Dundee United against Ross County is being viewed as the neutrals choice of Scottish Cup Final, a final without the Old Firm between two teams earning their reward for good seasons. It has drawn comparisons with the 1997 final between Kilmarnock ad Falkirk but while The Terrors and The Staggies showdown at Hampden, Kilmarnock and Falkirk will have their own prize to compete for: SPL Survival.
It’s a six pointer, to roll out one of the many clichés that will be thrown around in the lead up to kick off on Saturday, but for Kilmarnock and Falkirk when the final whistle blows one team will have the unenviable task of returning from the First Division while the other will be given yet another opportunity to fix the wrongs of a season of woeful displays. The fact that only one of these two teams will go down is quite frankly ridiculous, though that is a long argument for another day.
Much has been made of the financial strife that will befall Kilmarnock if they are relegated, threats of part-time football and financial oblivion seem to be a little extreme but there is no doubt that Killie fans are more than a tad concerned about the state of their club. They have all the key credentials for relegation fodder. In Michael Johnston they have a chairman with a touch of the Romanov’s about him, whether it be allegedly talking tactics with Kevin Kyle or having a non-existent relationship with one of the most respected managers in the Scottish game. They have been on a steady road of decline in the last few seasons and are in severe need of a new direction.
It was thought that bringing in Jimmy Calderwood with his own brand of gung-ho football would do the job and at first it seemed to work. However it proved to be a temporary fix to a long standing problem and if it wasn’t for Falkirk you would feel that Kilmarnock would have been relegated a long time ago.
As for Falkirk, the term ‘too good to go down’ is as commonly used as ‘the six pointer’ and last season the consensus was that Falkirk were that team, they were a victim of circumstance, of the Yogi Era reaching its natural conclusion and that both Hughes and the club needed a fresh start. While the rails have come off recently at Easter Road highlighted by Motherwell’s incredible comeback and Lukasz Jutkiewicz’s Van Basten like strike to claim a 6-6 draw, it is clear the fresh start has benefited Hughes, for Falkirk the rot that set in last season has just grew deeper.
First through Eddie May and then through the Guardiola-esque (cough, cough) Steven Pressley Falkirk have had two men who instead of stepping out of the shadows of the Hughes era have instead formed a pale imitation of Yogi’s side. In the first half of the season May seemed out of his depth, a good coach perhaps but seemed uncomfortable with being ‘the man’. The polar opposite can be said about his mid season replacement Steven Pressley, steadfast in his belief that Falkirk will stay up but any admiring looks should be tempered with the realisation that his skills haven’t lived up to his own hype. Falkirk have been presented with numerous chances to get off the bottom of the table but continually conspired to blow them, an issue that can be placed at the door of Pressley and the mentality he instils in his players.
The big question is who will go down; for me it’s Falkirk, Kilmarnock’s win over a truly abysmal Aberdeen side was a massive result, it gave them a two point cushion and that should see them safe. Unlike last year Falkirk are the worst team in the league, with Kilmarnock a very close second. They have had numerous opportunities to take advantage of others trips and faults but have failed to do so. This was highlighted by their dour goalless draw against a St. Johnstone side with nothing to play for; they seem resigned to life in the First Division. These are two teams on a downward spiral and irrespective of who survives both will know that this season will be one they cannot afford to repeat for a long, long time.