Old Firm fall gives finalists a ball
The first domestic prize of the Scottish season, the League Cup, will be up for grabs on Sunday when Hearts play St Mirren at Hampden Park.
Non-Old Firm supporters had a field day in this competition this year as the Glaswegian rivals fell by the wayside in earlier rounds.
Financially-stricken Rangers are in dire straits and when Celtic are also eliminated, the expectations of other clubs grow to an extent that they actually think they can claim the silverware.
Hearts, Scottish FA Cup winners last season, and St Mirren will adorn the lush turf of Hampden and the duo will expect to have the neutral fans behind them.
These occasions are rare in the Scottish game.
Since the turn of the 1990s, only four League Cup finals were contested by the so-called ‘lesser’ sides.
2006-07: Hibernian-Kilmarnock - 5-1
2003-04: Livingston-Hibernian - 2-0
1995-96: Aberdeen-Dundee - 2-0
1991-92: Hibernian-Dunfermline - 2-0
Hearts and St Mirren are both in the lower half of the SPL table − just above the relegation zone.
The good news for them is that bottom-placed FC Dundee are lagging behind and with one foot already in Division One.
The Premier League outcomes between Hearts and St Mirren this season read:
November 17: Hearts-St Mirren - 1-0
September 15: St Mirren-Hearts - 2-0
Before the start of the campaign, Hearts sacked manager Paulo Sergio and ap-pointed John McGlynn. Danny Lennon took over at St Mirren on June 7, 2010.
Hearts have won the Scottish League Cup on four occasions:
1955: vs Motherwell - 4-2
1959: vs Partick Thistle - 5-1
1960: vs Third Lanark - 2-1
1963: vs Kilmarnock - 1-0
St Mirren will be attempting to lift the silverware for the first time in their history. They finished runners-up twice:
1956: vs Aberdeen - 1-2
2010: vs Rangers - 0-1
Hearts and St Mirren have met on nine occasions in the history of the Scottish League Cup:
2010 (semi-final): Hearts-St Mirren 0-1.
1990 (third round): St Mirren-Hearts 0-1.
1983 (third round): Hearts-St Mirren 3-1 (after 2-2 draw).
1982 (quarter-final): Hearts 3-2 aggregate.
1969 (fourth round): St Mirren-Hearts 1-0 (after 0-0 draw).
1966 (fourth round): Hearts-St Mirren 3-1 (after 0-0 draw).
1961 (fourth round): Hearts 3-2 on aggregate.
1960 (first round): St Mirren 4-2 on aggregate.
1951 (third round): Hearts 8-4 on aggregate.
Path to final
Third round: Home vs Livingston 3-1 (Grainger, Zaliukas 2).
Quarter-final: Away vs Dundee United 1-1 aet (Paterson). Won 5-4 on penalties.
Semi-final: At Easter Road vs Inverness 1-1 aet (Ngoo). Won 5-4 on penalties.
Second round: Home vs Ayr United 5-1 (Guy, Thompson, McGawan, McLean pen, Teale).
Third round: Home vs Hamilton 1-0 (Mair).
Quarter-final: Away vs Aberdeen 2-2 aet (Parkin, McLean) Won 4-2 on penalties.
Semi-final: At Hampden Park vs Celtic 3-2 (Gonzales, McGowan pen, Thompson).