Scottish Cup Final is all Edinburgh affair
There will be an all Edinburgh Scottish Cup Final this year after Hearts beat Celtic with a hotly disputed last minute Craig Beattie penalty. Celtic boss Neil Lennon was furious at the decision and confronted the referee Euan Norris on the pitch after the final whistle. He is likely to be in trouble with the SFA after tweeting “Referee told players he thought Wanyama handled…feel so sorry for players and fans. I think it’s personal myself,” and also re-tweeting a comment from a supporter which suggested that Celtic should “pack our bags and get out of this league that is run by crooked £SFA officials”.
The final will be played on Saturday May 19 with a traditional 3pm kick off, and Hearts will go into the game as firm favourites having not lost to their city rivals for over three years.
Both sets of supporters now face a scramble for tickets. In 2006, the clubs met at the semi-final stage and the Hibs board badly misjudged the allocation process, allowing season ticket holders only one ticket each which prevented friends and families sitting together and resulted in several thousand left unsold. Supporters are anxiously waiting to hear how the tickets will be distributed this time, and calls are already taking place to host the game at Murrayfield which holds 67,000 rather than Hampden Park which can only accommodate 50,000.
The SFA however are unlikely to allow their showpiece fixture to take place at the home of rugby, and both clubs should receive just over 20,000 tickets for the game, with the remainder going to corporate hospitality.
Hibs boss Pat Fenlon has dismissed the Murrayfield notion however and said: “Hampden is the home of Scottish football and that is the right place for the game.
“It’s a fantastic occasion to look forward to. It’ll be a great occasion for everyone, the city and both clubs.
“There is going to be so much hype around this game and it is important we concentrate on our job in the SPL.
“But, yes, an Edinburgh Cup Final is going to capture everyone’s imagination. We are talking about two big clubs and we’ve heard enough about Hibs’ recent history in the Scottish Cup, so it’ll be some occasion for us.
“The Hibs fans would take the prospect of beating anyone in a Final. But to have it against Hearts, it’d make it more special.”
“If Celtic won, we’d have been in Europe and that would have been great. On the other hand, we wanted the occasion of playing Hearts. So we still have the chance to get into Europe under our own steam.”
Saturday’s victory over Aberdeen has justified the Proclaimers’ decision to turn down lucrative concerts in America on cup final weekend, and the die-hard fans will be hoping to see the supporters sing their anthem ‘Sunshine on Leith’ as the team finally parade the cup for the first time in 110 years.
As Fenlon plays up the occasion, Hearts boss Paulo Sergio is determined to do the opposite. The Portuguese boss said: “For me to play Hibs in the final will just be the same as playing any other team.
“It’s just another game against an opponent who we respect and, when the time comes, we will be ready for it. Celtic were the favourites today but in a final between Hearts and Hibs I don’t think there will be a favourite.
“But until then, everybody at Hearts have to keep their feet on the ground because we have important things to do just now. Our next target is to make sure we finish in fifth position in the league so we have important games to play before the final comes.
“Around me the players have to be focused on the next game. If I feel that they are not focused then they are not going to play and maybe they will lose their place in the team for the final. My players know the way I am and the way I want to work. They are used to that.
“They have every right to celebrate tonight but tomorrow we start thinking about the next game against Rangers. I will celebrate too but in the same way as I always do. I will go out, have a good dinner, drink a glass of wine and then go home.
“I’m not too emotional. I’m very happy of course, it’s contagious. I’m very happy and proud of the players because it’s a great moment for us. We didn’t beat a poor team; we beat Celtic, the champions of Scotland, who have a great squad, a great technical staff and a great manager, so we should be proud of that”.
First Minister Alex Salmond who supports the Gorgie men offered his congratulations to both teams and said: “Congratulations to Hearts and Hibs on their Scottish Cup semi-final victories over this weekend. We now have the exciting prospect of an all-Edinburgh cup final – the first since 1896, and I look forward to it.
“Despite some of the stories that have hit the headlines off the pitch, this has actually turned into a very exciting season on the pitch. Celtic were the outstanding team in the SPL and the deserved champions, Kilmarnock won the Communities League Cup, Ross County have won promotion to the SPL, and we now have an all-Edinburgh cup final to look forward to.
“In addition, although it’s early days, we have seen a significant improvement in fan behaviour. All in all a much better prospect for Scottish football.”
The only previous Scottish Cup Final between the city rivals was played at Logie Green in 1896, where Hearts lifted the trophy after a 3-1 victory.