If last March’s League Cup victory over Inverness CT introduced hysteria and relief on an almost unprecedented scale, the precursors to that notable Sunday should not be forgotten. These lasted almost two decades, after all.
Remember the innumerable Saturday nights, featuring the black dog of depression growling at you from the fireside? Remember the hellish Sunday mornings spent skulking under the duvet, wishing the world and Stewart Milne would go away and find someone else to persecute?
But that cup success indicated hope for the future and a chance that a notable corner in the club’s history had been turned. Results this season have reinforced that hope.
Much trust has been invested in the managerial qualities of Derek McInnes and, thankfully, he doesn’t appear to have abused it like some of his predecessors. He has been a revelation, in spite of an occasional reluctance to produce a Plan B when situations demand change.
Consequently, we’re still clinging to Celtic’s coat-tails in the Premiership (although that grip shows signs of loosening), whilst this Saturday we continue the defence of our League Cup crown in the semi-final against Dundee United.
There was a time when we fans, certainly those of the impatient and intemperate variety, overdosed on expectation. Not any more. Where once we demanded money be spent on new players, nowadays most of us place sedition to one side and practise tolerance instead. Yes, even when our fingers are touching the pulse of excitation.
Aside from improved results, developments at Pittodrie have given us encouragement. The club has fallen on its feet, having tripped over a couple of philanthropists (three million thanks to Willie and Elaine Donald), reached an accommodation with the banks and finally distanced itself from massive debt.
The fairly serious condition of parsimony remains, of course. Reality is the new and preferred game in town. Nothing is allowed to capsize this fiscal boat, it seems: the dictum dictates that people must learn to live according to the capacity of their pockets. Which makes an inordinate amount of sense.
But surely there are always areas of exception. I mean, shouldn’t there be a caveat somewhere? What about the theory that speculation leads inexorably to accumulation? This brings us, rather organically, to the pre-contract signing of Graeme Shinnie.
I’ve tried to rationalise this situation and failed comprehensively. It and its ramifications irritate me. Look, I’m absolutely delighted that the player has attached his colours to the mast of his home-town team. I’m thrilled at what promises to be ahead of us.
I’m just staggered, however, that it has taken so long to secure his signature.
To recap: the Dons have been seeking proficiency at left-back seemingly forever, possibly from the time Methuselah was a young blade. But, to my mind, a frustrating scenario became critical on October 30 2013.
We were 14 minutes into the League cup quarter final with Motherwell at Fir Park when Joe Shaughnessy was sent off. McInnes discovered a Plan B that night all right. Suddenly, Jonny Hayes found himself drafted into the left side of defence.
Now the Dubliner, as it happens, is an adaptable wee guy who doesn’t mind washing the dishes and drying them, if needs be. He went on to perform heroically and indeed score a second and decisive goal for the ten-man Dons. One of my sons and I were part of the 2,400-strong visiting frenzy recognising that moment.
But this more or less validated Hayes as the de facto left-back and later de facto midfielder. One problem solved, however, became another problem created: the guy was demonstrably Aberdeen’s most potent provider of chances at the time. Still is, for that matter. And yet, 15 months on, they insist on playing him either at the back or somewhere in the midfield morass.
As for Shinnie, the Dons apparently have been on his case for yonks. Stories abound surrounding the chase. One claims that the Dons offered £25,000 for his services – a figure the Inverness club found positively insulting. The tale might be apocryphal, but there again, knowing the Dons’ predilection for padlocked wallets, it has some resonance.
But, why Aberdeen could not have raised the hundred grand or so required to take him to Pittodrie in the traditional manner remains comfortably beyond my understanding.
An early transfer would have produced many fringe benefits: bigger, more appreciative, crowds, therefore more income; the outlay would have been speedily recouped; less disruption to the team; the employment of Hayes in a far more seminal role; crucially, many more points on the board.
In addition, it would also have added weight to the McInnes c.v. – and credence to Stewart Milne’s theory that he has discovered a facsimile of Alex Ferguson.
To my simple mind, buying Shinnie might have been seen as a gamble, perhaps, but one that did not employ a surfeit of brainpower.
Anyway, the failure to land him earlier has returned to potentially bite our rear ends in this semi-final. With Ash Taylor injured, we approach the match experiencing a defensive dilemma.
Should Andrew Considine be retained as centre-back partner to Mark Reynolds, leaving Hayes to occupy the full-back slot? Or should new loan signing Donervon Daniels be tossed into the Hampden tumult, with Considine reverting to the left side?
These are uncomfortable decisions for McInnes to make. If he gets it right, his hero status will be underscored. If he gets it wrong, we the fans will spend Saturday evening in the company of that growling black dog of depression.
Don’t misinterpret my intentions: I’m not forming a protest march here. These are only observations and, as a paying customer of over 60 years, I’m perfectly entitled to make them.
I understand as well as anyone that this is far preferable to what went on before, and for this I’m truly grateful. The board of directors should remember, however, that they have a duty not only to their balance sheet but to their loyal customers.
Weather permitting, this loyalty will be demonstrated again on Saturday. The cast of many red and white thousands are ready to exhort Aberdeen to victory. COYR.
PICTURE COURTESY OF: Jeff Holmes