RUSSELL Anderson may be hanging up his boots but his importance to Aberdeen is reflected in a new role the Pittodrie club are creating especially for their captain.
He will officially retire after the final game of the campaign at home to St Johnstone, against whom he sustained a near season-long injury back in August.
Anderson has no interest in coaching, the usual route for ex-professionals, but the Dons will reward his long and distinguished service with a post in their financial department.
Time, and a series of crippling injuries, have caught up with the player who made his debut for the Dons as a right back in a 2-0 home defeat by Dunfermline 18 years ago.
Roy Aitken was in charge back then and Derek McInnes is the seventh manager he has played for during two spells with Aberdeen, punctuated by a £1 million move to Sunderland.
It was Roy Keane who took Anderson to the top flight in England but injury problems denied him the chance of making the desired impact there, or subsequently at Derby County.
Craig Brown brought him back to Aberdeen in January 2012, even though he was sidelined with an injury which led to the Midlands club agreeing to release the player from his contract.
Despite that, he was back playing before the end of that campaign and went on to become the first Aberdeen captain since Stewart McKimmie to lift a trophy in last season’s League Cup final victory against Caley Thistle.
Now he has just recovered from this latest setback and will surely make an emotional farewell appearance at Pittodrie a fortnight tomorrow, but McInnes is simply delighted that Anderson’s influence won’t be entirely lost.
“When he made the decision to stop playing, we were keen to have him still with us in some capacity,” said the Dons manager.
“We have spoken about coaching but it was never a path that was attractive to him. The role will be more commercial and corporate based and defined over the next few weeks.
“There is a role for him and I am delighted with that. From my point of view, it is always a sad day when a player has to stop playing. It has been good to have him back involved in the last few weeks.
“He has played another reserve game and the plan has been to get him back on the pitch in the next few weeks.
“It will be a chance for the supporters to recognise his contribution. It is a sad day but it is a day that Russell and I have anticipated coming.”
McInnes was keen to emphasise that the decision was Anderson’s alone and that the experienced former Scotland international wasn’t retiring on medical advice.
The consolation for the Aberdeen manager has been the form of replacement Ash Taylor, who is in line for a place in the Scotland squad.
McInnes is also hoping to make Donervorn Daniels’ loan move from West Brom permanent to cover for the loss of his skipper but is delighted Anderson’s second spell brought tangible success.
“We have to look at what he did achieve, especially lifting the trophy last year,” he added. “That will be an abiding memory for him and one he should look back on with real pride.
“He played a really significant role last season in the cup final and getting us to a strong position in the league.
“He is disappointed because, like any player, he wants to keep playing for as long as possible. He has had some good times at Aberdeen and some not so good times by his own admission. He has always brought a level of professionalism and performance throughout and that is why he is held in such high regard.
“He would love to be part of what we are doing this season more often but rather than dwell on that I think he should focus on what he has achieved. He has a lot of admiration from the supporters, the players and the staff. Lifting that trophy was important to him and the club.”
Anderson won’t feature in tomorrow’s match against Celtic when Aberdeen go looking for their first win this season against the champions. The Dons’ defeat at Tannadice last Saturday meant Ronny Deila’s side clinched the title ahead of their trip to Pittodrie after McInnes’s side kept the pressure on for a lot longer than anyone predicted.
Now they will observe the niceties by mounting a guard of honour for the team, however frustrating that will be.
McInnes added: “I have been asked loads of times by journalists if we will be doing it. It seems to be the most important question.
“We will do what we think is right but I don’t have any problem with clapping the Celtic team on. If it is up to me then we will do it.”