The publicity is gearing up and the Big Day is almost upon us!
Monday 29 June will see the draw made for the First Round of the Petrofac Training Cup!
If nothing else, it’s a sure sign that the new season is finally in view!
Before The Clumpany goes any further, let me just say that I am a genuine fan of the competition (and not just because it’s football, and it’s sometimes on the TV…).
Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of the domestic game in all it’s glory and craziness, and loathe those that try to do it down!
As with the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in England, the Challenge Cup gives sides who don’t normally have much of the limelight a chance of glory!
Both by winning the competition and by beating teams from a higher division in the earlier rounds.
The sight of Turnbull Hutton with the Cup after Raith’s triumph two seasons ago is one of The Clumpany’s favourite images of Scottish football in recent times.
A widely-respected man who had done a lot for his club and the game as a whole smiling proudly with the silverware.
Last season, Livingston came through an absolutely horrific year – on and off the park – to thump Alloa in the final.
It was great to see them catching a break, and for everyone associated with the club to have a fantastic day.
[NB For the avoidance of doubt, The Clumpany really felt for Alloa, especially after their semi-final performance.]
Like the best of all sport, the Challenge Cup offers more than just a game. It can tell a wider story, progress a broader narrative, and – occasionally – provide a defining moment
This is especially true in relation to Sevco.
[Admit it. You were waiting for the ‘obsessed‘ Sevco punchline, weren’t you?!]
The Challenge Cup has loomed particularly large in Sevco’s short history.
A few years ago, no one could ever have imagined that an Ibrox-based ‘club’ would run out with the ‘minnows’ in the Challenge Cup.
Domestic domination and European football were its natural habitats!
This is – of course – an attitude that continuous to (possibly fatally) dog Sevco to this very day.
But play in the Challenge Cup they did!
And it wasn’t just any old game.
By the magic of a hitherto-unknown ‘conditional SFA membership‘, the Sevco entity took to the pitch against Brechin City in the first round of the-then Ramsdens Cup on 29th July 2012.
The long road ‘back’ [*cough*] to the top of Scottish football began with a scrappy 2-1 extra-time win. A performance and result that set the tone for what was to follow for the next three seasons.
The Clumpany suspects that you would have got very short odds on Sevco winning the Challenge Cup in 2012-13.
And the bookmaker would have gleefully taken your money at astronomical odds if you had wanted to place a bet on them failing to win it in all three of the seasons it would (presumably) take them to complete the ‘Journey’ to the top flight.
Strange things can happen in cup football, but it seemed extremely unlikely that Sevco would fail to win the Challenge Cup.
Not with the resources at their disposal, and the standard of the opposition.
But they did fail.
In September 2012, Queen of the South put them out on penalties in the quarter-finals after a 2-2 draw at the Crumbledome
In season 2013-14, Sevco made it all the way to the final at Easter Road and were the favourites to win! Some of their fans even got the ‘Battle Fever’ on and reminisced about ‘previous’ cup wins.
However, after a dire game, Sevco went down 1-0 to a 117th minute winner by John Baird.
It was quite a result, and for many a shock.
The Ibrox club hadn’t seen off the wee team and added to ‘its’ (sic) ‘World Record’ (sic) haul of trophies.
It wasn’t supposed to be like that.
However, more realistic observers pointed out that perhaps Sevco were finding their ‘level’.
Perhaps their uninspiring team, dismal ‘tactics’ and hapless manager simply weren’t as good as many People and journalists wanted to believe…
Still, there was always next season…
It couldn’t possibly be Third Time Unlucky, could it?
Yes it could.
Having huffed and puffed their way through an abysmal first half of the semi-final against Alloa, Sevco managed to go 2-0 up by the midway point of the second half.
Thanks to incredible spirit and very decent football from part-time Alloa, and thanks to an unbelievably gutless final quarter from Sevco, the Wasps prevailed 3-2!
It may have ‘only’ been a Challenge Cup semi-final, but it was a hugely significant moment.
The game was up for McCoist, who simply couldn’t get his highly-paid squad playing effectively (never mind attractively).
Within three weeks he was placed on gardening leave, where he has remained ever since.
It was also another reality check for the Sevco faithful.
Still, there was always the prospect of promotion to the Premiership to focus on…
Promotion didn’t happen either.
So, against all the odds, Sevco find themselves with an unexpected fourth opportunity to win the Challenge Cup!
And once again the competition holds significance.
The First Round fixture will be the first game of the new season. The first competitive match under the new manager, and the first game after a pre-season and rebuilding programme overseen by the King-led board.
In short, we will start to see how far the King rhetoric about ‘doing whatever it takes‘ this season has borne fruit. And how true the media’s image of Warburton as a likely managerial genius is!
Given what we have heard from the ‘new’ regime, and what we have so far seen happen in the transfer market, the Clumpany is obviously confident that Danny Wilson won’t lead out a collection of footballing waifs and strays.
The Sevco matchday squad on 25 July can’t possibly end up consisting of the remnants of the old squad and whatever other out-of-contract players they have somehow cajoled into signing up.
No. The Petrofac Cup first round will be the first chapter in the glorious, well-funded, all-conquering future that the Sevco fans are expecting.
In fact, it will probably be worthy of a Sports Direct-produced commemorative t-shirt!
Stay tuned to the Petrofac Cup, and please…