Scottish Communities League Cup Final Preview: Hearts vs St.Mirren
Hampden Park has often been awash with green and blue, but this Sunday (March 17) a sea of maroon, black and white will take over as Hearts and St.Mirren contest the first piece of silverware up for grabs in the Scottish football season.
Hearts and St.Mirren meet in the final of the Scottish Communities League Cup and the drama is already under way with a ticket dispute erupting between the two clubs and the Scottish Football League (SFL).
With St.Mirren well on their way to selling out their allocation, and requesting the remainder of the allocation promised to them should they do so, the SFL in all their wisdom saw fit to hand the remaining 3,500 tickets over to the Edinburgh club.
The tie is hot on the heels of a league meeting between the two sides, which resulted in a 2-0 victory for the Buddies and the departure of Hearts manager, John McGlynn, in the process. With Saints fielding a significantly weakened team that night, many of theirs fans would have felt that the omens were on their side, after all, Hearts could not cope with what was effectively a reserve team and Hearts looked a million miles away from the team who lifted the Scottish Cup at Hampden last May.
However, as many St.Mirren fans know, things are never that straight forward.
Hearts have an exceptionally good record at Hampden as of late, with Scottish Cup wins in 1998, 2006 and 2012. St.Mirren on the other hand have not picked up any major honour since a Scottish Cup win in 1987.
However, after dumping Scottish champions, Celtic, out in the semi final some Saints fans believe that their name is already on the cup. Yet league results have been far from inspiring for a club on the hunt for silverware for the first time in 26 years, loosing to Hibs, St.Johnstone, Celtic and Dundee since sealing their place in the final.
Saints will be without Darren McGregor (cruciate) and Thomas Reilly (broken ankle) who are injured long term. They are still sweating over the fitness of skipper, Jim Goodwin (calf strain), who if fit is expected to take his place in the heart of defence.
Danny Lennon is running the rule over a move for Estonian trialist, Sander Puri, and could yet hand the international a short term deal in Paisley.
Hearts expect to have ex Dundee Utd boss, Peter Houston, in the hot seat before much longer and he could lead the side out on Sunday.
Hearts similarly seem to have gone into free fall since their dramatic semi final shoot out victory over Inverness, loosing five consecutive game to Dundee United, Kilmarnock, Inverness, St.Mirren and Motherwell.
To understate matters, it has been an eventful season for the Jambos, whose very existence has been in jeopardy through off field problems and a cup final appearance will be a welcomed distraction for the Tynecastle side.
The fans on the other hand? Their seems to be a simmering resentment to say the least. There usually is when it comes to east versus west. On the part of Hearts fans, well there seems to be an irrational hatred of St.Mirren, for what they see as St.Mirren “lying down” to Celtic on the final day of the 1985/86 season (St.Mirren 0-5 Celtic), costing Hearts the league championship, when in reality Hearts blundered their way out of the title with a last day 2-0 defeat to Dundee.
Hearts have happy memories of Hampden though, thumping city rivals, Hibs, 5-1 in the final as recently as May.
St.Mirren on the other hand would rather forget their last visit to the national stadium in 2010. Taking on the perennial powerhouse of Scottish football, Rangers, in the final of the 2010 League Cup Final, blowing a glorious chance to capture a national trophy for the first time in a generation. Rangers were reduced to ten men after Kevin Thomson and current Hearts defender, Danny Wilson, were red carded. With Saints on the front foot and trying to press home their two man advantage they were hit by a sucker punch when Kenny Miller raced clear to score, handing Rangers a 1-0 win.
Hearts will be looking to extend their Hampden form whist St.Mirren will be looking to banish the torturous thoughts of 2010 with a monumental cup win to reward the Paisley faithful.
You can keep up to speed with action from the final with H4TV’s @ChrisMarzella.