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.
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 d**k.
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 fan base, 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!