Ryan Dow is determined to draw inspiration from Dundee United sides past and present when Dunfermline tackle their mission improbable against Rangers.
Dow, 30, was on the books of United when they defeated the Gers 3-1 in the 2014 Scottish Cup semi-final, prevailing at the ‘neutral’ venue of Ibrox Stadium in front of 11,000 delirious Arabs.
While that run ultimately ended in heartbreak, with the Tangerines losing out to St Johnstone in the final at Celtic Park, Dow still looks back on that afternoon as one of his most memorable.
An altogether tougher challenge faces the Pars in the Premier Sports Cup last-16 — Rangers were a League One side seven years ago, for one thing — but he is allowing himself to dream of another fairytale triumph.
“I remember [Nadir] Cifti celebrating before putting the ball into the net [for the third goal],” recalled Dow. “I think I was already on his back! That was a good day.
“I think we had 11,000 Dundee United fans at Ibrox but it still felt like an away game and, although Rangers were in League One, it was still an away game at Ibrox in a semi-final.
“I always remember being behind Nadir when he scored the goal to make it 3-1 — at that moment you knew you were going through to a Scottish Cup Final. That’s a special feeling.”
‘You can’t go in there already defeated’
Dow also has a draw at Ibrox on his CV from his time at Ross County, while more recently he was part of the Dunfermline side which took Celtic to extra-time in the League Cup in 2019.
The Hoops were still The Invincibles at the time and Stevie Crawford’s men gave them an almighty fright in Glasgow.
A similarly heroic effort is required if Dunfermline are to claim a miraculous win in Govan — but he reckons United’s class of 2021 has proved that the Gers are fallible, domestically.
“Dundee United had a good shape, game-plan and Rangers were off it,” said Dow. “I’m sure we — and every other team in the country — will be trying to do the same.
“If you go in and think you’re on a hiding-to-nothing then you’re already beat before the whistle has blown — you can’t go in there already defeated.”
And Dow acknowledges that, having endured three successive defeats as a top-flight team for the first time since 2006, ensuring the Ibrox natives become restless will be a priority.
“You want a really good start to dampen down the atmosphere,” continued Dow. “Maybe they’ll turn on the players if you manage to nick a goal.”
But, presented with the notion that Rangers may be toiling in front of their own supporters, Dow was unconvinced.
He added: “I don’t think anyone who has played football in the last 18 months would be saying: ‘I wish there were no fans there’. At any club, if you’re not winning there is going to be pressure — especially at home.”
Dow, meanwhile, is merely happy to be back on the grass, having battled back from a ruptured Achilles tendon which ended his 2020/21 season prematurely back in February.
“The only time I would get out the house was for my follow-up scans, because the injury was during lockdown,” recalled Dow. “Those were the highlight of the week! In my protective boot and crutches, I couldn’t even go for a coffee.
“I felt most sorry for my wee man and my missus, putting up with me being stuck at home.
“Hopefully, that’s behind me and I can kick on.”