IT WAS probably still too early to describe the emotions stirred by the previous day’s triumph as having settled, but Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes made a game attempt to provide some sober reflection after Sunday’s League Cup final success. He promised that there is more to come from his side.
The Pittodrie club’s penalty shoot-out victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle secured their first major trophy since 1995. McInnes revealed that chairman Stewart Milne had insisted everyone who worked at the club joined in the celebrations on Sunday night in an Aberdeen hotel. This was after he had cursed McInnes for making him endure the torture of a penalty shoot-out.
“He said ‘thank you’ and then berated me for putting him through the ringer of extra-time and penalties!” said McInnes. “He just said that the club had waited 19 years for that so the extra-time and penalties were still worthwhile once he got the trophy in his hands.”
“Everyone who works at the club was at the hotel,” added McInnes. “The chairman was really keen to have that – it was something he had requested when we were discussing preparations. He felt it was right that everyone could celebrate it together – from the groundsman, the people in the ticket office and the like. They were all there with their families and it was just good to reflect and enjoy a good day’s work.”
The Aberdeen team bus had taken a detour via the Forth Road bridge on the journey home in order to avoid traffic congestion. “We got back to Aberdeen just after 10pm,” revealed McInnes. “We’d heard there was really bad traffic and so we took the Forth Road bridge and managed to keep moving.
“It was a good bus journey home as you could imagine – a very noisy one. It was great to see that – the players celebrating among each other.”
McInnes paid tribute to the fans, who had travelled to Celtic Park in such huge numbers. More than 40,000 supporters cheered Aberdeen on in a crowd of over 51,000. “It makes us different from so many other clubs,” said McInnes. “Home or away, we’ve had great backing this year.
“We have to work hard to maintain that,” he added. “I don’t think anyone at the club thinks this is just going to be one bit of success.”
McInnes reflected on his own path to Aberdeen. A year ago, he was still looking for a job after being sacked by Bristol City. McInnes noted his whereabouts on League Cup final day in 2013. He was at Tannadice Park providing television analysis on a Dundee derby that ended 1-1. On the same afternoon St Mirren ended their own trophy famine to lift the League Cup with a 3-2 win over Hearts and McInnes listened to that match on the radio on his way home. He could little have imagined that 12 months later he would become the first manager since Roy Aitken to secure a trophy for the success-starved Aberdeen fans.
“The day of the League Cup final I was doing radio co-commentary on the Dundee derby which was an early kick-off,” he recalled. “I listened to the game on the radio on the way back down the road. That was just prior to me getting the job.” He was appointed as Craig Brown’s successor on 25 March – the day of his son’s birthday. Less than a year later he has begun what many interpret to be the club’s reawakening.
McInnes revealed that his phone has been in “meltdown” since Adam Rooney fired the winning penalty into the roof of Inverness goalkeeper Dean Brill’s net to earn Aberdeen a 4-2 win on penalties, after the 0-0 draw. “I’ve not got back to people yet,” he said yesterday. “But it was good to see. All the players have appreciated all the kind words and good luck messages we got. Loads of friends and family contacted me and obviously a lot of managers as well – all the SPL ones plus a few more in England and Scotland.”
McInnes would not divulge whether a certain knight of the realm had been among those who made contact. Sir Alex Ferguson had sent his best wishes via a mutual friend before the match on Sunday.
The former Aberdeen and Manchester United manager expressed his delight that so many supporters planned to follow the team to Glasgow. The fans can acclaim their heroes again this Sunday, when an open-top bus parade will inch its way down Union Street. “It’s another chance for us all to celebrate together back in Aberdeen,” said McInnes. “That said, it felt like being in Aberdeen yesterday [Sunday] as there were so many punters there.
“We’ve all seen the pictures of previous teams of Aberdeen being successful and going down Union Street with these huge crowds.”