Rangers and Celtic exits make us forget the game is in good place

The "recency effect" is the name given to a tendency to remember the most recently presented information most vividly. For example, compilers of all-time best albums often seem to suffer from this syndrome – or at least those voting do.

In amongst the indisputable classics such as Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Bob Dylan’s Blonde and Blonde there will always be other titles with slightly dubious claim to be considered for such lists, far less feature on them. Anything by Stereophonics springs to mind.

The opposite to the "recency effect" applies in Scottish football, it seems. Not for the first time, the game in this dear country seems to follow its own rules. We often celebrate the past at the expense of the present. Recent achievements are not given the acclaim they deserve.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

We are programmed to consider that football was so much better in the past, when there was a golden age of honours being spread around a variety of clubs, not just the Old Firm. The 80s are often held up as a time of milk and honey and it’s true, Aberdeen did win three league titles, Dundee United one. And that won’t happen again for a very long time, if ever. Often forgotten is the fact that a supposedly diminished Celtic won four titles. They also lifted three Scottish Cups.

It’s as if we are suffering mass amnesia and the last few years have not happened. Maybe it is all too recent to take in but as of last weekend, following the extraordinary events at Ibrox, it’s now been confirmed that not only will Rangers or Celtic not win the Scottish Cup, neither even made the last four. Sound familiar? It happened as recently as December, when Rangers were dumped out of the Betfred Cup by St Mirren, following Celtic’s earlier exit at the hands of Ross County.

Few would have predicted the last four teams left in the Scottish Cup: St Johnstone, Dundee United, Hibs and St Mirren. All have won the competition in the fairly recent past. Ok, St Mirren are slight outliers in that it was 1987 – which still feels not so long ago when you’re an ageing hack (and they won the League Cup not so long ago).

As for the first three named teams, they’ve all tasted Scottish Cup glory in the last 11 years. Celtic’s recent dominance in the tournament obscures this refreshing scenario.

Only one team other than Rangers and Celtic won the trophy in the first 11 years of this millennium. In the last eleven years, Dundee United, Hibs, St Johnstone, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hearts have all had their name carved into the cup.

United could reach their third final since 2010’s triumph over Ross County, just one appearance fewer than their 1980s heyday, when of course they finished runners-up each time.

We can do a good job of dissing our game but if not quite a golden age, we are enjoying a period of relative competitiveness that might only be appreciated in a few decades’ time.

This was not supposed to happen after Rangers returned to the top-flight in 2016. The fun was meant to be over. And yet here we are, able to contemplate the delicious possibility of St Johnstone joining the select list of three clubs who have won both knockout trophies in the same season, or Hibs producing their best campaign since the Famous Five’s pomp.

A message from the Editor: Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.