BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale chairman Tom Allison has revealed that the Edinburgh minnows could host Celtic at Easter Road if they successfully overcome East Kilbride Thistle next week.
The 69-year-old was at Hampden for the fairytale draw on Monday night as LTHV or Kilby were paired with the champions at home in the Scottish Cup fifth round.
Allison concedes that safety concerns mean that they simply cannot host a tie of that magnitude at Saughton Enclosure, due to sparse facilities and the lack of a covered stand.
Instead, the club will explore the possibility of switching the tie to Easter Road, Livingston’s Almondvale or the Falkirk Stadium – should they see off East Kilbride.
There is precedent for a move to Leith, with Whitehill Welfare facing Celtic at Easter Road in 1996. Goals from Simon Donnelly and a Pierre van Hooijdonk double secured a win for the Hoops on that occasion in front of 13,100 fans.
Allison told Capital City Press: “We can’t possibly play Celtic at Saughton Enclosure – and I’ve had a chat with the SFA’s safety officer – the police wouldn’t allow it.
“Easter Road is a possibility. Whitehill Welfare played against Celtic there a good few years ago when they were in a similar position. We have a good relationship with [Hibs chairman] Rod Petrie and there could be an opportunity there.
“I would say Easter Road, Livingston and Falkirk would be the three possibilities at this stage.
“There is talk of the game being on television and, with it being Celtic, there is policing and stewarding to consider. All that affects the thinking, but there are certainly a few options open to us.
“It is something we will look at and have a chat to the relevant parties if we are lucky enough to get through next Wednesday. It would be a nice problem to have!”
That news is likely to disappoint Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths, who admitted that he would love to play at his ‘field of dreams’ Saughton Enclosure again in the last 16 of the Scottish Cup.
Allison would, however, relish the opportunity to cross swords with Griffiths after catching up with the former Hutchie hot-shot at the national stadium.
The 25-year-old is one of a plethora of Scotland stars to have come through the Hutchison Vale Boys Club system – which merged with Lothian Thistle in 2009 to create LTHV – including John Collins, Kenny Miller, Allan McGregor and Alfred Finnbogason.
Allison: “I was speaking to Leigh the other night, it was nice to catch up.
“He was telling me that he wasn’t sure whether he would actually play, because Celtic have a League Cup game against Ross County, then Aberdeen and a midweek game against Dundee around those dates.
“He said: ‘I think the gaffer might want to rest me.’ I told him: ‘That’s fine with us, son, you can rest as many as you like!’
“Kenny Miller, another ex-Hutchie player, was at the draw as well. It’s great to see these players move on to bigger things and it would be a proud moment for us for Leigh to come back to face us in Celtic colours.”
LTHV’s fourth round tie with Kilby has now taken on added significance as the biggest game in the history of both clubs.
He added: “I feel like I’m living in a different world, a dreamland, and it’s difficult not to get ahead of yourself. It is a wonderful opportunity to play against the Scottish champions; a side that won the European Cup.
“However, that’s the same for East Kilbride, and we will give them a huge amount of respect. We know it will be no easy task to get through that tie.”