It feels like an absolute light-year ago since Celtic took to the field against Partick Thistle last January, where the Bhoys in Green took to the Firhill pitch in the first steps of their quest to win a fourth straight Scottish Cup.
Much has happened since; some faltering European campaigns and an embarrassing League cup exit have followed, yet most importantly, a ninth league title in a row has been added to Celtic’s exponentially increasing trophy cabinet as they look to secure a historical tenth.
A gutsy 2-1 win against their Glaswegian counterparts set up ties at Clyde and St Johnstone, who Celtic routinely dispatched of. They were drawn against Aberdeen for a spot in the final, yet the outbreak of COVID-19 halted their summer plans to potentially hoist the trophy aloft for the 40th time. As a result, the cup was called off until the early parts of this season, and once Celtic finally prevailed victorious against the Dons, a final date was set for the week before Christmas.
So, when Celtic walk out onto the Hampden Park pitch – effectively their second home at this stage in their history – on Sunday afternoon, they’ll finally have the chance to secure the quadruple treble that they have been craving for so long – 337 days, to be exact. And, in what has been an imbalanced last couple of months on and off the pitch, Sunday offers to be the reprieve to Celtic’s misdemeanour’s of late and could be the catalyst to finding the form which the support are so used to seeing.
The obstacle standing in the way of history is the ever-declining Hearts. The Jambos would have been a side to fear in years gone by, but with the Jambos having calamitously suffered relegation to the Championship last season, they offer a much more of a subdued threat than they historically posed in the 2000’s, an era where Celtic fell slew to a lot of defeats against the Gorgie-based side.
That isn’t to say that Hearts are going to let Neil Lennon’s side all over them; with former Bhoy Craig Gordon between the sticks with Scottish internationals Steven Naismith, Christophe Berra and John Souttar, this is a side that boasts a wealth of experience – although much of their knowledgable heads are the wrong side of 35, and Celtic will look to exploit their lack of athleticism. Robbie Neilson’s side will look to to be the first Scottish Championship side to win the cup since their city rivals Hibs completed the feat in 2016 against theRangers – with a hilariously memorable last-minute header from David Gray – and in terms of self achievement, if Celtic fall foul to defeat against the Jambos, it will be their first major trophy since the summer of 2012.
However, given Celtic’s recent record in Scotland’s major cup competition over the last few years, one would think that any major slip up would be nothing short of a pipedream.
There may be a lot of things on any Celtic fans’ Christmas list this coming week, but another major trophy to add to that collection surely comes close to the top – let’s hope Neil Lennon and co. can deliver.