There will be those who will have no ambition to leave the sofa until the very last putt is holed. But let me tell you this, it has nothing on what is about to perspire in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday afternoon.
So, with that in mind, and to channel Brian Clough at Leeds United, you can get your green jackets, your checkered flags, your Pep and Klopp and all your pots and pans and put them in the biggest dustbin you can find. It’s all about the Super Saturday Split Showdown. Who makes the top six in the Scottish Premiership and who is left to rot – for five matches – in bottom six purgatory.
If this was the Premier League, a scenario of seven teams separated by four points with three places up for grabs coming down to one last fixture card, you better believe it would be being fed through the hype machine. A machine stored somewhere in England, capable of making a match between two mediocre Championship sides have the drama, tension, exhilarating excitement of Marvin Hagler vs Thomas Hearns.
The wonder of the split
The Super Saturday Split Showdown really doesn’t need to be fed into a hype machine. The ingredients are already there, including two derbies. It really should sell itself as fans of Dundee United, Motherwell, Hibs, Ross County, Livingston, Aberdeen and even St Mirren, who don’t play until Sunday, are torn between refreshing their phone every few seconds and watching what’s unfolding in front of them.
Permutations, success, failure, tension, excitement, getting messages onto the pitch, the anxiety, frustration or elation of the crowd. All thanks to the wonderful invention that is the split. A divisive contradiction, after 33 games, which splits opinions. But, again, let me tell you this, it is wonderful.
Two of the country’s biggest clubs could find themselves bumbling around in the void of bottom six football for the run-in.
It hasn’t been a good season for either Aberdeen or Hibs. Both were expected to be challenging for a third spot but have been left to view Hearts through straining eyes. While the Tynecastle Park side are just about over the top of the climbing wall, the other two are stuck midway down, unsure of their next step, with fear of falling.
Shaun Maloney knows his side are likely going to need to win in Gorgie to secure their spot. A draw would only be a guaranteed top-six clincher if there is no winner between Aberdeen and Ross County.
It is pertinent to address St Mirren here. And rule them out. They have to win, and win handsomely, against Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men to have any chance. Jim Goodwin’s departure to Aberdeen knocked the stuffing out of the side after a brilliant post-winter break run. Stephen Robinson may well be looking over his shoulder to St Johnstone rather than at those ahead of them in the table.
success and failure
But back to EH11 and Hearts v Hibs. It is a huge week for both clubs with a Scottish Cup semi-final to come. That’s the one that really matters to Hearts. For Maloney they are both significant.
Failure to reach the top six would be a failure, adding pressure ahead of the cup derby. A loss at Mount Florida would eradicate any credit in the bank. In fact he’d be avoiding the debt inspectors at all costs. On the flip side, back-to-back wins would be hugegiving the former Celtic star the platform to build something special.
Aberdeen are set for their worst defensive record in more than ten years. Only Dundee have granted more than County. At the other end of the pitch, both can score. Mackay has the potent trio of Jordan White, Joseph Hungbo and the league’s top scorer Regan Charles-Cook. The Dons look much more dangerous under Goodwin.
A draw isn’t good enough, setting up a possible basketball encounter, only that it is football and actually enjoyable.
You move to West Lothian and the Tony Macaroni Arena. Motherwell make the trip to Livingston in a very good position after their first league win in 2022 when they defeated St Mirren last week. Have the Steelmen actually been good this season? Sometimes, but not that often. Still, they are in there and a draw should be good enough unless both Hibs and Ross County win.
Livingston boss David Martindale was a hype machine when he spoke earlier this week, calling it “a brilliant weekend for Scottish football”. He has put together a very cohesive and, at times, entertaining Livingston side with some excellent individuals within the collective. Missing top scorer Bruce Anderson may have hampered them but, like at Pittodrie, this has the potential to be another ding-dong.
It feels remiss to put the Dundee derby towards the end of the bill but United, currently in fourth, are all but assured of a top-six place barring a surprising set of circumstances as laid out by the SPFL. But it is a derby in the City of Discovery. They can be frenetic, fascinating games.
Dundee, buoyed by Charlie Adam’s return, need to start winning games to avoid relegation. They haven’t won at Tannadice since 2004. They couldn’t, could they?
Nothing, nothing, can be ruled out in the Super Saturday Split Showdown. Between 3pm and 5pm on Saturday, soak it in, every single moment of it.
Sky still have large number of Premiership games to show live – as Rangers provide…
Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman’s sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com – all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today