The respective managers in tomorrow’s Ramsdens Cup final, Queen of the South’s Allan Johnston and Partick Thistle’s Alan Archibald, have plenty in common with each other, including having the same problem to solve ahead of kick-off at Livingston’s Braidwood Motor Company stadium.
The duo are both enjoying fine first seasons with table-topping teams, they both started as player/managers, who are now concentrating more on managing than playing, and they now both need to solve the conundrum of preparing normally for a unique game.
Johnston, who has already led the Palmerston side to the Second Division title, said: “We have prepared the same way for every game this season and got neither too up nor too down about things. That is the way we have been approaching Sunday’s final but I also have to get the message over that this game is different.
“It is different, as finals do not come along too often. When you get older you realise that they are big events that do not happen frequently in your career and that you have to treat them differently. You have to get a result to make them enjoyable and, by a result, I mean get a win.”
Johnston likes winning and added: “I have enjoyed management so far as we have won the vast majority of our games.
“I like to win – even if it is playing in a 5-a-side game I want to win. We have only lost three times this season – to Dundee United, Kilmarnock and Alloa – and each time it was only by one goal and we had played well. I much prefer winning though.”
As for tomorrow’s game, Johnston said: “Both teams are high in confidence but we have to force our style onto them and not the other way around. I have watched Thistle and they are a good passing team. It should be an exciting game.
“Both sides have good strikers and defenders and in particular Chris Erskine and Steven Lawless are very dangerous for them. I would not like to predict the score as it could be anywhere between 0-0 and 4-4.”
Archibald, who played in the Scottish Cup final of 2005 when he was a Dundee United player, will be talking to his squad on much the same lines as Johnston as he explained: “We have a young group of players here and I have told them that getting to a final is special. At the beginning of my career I won a couple of titles and had a final appearance. I thought it would always be like that but here I am years later without winning anything.
“It is a balance between telling them how important it is and keeping things normal. It is vital that the boys realise that they may never get to a final again and that they have to grasp the opportunity with both hands.”
A congested fixture calendar has helped the Thistle players remain calm with Archibald saying: “The week before a cup final is normally taken up with lots of activities that are a bit different, whether it be interviews or photo shoots. It has been disappointing in some ways that we have not been able to enjoy that fully because we had a game on Tuesday night and our focus had been on that.
“We have had six weeks of preparing for two games a week, so in some ways this week has been normal. We only started the build-up to this game after we got back from Kirkcaldy.”
Less than a month after being appointed on a permanent basis Archibald has the chance to bring a cup back to the north-west of Glasgow for the first time since the much revered League Cup success of 1971.
Archibald said: “I could not have imagined all this at the start of the year. No-one could. It is very rare to take over a dressing room where all the players are so together. I am really looking forward to the final and going into a game like this so soon after being appointed is fantastic.”