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Old Firm are kept apart but edge closer together

THE prospect of a first Old Firm match in almost two years remains on hold after Celtic and Rangers were kept apart in the draw for the fifth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup.

Kenny Miller, SFA president Campbell Ogilvie and William Hill's Douglas Davidson at Hampden for yesterday's draw. Picture: SNS
Kenny Miller, SFA president Campbell Ogilvie and William Hill's Douglas Davidson at Hampden for yesterday's draw. Picture: SNS

Both Glasgow clubs were still in the hat with just six teams left but both ended up with home ties, Celtic against Aberdeen, and Rangers against the winner of the replay between Dunfermline Athletic and Ayr United. The ties will be played on February 8 or 9.

The last Old Firm derby took place in April 2012 and, with no league meeting of the sides possible for at least another two years, anticipation had grown that they could face each other in the cup. Kenny Miller, who helped make the draw at Hampden yesterday, was disappointed that did not prove the case this time around.

"I think everyone would love to see it - media, fans, everyone," said the former Celtic and Rangers striker. "And I'm sure the players would love to take part in that fixture again. There is no doubt Scottish football would benefit from it. I think we need it. It would bring an attention back to our game that has been missing for the last couple of years. It would be great if we could see it in the final.

"Obviously you wish everyone still in the competition all the best but I think everybody would like to see the Old Firm game at some point. If it was the spectacle at the end of the season, it would be a fantastic thing for the game here in Scotland."

Danny McGrain, Celtic's first-team coach, admitted it was a fixture

he missed. "I was thinking, 'it's going to be Rangers' and I'm

sure everyone was thinking that," he said. "It wasn't to be in this round but maybe in the next

round we'll hopefully be in the draw and Rangers too. I miss the Old Firm games because of the whole build-up to it."

Nicky Clark, the Rangers striker, was the only one perhaps relieved that the two clubs had been kept apart. "I had a wee feeling that the longer it went on it was going to come out but I'm happy," he said. "We wanted to be at Ibrox, so to get a home tie is great."

Celtic are holders of the trophy and McGrain revealed it would take a good team to take it off them, especially with the final taking place at Celtic Park this season with Hampden unavailable due to preparations for the Commonwealth Games. "It's our cup and we want to keep it," he said. "Someone is going to have to play very well to take it off us.

"The Scottish Cup was always special to me as it's the last game of the season. If you didn't win it - and I lost a couple of finals - it was always a long summer. When you win it the summer used to fly in and you went back to pre-season bouncing. This season the final is at Celtic Park. I don't think that gives us a huge advantage as whoever reaches the final will get half of the crowd. But we don't want to see another team running around Celtic Park celebrating."

Rangers are odds-on favourites to win SPFL League 1 and will face Raith Rovers in the Ramsdens Cup final in April. Clark hoped they could complete their own version of a domestic clean sweep. "We want to win as many trophies as we can. That was why I came to Rangers and it would be great if we could win the treble."

The decision to announce Celtic Park as the venue for the final was a contentious one but Campbell Ogilvie, president of the Scottish Football Association, felt forward planning was necessary. "We knew that would bring a reaction," he said. "It's not just about picking a venue, there are contracts to be put in place. We work with the sponsors and others behind the scenes. We can't wait until April 12 or 13, after the semi-finals, to decide. We always knew there was potential for negative comment but it happens in other countries and in Uefa competitions. It's a one-off here and I think we have

to be big enough to accept it."

William Hill Scottish Cup. Fifth-round draw

Alloa Athletic v Dumbarton

Clyde or Stranraer v Inverness CT

Hibernian v Raith Rovers

Albion Rovers v Stenhousemuir

Brechin City or Forfar Athletic v St Johnstone

Celtic v Aberdeen

Dundee United v Queen of the South or St Mirren

Rangers v Ayr United or Dunfermline Athletic

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