As Motherwell’s victorious players left the Hampden Park surface on Saturday afternoon, having defeated Aberdeen 3-0 to book their place in the Scottish Cup final, there was one last song from the jubilant crowd to see them up the tunnel.
Despite already singing it on their way through the entire Fir Park songbook, and the player himself being about the seventh or eighth best player from a tremendous team display in which there were no failures, it was shouts of “Kipre! Kipre!” which rang around the largely empty national stadium.
“It makes me feel very proud,” beamed the 21-year-old Frenchman. “Every time they sing my name it gives me loads of motivation.”
Perhaps the singling out of Cedric Kipre was the most fitting way to end a joyous day at Hampden, seeing as the last time Motherwell’s supporters visited the stadium, earlier this campaign, they left with a sense of injustice due to an incident involving the player.
Stephen Robinson’s men were 1-0 down to Celtic in the Betfred Cup final, though they were still well in the game and had only just given the league leaders a scare when Louis Moult went close to tying things up. Scott Sinclair then burst through on the left-hand side of the penalty box. Kipre put his hand on the attacker, but Sinclair greatly exaggerated the contact as he hit the deck. Referee Craig Thomson sent Kipre packing before Moussa Dembele put the game beyond doubt.
The defender trudged off the field with tears rolling down his cheeks, but having secured a return to a national final at the first time of asking, he can now make light of the heartbreaking moment.
“Hopefully I can stay on the pitch for 90 minutes this time,” he said with a smile. “I wanted to come back here and have another crack at a cup final as I was very disappointed with what happened in the League Cup final. Everybody at the club is happy that we have reached another final. We are going to try our best and if everyone is in good form then we can win. We just need to have the belief and determination that we can do it.”
Regardless of the result when Celtic and Motherwell meet again on 19 May, there is no doubt it has been an incredible debut season in Lanarkshire for the centre-back. Prior to his arrival, Kipre had made only four competitive appearances in his career, three of which came for non-league Corby Town in a brief loan spell, while the other was an under-23 appearance for Leicester in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
After impressing on trial he was handed a 12-month deal, which was extended only a few weeks later when it became apparent he was one of the most impressive young defenders in the country. He has had his bumps along the way – receiving another wrongful red card against Celtic, also dished out by Thomson, in a 0-0 draw at Fir Park – but overall he has been an outstanding addition. So much so that Ivory Coast handed him an international call-up only last month.
Prior to Saturday’s triumph, supporters were provided with a boost when it was announced that four first-team members, including Kipre, had extended their deals further. For the man who has played more domestic minutes than any player in Scotland, signing up to 2020 was a complete no-brainer.
“Everything that has happened at Motherwell this season was not what I was expecting. It has turned out much better,” Kipre added. “I am very proud to play for this club.
“I did not expect to play every game and reach the final of two cup competitions. It has been amazing.”