WITH so much football being on television these days I certainly have become more selective about the games I watch. On Tuesday night I thought I’d take in the match between my old clubs Brighton and Manchester City.

It could be considered a meaningless match but one aspect turned it around and made it a really exciting watch – there was a sizeable crowd allowed into the stadium. This gave the game a terrific atmosphere and without doubt, the fightback that came from Brighton was a direct result of the urgency generated by the supporters. I’ve not seen Brighton put in that level of intensity in any match I’ve watched over the last 18 months.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because it demonstrated to me how sad it is that we have the season’s major one-off match, the Scottish Cup final, today, without a single fan at the game. It’s so dismal and it certainly takes away from what we will be witnessing. It could still be a very good match but that game in Brighton demonstrated how important the presence of fans is to make a game more dynamic and interesting.

I know it was down to circumstances relating to Glasgow having an upsurge of positive Covid cases, but it was only going to be 600 fans anyway. I still feel that the game could have been played elsewhere in Scotland with fans in attendance even although it would have been well short of capacity.

Brighton’s Amex Stadium holds 30,000 and the crowd was just under 8000, so we’re looking at around 25 per cent and even that would have given us just over 5000 at Pittodrie or 4000 at Tynecastle. It’s a small crowd but the atmosphere it would generate would greatly enhance the occasion.

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I still hope we get a decent football match from two teams who are very keen to win this trophy. Hibernian are the favourites but this will also put them under a bit of pressure. They managed to take the weight off their shoulders in 2016 when they finally won the cup after waiting over 100 years. They might have felt another win was on the horizon but Celtic controlled this competition over the years since then and they will be very excited about their return to the final.

They will consider themselves capable of beating St Johnstone, although they have only won once against them in five meetings this season. St Johnstone have won each of their last three meetings, so being favourites might have its downside. If we consider Hibs’ squad then we can see that they have a number of highly regarded players who are even attracting attention from clubs in England.

The likes of Josh Doig, Ryan Porteous, Daniel MacKay and Kevin Nisbet are all building their reputations under Jack Ross and they will certainly be watched today. So this could be an important audition for them too if they have the ambition to move on.

St Johnstone have had a marvellous season with their top-six place in the Premiership but, more importantly, with their two outstanding cup runs that have already banked them a trophy. The League Cup win was outstanding and especially because they knocked out a rampant Rangers in the quarter-finals to get there.

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To have a chance of winning two trophies in one season is generally beyond any of the provincial clubs in our game so if St Johnstone were to attain this, it would be a very special achievement and possibly one that is unlikely to be repeated.

I am certainly not writing off this St Johnstone team. They obviously have players who can cope with the pressure that cup football brings and they will be relaxed and committed because they have already won a trophy this season. This should allow them to play their normal game with the belief that they have the players and formation to influence the outcome.

In terms of style, I can see similarities with Leicester City, this season’s FA Cup winners, in that they play a well organised pressing game that stops the opposition playing with freedom. This could be a major factor and perhaps one of the reasons they’ve won their last three matches against Hibs. This will certainly be a match where stopping Hibs playing at their best is the key to Saints achieving the glorious cup double.

Hopefully, this is the last time we will have a cup final with no spectators and we’ll remember this one for different reasons.