Robbie Neilson will make history with unique double if Hearts win Scottish Cup against Celtic
He will become the first man ever to win a Scottish national cup competition as both player and manager at Tynecastle Park. Having lifted the Scottish Cup in maroon in 2006, he is now one game away from an unprecedented accolade.
The Celtic manager Neil Lennon is also on the brink of greatness as he strives to complete the first quadruple treble won by any club in world football. Both men can etch their names in folklore at their respective clubs with success at Hampden Park.
Neilson described the situation surrounding the final as “surreal” as he made final preparations before kick-off. Hearts travel to their pre-match hotel base after training today but their manager will be at Gayfield Park watching league rivals Arbroath play Ayr United.
“It’s a bit surreal. The Scottish Cup final is usually the climax of the season in the sunshine,” he said. “We’re just glad to be there and looking forward to it. Hopefully, it’s a decent Christmas present for the fans.
“The build-up is still the same whether it’s now or the end of the season. You still have a good week’s training leading into it. We had the league games that we had to take care of and I’ll be going up to watch Arbroath v Ayr before travelling down.
“We’ll train at Riccarton then the boys are going to the hotel so I’d only be sitting about at the hotel anyway. I’d rather be watching a game.”
The Scottish Cup’s rich heritage makes it a prestigious trophy and winning it as both player and manager of Hearts would set Neilson apart. He explained the special feeling attached to the tournament.
“When you are a player, or even a kid growing up, you dream of playing for your country and playing in a Scottish Cup final. That is something which is a massive part in our development of young kids coming through – giving them a motivation and drive to win it.
“The players will have their own internal motivation of what they want to win it for. They all understand the magnitude of the game.
“A lot of players will go through their entire life and not win a Scottish Cup final so there is a great opportunity to not only play in one, but come away with a winner’s medal.”
Whilst Lennon considers using veteran Celtic captain Scott Brown from the start, Neilson’s biggest dilemma surrounds the on-loan Preston winger Josh Ginnelly.
He returned from seven weeks out with a thigh injury last weekend and scored in Hearts’ 6-1 league win against Queen of the South. The decision on whether to start him in a cup final is a big one.
“We got him some game time on Saturday and he did really well. He trained this week as well. I will make a decision on whether we think he is ready to start or whether he will make more of an impact off the bench,” said Neilson.
“He has given himself every opportunity. We can use his pace and his counter-attacking skills as well as his one v ones. He’ll definitely be a big part of it.”