ciftci.
“I have no doubt they will stay, that’s the feeling I have. The other players want them to stay and get a trophy before they leave and I don’t get the feeling they want to go now.”