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Rodgers and Robinson set sights on the history books

William Hill Scottish Cup Final: Celtic v Motherwell, Hampden Park, Today, 3.00pm

By Julian Taylor

Somewhere, concealed under the publicity of Scottish Cup final preparations, Celtic and Motherwell will have had occasion to reflect on where they have come from, which goes beyond how both clubs have forged their way to this afternoon's Hampden Park showpiece.

This week, Well, the underdogs, marked the 132nd anniversary of their formation. And Celtic founder Andrew Kerins, better known as Brother Walfrid, was born 140 years ago.

A native of Ballymote, County Sligo, Walfrid would certainly approve of the contemporary Celts and their domination of Scottish football under Brendan Rodgers.

Celtic, Premiership champions for the seventh successive season, are targeting a back-to-back treble for the first time in Scottish football history.

Motherwell, guided so impressively by another Ulsterman, Stephen Robinson, seek a treble of their own, having won the Cup on two previous occasions.

While the majority of his players are in step with these high-pressure clashes, Rodgers essentially has to fine tune. Robinson, on the other hand, overhauled an ageing, lacklustre squad last year on a shoestring. The former Northern Ireland assistant boss possesses an intrinsic ability to weld a team, packed with organisation and desire.

Following the Steelmen's dismantling of Aberdeen in the semi-final, Robinson breezed into the media suite and declared that his outlaws were something akin to those similarly roguish Northern Ireland squads who reached two World Cup finals in the Eighties.

Physical aspects suit Motherwell perfectly, and an unerring ability to take their chances when they appear has led them all the way. Robinson revels in the club's unfashionable status. "We are the Millwall of Scotland," he noted earlier this season.

Privately, opponents admit Well are the classically awkward outfit no one wants to play.

But outfoxing Rodgers is a different matter. A lot rests on Well striker Curtis Main, who scored a semi-final double, to convert any isolated chances. Lisburn native Robinson knows he is up against a side who invariably appreciate the big occasion.

Whether it's Old Firm clashes or cup finals, Rodgers usually culls complacency. Although Celtic have dropped surprising Premiership points, they tend to deliver when it matters.

Rodgers will have reminded his men during the week of last season's final. Struggling for fluency at times against Aberdeen, Celtic kept banging on the door and eventually seized the trophy, courtesy of Tom Rogic.

The Australian midfielder has signed a new five-year contract, a perfect boost for all at Parkhead. Unlike captain Scott Brown, Rogic is more creator than enforcer.

Having netted one of the goals of the season at Ibrox recently, Rogic is a huge threat to Robinson's plans. PFA Scotland Player of the Year Brown, Kieran Tierney and Olivier Ntcham are likely the biggest influencers.

Celtic cruised past Rangers in the semi-final, but they will find Well battlers Cedric Kipre and Carl McHugh radically hungrier.

All the double treble talk has dominated Parkhead and, considering Celtic have already accounted for Motherwell in the League Cup final, visions of unique glory are unfolding.

There will be debate over the merits of any such accomplishment where domestic opposition is weaker - one only has to look at anaemic Rangers this term - and where Rodgers should be placed in the pantheon of Celtic bosses. That even the legendary Jock Stein couldn't direct a similar achievement during the club's authority of the late Sixties and early Seventies is telling.

All week long, Well have implored fans to 'Fuel the Fire', a nod to the Steelmen's roots. If Robinson, roared onto the team coach at Fir Park yesterday, can mine gold at Hampden against a team, richer in every respect, it will verge on miraculous.

For Rodgers, one more game to seal a lifetime's memory.

Belfast Telegraph

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