There is nothing quite like the glitz and glamour the Scottish Cup brings for both the club and its supporters. Dwelling on the past and the long-suffering heartache this competition has cast over the club has become a bit of a touchy subject but we must all continue to show some faith.
All managers approach these games from a different perspective and prepare their players to their best ability. The formations of both Hibs and Aberdeen suggested it was most likely to be settled by the odd goal and so yesterday proved.
The victory over the Dons was a very hard-working display from the players and, at times, wasn’t particularly pleasing on the eye. However, Gary Deegan’s wonder strike was worthy of winning any cup tie and he couldn’t have picked a better occasion to open his account for the club. We did invite pressure by sitting too deep and allowing our opponents to pepper shots on goal in the closing stages, but held firm to see out the game and secure our passage into the quarter-finals.
A special mention must be made in the direction of our goalkeeper Ben Williams who made a number of impressive stops to deny Aberdeen an equaliser, none more so than his second penalty save in the space of just seven days. You always need a little slice of luck in cup football but Williams has shown to be a real talent when it comes to stopping the ball going in from 12 yards.
Looking back on some of my own Scottish Cup experiences, being taken away to spend a couple of nights in a hotel and training at an alternative location is what makes the romance of the competition so indulging. The small walk from your room to the training pitch, the laughter and sharing of jokes at meal times, and the opportunity to spend more time with your team-mates are just some of the memories that never escape you as a professional footballer.
The demands of the training sessions are just as intense but usually carry that bit more competitiveness amongst the squad. Trying to catch the attention of the manager is the name of the game and doing everything within your power to ensure you are named in the starting XI. The Scottish Cup can suit the more maverick style of players who are blessed with the ability to change a match in the blink of an eye.
We have now been drawn away to Kilmarnock in the last eight of the competition and have that tie to look forward to. With this fixture not scheduled to be played until the beginning of next month, the focus returns to the league fixtures where it would be fair to say we have stuttered in recent weeks. Our performances defensively are encouraging, conceding only two goals in our last six fixtures. It is also noticeable, though, that our finishing at the opposite end of the park has somewhat dried up where we are heavily relying on Leigh Griffiths to come up with the goods. It was therefore pleasing to see one of our central midfielders get the winning goal yesterday.
The transfer window is now at an end and it is pleasing we have managed to retain the services of all three of our loan signings in Griffiths, Ryan McGivern and Jorge Claros. The addition of Matt Done from Barnsley will provide competition for places out on the wing and it will be interesting to see what he has to bring to the table in the next few weeks. We also have the arrival of Liam Craig to look forward to in the summer and he is another individual I have high hopes for.
On the subject of the transfer market, the limited amount of last-day deals around the SPL underlined the financial constraints facing the majority of clubs. On the other hand, it is a sad state of affairs when you hear the transfer fees agreed between clubs in the English Premiership. The gulf in wealth becomes even more alarming and does nothing but reinforce the demise of our game here in Scotland.