NO-ONE needs to warn Rangers defender Richard Foster of the perils of looking too far ahead of yourself in the Scottish Cup.
It was in 2008 that Foster was part of an Aberdeen team he believed were destined to lift the famous old trophy. They had eliminated holders Celtic at Parkhead in the quarter-finals to set up a semi-final showdown against second tier opponents Queen of the South.
The prize on offer was a place in the final against a Rangers side struggling to cope with the demands of a fixture pile-up as they progressed to the Uefa Cup final.
But Foster and his team-mates did not get the chance to test their theory that they would be fresher and stronger than the Ibrox men. Instead, they suffered a stunning 4-3 defeat to Queen of the South, which remains the lowest point of Foster’s career.
It is why he is taking nothing for granted this weekend as Rangers face Albion Rovers at Ibrox in the quarter- finals of a tournament thrown wide open by Celtic’s exit at home to Aberdeen in the last round.
“That game back in 2008 was without a doubt the most disappointing I’ve played in,” said Foster. “I’ve been involved in a few defeats to lower league teams in the cup but, all things considered, that was the sorest one. Rangers were dead on their feet at the end of that season, playing three games in five days or whatever stupid schedule they were on, and we would have fancied our chances against them in the final. We actually played them in the final league game of the season at Pittodrie and beat them 2-0.
“But, if you go into any game and are not 100 per cent focused, or do the job to the best of your ability, then you could be on the end of a shock as we were that day. It was horrible, everyone was so dejected.
“There was a lot of frustration in the dressing room after the game, shouting back and forth and, once that stopped, I don’t think anyone spoke for ten minutes. It was a terrible feeling. We felt it was an opportunity missed at the time and the bus journey back up the road to Aberdeen was horrible as well. After a game like that, you just sit and close your eyes, try not to think about it. The great thing about football is that the next game is usually not too far away, so you can take your mind off it. But the very fact I’m still talking about that semi-final six years later shows you how much it hurt.
“So I know we will be well guarded against complacency on Sunday. It will be a tough game for us and Albion Rovers have already caused a few shocks. The prospect of also playing a semi-final at Ibrox is a massive incentive.
“Personally, it would be huge for me to reach a Scottish Cup semi-final as I’ve only played in one before so far in my career, that one with Aberdeen in 2008. It would also be amazing for the club and fans. We must be 100 per cent at it on Sunday.
“The added expectations for Sunday’s game increases the pressure on us but our squad is good enough to deal with that. It isn’t just me – there are other guys in our dressing room who know how it feels to lose to a team from a lower division.”
Rangers are second favourites behind Aberdeen to win the Scottish Cup, reflecting the favourable prospect of playing a semi-final on their own ground should they avoid any slip-up tomorrow. But Foster feels the League One leaders are more of an outside bet than the bookmakers have them.
“I don’t think we can be called favourites to win the competition,” he added. “There are four Premiership clubs left in it and that wouldn’t be fair on them. We’ve done well to get this far, we have a tough tie on Sunday and, if we can get through that, we’ll have a one-in-four chance.
“The Scottish Cup final is the biggest showpiece game in this country and everyone wants to play in it. We’re two games away from that stage and that, in itself, is a massive achievement for us. For us to get to the final would be incredible for everyone connected with the club.
“Obviously, you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself but I have thought about the semi-final – and I don’t know whether I’d rather play Aberdeen then or in the final itself. Let’s just beat Albion Rovers first and then we can see what happens. You want to play against the best teams that you can because that will give you an idea about how good you are.
“We’ve taken a bit of stick for some of the league performances, even though we are winning, like we did at East Fife last week. But those games are difficult because the opposition are well organised. They’ve got good players and they sit in a bit to make it hard for us. But we’re a confident group of lads and we know we have a strong squad, so it would be nice to face one of the teams who are up there in the Premiership at some stage of this Scottish Cup run. It would be a good gauge for us and an indication of where we are.”