Aberdeen have taken a bit of a kicking since news broke that they were having to give back some of their Betfred Cup semi-final tickets due to a lack of demand.
Derek Ferguson - whose son Lewis actually plays for them - described the lack of enthusiasm from supporters as “embarrassing”, while Michael Stewart insisted their failure to sell anywhere near the original ticket allocation of 20,300 “undermined” the argument for smaller clubs to be given a 50-50 split when facing either of the Old Firm at Hampden Park.
The Aberdeen board will feel a little sheepish (no pun intended). They forcefully complained about the initial kick-off time of 12noon and, after the game was moved, made a big deal of how they’d “fought hard” on behalf of their supporters to receive as close to a 50-50 split as possible - only for their fans to turn round and say “thanks for fighting our corner, but we’re still not that fussed about going”.
With Hearts selling 23,000 tickets, and counting, for their semi-final with Celtic, it’s not been a great look overall for anyone associated with the Pittodrie side.
However, delving a little deeper, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The massive fall-out from the original ‘four-teams-one-stadium’ plan, and the media attention that came with it, hyped up the semi-finals of Scotland’s secondary competition like never before.
This arguably contributed to Hearts shifting as many tickets as they have. Throw in the current form of the Tynecastle side and the fact a semi-final against one of the top five biggest clubs is being played in their own city - something which we shouldn’t expect to see happen for a long, long time - and it’s created the perfect conditions for a huge maroon contingent to roar on their team.
Typically, though, semi-finals of the League Cup are not huge draws for supporters. The last time Hearts reached this stage of the competition they squared off against Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Easter Road in front of only 12,762. There were mitigating circumstances - bottom of the table, playing against an opponent they’d met at the exact same stage of the competition the year before at the exact same ground, with a 12.15pm kick-off on a Sunday - but it’s far from the only instance where a fanbase has not treated the League Cup with the same esteem they would the Scottish Cup.
Last season saw a perfect example with Hearts’ Edinburgh rivals Hibs failing to sell their full allocation, and angering Celtic because they didn’t give any tickets back. Aberdeen themselves played in front of a paltry 16,183 against Morton two years ago, which added to the debate over why it was taking place at Hampden Park and not a smaller ground.
It’s not just non-Old Firm sides who’ve given the League Cup semis a body swerve in the last few years. Celtic’s 2016 meeting with Ross County was played in front of 22,130, while 24,417 attended their 2013 clash with St Mirren.
Rangers, meanwhile, could only manage 23,432 for a 2-1 victory over Motherwell at the same stage in 2011, which incidentally was the first season after the league decided to move the competition’s final four matches to a weekend kick-off. Before then, crowds were routinely lousy, regardless of the size of club, as fans didn’t have much appetite for watching a game at night, in midweek, during some of the coldest months of the year.
The club have been left with egg on their face over this whole saga, but those using it as a stick to beat the Aberdeen fans with have either selective or short-term memories.