And so, into the lion's den we go. Attempting to do what no other Scottish club has done since April 2016 - defeat Celtic in a cup competition - we will travel to Parkhead tomorrow to take on Scotland's champions with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.
Celtic exited the Champions League qualifying stage on Tuesday evening after gifting opponents Cluj the game. How will they react to this? Having scored 12 goals in their 2 League matches prior to their exit from Europe's top competition, they have the capability - domestically - to win convincingly and appease those fans who crave a future 10 in a row titles more than progression on a higher level that should be the true barometer of their club's development. In truth, Celtic have regressed rather than progressed in 2019 - appointing cheap option Neil Lennon as manager after Brendan Rodgers jumped ship at the first sign of English Premier League interest. Failure to reinvest in a fading playing squad - good enough to secure the treble treble but set to break up through a mixture of ageing and the departure of their best player - was laid bare on the field against Cluj.
So to the Pars. This game is obviously a huge test for a squad that will feature only 3 players who have played at Celtic Park before - Paul Paton, Ryan Dow and Lee Ashcroft. Ryan Scully has been there as a substitute keeper but none of our other players have played in Scotland's largest football venue. That in itself is indicative of the gulf in experience and stature of the 2 clubs' squads. There have, though, been 3 Pars victories at Celtic since 1997 and current coach Greg Shields played in all of them (1997, 2004 and 2005). We can only hope that he is a lucky charm and that he can contribute to another positive result, against the odds.
My hope for this game is to avoid a heavy defeat that could derail a promising start to our season. A win would be miraculous. Without being defeatist, any loss of less than a 5 goal margin would see us leave with pride intact and our share of the takings. We will have over 1000 fans in Celtic Park to back the team. Stevie Crawford has spoken this week of building up a bond between players and fans. Pars supporters have responded positively to the performances of the rebuilt squad and we will all go to Glasgow tomorrow as one: united, getting right behind the team and supporting them from first minute until the last.