A few weeks ago XFM London 104.9 got me riled when they reported on the draw for the 5th round of the Scottish Cup. They noted that when Rangers and Celtic were paired together that “usually the two teams meet in the final rather than the early stages.”
A quick review of Scottish Cup Finalists over the last 18 seasons showed that the Old Firm had only met in the Scottish Cup Final twice in that time. (On further review it has actually only happened three times since 1980.)
Much more common is the two sides facing each other in the earlier rounds. It has happened five times in that time span of 18 seasons.
To some extent it is understandable that a view of Rangers v Celtic finals “all the time” proliferates outside of Scotland. Come to think of it is a view that is hardly unknown north of the border.
For decades there has been the urban legend of the powers that be placing either hot or cold balls in the velvet bag to differentiate the Old Firm from the other clubs in order to keep them separate. Of course the fact that it has “failed” five times isn’t necessarily prove that it hasn’t been tried.
After all we are talking about the Scottish Football Association, an organization that would have trouble arranging a piss up in a brewery.
But back to the point in question. The XFM comment was obviously intended to convey a message that the Old Firm dominates the Scottish Cup. It raises the question (a) is it true and (b) is the domination greater or less than in England.
In terms of winning the Scottish Cup the record book is proof positive. The Scottish Cup has been played for 124 times, Celtic have won 34 times, Rangers 33 times and the only other club in double figures is Queen’s Park with ten. But Queen’s Park the last win was in 1893 and their last appearance in the final was 1900. Of current SPL teams Hearts and Aberdeen have each lifted the cup 7 times.
When you narrow the range to the last 18 seasons (since the advent of the Premier League in England) the domination of the trophy becomes even more pronounced from a success rate of 54% to 72%. Only five Scottish teams other than Rangers and Celtic have won the Cup since 1993 – Hearts and Dundee United twice and Kilmarnock.
So although the actual comment of usually meeting in the final is incorrect it is hard to argue anything other than the Old Firm dominates the Scottish Cup and in fact that domination is on the rise.
That leads us to the second part of the question and that is how does Old Firm domination compare with the reality of English football? Some allowances have to be for England been geographically larger with around 10 times the population and almost two and a half times the number of professional clubs.
The FA Cup has been played for 129 times and Manchester United have won it more times than any other side – 11. Then if we look at the other members of what has become known as the big four (a reasonable expansion given the greater size of the English game) Arsenal have won 10, Liverpool 7 and Chelsea 6. With only 26% of the wins between them it hardly qualifies as dominion over the tournament from inception.
However, when the time frame is narrowed to 18 seasons (the birth of the Premier League) the picture becomes a very different one. The big four have won sixteen of the last 18 FA Cup Finals with only Everton and Portsmouth breaking their cartel. In percentage terms that is 88%.
Seems in terms of a relatively small number of clubs dominating the major cup competition England now have more to be concerned about than their neighbours north of the border.
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