THREE days to go until the first major trophy is handed out as Celtic and Motherwell go head-to-head in the Betfred League Cup Final.
The competition has been devalued by some over the years, particularly since the loss of a European place after the 1996/97 season, but it’s seen some enthralling Finals and had the occasional shock thrown in. Let’s take a look back at some of the best League Cup Finals contested over the last 28 years, the timespan I’ve been watching the beautiful game.
1989/90: Rangers 1-2 Aberdeen
Personally, this was my first football memory and got me hooked on the Dons when I asked my mum “who’s the team in the red?” It was the third consecutive Final between the two in the tournament, with Aberdeen looking to make it third time lucky having lost the previous two encounters. Scouse midfielder Paul Mason wrote himself into Aberdeen folklore with a memorable double, either side of a disputed Mark Walters penalty, that took the Cup North to Pittodrie, with Dutch goalkeeper in inspired form to keep Rangers at bay.
link courtesy of Carhandle
1994/95: Raith Rovers 2-2 Celtic, Raith Rovers won 6-5 on penalties
Arguably, one of the greatest shocks in Scottish Football history! The Final was supposed to herald a new Celtic era under the ownership of Fergus McCann, but the men from Kirkcaldy didn’t read the script. Stevie Crawford gave Raith an early lead, cancelled out by Andy Walker. Charlie Nicholas looked as though he won the Cup, and end a five and a half year trophy drought at Parkhead, only for Gordon Dalziel to nod home the equaliser. With Raith leading 6-5 in the shootout, Paul McStay stepped up and Jock Brown muttered the famous curse “unthinkable, surely, for the skipper to miss!” Scott Thomson, sent off in the Semi Final, saved his kick to become the hero of the hour, giving Raith that memorable victory that led to their only European adventure that took them all the way to Munich – and to lead 1-0 over Bayern at half time!
link courtesy of ScottishFootballTV
1996/98: Rangers 4-3 Hearts
The last League Cup Final to offer European Football and, boy, was it a classic! Rangers looked in cruise control thanks to an Ally McCoist double, with Jambos fans fearing the worst having been trounced 5-1 by their opponents in the previous seasons Scottish Cup Final. Hearts came back fighting this time and were boosted by Steve Fulton’s strike just before half time. When John Robertson equalised early into the second half, momentum seemed to be with the men in maroon. However, Paul Gascoigne, who was pretty quiet throughout the game until this point, stepped up to the plate with two excellent goals to restore Rangers two goal advantage. David Weir hit a late consolation but the Cup was Ibrox bound after a pulsating 90 minutes.
link courtesy of SPFL
2003/04: Hibernian 0-2 Livingston
Having defeated both halves of the Old Firm en route to the Final, Hibs were supposed to end their 12 and a half year wait for a League Cup triumph at Hampden. They were up against a Livingston side who’s first ever Final was soured by the fact they had plunged into administration, ironically whilst being sponsored by Intelligent Finance. However, the West Lothian side swept aside a young Hibs team containing Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson, Garry O’Connor and Derek Riordan with an impressive 2-0 win, thanks to goals from Derek Lilley and Jamie McAllister. It’s been downhill for Livi since then but they’ll never forget that afternoon they lifted their only major honour to date.
link courtesy of LiviTV archive
2012/13: St Mirren 3-2 Hearts
Over a quarter of a century on from their last major trophy success in the Scottish Cup, St Mirren arrived at Hampden hopeful of ending that wait having defeated Celtic in the Semi Final. It wasn’t looking good as Ryan Stevenson gave Hearts the lead. However, Isma Gonsalves, now plying his trade at Tynecastle, equalised against the run of play, and the Buddies didn’t look back. Diehard Saints fan Steven Thompson put them in front early into the second half and loanee Connor Newton extended their lead midway through the half. Stevenson’s second set up a grandstand finish but St Mirren held on for the finest hour since that Scottish Cup triumph in 1987.
link courtesy of THEstlucifer
2015/16: Hibernian 1-2 Ross County
Having defeated Celtic in the Semi Final, Ross County had the chance to claim their first national trophy when they faced a Hibs side, then gunning on three fronts with a promotion battle and Scottish Cup run adding to their chance to lift the League Cup. Michael Gardyne opened the scoring for the Highlanders, only for Liam Fontaine to level things up and the game looked destined for extra time. Then, with just a few minutes to spare, Alex Schalk tapped home the winner for County to give the men from Dingwall their finest hour.
link courtesy of SPFL
There have been some great Finals and some amazing stories from the League Cup over the years. Most neutrals on Sunday will be hoping that this years Betfred Cup Final is one to remember for years to come.