The Herald - Herald Sport
‘Fairy-tale’ Hampden win would be bigger than Darvel for Dodds
FORGET Darvel. Forget Berwick Rangers knocking out a mighty Glasgow Rangers side in 1967.
Forget, even, the day a six-year-old Inverness Caley Thistle famously went ballistic against Celtic and brought down John Barnes’ managerial career.
If the Highlanders somehow muster victory over Ange Postecoglou’s team at Hampden Park on Saturday, Billy Dodds is convinced it would set every one of the Scottish game’s great cup upsets in the shade.
The Ayrshire junior club’s earlierround triumph over the Dons was held up by some as a persuasive new candidate in the “greatest-ever” category, given Darvel’s sixth-tier status and Aberdeen’s Europa League budget.
It can be argued, though, that Saturday’s occasion is set apart by the setting, the circumstances and the stakes at play.
Unlike the lengthy list of shocks to strike Scotland’s premier cup competition, the Caley Thistle manager must plot victory at Hampden Park itself and in a final.
Not only that, he and his players must do it against a team hurtling towards a historic treble.
Celtic occupy an entirely different financial universe from northerly opponents who announced worrying losses of £835,751 for the 12 month period up to May 31 last year.
That brought the total losses at the club in five years absent from the topflight to £3,101,921.
Equally, this is a season during which Dodds and his staff have grappled with an injury crisis so severe that it literally halved the playing squad for long weeks and months.
They faced niggling relegation concerns at one point as the campaign faltered, before restored fitness in the ranks fed a late-season surge that took them agonisingly close to another Premiership play-off finish.
For Dodds, it has been rollercoaster stuff, epitomised by getting knocked out in the fourth round by Queen’s Park only to be restored because the victors fielded ineligible Euan Henderson.
Asked how a Hampden victory, given the setting and circumstances, would compare to past shocks, Dodds said: “I think it could eclipse Darvel against Aberdeen.
“The cup competition is all about fairytales, miracles – and it has happened already this season.
“And if it happens again, personally it would be brilliant for me, but it would just typify my bunch of players down there and what they have in them.
“As I say, to nearly reach the play-offs this year was incredible. I know they had it in them once the squad was fit, but they still had to win the games.
“I was telling every man and his dog that we’d win games when I got my players back, but it might have gone the other way.
“We might have lost games and I look like a fool.
“But I knew they would come good. We got to the Ayr game and ended up losing out, that can happen, but the players pulled off a minor miracle to get there. I’m hoping to do the same in the final.”
Dodds uses the words “fairy tale” on several occasions, but sees hard evidence for feeling certain a victory for his team – if unlikely – is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
The stadium walls in Inverness are peppered with pictures of the club’s 2015 triumph albeit in an era when they were a top four or five Premiership club who secured Europa League football.
He said: “I think people remember the fairy tales. You just have to look downstairs and see all the boys on the wall when Inverness last won the cup.
“I know it was against Falkirk, but they beat Celtic in the semi-final.
“Of course things like that are always remembered, and quite rightly so.
“Any provincial club who wins the Scottish Cup, or wins a trophy like Ross County winning the League Cup in 2016, it has a right to be remembered. We do take inspiration from past glory.
“For me, clubs put that kind of memorabilia up on the walls because they want the next generations to aspire to it. It might be generations before you win it again. We have got an opportunity.”