Winter comes in 50 shades of discontent.
For those Clydesdale Bank Premier League clubs who do not survive being paired against each other in the Scottish Cup this weekend, it will come in the darkest hue accompanied by a financial migraine that will last for the next six months. If, previously, you did not know how our cup system works, you could be forgiven for thinking that this system has been devised by those who secretly wish to re-create the pain of mediaeval tooth extraction.
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Whatever the bravado being expressed by Hibernian, Hearts, Ross County, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Aberdeen and Motherwell as they try to convince their supporters that this is the real stuff of the cup, where fate takes its part and you take the consequences of it like the men they are, I can tell you without recourse to a psychic that not a single one of them would have wanted this arrangement.
Nor should it have come to pass. In Edinburgh, the feeling among the Hibs fans, fired by their recent league position, is for revenge and they believe this opportunity could not have come soon enough for them. But to me they sound like parched travellers reaching the Last Chance Saloon, for a double whammy along with last season's final defeat would make them look even more like the rear end of a horse in an Edinburgh panto..
The other side, meanwhile, still feel they are better and stronger than the Leith men and sense that simply turning up will be good enough for them. If they are mistaken and they fail, consider the financial implications for a club that is passing round the begging bowl. They are fighting for their survival in this game. Hibs are desperate to avoid another humiliation. These are the kind of circumstances that could make for the sort of drama that our game desperately needs.
But hold on. This is the very first day of December. This is the sort of climax that you would desperately desire to see when the buds are on the bough. This, by contrast, is a quite unnecessary mid-winter execution. The same criteria applies to the other clubs. I expect we could even now write the words of explanation which the defeated managers will draw from their library of apologia; rather on the lines of "Well, the league is more important to us than anything else."
One thing I can also safely predict is that none of them will speak up against the system because they feel, apart from anything else, it would sound like sour grapes. None of them will step forward, as I am now proposing, to promote the introduction of seeding into the Scottish Cup.
The anti-seeding lobby is resolute. They are the free-marketeers who see intervention in the process as a contamination of tradition, as something which detracts from the romance of the cup. Perhaps they should hold a seminar on that romantic feeling with the disconsolate Premier League players who won't make it into the next round. I admit the public is not mounting a campaign to rid us of this system largely because, as we know to our regret, we simply acquiesce to the norm too often for our own good.
Of course, even in a seeded competition we can never make absolute predictions. There will always be upsets. But the odds of a so-called major club, one that can potentially attract crowds, being eliminated early on is reduced. Now, you don't need to be so skilled a salesman that you could sell after-shave to the Taliban to see our efforts at promoting the game are cumbersome to the point of negativity. What glorious climaxes we would have if the competition was shaped properly.
The fact other sports successfully adopt such an approach seems to act, curiously, as a dampener on attempts to do likewise. Andy Murray's efforts attract more stimulation through the seeding system, not less. Even golf changed. There were the days in the Open Championship when the leaderboard did not apply in the final round. You played with whoever you were drawn with.
It is a fact that the late Eric Brown claimed to me cost him the Open when leading at St Andrews on the final day. Playing in front of him were lesser luminaries who got into trouble at the second, leading to a long hold up. When, at last, Eric got to drive, he was accompanied on his back swing by a loud voice from within the hundreds of admirers following him. 'Hit it down the middle, Bomber!' And he promptly drove it out of bounds. It was the delay which cost him dearly. The elite were not together. Golf introduced its own seeding. You played for it.
And, in an important sense, so do SPL clubs. It takes them a year to get or stay there. They are supposedly the elite and if we toss that aside as of no importance then it will add to the sense that we cannot modernise. Television is a bully now. Look at the times of some of these games this weekend.
Time to turn round and declare something novel that would be football's initiative, not television's. Seed the cup might sound like a mediaeval agrarian chant but it's as modern as you could get.