Only Neil Lennon will know how tough it’s been for him over the past few days, thinking about his starting line-up for today’s William Hill Scottish Cup Final.
Having been in his shoes and wrestled over big calls on team selection, I’d hazard a guess that he wouldn’t have got a full night’s sleep on the eve of the game.
He’d have been deep in thought, deciding who’s in, and who misses out.
Neil would have had a lot to consider – but there would have been no room for sentiment.
Particularly in the case of his skipper, Scott Brown.
The debate has raged all week on whether Scott should start today.
Among the pundits, it looks as though there is a 50-50 split as to whether he should come back in at the expense of Ismaila Soro.
Soro is 22 and has been at Celtic since January. It’s taken him time to settle, but he has looked the part in the back-to-back victories against Lille and Kilmarnock.
He is quick and covers the ground well.
But he doesn’t have the experience of Brown. Scott is a leader, and has been instrumental in Celtic’s success in the past decade, including winning the last 11 domestic trophies on the trot.
Whatever Neil decides to do, it will be in the best interests of the team, and to give the football club the best possible chance of winning the Cup.
Listen, it could well be that there was an arrangement made with Scott two weeks ago, and he knew he was missing out on the last two games – but definitely starting today.
Don’t be surprised if that is the case.
If Neil does leave out Scott, then he will not feel great about it as he has an excellent relationship with his captain.
Remember, managers make huge decisions and tough calls – but they are not soulless. They have feelings and are empathetic towards others.
There are other big calls Neil has to make.
Who does he play in goal?
I think young Conor Hazard has looked the part in the past couple of games. But I didn’t think Scott Bain looked too bad when he was given a chance.
Does Shane Duffy play? Does Kris Ajer take up the right-back slot?
I definitely think David Turnbull should start the game. I like the look of him. He has energy and is full of quality.
So Celtic’s starting line-up, when it’s finally confirmed, will be fascinating.
There will be at least three players Neil will leave out who will have been expecting to start.
That’s just how it is, and you hope those guys don’t end up too disappointed as they will be on the bench and may still have an important part to play at some stage in the Final.
I don’t think Hearts will pay too much attention to what Neil does, however.
Robbie Neilson will have a formation and personnel in mind to win the Cup.
Craig Gordon is a certain starter between the sticks.
Could it be that the former Celtic No. 1 emerges as the hero this afternoon?
There is also plenty of experience elsewhere in their team, from Stevie Naismith to Jamie Walker to Christophe Berra and Andy Halliday.
Hearts will arrive at Hampden in a good mood, feeling quietly confident.
They got a terrific result against Hibs in the semi-final, but lost to Alloa in the Betfred Cup, so it’s been a wee bit of a mixed bag.
But they have handled the build-up well, said the right things and set the right tone.
It’s just good to see their football club talking about football again and not about legal cases, which dominated the headlines during the summer months after they were voted out of the Premiership
But I do think it’s a big ask to expect Hearts to win this game.
Some people seem to think that Celtic will go into this afternoon feeling fragile after a poor run of results at home and in Europe.
I don’t agree with that.
They will be confident on the back of winning their last two games.
If Hearts take the trophy, it will be a massive upset.
But I expect Celtic to emerge victorious, and if they do, then they deserve enormous credit for winning a quadruple Treble.
It would be an incredible achievement that I can’t see ever being repeated.
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