MELROSE coach Craig Chalmers has urged the SRU and Scottish clubs to consider restoring the old format of the Scottish Cup and its potential for giant-killing acts.
His team will contest their sixth cup final and fifth in six years tomorrow when they face Ayr at Murrayfield in the main event of a three-final card. Grangemouth Stags take on Oban Lorne in the Bowl Final at noon and Marr face Livingston in the Shield Final at 2pm, before Melrose and Ayr resume a rivalry that coursed through the 2010 and 2011 affairs, both ending in Ayr victories.
However, where seven different clubs featured in the first five cup finals from the 1995-96 launch, only four have played in the top event at Murrayfield since 2008. That has, in part, been due to changes to the cup format. Necessary to cope with the popular addition of a British and Irish Cup, they have separated the competitions, keeping lower-league clubs away from the higher ranks and introducing the top four clubs only at the quarter-final stage.
As Melrose head coach, Chalmers was part of those changes but, as he prepares to leave Melrose after eight years at the helm, and head south to Chinnor RFC, he said it may be time for a rethink.
“I have to say straight away that I’m not a fixture secretary and I haven’t worked out how you fit it in,” he stressed, “but one of the most exciting aspects of the cup for me was going to lower-league clubs and we’re missing that.
“I understand why they regionalised the cup and, in the Borders in particular, it has worked well, but I miss those games around the country, where you played teams you’ve never played before, and I would love to see that come back. We played at Newton Stewart and Greenock in the early days and they were big days for those clubs. They attracted big crowds, hospitality and a lot of interest around the ‘giant-killing’ potential, and it was great for the big clubs to be a part of that as well.
“You look at the FA Cup and Scottish Cup, and when the likes of Manchester United or Rangers or Celtic go on the road to lower-league clubs it brings excitement to the whole game. That was the same in our Scottish Cup.
“Sometimes the so-called minnows get a hiding but sometimes big team that hasn’t been totally focused gets caught out. I remember Strathendrick being a team you didn’t want to be drawn against for a while because they became famous for taking some big scalps.”
He added: “I’m not sure how you do it, but I think clubs should think again about nationalising the cup earlier and drawing the big clubs away from home to get that special cup excitement back.”