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A CUP FINAL TO REMEMBER... FOR FOOTBALL; SCOTTISH CUP FINAL COUNTDOWN ... SCOTTISH CUP FINAL.

Byline: GORDON PARKS

CRAIG PATERSON believes Saturday's Scottish Cup Final can force a climate change which shifts the storm clouds that have hung over our game this season.

The former Motherwell defender is desperate for Hampden to host an epic, conspiracy-free afternoon when his old club take on Celtic.

As the clock ticks down towards the showpiece, memories of his own Mount Florida triumph - a classic 4-3 extra-time win over Dundee United - have come flooding back.

Emulating that 1991 Family Final may be raising the bar a bit high but Paterson wants the 2011 occasion to be remembered as the game which brought the focus of our national game back to the football.

He said: "It would be fantastic if we're talking about the standard of the play and the quality of the goals after the 90 minutes.

"I'm hoping the ref has a nice, easy day and we're talking about nothing around the periphery because people are getting sick of things other than football.

"In '91 there was not a mention of the ref - even though a couple of Dundee United players were sent off afterwards, with someone even throwing his boots at the ref."

For the record, four Arabs stars were red-carded that day but the post-match bedlam became a mere footnote after an extravaganza of attacking play.

Motherwell's game plan this year may err on the side of caution after a 4-0 demolition by Celtic on the final day of the SPL campaign.

But Paterson insists nothing should be read into the result as boss Stuart McCall rested several of his star players.

He said: "What would I say to the players after the 4-0 defeat to Celtic? I'd remind them that they beat the Hoops 2-0 at Fir Park.

"Stuart made sure that his side would be nothing like the 11 which will start at Hampden.

"He knew there was nothing to gain from Sunday - but there's everything to gain this weekend."

However, Paterson reckons Well will need to be on top of their game against a Hoops side desperate to end their season on a high.

He said: "Celtic won't want to finish with nothing in the trophy cabinet. That will make them a dangerous animal.

"I'm surprised not many people have mentioned Celtic's defence as it's the best in the league.

"They've conceded 11 at home and 11 away - that's sensational. There's no great weakness and they will see this as their last chance to get silverware. The focus and drive will be there to see and Motherwell have to be ready for that."

Strength Paterson insists Well have the players to cause Celtic problems but accepts they will need something special to land the Cup for the first time in 20 years.

He said: "Motherwell's best team can compete with anybody.

"You're not going to read about Jim Gannon's legacy too often but he signed Stevie Jennings and what a player he has been for them.

"If Jennings, Keith Lasley and the wide players go about their business they could cause problems.

"But you have to find something more, whether it's belief or some kind of inner strength, to beat one of the Old Firm at Hampden."

Motherwell have invited the last Cup-winning side for a get-together on Saturday - and Paterson can't wait to stroll down memory lane.

He said: "The open-top bus is something the Old Firm don't get to experience but for us it was sensational. We went round Motherwell and Wishaw and grown men were in tears.

"Andy Russell the groundsman went to the front of the bus and showed the Cup off. He received a great ovation and when he walked past he turned to me and said: 'Best day of my life' with a tear in his eye.

"Then it hit home what it meant to people who eat, sleep and breathe Motherwell.

"We had a civic reception and all sorts of things. The only thing we missed out on was a week in Marbella. We got a game of golf in Wishaw instead."

CAPTION(S):

GLORY DAY: Paterson battles with Ray McKinnon in Well's 1991 Cup triumph HAMPDEN HEROES: Cup-winning Well old boys Paterson, left, and Kirk get to grips with the trophy again yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 17, 2011
Words:708
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