ONE of the lowest points of Billy Stark’s long career in football is providing him with hope that Albion Rovers can pull off the unthinkable and dump his old club Celtic out of the Scottish Cup.

Stark is now assistant manager at Cliftonhill, but back in the mid-nineties he was number two to Tommy Burns at Celtic when Raith Rovers upset the odds to defeat them in the League Cup final on penalties.

Even now, the mention of it sends a shiver down his spine, as he casts his mind back to when he watched helplessly from the Celtic bench as Paul McStay missed the crucial spot-kick.

But the one thing he can take from the pain of that day is the sure knowledge that in cup football, anything really can happen. “We’ve seen shocks before and since then, football is like that,” he said.

“Last season they played East Kilbride and people will talk about how they did, but you’re talking about two very different situations and the momentum Celtic have under Brendan – the motivation, the energy, the organisation, the plan they have to play the game – means it’s going to be a very difficult game for us.”

The Scottish Cup has been a kind tournament to Stark in the past. He won the trophy four times as a player, twice with Aberdeen and twice with Celtic, so he knows what it takes to go far in the tournament.

For his side to have any chance this weekend, he says their top priority has to be to make life difficult for their superior opponents by being organised, and then having belief when in possession.

“You have to get the balance right talking to the players in terms of being positive,” he said. “We’re going to be chasing the ball for long periods of time and that’s not something players enjoy, but they’re going to have to face up to that.

“Celtic are averaging three goals a game away from home in the Premiership, so they’re putting Premiership teams away by that scoreline. We want to make it as difficult as we possibly can for Celtic and who knows after that.

“When I’ve faced these games as a coach I’ve never said to players ‘try and not let them score in the first 15 minutes’ because if they do, then players say that’s that out of the window. Brendan will play pretty much his strongest team because he wants to get back in the groove as soon as possible. For us, it’s about trying to cope with that.”