20 May ~ This season in Scotland has been dominated by negative headlines on a range of issues so it's to be expected that everyone will be glad to see the end of it – but Motherwell fans are different. With a lack of fanfare that is to be expected for a small SPL club in the Old Firm-obsessed media, 'Well have had an exceptionally fruitful season, competing admirably in four tournaments. The season started in mid-July with trips to Scandinavia for Europa League qualifiers and ends fully ten months later at Hampden in the Cup final. By financial necessity, the squad is among the smallest of any top-flight team and their age is skewed towards those that will have no memory of our last Scottish Cup win in 1991.
Manager Stuart McCall arrived unheralded at the turn of the year and inherited a team, and club in general, that was laid low by the farcical exit of Craig Brown to Aberdeen. The slump that had seen us slide down the table when no manger was in place was arrested as we entered the Cup, sweeping on-form Dundee aside 4-0 in front of Sky cameras hoping for an "upset". The demolitions of Dundee Utd and St Johnstone in the later rounds showed that McCall has got the team to perform for the crucial games and that he is prepared to play bold, attacking football, unlike many of his predecessors
Echoes of 1991 are everywhere during the build up to the final itself. The photos showing that victorious team from the epic 4-3 victory over Dundee Utd are in heavy rotation – but these will always be poignant for 'Well fans, as there are two players who won't be there on Saturday with their old team-mates. Davie Cooper, who died in 1995, was the veteran in the team, the winners' medal reward for the Indian summer he enjoyed at Fir Park, and the open-top bus tour was a unique experience denied to him as a Rangers player. Phil O'Donnell, who collapsed and died during a league match in 2007, was 19 when we won the Cup, scoring his first senior goal in the process and showing every sign of going on to be a top player. Both these players are iconic for Motherwell fans and will no doubt be remembered again on Saturday.
The current squad well understand the significance of the 1991 team to the supporters but if they are to emulate them, they have to do something that happens all too rarely – defeat one of the Old Firm in a Cup final. Motherwell, at their best when playing high-tempo attacking football, will struggle to live with Celtic if they allow them to dictate. There is a lingering question over Celtic's temperament in the biggest games under Neil Lennon, although this is often exaggerated, so they need to deal with being overwhelming favourites and the prospect of another barren season should they lose. This young Motherwell team have everything they need to cause Celtic discomfort and if they can play to their full potential, they might just give Scottish football something to smile about. David Innes