ON THE only previous occasion he took part in an open-top bus parade, Adam Rooney felt a little out of place.
“I should probably have been downstairs, checking the tickets,” he says with a sheepish grin as he recalls Stoke City’s triumphant tour of the Staffordshire city in 2008 when they had clinched promotion to the Premier League after a 23-year absence from English football’s top flight.
The then teenage Rooney had spent the season out on loan to Chesterfield but was included in his parent club’s celebrations nonetheless.
“I never played for Stoke all season but I still managed to get on the open-top bus,” he added. “I didn’t really feel a part of it, to be honest. It was great for the city and there was a brilliant atmosphere around the town. The lads deserved it but I didn’t feel I had done anything to deserve being there.”
Tomorrow afternoon, no-one will be able to question Rooney’s place right at the front of the bus which will transport Aberdeen’s League Cup-winning heroes down Union Street to a civic reception at the city’s Town Hall.
The Irish striker may never have to buy a drink in Aberdeen again, having coolly converted the clinching penalty kick in last Sunday’s shoot-out against Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Celtic Park which secured the Pittodrie club’s first major trophy success in 19 years.
“I’ll definitely look forward to this one on Sunday,” said the 25-year-old. “It will be a different feeling for me this time, having scored the penalty which won the cup. It’s great to have that to look back on. I think our goalkeeper, Jamie Langfield, deserves a lot of the credit as well. He put Inverness under a lot of pressure by saving their first penalty.
“The standard of our penalties was excellent. We had practised them a lot and I agree with what our manager Derek McInnes said – they are not a lottery, you can prepare properly for them. But you do worry that it will be a lot different taking them in front of 50,000 people than it is in training. To be fair, I’d seen footage of the penalty shoot-out against Alloa at the start of the campaign before I joined the club and the standard was brilliant. Even Mark Reynolds stuck one away, although he was probably trying to hit it to the other side! He hit it with his big toe.
“Seriously, it’s a good thing to have in your locker in the cup competitions. You have that confidence that if it does go all the way, you have lads who can stick the penalties away. A lot of the lads here want to take penalties – at some clubs, you get just one player who is the penalty taker every time.”
Before tomorrow’s celebrations, Aberdeen have league business to conduct at Pittodrie this afternoon when Kilmarnock are the visitors. Rooney insists the players are fully aware of the need to re-train their focus on their bid to finish second in the Scottish Premiership, as well as seeking a silverware double with next month’s Scottish Cup semi-finals on the horizon.
“We will only really enjoy the parade if we get a good result on Saturday,” he said. “The main thing now is to focus on the league. We can’t get carried away despite winning the League Cup. We’ve a lot of important games coming up and very difficult games. I hope there will be a lot of fans at Pittodrie on Saturday to welcome the League Cup winners back home. But we can’t afford to slip up.
“We need to work hard and take each game as it comes. It’s a cliché, but that’s why we’ve been so successful this season and we need to keep up that work-rate and attitude if we want to keep going.
“We can’t let our standards slip. This can’t be the end of the season. It has to be the kick-start for something more. We want to achieve more. We’ve got a taste for success and we want to keep it going. But it will require hard work to stay where we are in the league table and to do well in the Scottish Cup.”
It has been a transformative few weeks for Rooney who has scored six goals in his first eight games for Aberdeen following his move from English League One strugglers Oldham Athletic near the end of the January transfer window.
“Things can change really quickly in football, it’s amazing,” he reflected. “Oldham are having a difficult time in League One. I still speak to a lot of the lads there. Some of them were among the first on the phone to congratulate me last weekend, which was very nice. Things have gone much better for me here. I just fit into the team, it seems to suit my style more. We are very creative and play a lot of balls into the box. Thankfully I’m getting on the end of a lot of them at the minute. Hopefully it’s just the beginning.
“I was never really sure if the move from Oldham was going to happen. You never know in football, a lot of things can happen in the transfer windows. I was just delighted to get here in the end and it has paid off.
“It has been an incredible few weeks for me. It’s the first major trophy I’ve won and it’s the same for a lot of the lads. It’s been a long time coming for the club and you could see how much everyone enjoyed it. But we have to make sure it’s just the beginning and not just a once in your career thing. We want to make it a more regular thing.”