Sunday, 16 March 2014; the day a generation of Aberdeen fans have been waiting for. It has been 19 long years since goals from Duncan Shearer and Billy Dodds saw off Dundee at Hampden to lift the League Cup – the Dons’ last trophy triumph.
Five years’ final absence followed as the largely forgettable Ebbe Skovdahl era began with an appearance in each of the domestic cup finals. A 2-0 League Cup reverse at the hands of Celtic was followed by that infamous Scottish Cup debacle as Jim Leighton’s colourful Pittodrie career ended after a clash with Rod Wallace. Makeshift keeper Robbie Winters was beaten four times as the Scottish Cup made its way to Ibrox.
Aberdeen haven’t made a final showing since – but the 14 year itch will be well and truly scratched at Celtic Park on Sunday.
40,000 Aberdeen supporters will make their way from all corners of the world to pack Parkhead to the rafters for a League Cup final with Inverness. Derek McInnes and his charges have been forced to sidestep queues for weeks as the streets around Pittodrie thronged with fans eager to get their hands on tickets. Indeed, that subject has dominated column inches in its own right.
Now, of course it would be everyone’s wish if some of those fans could find their way to Pittodrie on a more regular basis but can anyone really blame them? Little wonder they have found that extra yard in a bid to end their wait for silverware success.
Queen’s Park, Dunfermline and Queen of the South are ashamedly only some of the names which have inflicted embarrassment on Aberdeen Football Club. A once proud and illustrious club had become a laughing stock.
Since the aforementioned Skovdahl guided the Dons to that ill-fated Hampden final four managers have tried and failed in cup quests. Steve Paterson, Jimmy Calderwood, Mark McGhee and Craig Brown all fell short.
“Aberdeen fans have unrealistic expectations” was cited countless times by Pittodrie managers and that the Red Army were somehow to blame for their teams’ shortcomings. Sorry gentlemen, that’s utter tosh. Unrealistic expectations? Losing semi-finals to the likes of Queen of the South (with all due respect) was unrealistic? Pull the other one.
In fairness to Messrs Paterson, Calderwood, McGhee and Brown too many apparent “top” performers fell under the same spell and weren’t able to produce the goods in the red of Aberdeen. The fans were surely entitled to expect more from the likes of Charlie Mulgrew, Mark Kerr and Gary McDonald. The list goes on, too many seemingly unable to handle the “expectations” down Pittodrie way.
Or maybe they didn’t have Aberdeen at heart.
So, where was I, Aberdeen fans will pack Celtic Park and that’s the reason why. They have been starved of success for so long that they cannot miss the opportunity to see their team lifting a trophy again. It is only human nature to pull out all the stops and be there for something that promises to be quite a sight. Calls of “gloryhunting” have certainly been wide of the mark – Aberdeen fans? I don’t think so.
Finally, once again, Aberdeen has a team to be proud of. Under the energetic Derek McInnes the Dons are a force to be reckoned with. With a blend of youth and experience the Reds are in good shape ahead of Sunday. Russell Anderson will lead his team out hoping to cap the climax of his career with his boyhood heroes. Former Inverness men Adam Rooney, Barry Robson and Jonny Hayes will also have a say in the destination of the cup with the contribution of Niall McGinn and Peter Pawlett potentially pivotal.
The Highland side will pose many threats and this looks set to be a tight affair but after years of frustration, false dawns and out and out failure the stage is set for Aberdeen to go on and end a painful period in the history of the club.
So go on lads, do it for the club, the fans, yourselves and…a generation.
Come on you Reds!