I’ll admit it – I’m gripped by Scottish Cup fever.
In part, this is down to my boyhood heroes, St Mirren, being in the last four for the first time since I’ve been able to drink – legally.
However, I’d be lying if Dundee United’s progress into the semi-finals hasn’t had me taking my eye off the day job a little as well.
I know, I hear you: ‘But your day job is a football writer’.
Let me explain.
In my line of work, the vast majority of the week is, usually, spent previewing and building up to the weekend’s fixture – the climax.
This week, however, things were very different.
For the first time in my journalistic career, that notion has been completely thrown out the window.
Since I began working as a ‘hack’ for DC Thomson in July 2017, I have never known such an occasion as a Hampden showdown for one of our city clubs.
Ross County call in at Tannadice today (right?) but you wouldn’t know it from the coverage in our papers and excitement among the Arabs.
I have learned quickly this week, that all is entirely expected and totally understandable.
However, next Saturday’s meeting with Hibs will have to wait – and the Tangerines
cannot afford to discount County.
The importance of this afternoon’s clash, beyond the obvious ramifications in the Premiership standings, is huge for the Terrors.
Of course, eighth-placed United will want to do a professional job and pick up the required points as they try to pip my Buddies to the post and top the bottom six.
More pertinently, however, for their hopes of kissing silverware later this month, the Tangerines need to use the meeting with John Hughes’ relegation-threatened Staggies as a warm-up for the Hibees.
With a week separating the two games, I expect boss Micky Mellon to field a strong side, unlike he did for the 3-0 loss at Kilmarnock prior to their impressive quarter-final win at Aberdeen.
Last midweek, Mellon took the chance to experiment and threw in some kids and fringe men as United rested their star players.
This time around, with a full seven days between games, that it will be a strong Tangerines team playing with the bit between their teeth and seeking a starting slot for the semi-final is without question.
That’s exactly how it should be, in my opinion.
Competition is healthy in football and, although Mellon has already been on record saying he has a good idea of how he will line up at Hampden, United’s players have to relish the challenge of fighting for their right to, potentially, be part of history.
Whatever happens next Saturday, it will be a fantastic occasion for the club, back at Hampden for the first time in five years.
They’ve gone full circle – out of the Championship wilderness and back to the big time – so United should know better than most the importance of taking it a game at a time to reach your goals.
Many of my colleagues have joined players and clubs across Scottish football in boycotting social media until midnight on Monday.
It is an act that will no doubt increase visibility of the issue of racism in our game and society, very much prevalent in this day and age.
Football is fighting its fight against online racist abuse and, hearteningly, singing off the same hymn sheet in doing so.
However, directly taking part is not my role.
I decided – after much thought – to not participate.
Many of my colleagues will join players and clubs across Scottish football in boycotting social media from 3pm today until midnight on Monday. It is an act that will no doubt increase visibility of the issue of racism in our game/society. Football is fighting its fight (1/3).
— Calum Woodger (@CalumWoodger) April 30, 2021
As a member of the media, for all I support anti-racism, and have done so actively this season taking the knee and then standing before matches, I believe we must stay online and continue to hold people, particularly social media platforms, to account.
I hasten to add, traditional media is far from perfect and some introspection is needed on that front regarding our handling of issues pertaining to all forms of discrimination.
Instead of hi-jacking an issue that doesn’t effect me or my profession like it does footballers, subjected to awful bile online, I have decided to share some
stories from our patch in recent times on my personal Twitter account
(@CalumWoodger) over the coming days that highlight the challenges facing our game.
From Kane Hemmings to Jonathan Afolabi and Glen Kamara – action is needed.
Now we’re guaranteed a return of Edinburgh derbies to the Premiership next season, we need the country’s elite rival clash to join it at Scotland’s top table.
And, yes, I am aware of the existence to the two teams from Glasgow, but, for me, the top flight has been a far worse place for the absence of Hearts v Hibs and Dundee v United this term.
Hearts have held up their side of the bargain in restoring parity, winning the Championship title.
My hope now is the Dark Blues can navigate the promotion play-offs and set up a first top-tier Dundee derby since 2016.