FA Cup has lost lustre but Scottish Cup fourth-round still special

Jason Cummings adds his own personality to the appeal of the Scottish Cup. Picture: PA.
Jason Cummings adds his own personality to the appeal of the Scottish Cup. Picture: PA.
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Of course you dream.”

Brechin City’s chairman Ken Ferguson had just been explaining the financial benefits of their visit to Celtic Park in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup. But then he switched, for a few seconds at least, to Ken Ferguson the supporter.

In four words he summed up the romance of the 
Scottish Cup. For him, the dream is for Brechin to bring Celtic back to Glebe Park. To the Hedge.

Around a seventh of the town will descend on the east end of Glasgow, more than 1,000 fans. The realists among them will say they are just out to enjoy the 
occasion. Deep down, they will be dreaming of turning over Celtic and recording the biggest Scottish Cup shock since Berwick Rangers beat Rangers in 1967.

The same dreams will be shared further north, as 
Fraserburgh prepare to 
welcome Rangers and the Sky Sports cameras to their Bellslea Park.

All 32 clubs will have their dreams; some will simply be to advance in hope of being paired with a Premiership club and being able to dream once more. For the dozen top-flight clubs, and a few more, the dream is ascending those Hampden steps in May, drenched in sun, to lift the trophy.

Some clubs may see the trophy as an obligation, others a curse – Hibs’ century-plus hex has passed on to Dundee.

The return of the Scottish Cup fourth round is a momentous date in the football calendar and its placing as the first match following the Premiership’s winter break gives it extra precedence.

In England, each year the same question is asked about the FA Cup and whether it has lost its prestige. The ostentation of the Premier League clubs is a clear factor. Transfer rumour and gossip take centre stage in January. Deadline Day and the sycophancy which surrounds it is a greater priority for insatiable fans. Brainwashed by the Sky Sports yellow.

The calendar is another burden on the competition, coming after a hectic festive schedule. Between the league game prior to the FA Cup and the third-round fixtures the 20 Premier League sides made 115 changes, an average of 5.75 per team.

To many Premier League teams the FA Cup is the house party following a full day out. You are either running on adrenaline or happy to give in to sleep. The Scottish Cup, however, is those first few drinks. When you sit around a table savouring every moment. You have waited for this for days and weeks.

There has been plenty to wait for. The David v Goliath clashes, the local rivalries as Motherwell welcome Hamilton Academical, while Hearts and Hibs duke it out for the third year running. Then there are the intriguing duels. Championship 
leaders St Mirren travel to Aberdeen and Partick Thistle face a tricky trip to Queen of the South.

There are narratives and story lines aplenty. The truculent Steven Naismith is set to be added to the fiery but often vacuous Edinburgh derby. Can he add quality to Hearts’ final third? What can we expect from Rangers after the addition of Jamie Murphy and Russell Martin, as well as the bravado of Jason Cummings? Then there is Nadir Ciftci. A curio. Can his soloist talents fit into the Motherwell collective?

Pertinent questions but they won’t be answered by Sunday evening. It’s a weekend in which learnings and analysis should be secondary. This is a weekend to enjoy, get excited, aim high and hope. And, of course, you dream.