BARRY ROBSON likes what he sees when he looks around the Aberdeen dressing room. The former Scotland midfielder knows the mentality which is required to collect silverware and there are unquestionably promising signs for the Pittodrie club at the moment.
For Robson, perhaps the most significant aspect of Saturday’s 2-1 Scottish Cup fifth round victory at Celtic Park was that Aberdeen had to come from behind to eliminate the holders and instal themselves as the new favourites to lift the old trophy in May.
The reaction of Derek McInnes’ side to the loss of a goal to Anthony Stokes after just eight minutes in Glasgow was testament to the type of resilience that Robson credits the manager for instilling at a club for so long seen as a soft touch when it came to the crunch.
While Robson is at pains to point out that Aberdeen still have much work to do before this season can be regarded as a success, he believes the raw materials are very much in place.
“A lot of teams crumble at Celtic Park after suffering an early setback,” said the 35-year-old. “You are playing against top players when you take on Celtic and they can sense a bit of fear in you.
“But, after about 20 minutes, we came out and showed that, after going a goal down, we could actually start playing. That shows confidence and that’s how you win games.
“Let’s see if this can be a trophy winning team. I’ve been over the course before, been lucky enough to do it and enjoy it when I was at Celtic. Let’s see how far we can take it. Let’s see if we’ve got the mentality, strength and desire. If you’ve got all those things, you can come out on top.
“It’s going to be tough, it’s a long road and we are coming to the time when fatigue and injuries can set in. So let’s stick together, keep moving and see what we can produce. The manager has a great mentality. I played with him at Dundee United and I know all about his career, including a spell at Rangers. He has changed the mentality here at Aberdeen.
“He has brought players in with similar mentality to himself. Myself and Willo Flood have come in, and there are some really good professionals here like Andy Considine, Russell Anderson and Peter Pawlett.
“Me and Willo can be a bit crabbit at times and probably bump our gums a bit too much. But some of the players around us have been terrific this season.
“We can’t get carried away. We have won a game against a terrific team, who I have a lot of respect for, in a great stadium to get into the next round of the Scottish Cup. We came down and played the way we wanted to, so let’s go and see where we can move on to.
“We need to be honest – the hardest part of the season is still to come. I’ve been there, I’ve done it and I’ve seen it. We know all the hard games are coming. So you don’t get carried away. It will mean absolutely nothing if we don’t go on to win it. The really hard games are still to come, so let’s see what we can produce in them.”
Robson was the outstanding performer on view at Celtic Park, playing with a combination of energy and tactical awareness which suggests his playing career can extend beyond the initial one-year contract he signed when joining Aberdeen last summer.
“I’m 35 but I feel like I’m 25,” smiled Robson. “Seriously, I still feel good. I’ve looked after myself so hopefully I can keep going. I’ll see where this season takes me, then maybe I can go another year or even two after that. You never know, it’s up to me to produce on the park.
“I haven’t had time to speak to the manager about a contract yet, we’ve had too many games. It’s been really hectic and that’s more important than my own situation at the moment, to try and make sure we keep winning games.
“The manager played at the same level I played at and he helps me a lot. He spoke to me for two minutes before the game, telling me what he wanted from me. I tried to go out and execute what he wanted me to do. He’s good in that sense and very enjoyable to play for. Very demanding, but very enjoyable.”
Having won both the league title and League Cup during his spell at Celtic, Robson could complete a full set of domestic honours from his playing career if Aberdeen go on to win the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1990.
The veteran will be a key figure in helping the Dons cope with both their status as favourites and the growing anticipation from their supporters that this will be the year when the club finally return to the winners’ enclosure.
“Every club I’ve been at, there has been expectations from the supporters,” added Robson. “When I was at Middlesbrough, the fans thought we should be in the Premier League. At Celtic, there was the expectation to win the league and do well in Europe. So it’s nothing new to me.
“Aberdeen have probably had that expectation around them for a longer time without it ever being realised, so let’s see if we can do it this year.”