Final countdown

Wot no Old Firm? No, but the

Dundee United v Motherwell Scottish Cup Final, offers several intriguing possibilities. Tom Lappin looks at two contrasting sides, and their less than impressive records in previous finals.

Dundee United v Motherwell may not be the sponsor‘s idea of a dream line-up for a showpiece Cup Final. but it offers the media a multitude of angles for their coverage. There‘s the ‘hicks from the sticks‘ patronising view of the little boys from the provinces coming to the big city to fight for the Cup. There‘s also the youth v experience slant (although United will probably not select their rawest youngsters for the big occasion).

The obvious media gift is the McLean brothers clash. Managers Jim of Dundee United and Tommy of Motherwell are each examples of the Presbyterian school of management. cautious disciplinarians who eschew the Ron Atkinson style ofchampagne and cheap jewellery. It‘s mildly interesting to see them on opposite sides at 2 Hampden. although it hardly justifies the welter of interviews with grannies and primary-school teachers and the like. that we will get during the build-up.

A more intriguing confrontation is the one between Maurice Malpas and Davie Cooper.

Malpas pipped Cooper by one vote for the

Football Writers‘ Player OfThe Year award, and 5 immediately said that he would have voted for

E Cooper if he‘d been asked. Both have played out their careers in Scotland, but there the similarity

ends. Malpas is the consummate sensible pro.

1 TI)



Dundee United defender Maurice Malpas

getting his engineering degree before signing full-time. managing to look unflappable in a shaky Scottish national side, and putting in consistently excellent performances for the club he captains. In a Premier Division packed with kick-first-think-later defenders. Malpas is that rare article: a genuinely intelligent full-back who is comfortable coming forward.

Cooper‘s gifts on the wing and in midfield have been a revelation at Motherwell where he has shown his fondness for scoring as well as creating goals. In his thirties. he may have lost a yard or two ofpace (although several Premier League defenders would argue about that). but his vision and accuracy ofpassing seem to have improved.

The tricksy forward ofdubious temperament against the solid and sensible defender has been the story of Scottish football down the ages. but this final is by no means a two-player affair. Each

side has several other potential match-winners.

Motherwell‘s Dougie Arnott put Rangers‘ title hopes in jeopardy recently with two brilliant late goals. The tiny striker is the sort ofplayer opposing fans hate. because of his niggling capacity for getting on the wrong side of defenders. and scoring vital goals. If you‘re having a gamble on the first scorer. he‘s well worth your consideration. Colin O‘Neill‘s magnificent strike against Celtic in the semi-final must surely be the goal ofthe season, and both he and supersub Steve Kirk are dangerous at set-pieces. With moody striker lain Ferguson always threatening a flash of genius. and Scottish international Tommy Boyd pushing up from defence. Motherwell have to be regarded as very dangerous underdogs.

It‘s Dundee United‘s remarkable strength in depth and their young players that have caught the eye this season. Twenty-four-year-old Darren Jackson has established himself as a first-team regular and a prolific goalscorer after injury problems early in his career. and he will be the . most obvious threat to Alistair Maxwell in the 5 Motherwell goal. It is in midfield though that the game could be won. United‘s three Macs.

5 McKinlay. McKinnon and Mclnally. with the l possible support ofJohn O‘Neil could have the i edge in swinging the game. : Cup Finals. though, have a tendency to be won I by an outstanding individual performance by the l goalkeeper. United‘s Alan Main has. after an ! uncertain start. been accepted by the Dundee i United fans to the extent of having his own Alan ' Main T-shirt worn regularly on the terraces. E Alistair Maxwell. meanwhile. is living proofof the adage that goalkeepers improve with age. He has 5 his best games when the cameras are there to i watch. They‘ll be there at Hampden on May 18. POSSIBLE LINE-UPS j Dundee United Main. Van De Hoorn. Krivokapic. .3 Clarke. Malpas. Mclnally. McKinnon, McKinlay. ' O‘Neil. Jackson. Ferguson. Subs: Connolly. French. Motherwell Maxwell. Boyd, Nijholt. Paterson. Philliben. McCart. O‘Neill. Russell. Cooper. Arnott. Ferguson. Subs: Kirk. Angus. The Scottish Cup Final is at Hampden Park. i Glasgow, 3pm, Sat May 18.

:- The fall guys

Those wacky guys at The Final Hurdle, the witty Dundee United fanzine have been busily issuing every Arab (as United supporters style themselves) with a tangerine balloon inscribed with the motif “Burst the Hampden hoodoo’. The plan is to burst these in unison should United manage to be successful. Their previous five visits to the Scottish Cup Final have proved disappointing, and should Motherwell overcome them this time, Hampden’s terraces will be scattered with more ' deflated balloons than a prophylactlcs l

74 The List 17 30 May 1991

convention. Not that Motherwell have exactly been successful themselves. They haven't been in a Final since I 1952. The history books definitely make this the Final of the fall guys . . . I 1931 Celtic 4 Motherwell 2. Motherwell started their losing trend in ~ style, holding a weak Celtic side 2—2 in l the first match, before succumbing in I the replay. I 1933 Celtic 1 Motherwell 0. Another close game with Celtic winning by a disputed goal, although they could have had a couple more. I 1939 Clyde 4 Motherwell D. A disastrous end to the 30s for Motherwell, going down to an unfancied Clyde slde. War couldn’t come too soon for the despondent

Motherwell fans.

I 1951 Celtic 1 Motherwell D. The

Tom apart once again by a Hangers side featuring a tricky little winger

same old story as Celtic took the cup, and Motherwell fans thought the

; situation in Korea looked a promising

escape. I 1952 Motherwell 4 Dundee D.

Bouncing back in style, Motherwell took the Cup for the only time in the

: club’s history. And it was against a side

; with ‘Dundee’ in their name. In the superstitious world of Scottish football, this must be An Omen.

I 1974 Celtic 3 Dundee United 0. United’s first visit to Hampden set the pattern for games to come. Celtic scored three, and the Arabs crawled back to Tayslde deflated.

I 1981 Rangers 4 Dundee United 1.

called Davie Cooper. Who does he play for now?

I 1985 Celtic 2 Dundee United 1. No chance for United against a Celtic side contravening the Geneva Convention by including Roy Altken and Danny McGrain in the same defence.

I 1987 St Mirren1 Dundee United 0. A goal scored by one fan Ferguson settled the matter. Trivia fans will be aware that Motherwell have an identically named player in their side. I 1988 Celtic 2 Dundee United 1. A late comeback by the Celts to take the trophy in a typically dull match.

I 1991 Motherwell 4 Dundee United 4. Well, we can but dream. (Tom Lappln)