“I was going to tweet Donald and see if he would give me his suite,” said Fir Park manager Stephen Robinson. “Seriously, though, the hotel is fantastic and the environment is fantastic. We can’t have the hotel we stayed in for the semi. We have tried to give the boys the best environment possible to prepare. The last time we stayed there we were quite successful in the cup I was led to believe… So I thought: ‘Yeah, we’ll do that again’.”
That is a reference to Motherwell’s Scottish Cup win over Dundee United in 1991 – the club’s last trophy success. Robinson is confident that, after becoming the first manager since George Stevenson in 1950-51 to lead the club to two cup finals in the same season, he can join Tommy McLean and Stevenson by lifting Scotland’s oldest trophy.
“The 1991 cup-winning side are still revered around the club,” said the 43-year-old. “We have had Jim [Griffin] in from that team, and he spoke to the boys last time and we showed a little video. I am probably nearer to his age than I am to the players’ age. You try to make the motivational stuff relevant to them. For me, it was Wimbledon beating Liverpool [in the 1988 FA Cup final]. But the boys can’t remember that, they weren’t born, half of them. Jim and I have spoken about how they prepared. I spoke to Keith Lasley about how they prepared. You take a little bit of everything from everybody and try and put it into your formula to make it work.”
Robinson’s analogy with that shock cup final outcome has nothing to do with Motherwell being Scottish football’s Crazy Gang à la Vinnie Jones and co, he says. It is that, whatever the disparities in finances and expectations between a cup final’s opponents, no team is ever a dead-cert… even a double-treble chasing Celtic side that beat Motherwell 2-0 in the League Cup final. And Robinson’s belief in his squad means he doesn’t need to look to the losses to Hearts, Kilmarnock and Hibernian that Brendan Rodgers’ men have suffered in the past five months to know that they can make the final a real contest.
“Make no mistake, they are a top side with top class footballers, but they are beatable,” says Robinson. “We like to do our analysis and most of the stuff we’ve seen when teams cause them problems has been clips of ourselves.
“We created chances in the final [of the League Cup that was only 1-0 to Celtic when Motherwell had a Cedric Kipre sent off]. It was 0-0 here [in March] until we got a man [Kipre] wrongly sent off and we were winning 1-0 here until they got a penalty in the last minute [only days after the League Cup final]. We don’t play with any fear and we are a really good well-organised side.”
Motherwell are a side that get in their opponents’ faces. Striker Curtis Main, a revelation since replacing Louis Moult in the January transfer window and the man whose double in the semi-final against Aberdeen has set up their shot at silverware, offers Celtic a warning on that front. “That’s in the club’s DNA. That’s what people like to talk about so we won’t disappoint,” the Englishman said. “If you come up against Motherwell you’re not going to have an easy day. Let’s just say that.”