Scottish League Cup: Celtic paired with Hearts

IAIN Blair admits Scottish football might have to go another entire season without major sponsorship as the SPFL won’t accept just any old wonga to do deals with prospective partners.

Hearts face a tough trip to Parkhead to face Celtic. Picture: TSPL
Hearts face a tough trip to Parkhead to face Celtic. Picture: TSPL

The organisation’s secretary was speaking after yesterday’s League Cup third round draw at Pittodrie, which produced some intriguing match-ups.

Celtic, eliminated from the competition by Morton last season, will hardly relish a visit from Hearts, while a Dundee derby at Tannadice is the other stand-out tie.

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Of course more than a little lustre has gone off the competition since the days when it attracted backing from the likes of Coca-Cola and brought an additional prize of European football for the winners. There is little chance of the latter ever being reinstated, but the secretary of the SPFL is confident sponsors will be found for the knock-out trophy as well as the four leagues they administer.

It remains to be seen just how long that will take though, as Blair is determined only to do business with the right sort of partners instead of just selling the silverware to the highest bidders.

He said: “The situation is that we’re talking to people who are interested in the title sponsorship and the cup sponsorship. Will it be this season? I can’t say.

“We’d like there to be and we’re working towards that, but I can’t sit here today and say there will be a sponsor this year.

“We only got to grips with it this time last year and although people think that’s an awful long time, with this kind of expenditure companies plan significantly in advance.

“Also, we want to get the right kind of sponsorship so it’s not just a case of getting someone at any price. We need someone we’re comfortable working with.

“The important thing is to get the right sponsor. We want someone who shares our values and ambitions. It’s not simply a case of looking for someone who wants to publicise something. The guys are working on it and I’m confident we’ll get there.”

Blair was disappointed to see Celtic drop out of the Champions League after Tuesday’s defeat by Maribor and the failure of the other Scottish teams to reach the group stage of the

Europa League.

However, at the moment there seems to be no mood for starting the domestic season earlier to enhance the chances of the country’s teams being better prepared in the future. He added: “Celtic can still progress in the Europa League and that could even help our coefficient so let’s not write the season off completely.

“Of course it’s disappointing that we won’t have a team in the Champions League and will only have one representative in the Europa League. We want to boost our teams chances of playing in European competition and that’s something we’re constantly looking at.

“We have looked at whether we should tackle things in a different way, in terms of the start of the season. We have started earlier before but it didn’t have the impact we’d hoped for. But it’s something we’re always looking at.”

Joe Harper, who won the 1976-77 League Cup with the Dons, made the draw yesterday and the Aberdeen legend handed his old club what looks like the most straightforward tie, at home to Livingston.

The Pittodrie club won the competition in a penalty shoot-out against Inverness Caley Thistle at Celtic Park last March.

The draw in full:

Dundee United v Dundee

Falkirk v Rangers or Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Ross County v Hibernian

Kilmarnock v St Johnstone

Aberdeen v Livingston

Partick Thistle v St Mirren

Celtic v Hearts

Hamilton Academical v Motherwell