When I posted yesterday’s blog, so far only Hibs had qualified for the Scottish Cup Quarter Finals after playing on the Friday night. Edinburgh rivals and bottom of the Scottish Premiership Hearts were the next team to join them in the pot at the expense of Rangers yesterday, whilst later that evening Aberdeen walked away from St Mirren Park with a victory.
Today, the final Scottish Cup place will be decided when St Johnstone host Celtic. The draw for semi finals will take place after the match live on TV.
Hibs’ 5-2 win over Championship side Inverness and Aberdeen’s 0-2 win over St Mirren were kind of the expected outcomes. With Hearts beating Rangers just five weeks ago, I wondered if that victory had been a fluke, but as it turned out it wasn’t.
Hearts were the better team. No doubt about it.
They should have had a penalty and both teams should have been reduced to ten men in the first half. Referee Steven McLean had a howler of a game into the bargain.
It was a good game to watch though. Not just because it eased my pain of our European woes, but because it had enough drama to make it a good cup tie.
Alfredo Morelos had been disciplined for his late return to training and left out of the squad entirely. Some cited that as playing into the hands of Hearts, but given how utterly garbage Steven Gerrard’s side have been in domestic football in 2020 leaves me in no doubt that Morelos was not as big a miss as some have suggested.
If he was, Gerrard wouldn’t have risked leaving him out for such a vital game. Realistically, this was his only remaining chance of silverware this season so as a manager he was taking a massive gamble leaving him out.
Should Bayer Leverkusen fail to dispose of them, the next team will. However, Gerrard might even be gone by then himself.
His post match interviews yesterday evening collectively signalled that he hadn’t even gone into the dressing room to talk with his players after the final whistle. Instead he had been talking with his coaching staff and when talking to the media stated that he was at his lowest point since arriving at the club and would be taking the next 48 hours to give serious thought to his future.
The one interview I saw was probably the best interview I’ve seen him give in his time in Glasgow to be honest. It also sounded like a farewell speech.
Some folk think he wouldn’t walk away whilst the club are still in Europe. However, they have absolutely no chance of winning the Europa League so walking away, having taken them to that stage in the first place, would mean he wouldn’t have to preside over another competition exit.
If he doesn’t leave now, he’ll leave at the end of the season because that’s two seasons with not a single trophy and as a club they are already spending out with their means. Granted, he has improved them over all, but they are still way off the pace and power of a fully functioning Celtic side.
What did hit me yesterday was, how bad were Braga to lose home and away to a side who have now lost to the worst team in the Scottish Premiership twice in five weeks? It does make you think.
Should Celtic have been feeling any pressure from their rivals’ progress in Europe upon facing FC Copenhagen midweek, then they should feel a huge lift with their closest domestic rivals now out of the Scottish Cup picture altogether. I am not dismissing Hibs, Hearts or Aberdeen because they will all be excellent competition should today’s result go the way I want it to.
Celtic must respond by dusting themselves off and walk out onto that McDiarmid Park turf this afternoon with some conviction. There is no better cure from the hurt of exiting one competition by ensuring you forge ahead in another.
Victory would take Celtic one step closer to another piece of history. They have to earn it though and everyone in the squad will be keen to put right the wrongs of Thursday night.
I have total faith in this squad and in Neil Lennon. Thursday was a bitter disappointment, but it’s gone and we have a chance to win another treble.
Celtic aren’t talking about it, but they will be thinking about it. St Johnstone stand in the way of progress.
Are you ready to respond, Bhoys? Over to you, Celtic…