Scottish Cup final: For Pete’s sake ... go and win it

Hibs legend Cormack urges current crop to seize big chance and write themselves into club folklore

They no longer pull on their boots or haul a green-and-white shirt over their heads, but dozens of former Hibs stars will be at Hampden this afternoon desperate to see the trophy which eluded them all, the Scottish Cup, being held aloft by skipper James McPake. From Lawrie Reilly, the last surviving member of the Famous Five, the different generations will gather, Skol Cup heroes Keith Wright and Mickey Weir joining the likes of Pat Stanton and Jimmy O’Rourke from Turnbull’s Tornadoes along with Steven Fletcher and Scott Brown, winners of the CIS Insurance Cup five years ago.

There will, of course, be many, many more, two coaches packed full of them and their families leaving Edinburgh while others will have made their own way to Glasgow but all with the one desire, to finally see Hibs and their 110-year Cup hoodoo brought to an end.

Among them will be Peter Cormack, who knows just what it feels like to raise a national trophy above his head, the midfielder the winner of the FA Cup as Liverpool crushed Newcastle in the 1974 final at Wembley. The Leither also picked up two League Championship medals and two UEFA Cup medals during a glittering career at Anfield.

As he recalls in his newly-launched autobiography From the Cowshed to the Kop, Cormack played with and against some of the biggest names in the game at the time, Merseyside team-mate Kevin Keegan providing a foreword for his book, while the likes of Pele, Eusebio, Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff were among the opponents he came up against on the park.

The trophy cabinet in his Capital home is laden with reminders of his 18-year playing career, including Brazilian ace Gerson’s No. 8 jersey from his Scotland debut as a teenager, and yet Cormack admits he’d love to have seen a Scottish Cup winners’ medal resting among his memorabilia.

While few would argue that there have been many better Hibs teams than the one hurriedly assembled by current boss Pat Fenlon in a desperate bid to stave off the threat of relegation, Cormack believes that should McPake and his team-mates beat Hearts in today’s historic all-Edinburgh derby, their names should rightly stand alongside those of their more illustrious predecessors.

He said: “When I look back and think of all the great players I played with at Hibs, guys like Neil Martin, Eric Stevenson and so on, all we won was the Summer Cup. It is something that eats away at you because you know you were good enough to win a Cup or the League. I was fortunate enough to do it at Liverpool, on the day you have to be able to handle it, to play to the best of your ability because you only get one chance at it.

“You need guys who are really committed for the whole game, go out, be positive and chances will come along. If that happens then someone is going to end up a hero by scoring the winning goal, let’s hope it is a Hibs player.”

The fact so many of Fenlon’s side – McPake, Leigh Griffiths, Matt Doherty, Roy O’Donovan. George Francomb and Tom Soares – are on loan and could well return to their parent clubs before the start of next season – has very much been a talking point among Hibs fans, the question dividing opinion as to where they would stand in comparison to the likes of Reilly, Joe Baker, Pat Stanton and Cormack himself should they win today.

To Cormack, though, there’s no doubt. He said: “I loved playing in derbies. Whether it is Liverpool against Everton or Spurs against Arsenal, Hibs v Hearts, these matches are massive wherever they take place in the world.

“It’s all about how you handle it and perform on the day. An Edinburgh derby as a Scottish Cup final, though, is something else and I am sure many of these players will never play in a bigger game in their career.

“I’m just as certain they’ll be going into the game convinced they’ll win, there’s no point going out there otherwise. It’s all a case of giving it your best shot, enjoying it but being really committed.

“You really must give your all and no matter what, when you come off you should be absolutely knackered.

“These guys have been fortunate enough to be at the club at this time and to have got themselves to the Cup final. If they prove to be the winning side then their names will be right up there, they’ll always be remembered and rightly so.”

Hearts, of course, go into today’s match as firm favourites, the Tynecastle club having won all three SPL derbies this season in an unbeaten run which now extends to ten matches stretching back three years. But Cormack’s 40 years in football have taught him such statistics count for little on these occasions.

He said: “Hearts will be confident because of that record but I can assure you that in a final it counts for nothing. Their run has to come to an end at some point, hopefully that will be today.

“A final is a one-off, it’s the team that’s up for it most and you do need a bit of luck and, as history has shown time and again, it’s not necessarily the best team on the day that wins.”

Like all the other stars of the past, Cormack wishes he could pull on his boots, haul on that green and white shirt he wore 280 times – scoring 100 goals in the process, including against Real Madrid and Napoli – just once more but, instead, he’ll settle for draping a scarf round his neck and shouting himself hoarse.

He said: “If I can’t play then the least I can do is be there cheering the boys on.”

From the Cowshed to the Kop, by Peter Cormack with Brian Weddell, Published by Black and White Publishing, Priced £14.99.

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