Gersnet is the kind of place where posters will remember the many attempts of Scottish football to finagle gold from the base metal of cloggers, kickers and crappy pitches which comprise the game north of the border. From the desperately contrived glamour of the Anglo-Scottish Cup, an idea fatally holed by the absence of big name English teams, through the lower league club only B&Q Cup, or the hardly remembered-except-for-Raith-Rovers-beating-Celtic Coca-Cola Cup.
The only time they got it right was the Skol Cup in the 1980's, held in the autumn, results on the night, and wildly popular - but then regular European football came in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and that was that. It was either that or not even the advertising power of football could convince Scotland's lager drinkers, not a notoriously fussy bunch, that Skol was drinkable. The few occasions I tried it I found myself wondering whether it tasted significantly different from Hagar the Horrible's p!shwater.
Perhaps to gain revenge on an ungrateful Scottish nation before they bailed out entirely, Skol launched a super strength version. Served in a suitably forbidding jet-black can, Skol 1080 was a drink I took once and once only, since the one time - a Happy Hour promotion in a Paisley club - saw me unceremoniously slung out and given a thorough beating in the back alley by the bouncers. My slurred protestations that it was their fault for selling what even the brewer calls rocket fuel for a pound fell on deaf ears. This linked article gives you an idea of why I remain aggrieved at my treatment:
Our foray into the abyssal depths of Scots football has seen us partake of a similarly unpleasant brew, the Petrofac Training Cup. Crammed in between a breathless, last gasp roller-coaster ride against Queen of the South last Saturday and the loathsome trip to Paisley next weekend, is the midweek game against Livingston, a game about as appealing as Sunderland under Sam Allardyce are likely to be.
It's hard to muster much positivity for what is a Shield competition, although there are some Bears who, much like the Paisley bouncers, would like to see us make a decent fist of it. Still, there's likely to be plenty of empty spaces in the home seats, while Livingston have never brought much by way of a following. That's maybe better than the pious hypocrisy of St Mirren's manky crew, supporters who emanate all the warmth of a ned throwing a half brick through an orphanage window on Christmas Eve, all the while insisting on his moral superiority to someone drunkenly singing down the lane.
It should be a shoo-in for Rangers to win the Cup, given the performances under Mark Warburton, but it's maybe inevitable that players will take their foot off the gas in games like this.
And if we have to lose, which we will eventually, it might be better to do it in the Petro than, say, away to Hibs.
Even so, Warburton at least has the chance to use this game to mix up his side a little. Changing the whole set up would be unwise - and out of character for this manager on the evidence we've seen so far - but it might not be a bad idea to give players whose first team game time has been limited a run out, even if only from the bench.
Especially up front, where aside from Waghorn there seems to be something of a 1080 hangover drouth when it comes to scoring. Ryan Hardie, Tom Walsh and Nicky Clark might look forward to a start and hopefully they make the most of any chance which comes their way.
I guess treating games as something to be got out of the way is a recipe for losing them, so hopefully the team will approach this match with more enthusiasm than I do. Keeping the pot boiling ahead of the always pleasant visit to St Mirren is perhaps as important as making the semifinals. And anyway, games which you can't be bothered with is still a novelty after the last few years.
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