Where the ties for the fourth round, due to be played a fortnight today, should be, there is just this dismaying, depressing message: “There are currently no fixtures available”.
In reality, there are plenty of fixtures available, too many in fact. Too many, it’s becoming increasingly apparent, to fit into the rest of this season, with the final currently scheduled for May 8. There’s not a hope of that being the case. There are still a dozen second round ties to be played, including Hearts v Brora Rangers.
This tie is one of those which makes the Scottish Cup so special. One proposal floated to help streamline the number of games left is offering lower ranked clubs such as Brora Rangers prize money they were due to get for appearing in the second and third rounds to withdraw. There was a similar offer made before the tournament even started. Ah, the romance of the cup.
Nairn County might be one of the sides expected to be tempted by this. Director of football Graeme Macleod won’t be bought – not when his side face a winnable home tie against Montrose and the possibility of an all-Highland League encounter with Fraserburgh in the third round. If they win both ties, they will emulate their best-ever Scottish Cup run.
Ditching this chance for what is effectively a pay-off – the sum involved is around £11,000 – would, Macleod says, “be a difficult pill to swallow”. It’s not as if they budget for progressing in the Scottish Cup. A shot at glory is what it’s all about for the so-called minnows.
Others, including St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin, take the view of simply scrapping this season’s tournament all together. According to an SFA spokesperson, discussions are ongoing to ensure the “displaced fixtures” can be played “at an appropriate time”. These plans begin to look more like fantasy with each passing, wintry weekend.
Dundee’s match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle this afternoon has already been postponed, leaving the visitors in particular with a headache. Inverness have managed to play only 11 league games to date. They have three home fixtures scheduled over the next 11 days with the long-term weather forecast far from good for the Highlands. John Robertson’s side also have an outstanding Scottish Cup second round tie – v Buckie Thistle.
At least Inverness – and other Championship and Premiership clubs – are currently allowed to train and, weather permitting, play matches. All other levels have been shutdown.
Even when given the green light by the Scottish government to resume, it will take a fortnight of training – at least - in order to get up to speed. By the time games can re-start, it could be late March at best. The scheduled date for the quarter-finals is mid-March.
With the mess of last summer still fresh in everyone’s minds, the league programme must take priority. As for the road to Hampden, it’s starting to look too full of blockages. If it’s got to the point of suggesting teams accept money to be removed from the competition, is it even worth trying to fit it in?