Belfast Telegraph

It can be hard to focus on football

Billy On The Box

By Billy Weir

Hopes weren't high for shocks in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup as Sky, with the customary romance of Vladimir Putin on a first date, plumped for Rangers and Celtic as their match choices over the weekend.

This despite the fact that the cup holders, Hibs, had been drawn to play little Bonnyrigg Rose, which sounds like something Robert Louis Stevenson would have written about, the last remaining junior team in the competition.

Even BBC Scotland missed the boat, deciding on Raith Rovers taking on Hearts - hardly a fixture to get the pulses racing - and even though Motherwell threatened an upset for 10 minutes at Ibrox, Kenny Miller's two late goals had all at Sky breathing a big sigh of relief.

Celtic's trip to Albion to play Rovers offered even less chance of an upset, especially when they discovered there wasn't somewhere called Albion and they were in fact from the Lanarkshire town of Coatbridge.

I confess I know little of Albion Rovers other than back in the day they were sponsored by Tunnock's, makers of the wonderful Caramel Wafer and for a while the Wee Rovers wore a strip that resembled Scotland's answer to fine patisserie.

I also have a soft spot for Stenhousemuir because that's where Highland Toffee hailed from, but Rovers had bitten off more than they could chew up against Celtic, who romped to a 3-0 win.

All Sky had to do now was hand the draw for the next round over to a safe pair of hands that could make sure Celtic and Rangers were kept apart - enter Sir Roderick Stewart.

I'm not sure what he had been up to, my guess is a sugar rush from eating too many Caramel Wafers, but he seemed quite excited as he joined former Hibs manager Alan Stubbs to sandwich a petrified Penfold lookalike from the Scottish Football Association.

Rod helpfully pointed at him when Sky's David Tanner introduced him, just in case we were confused, and was invited by the wee man who looked as if he'd just stepped out of Burton's window to draw the home teams.

This prompted an extravagant dive into the pot that Tom Daley would have been proud of, with Sir Rod bellowing out "number four" and never has the appearance of Dunfermline Athletic merited such excitement.

Stubbs, whose presence at this point was academic, played ball by pulling out Hamilton Academicals' ball but was interrupted by another dive into the pot and a holler of "number 11" as Sky's bigwigs suddenly wondered what they had let themselves in for and just what would Sir Rod be like when Celtic and Rangers came out of the hat.

Six matches in and the dream/nightmare vision of an Old Firm clash was still on, even Sir Rod in his excited state realised that as he said "we're getting down to the big boys now" and then it happened.

"Yesssssss, number three," said Sir Rod, and we guessed it wasn't Stenhousemuir, as he pulled out Celtic and out of sight a heated square ball with spikes and Rangers' No.12 on was placed into the pot. Stubbs duly obliged pulling out No.6 'Greenock Morton' and the chairman was dancing on the streets of Greenock and Morton with the thought of a money-spinning trip to Parkhead.

Not so fast, as the man from the SFA coughed, said "crumbs chief we have a problem" and pointed out to Stubbs that it was in fact No.9 and the chairman's dancing stopped as Inverness Caledonian Thistle waltzed into their spot.

Just as he was about to hurl himself off a giant pile of Caramel Wafers, there was a reprieve, Sir Rod pulling out Rangers and Stubbs picking out No.6 or No.9 meaning that fans from Greenock, Morton and surrounding environs would be heading to Glasgow after all.

All that was left was for Sir Rod to catch a homebound train and Stubbs to head home on the A6 or A9, and Tanner telling the Tonight's the Night Knight that he loved his scarf and "there's a future for you as a bingo caller if the voice goes".

At least Football Focus had a wee bit of romance in them, even though they were jilted by one of their planned guests, as a disappointed Dan Walker became the gooseberry in what had been a double date.

Undeterred he had a big list of James Bond puns to get through as he revealed that another Scottish Knight, Sean Connery, had played a few times for Bonnyrigg and boy was he going to rip the backside out of it.

"And for your eyes only we have special agents Hasselbaink and Schwarzer," he began.

"We were expecting Joleon Lescott but he is either in a hollowed out volcano or signing for Sunderland, but let's cast a golden eye over the Premier League fixtures.

"Liverpool face a Swansea side facing the spectre of relegation, we'll be on her majesty's secret service live at the Palace and at the Hawthorns where Sunderland will seek a quantum of solace.

"Tomorrow never dies and sees Leicester at Southampton, Arsenal tackle an odd job at Burnley and an away trip to the leaders could scare the living daylights out of Hull."

By this stage I was praying for a doctor to arrive and say no more, although I was keen to see how he would get Octopussy in, but to no avail. Joleon never showed up, his hopes of getting out of the underground lair about as promising as Sunderland escaping relegation, and as for Bonnyrigg Rose?

They lost 8-1, proving that even with Sir Rod and Sir Sean about, there's no romance left in the cup.

Belfast Telegraph


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