The Ties That Bind: Cup Final Memories
- 14 April 2016
Sunday was a good day to be a Rangers supporter. For the first time since the wheels came off so dramatically in the summer of 2012 we were back at Hampden for a cup final. And it felt good.
Granted, it was not a cup final of old and, in terms of a spectacle, there were times it felt more like a pre-season friendly than a cup final, particularly in the second-half. But it was another important step back to a sense of normality and given our embarrassing record in the tournament to date, it was nice to finally put the jinx to bed.
It was a special day for me as it was the first time I had taken my son to a cup final. I have to admit, when I envisaged such a scenario while he was still in nappies I would never have dreamed his first taste of a cup final would come in a competition exclusively for lower league sides. But we are where we are and we have to give the competition the respect it deserves.
Seeing the excitement on his face at the prospect of his first cup final day reminded me of my first experience of one – the Skol Cup Final of 1987.
When Rangers defeated Motherwell in the semi-final of the competition that year to secure a final place with Aberdeen, my heart was set on attending.
I was 13-years-old at the time and managed to get my parents to agree to letting me dog school to queue for tickets. I set off at the back of six one cold October morning to get the train into Glasgow so I could head to Ibrox to buy two tickets for me and my mate.
The process of procuring the tickets was almost as exciting as going to the game. Standing with fellow Bears, chatting about all things Rangers, occasionally asking someone to watch your place in the queue so you could nip to the burger van for a cup of tea and something to eat. There was even a wee bit of media interest with Jim White turning up with an STV camera crew to capture the demand for tickets for Scotland Today.
On the day of the game itself, I was nervous beyond words. For a start, I wasn't quite sure how to get to Hampden, and neither was my mate. So we just had to make our way into Glasgow and hope for the best. As it was, we found a couple of older supporters who were happy for us to share their taxi out towards Hampden.
We were dropped at the top of Victoria Rd. Unable to get any closer due to the congestion of people and traffic, we set off on foot from there. Again, we had no idea where we were going and so simply followed the crowd.
The game itself was a classic. Six goals, a penalty shootout, THAT free-kick from Davie Cooper and a Rangers win – as an introduction to finals go, I couldn't have asked for more. It was emotionally draining and as exciting a match I've attended.
After the game we retraced the route of the taxi and walked back into the city centre to catch the train home. When I look back on it now, I am staggered I was allowed to go.
I was only thirteen and wandering around unfamiliar areas of Glasgow on a cold, dark October night. Different times, I suppose.
But I managed to navigate my way home safe and sound where I grabbed the VHS tape of the game my parents had recorded so I could watch it all again!
And so back to Sunday, when my boy experienced his first taste of a cup final. We left the house around lunchtime and headed for the train.
Once aboard, we discussed what we thought the team would be and tactics etc. Remembering that game in '87, I YouTubed the Davie Cooper free-kick and informed him that the game was my first cup final. I added that if he were lucky enough he might get a goal to remember the occasion by.
We arrived in Glasgow and walked the three miles or so to the stadium, again heading up Victoria Rd as I had done 29 years previously.
The game itself lacked the intensity and drama of my '87 visit. But that was always to be expected in a tournament that is not really our natural habitat, regardless of previous struggles. As we had hoped on the train journey in, my son got a memorable goal when Tavernier struck just before half-time. The goal, in my opinion, wasn't as good as Cooper's but it was still an impressive strike and one to look back on fondly.
The celebrations were excellent. We were in the North Stand and so made our way down towards the trackside when the players were passing. It was at this point that I realised he was probably enjoying himself as much as I had at my first game. He was waving and shouting as the players passed, desperate to get the Andy Halliday's shirt – he's one of our own after all!
We sat about for a few minutes after the crowd had left. Taking in the surroundings and taking a photo or two, then we set about making the long walk back to the city centre where we had a celebratory Pizza Hut before catching the train home.
On that journey it struck me there would be people who would claim my son and I had supported different clubs on our respective cup final introductions, and not all of them bloggers or pseudo-journalists: Some are so-called 'respected' journalists.
If you're deluded enough to think you can deny us our shared experience because of a number registered at Companies House, then I would suggest you're hatred has gotten the better of you and you're not really in it for the football at all.
If you think for one minute that I took my son to watch a different club on Sunday than the one I watched from the slopes of Hampden in '87 then I fear for your sense of reason.
Football isn't and never has been about a club's registration number at Companies House. It's about community, it's about family, it's about shared experiences, creating great memories and reliving them years later.
I did all those things with my boy on Sunday – watching the same club I have always supported.