ONLY two non-Old Firm captains have lifted the Scottish Cup since the Gary Locke-Stevie Fulton combo in 1998. One is Steven Pressley, the other Andy Webster. Whenever the cup has left Glasgow recently, it has been taken by Hearts or someone closely linked to them.
Pressley was the victorious Tynecastle skipper in 2006, whilst Webster captained Dundee United to the trophy two years ago whilst on loan from Rangers. The latter is now back at Hearts having missed the 2006 final during his first spell with the club because of a well-publicised dispute with majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov.
Tomorrow’s semi-final between Celtic and Hearts is the type of occasion Webster lives for. He has spent long periods out of football through injury and ultimately fell out of favour at both Tynecastle and Ibrox. Missing out doesn’t cause him to hanker for what has gone, but he isn’t short on motivation in the present day.
Asked if he is more eager to win the cup with Hearts having been frozen out by Romanov in 2006, he replied: “I wouldn’t look at it like that. You’re talking six years ago and a lot has happened since then. I’m not one for sitting dwelling on what’s gone before. It’s all about what’s happening now.
“I’m as desperate as anybody to get through to the final and have an opportunity of winning. Sunday is going to be massive for us. It’s a huge task and we know that going into the game.
“Everybody wants to get there. I don’t know the exact stat but I think there are only two teams outwith the Old Firm who have won the Scottish Cup in the recent past. This is a massive opportunity to get there but it’s going to be a difficult one.”
During troubled times when it seemed injury could even cut his career short, Webster admitted he had different feelings running through his mind. Cup finals and semi-finals were not prominent in his thoughts.
“During the dark days you do question certain things but your goal is to get back and play in the big games.
“That’s what it’s all about and that’s what you relish as a footballer – that opportunity to test yourself at a high level playing against the best teams on the big occasions. I wouldn’t have thought we have anything to lose this weekend.
“We’ll put pressure on ourselves to perform well but Celtic have done exceptionally well this season and they are a very good team. They’ve won the league, they can score goals and they have quality players. We’re not naive enough to think Sunday won’t be a massive task, but it’s something we’re going to relish.”
The defender, now 29, could achieve the rare feat of winning the cup with two different non-Old Firm clubs should Hearts succeed in this year’s competition.
“It’s an opportunity to win a bit of silverware,” he continued. “Anybody would appreciate that winning the league is a massive ask, so obviously the cup competitions are the next best possibility for us. The Scottish Cup is one we’re all desperate to win.”
Is he spurred on by memories of the 2010 win with United? “Yes. I think it’s like anything. Once you taste a bit of success, you want more.
“Once you’ve won something, you realise the importance of it all. Opportunities don’t come along that often and from that point of view you’re desperate to win more. If we can get through Sunday it will be massive.
“We definitely have a talented squad here. We beat Celtic earlier this season although that doesn’t count for much now. We do have the capability to win with the talent we’ve got but we’ll be under no illusions how big the task is.”
Paulo Sergio, the Hearts manager, won the cup in his native Portugal as both a player and coach and hopes to have carried good fortune with him from south-west Europe.
“If I could take Hearts to a final, it would be a fantastic moment in my career, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“But it is already an achievement to reach a semi- final, for me. Especially because it’s been a very hard season.
“We are in the semi-final and, two or three weeks ago, people were afraid we wouldn’t make the top six.
“We reached the split 11 points ahead of the team in seventh. Eleven points is a lot. And we are one point behind fifth, two points behind the team in fourth.
“So, with all that we’ve been through this season, our injuries and our problems, I think we can speak positively about this season. A semi-final will be good. But it’s not the end of the line.
“I hope next week we can be speaking about the Scottish Cup again, looking forward to a final.
“Has it been a great season, though? I would never say great, because I am ambitious and I want always more. But I think we have to speak very positively about the campaign.
“It has been a tougher job than I expected, because of all the reasons you know. But nobody promised me that this was going to be a fairytale. It’s the same everywhere – when problems come, you have to deal with them. I’m not a guy who quits. I’m not a coward. So I fight, I’m here, alive and happy.”
Hearts will require all Sergio’s fight, and Webster’s to boot, if they are to topple Celtic at Hampden.
Should they succeed and meet Hibs or Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final, they may be entitled to feel the omens are with them.