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Queen’s Park quirk has Dundee United’s Liam Smith prepared for Scottish Cup semi at an empty Hampden

Dundee United defender Liam Smith.
Dundee United defender Liam Smith.

It’s one of the quirks of Scottish football that fourth-tier Queen’s Park for a long time called the near-52,000 capacity Hampden Stadium their home.

In fairness, at the peak of their 19th century-powers, the Spiders’ attendances would have merited such a ground – and then some.

Ten-time Scottish Cup winners – all before 1900 – Scotland’s oldest club will find themselves in League One next season and, hopefully, playing at a redeveloped Lesser Hampden as a club resurgent in the professional game.

Liam Smith in action at Kilmarnock last month.

For Dundee United defender Liam Smith, however, his experience of playing Queen’s Park is as an amateur outfit steeped in tradition.

In a loan spell at East Fife in 2014/15, while on the books at Hearts, the right-back played against the Glasgow side in front of 500 or so fans at Hampden and was on the losing end both times.

No doubt, it was an eerie experience for a young kid but one Smith, now 25, feels will stand him in good stead for United’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs at a near-empty national stadium on Saturday.

‘Nobody needs to tell us how big a game it is and we’re all looking forward to it’

He said: “I never played at Hampden with Hearts’ first team but I played there for East Fife against Queens Park!

“It will be similar this time because it was empty so I know what that’s like.

“I’m looking forward to it but just gutted it won’t be full because I’m sure both sets of supporters would’ve brought a great support.

“Having seen what it means to the United fans from their send off for the quarters – and they’ve sold loads of season tickets – we know the support is there going into it.

“Nobody needs to tell us how big a game it is and we’re all looking forward to it.”

It’s anyone’s cup says Smithy

Although they are yet to get one over the Hibees since their return to the Premiership this season, Smith believes the Tangerines have as good a chance as anyone of going all the way.

Smith, who captained the Jambos in a 2016 Youth Cup Final loss to Motherwell at the national stadium, is hopeful for a positive result against his old Edinburgh rivals to set up a showpiece against St Johnstone or St Mirren.

“I don’t think form, particularly, comes into it and they got beat on Saturday as well (a 1-0 loss to St Johnstone),” the Fifer added.

“It’s just 90 minutes, two teams and the previous games against them don’t count for much.

“It’s a one-off, the occasion takes care of itself.

Liam Smith skippered Hearts in their 5-2 Scottish Youth Cup Final defeat to Motherwell in 2016.

“We’ve done our research on them, we’ve played them a few times already as well so we know about them.

“We’re building up to the game seeking a positive result.

“It’s anybody’s cup now isn’t it?

“The Old Firm are always favourites but when they go out and it’s down to four teams everyone thinks: ‘What a chance we’ve got’.

“I’m sure all the teams will be thinking that but, equally, if we can put in a performance like we did against Aberdeen then why can it not be us?”

County clash must be cast aside headed for Hampden

Last weekend’s 2-0 Premiership defeat to Ross County at Tannadice wasn’t the ideal way for the Terrors to warm-up for Saturday’s massive clash – a repeat of the 2016 semi.

Although he is convinced the United squad weren’t distracted by the Hibs match as they failed to replicate their performance in a 3-0 quarter-final win over Aberdeen, Smith says they have to put the County disappointment behind them.

“I don’t think so but you know it’s there because it’s a massive game.” he said when asked if they had one eye on the semi-final.

“I think you’ve got to be professional and take one game at a time so there was no speaking about it through the week.

Dundee United analysis: Ross County get it right against road-weary Tangerines unable to stop eyes wandering towards Hampden humdinger

“It was all about focusing on Ross County but it wasn’t good enough over the 90 minutes.

“It’s not the way we wanted to prepare, we wanted to go in with a bit of positive momentum on the back of a good performance but we didn’t turn up.

“We weren’t good enough on Saturday but it brings us back down to earth after Aberdeen and we know we need to get ourselves going.

“We don’t need any more motivation going to Hampden so we’re building up to that now and, hopefully, we show up better that we did against County.”

Clearing of the air has United set for Hibs showdown

To ensure they perform better, the Tangerines had a squad debrief in the dressing-room after the Staggies defeat and Smith revealed some home truths were spoken.

“We were just being truthful with each other,” he added.

“It wasn’t good enough, putting in a performance against Aberdeen in a big cup game and then not being able to back it up in the league.

Ross County performance leaves Dundee United boss Micky Mellon with plenty of thinking to do ahead of Scottish Cup semi-final

“We need to find a level of consistency.

“I know we were on a good run but we need to find that level going into next season where we’re performing consistently rather than plucking out whole performances now and then.

“It was some home truths after the game but we knew that anyway. You don’t need told when you don’t perform on the day so we’ll put that behind us and focus on Saturday.”

It was Hampden heartache in 2015 but Calum Butcher is determined things will be different this time as Dundee United set sights on Scottish Cup Final