Barry Robson learned all about the ruthless winning mentality needed for success during two years under Gordon Strachan at Celtic.
Now he is convinced that Derek McInnes is imbuing Aberdeen with similar qualities as the Pittodrie club seem set for their best season for two decades.
Veteran midfielder Robson picked up a league winners medal at Celtic in a side famed for their last-gasp victories in key matches. It’s something that has become a feature of Aberdeen’s play this season as recent victories against Dundee United (2-1) and Kilmarnock (1-0) prove.
Both were achieved in the latter stages of those games and tonight’s visitors to Pittodrie are painfully aware of what to expect. After all, it was two goals in the last ten minutes that gave the Dons victory against Hibs at Easter Road the last time the teams met in October.
That ability to keep battling to the dying stages of games has been worth 16 points so far, a major contributing factor to Aberdeen’s elevation to second place. It also led to victory at Motherwell in the League Cup quarter-finals, leaving the Dons on course for silverware for the first time since 1995. That’s on top of chasing a highest league finish since Willie Miller was manager and Robson is certain why the transformation has occurred under McInnes.
He said: “If you look at successful clubs through the years they keep going to the very end and they have this winning mentality. I saw it at Celtic. If you are a goal down with five minutes to go, then the punters are on to you, urging you to get that goal. It’s the same if it’s 0-0 or 1-1, they want you to win. You know, if you get one, you might get two and you always believe you can turn it round.
“In years gone by Manchester United were great at it, they kept going to the very end and got their rewards.
“That’s what the manager is trying to install here. You can see it in the players – we are never going to stop or let our heads go down. You might not be having the best of days but you dig in and help your team-mate alongside you. It’s amazing how many points you can pick up that way.
“It comes from the manager and coaching staff through the week and on matchdays. If you are losing, you need to tell folk to keep it going. When you are at a big club, the fans expect it from you. It’s a mentality thing but the manager can put it right through a club if everyone buys into it. We are coming up to the business end now and there’s going to be times when we will need to dig in.”
Hibs arrive at Pittodrie as a much tougher prospect now than they did when the clubs last met during the Easter Road side’s increasingly dismal spell under Pat Fenlon.
Robson, who has scored four goals in seven starts since recovering from knee surgery, will hope to exploit a defence that surrendered two late goals to draw at Tannadice last Sunday. However he is wary of the positive impact Terry Butcher has made since moving south from Inverness to take control at Easter Road.
Not that Robson is surprised at the relatively rapid transformation as someone who spent six years as a player at Caley Thistle was aware of the Highlander’s limitations and the desire to operate on a bigger stage.
Robson added: “Terry did a terrific job at Inverness. There are a lot of great people up there but there is not the highest budget because there is not the largest fanbase in the world. It’s really hard for a manager there but he did an unbelievable job taking them into second place. Maybe he thought it was time to do something different as he had been there a while but I have got great admiration for the job he did there and the way he’s started at Hibs.
“You always get a reaction when a new manager comes in. It is not always sustainable but it looks as though it is this time. Terry has really galvanised them and he has got them playing differently than before but we will do our homework on them. We will leave no stone unturned because we know we need to be at our best to get the points against a Hibs side that is playing well.”
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes is forced to make at least one change to the side that won at Kilmarnock as Michael Hector has returned to Reading. That means a debut for Swansea City’s experienced defender Alan Tate as full backs Andrew Considine and Clark Robertson remain sidelined with injuries.