Derek McInnes does not believe he needs another trophy to validate the improvement in the club’s fortunes, but the time has long since gone when Aberdeen would consider visiting Hampden as success.
The Pittodrie manager has claimed in the past that being successful is synonymous with winning trophies. But Celtic’s recent domination has meant a second trophy to add to the League Cup McInnes’ side won against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2014 has proved beyond the manager and Aberdeen.
Their pursuit of Celtic has been relentless and admirable, however. Aberdeen have lost three finals against the Parkhead side in the last three seasons and have finished runners-up to Celtic in each of these league campaigns.
McInnes was just a few months into his management career in the dugout when he experienced his first Scottish Cup semi-final in charge of a team. He was at St Johnstone when they took on Walter Smith’s Rangers in 2008 and the Perth side were undone by a penalty shoot-out defeat after a 1-1 draw. He has racked up several more since then.
“Getting to the final is very important to us and although we’ve been to plenty semi-finals of late, it’s important that we try and take the opportunity,” said McInnes. “I think we’re past the stage of just turning up at Hampden and enjoying being at Hampden. It’s about the result and the performance on Sunday.”
Aberdeen hope meeting Celtic at the last-four stage might lend a different dynamic to the occasion and halt a run of defeats against their rivals. The Pittodrie side have already overcome the challenge of Rangers at Hampden this season in the last four of the Betfred Cup in October. Almost inevitably, they lost the final to Celtic after Ryan Christie’s winner. But they have another chance to claim an Old Firm double this weekend having already beaten Rangers at Ibrox to reach the last four.
“It would only be remembered if we went on and won it,” said McInnes. “We’ve got to take it one step at a time. If you take it in isolation, us against Celtic, then I understand that Celtic will be favourites for it. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can deliver a performance to beat them. I’ve no hesitation about that.
“We can be good enough on the day and deliver a performance. They’ve got fantastic players, good experience, a dressing room that is used to winning. But they can only play 11 and my 11 will be ready for the game. My boys will fancy it,” he added. “There is no doubt that they’ll fancy it and it’s important we have that as an Aberdeen team, going to Glasgow and having no trepidation about it. Just go there, play with the game, deal with the game, and let’s see where that takes us.”
McInnes isn’t making any great claims about winning the trophy. It’s not the be-all and end-all to the Aberdeen project, with work continuing on a new training complex. But clearly beating Celtic would be a huge step in the direction of securing a longed-for Scottish Cup, a trophy that has eluded them since 1990. McInnes believes failure will not detract from the work being done at a club who have consistently proved themselves to be the best of the rest in an era when Celtic have been so far out in front due to far greater financial strength.
“I think any team can be fortunate through a cup competition and get an easier passage to win a cup, but it is not easy,” said McInnes. “A lot of teams can be consistent for a period of months but we have done it for six years now. We have delivered the better performances. Only Celtic have delivered better than us and qualified for Europe every year, got to cup finals.
“My team has been very consistent for the last six years and that is testament to the good work from everyone at the club– all my staff, a good board. It’s a good club trying to operate properly within our means.
“There are a lot of good things happening and it does not happen by chance,” he added. “If you are knocking at the door for six years, getting into cup finals and into Europe, there’s a hell of lot of good work happening to do that. That’s what we have here.”