Scottish Cup Final 2014: The One That’ll Go Down As A Damp Squib

Well that was a damp squib, wasn’t it?

In the lead-up to the Scottish Cup Final between Dundee United and St. Johnstone, I just didn’t feel as tense or excited as I had in the days and weeks before the 2005, 2008 (League Cup) and 2010 finals. Personally, I think that’s because I’d witnessed us winning the cup in 2010 and therefore was shed of my “Scottish Cup Trophy Virginity” (that’s something that every Dundee fan currently living still has, and probably will have 1o0 years from now, but that’s another story) having not been to the Cup Final of 1994.

Either way, I just didn’t feel as pumped up about it as I should have been.

While in 2010 I couldn’t even touch my breakfast, in 2014, it went down fine and I even went to work for a couple of hours before heading through.

But even when I was there, the whole thing seemed flat.

The Cup Final Display: Looks great on TV but takes away from the atmosphere inside the ground

The Cup Final Display: Looks great on TV but takes away from the atmosphere inside the ground (Picture Courtesy of Ritchie Patton)

Why?

Well you could argue it was because of the performance, but I don’t think that’s valid. Oh sure, the game itself was a disappointment for Dundee United fans, as a mixture of great tactics for St. Johnstone, poor performances from some United players and a huge slice of bad luck came together to ensure a deserved St. Johnstone win, but it wasn’t like the United end was bouncing up until victory was out of our reach; it had been like that the whole time.

The entire Cup Final Experience was crap this time.

And I’d put that down to a few reasons.

1. Cup Finals Should Be At Hampden

I’m not sure why Hampden Park comes under as much criticism as it does. I like it, and always have. I get that the layout of the stadium means that some seats offer crap views, and I also get that it’s located in a stupid part of the world. Of course the National Stadium should be in an easy to reach, central location rather than hidden away in Glasgow in an area with limited parking and no sign posts to show people how to get there, but it is where it is.

For me, Hampden means you’re going to a special event.

Getting to Hampden to watch your team means that they have achieved something (assuming they aren’t playing Queen’s Park of course).

So to have the final at Celtic Park – a stadium that you can go to watch your team play once or twice a season – didn’t feel quite so special.

Instead, it just felt like any other game.

Moreover, it meant there were less people in the centre of Glasgow. I parked in the Buchanan Galleries like I usually do, and walked to Central Station to get a train to the ground. Normally there are hundreds of fans milling about in club colours, excited for the big kickoff. Not on Saturday. On Saturday, I walked through the city centre as the only person wearing obvious club colours. Decked out in Tangerine – or Safety Orange to be precise – I looked and felt like a right dick.

It only got worse on the way back to the car too!

2. Terrible Event Planning

But even if you allow for the game to be at a different venue and the related issues, that doesn’t excuse the lack of build up and atmosphere in the ground on the day.

So who’s to blame for that?

I would say mainly the SFA.

As far as the SFA goes, whoever was in charge of the tannoy should have been playing some club related tunes in the build-up to kick off. Like every time I’ve been to Hampden for Finals or Semi-Finals, there should have been a rendition of Love is in the Air to get the United fans going, and some airtime for whatever song the St. Johnstone fans sing.

That gets people up for it; it gets them excited and in the mood, and it gets the people who are only there for the day – the non-fans who go to Cup Finals only – feeling part of an occasion. My strongest memory of the 2010 final was  the singing before the game; it was electric and it got the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.

But there was none of that. So the call to action was gone.

I had some words with a few Celtic fans on Twitter who were angry that I’d dared to suggest that there was a lack of atmosphere in Celtic Park, because there apparently always is on big games for them. But you’ve got to remember that before kick-off, they play the Celtic songs. People don’t just randomly start singing You’ll Never Walk Alone in unison.

Tunes play a big part in atmosphere; there’s just no doubt about it.

But even beyond that, there were other niggles too. Some fans couldn’t get in to the stadium for 45 minutes after they arrived because of turnstile issues, while the Main Stand only had one employee at times manning the concessions stand. That might seem trivial, but when people disappear for 25 minutes of a Cup Final because of the length of time it takes the staff to serve pies, then it’s going to dampen the mood.

3. The Display

Now this is a controversial one, but I think there’s merit in what I’m saying here.

Don’t get me wrong; I think the amount of work that went in to making that display on Cup Final Day – from the people who raised the money for it, to the guy who designed it to the dozens of helpers who went along on the Friday to painstakingly put each card by the correct seat – was top class. Everyone involved should be proud of their efforts.

But the thing is, if people are too busy holding up a piece of paper to generate an audible atmosphere right before kick-off, then it affects the occasion. And I think it did on Saturday.

It also doesn’t do anything for the fanbase, because they can’t actually see what the display looks like at the time, and with the best will in the world, if that is the difference between a player being motivated to play well or not, then that player needs to get a grip.

4. The Weather

It might seem a small thing, but a Cup Final on a day with crappy weather is not as good as one on a gloriously sunny day. I’ve been to enough of them to feel the difference.

Would It Have Been Different If We’d Won?

You might read this and think this is just sour grapes from a guy who went to Glasgow to see his team lose the Cup Final.

I can understand that, but I can assure you it’s not true.

I’ve got no problem with St. Johnstone winning the cup and am pleased for their fans. If it had been any other team – especially Aberdeen. Dundee or the Old Firm – I wouldn’t be happy at all, but I don’t mind our local rivals and think it’s good that they’ve won a major trophy for the first time.

Yes, I’d have been happier if United had won, but my sense of deflation was there long before we lost.

It just didn’t feel like a cup final, and reading what people have been saying online about it, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way.

So roll on next season and Hampden being back in play.

Hopefully we’ll be back there again, and we’ll leave victorious!

Advertisements

3 Responses to Scottish Cup Final 2014: The One That’ll Go Down As A Damp Squib

  1. Jack says:

    At least the cup final had teams other than Celtic or Rangers that would have made it worse, because even though I watch English football I know they pretty much win every cup. It was different for the FA Cup here though as we got plenty of build up, I remember going to see Liverpool in 2006 FA Cup and both teams sang there songs before the match,(with the proper You’ll Never Walk Alone) and that hyped both teams up. So I agree with everything you said especially the songs and going to a special stadium.

  2. Big Dunc says:

    Agree completely, but i would add the following points:

    1. I think even if we’d won it would still have seemed strange. It was just a weird day overall, unsettling at times.

    I’ve had a similar experience at Ibrox for the 1997 League Cup Final. I always thought it was a poor experience because it was the Cup that basically means nothing. And because we got beat – again.

    But a Scottish Cup Final is synonymous with Hampden. Just like the FA Cup is all about Wembley. It matters a lot.

    2. As you mention no United or Saints songs. This was the most shocking part of the organisation for me, in terms of the factors that were within the SFA’s control. What made it worse is we got a bunch of random and just plain noisy songs on what seemed like a poor sound system (in the Main Stand anyway). It was just irritating and there seemed no thought behind it whatsoever.

    Everyone loves the youtube clips of ‘Love is in the Air’ and ‘Beautiful Sunday’ from the 2010 final. People would have been deflated not to get the chance to belt these out. They get everyone in the mood at finals and home games. The players hear it and feed of it. Might be stretching it to say this was a reason why United started so slowly, but it could definitely have been a factor.

    No disrespect to St Johnstone, but i think all this would have affected their fans and players less, as they don’t have the same song list, traditions or renditions at games as United do. It is a big part of our pre match preparations.

    It felt very American and manufactured as all you are left with are fire works, flame throwers, fancy dress drummers, smoke etc. Even all that felt like it was done on a budget. Really tacky.

    3. For United fans, the way St Johnstone have played against us this season, probably put a dampener on the day. Since beating them 4-0 on our first game of the season, they have adopted anti-football tactics to unbelievable effect against us, much to the frustration of United fans. You leave the games in a state of bewilderment.

    Other teams that have tried similar tactics against us to good effect – namely St Mirren and Inverness – we have managed to put right by beating them in subsequent games by being better as footballers. But St Johnstone really embrace this style of play and we haven’t been able to overcome it.

    And the whole repertoire was rolled out for this game – dirty tackles, cynical fouls, time wasting, grabbing players etc. It was a familiar site for United fans all designed to stop us playing the style of play we love to see.

    Some of their tactics went way to far on this occasion however, such as the way Frazer Wright is allowed to constantly verbally attack Ciftci for the whole 90 mins. This was pretty disgusting at times when you re-watch the full match.

    4. Although St Johnstone are our local rivals, and again i don’t mean any disrespect when i say this – they never feel like it. We’ve outnumbered them at their own ground this season and they only bring around 100 fans to Tannadice despite being 15 mins away. There never seems any passion at McDirmard Park and as far as away matches go, United fans seem most muted at this stadium.

    The feeling i had at times on Saturday is similar to the one i get at McDiramrd Park recently – a sort of nothingness about the whole experience. Even at the end of the game, a large number of the St Johnstone support had left the stadium before the trophy was presented – probably to avoid road traffic!!

    A final against Aberdeen would have generated some real rivalry and passion for the day. The whole family final thing wasn’t positive in my eyes.

    5. There has been a lot of battles and distractions for United as a club this season, particularly lately in the Scottish Cup. There has been issues with the SFA, venues, tickets etc. I think the club and the fans are probably exhausted by it all now and this probably contributed to the weariness of the whole affair.

    Although United fans have rallied together strongly this year on many great causes and with the club itself. There seemed to be divisions developing, especially regarding the tickets fiasco before the match. This, allayed to alcohol consumption, seemed to make for a slightly aggressive, messy and ill tempered occasion.

    6. Strangely, there is an eagerness by United fans to tell St Johnstone they deserved the win – probably so they appear to be gracious and avoid being accused of sour grapes.

    As a club, they should be congratulated on their 1st trophy and i’m happy for the owners and the fans in that respect. There were some great qualities in the side, desire and work rate in particular. In the 1st 20 mins, they had the better chances and passing moves.

    But to say St Johnstone deserved it, perhaps also highlights the exasperation of the United fans for the occasion. Although not playing anywhere near their best, United still had the better chances and were incredibly unlucky.

    The referee also did St Johnstone a favour on many occasions that allowed their tactics to flourish. They could easily have had several players booked in the opening exchanges the way they were flying in to the tackles with the studs showing. Stevie May could easily have been penalised for backing into the keeper for the 1st goal and already on a yellow before his ‘Hand of God’ moment. Some tackles were borderline, such as the Dave Mackay follow through on GMS that injured him.

    The Frazer Wright thing was a disgrace as it is so obvious and it’s constant throughout the match. McNamara and Wright were sent off and served match bans for lesser verbal altercations at a match between the sides earlier this season. Perhaps it required Ciftci to react back in order for the referee to step in.

    As a team and in Tommy Wright as the architect of the team, i’m reserving my congratulations on their tactics. Every team will try what they can to win a match provided they can get away with it. The tactics were effective but only because referees allow these tactics to be in Scotland.

    But perhaps that is more an issue for the SFA and how they want to referee games – although you would think they would want to encourage the technical game (as with their performance centres) rather than the a style that has it’s roots in pub football.

    That said, on the whole i don’t think they deserved to win. St Johnstone were very lucky to win.

  3. It also felt like everyone was absolutely pissed going into the ground. This really didn’t help the atmosphere which felt really sour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: