Hearts bench gripe
Scottish Cup final day is not only about glory. It is also about the memories. It seems strange, then, that Hearts manager Robbie Neilson passed up the chance to name the full complement of substitutes on the bench.
Rules permitted 11 and Rangers took full advantage. As well as the likes of Aaron Ramsey and match winners Ryan Jack and Scott Wright, Ibrox manager Giovanni Van Bronckhorst included teenagers Leon King and Alex Lowry. Although neither got on to the pitch, simply being so close to the action will have proved invaluable.
Hearts, however, named only nine players on the bench. Another two would have been permissible. Even if Neilson felt he had no other players he could trust in a cup final, there were surely a couple of youngsters who would have benefitted from sampling such an occasion – even if they were only there to carry the hampers.
The youngest players on the Hearts bench were a relatively mature 22 – Toby Sibbick and Ben Woodburn. Woodburn was one of two on loan players. Surely there were a couple of Hearts academy youngsters who could have made up the numbers. Macaulay Tait, Murray Thomas, Mackenzie Kirk and Luke Rathie have all featured on the bench in recent weeks. After all, after three finals since 2019, who knows when Hearts will get back there again?
Aaron Ramsey let down
Not for the first time in recent days there was a big anti-climax when it came to the Welsh international. My colleague Andrew Smith pointed out on the morning of the game that a goal from Ramsey would be especially noteworthy.
As well as earning some redemption for himself following his midweek penalty failure against Eintracht Frankfurt, it would see him enter the history books. Remarkably, no player has ever scored in both the FA Cup final in England and its Scottish equivalent. Not Kenny Dalglish, not Dave Mackay, not Andy Gray.
Lou Macari has probably come closest. Although he took the shot that won Manchester United the FA Cup in 1977 against Liverpool, the ball deflected off Jimmy Greenhoff into the net and the latter was credited with the goal. Macari had already scored for Celtic in their 1971 and 1972 Scottish Cup wins over Rangers and Hibs respectively.
Ramsey, of course, scored the extra-time winner for Arsenal against Hull in 2014. But it’s hard to score a goal, winner or otherwise, when you’re left rooted to the subs’ bench, as was Ramsey’s fate at Hampden. A great shame for him personally as he prepares to exit Rangers and for those who were hoping to see him at least get the chance to create some genuinely staggering history.
Neil McCann reckoned north of £20 million, while Charlie Adam was slightly more restrained – £15m at least he estimated.
These were the figures being banded about by pundits after a game in which Calvin Bassey had been the indisputable choice for man of the match. The versatile Rangers player - he thought he was Johan Cruyff at times against Hearts - has got two years left on his contract but the Ibrox club may have to make a decision about whether to cash in now while Bassey is so hot.
Not many 22-year-olds earn man of the match awards in a European final and then a national cup final a few days later while playing in two different positions. It’s still hard to credit that Rangers secured him for free on a pre-contract from Leicester City.
Bassey was superb all game v Hearts and might even have scored a memorable solo effort in the second half. It’s when rather than if he becomes the most expensive-ever player to leave Scotland. Moussa Dembele currently holds the record after his near-£20m move from Celtic to Lyon in 2018.