Celts target stroll in cup
Celtic travel to Berwick tomorrow on Scottish Cup business with two words casting a shadow over the tie -- 'Ross' and 'County'.
Among the many embarrassments of last season, the Hampden defeat to the First Division side stands out against the rest.
With Rangers eliminated from the competition, the semi-final against the Highland club presented Celtic with a chance to salvage a trophy from a season of misery.
In the sunshine of Hampden, the First Division club produced the performance of their life to humiliate Robbie Keane and co, with Neil Lennon issuing a blistering attack on his team that they had gone out of every competition with a whimper.
Paddy McCourt was a second-half substitute that day with the pain and humiliation of the defeat etched on his mind.
Seven days after starring in an Old Firm win at Ibrox, the former Shamrock Rovers and Derry City hero will line up in front of 4,000 fans at Third Division Berwick with the pain of losing to Ross County fresh in his mind.
"Anyone that played against Ross County and involved on Sunday will be doing their best to make sure it doesn't happen again," McCourt said.
"The gaffer might mention it, but if he does he'll be saying to remember how bad we felt and not to repeat it. I felt as bad as I've ever felt after a game.
"Ross County were the better side by miles on the day and we didn't do ourselves justice at all.
"I watched the game over again about a week later and it seemed as if they wanted it more than we did.
"Maybe we underestimated them or maybe some people thought it was just a case of turning up, but it certainly came back to bite us.
"We'll do our level best to make sure it doesn't happen again on Sunday. For me the worst feeling was missing out on a cup final."
Celtic's star-studded squad will include Freddie Ljungberg when they roll into Berwick.
Berwick will forever be associated with cup shocks after they beat their Glasgow namesakes 1-0 in 1967 in one of the biggest upsets in the Cup's history.
The Third Division part-timers having nothing to lose and McCourt knows exactly how they'll approach the match.
"I've been in Berwick's situation before, being an underdog," he admitted. "I know what their players will be thinking, but we have to do our jobs and be professional.
"I was at Rochdale when we were a League Two side and played the likes of Fulham and Stoke in the (FA) Cup. I remember going in thinking we had nothing to lose and we should just express ourselves.
"We lost to Fulham on penalties and Stoke beat us in extra-time.
"I've never been to Berwick before, but I was chatting to John Clark (a Lisbon Lion and Celtic's kit-man) about it and he says it's a small pitch and we have to be switched on.
"Sometimes the Cup draw can throw these difficult games at you, but to win trophies you must get over these hurdles. No matter the conditions or circumstances, you have got to be professional."
Celtic yesterday completed a pre-contract agreement with Nottingham Forest defender Kelvin Wilson and hope to strike a cut-price deal with the Championship club.
Meanwhile, Rangers striker Kenny Miller is likely to turn down a £700,000 move to Birmingham despite the Scottish champions accepting the bid for their top scorer.
Miller's contract expires at the end of the season but, after two spells in England with Derby County and Wolves, he's looking to move abroad in the summer, with offers on the table from Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.