Whatever the colour of medal Andrew Considine claims at Hampden on Saturday, another ought to be forged for the Aberdeen defender in honour of his services to Scottish Cup misery. Quite simply, they are without equal in the present-day game.
The fact that the Pittodrie men will end a 27-year wait to lift the trophy if they beat Celtic in next weekend’s decider means it is hardly surprising Aberdeen are particularly anguished when it comes to the country’s oldest silverware. Considine’s longevity at the club means he has personally endured all the various forms of grief that have been caused to those of an Aberdeen persuasion in the past decade of participation of the tournament.
These take the form of an array of bleak first-round exits. The 30-year-old has played in a handful of those. Then there is the good old home replay shock defeat by a lower-division opponent – that box ticked by the Raith Rovers debacle under Mark McGhee in 2010. You want a penalty shoot-out demise? Well, Considine can tell the tale of that end to a cup campaign after what happened against Dunfermline in 2009.
Towering above all in Aberdeen’s Scottish Cup failures are the semi-final calamities, though. Way above. It would be bad enough for Considine to recall the red card that pre-empted a 4-0 drubbing for his team against Celtic in their last-four meeting of 2011. Three years later Derek McInnes’s men hardly covered themselves in glory by failing to justify their favourite status as St Johnstone claimed a place in the final at their expense.
But it is a semi-final in which he scored two goals that really causes the 30-year-old defender to wince. He does so because that double came in 2008 as Queen of the South produced a monumental upset with a 4-3 victory that made for one of the darkest days in the history of a club with one of the proudest Scottish Cup records in the country.
“The few semi-finals I’ve played in have been tough, really tough. Queen of the South was a horrible afternoon. Losing to Hibs as well [in 2012]. So there has been a lot of heartache in semi-finals. We always just needed a little slice of luck and I felt that summed up Jonny’s goal this year that got us into the final,” said Considine, a reference to Hayes’ deflected winner in the 3-2 semi-final win over Hibs last month.
Considine maintains that Aberdeen will “definitely approach the game better than the League Cup final” in November, when they were blown away by treble-chasing Celtic – a side which have given them some sobering beatings in the five straight victories achieved by the Glasgow team over McInnes’s side this season.
But if Considine sought lessons from history about how to dominate Celtic then his father Doug might be able to provide the odd recollection. The 60-year-old played for Aberdeen between 1978 and 1981. Rarely a first pick, he did claim a league winners’ medal in 1980. His son is unlikely to do likewise, with Celtic untouchable in six consecutive championship wins. That fact makes Considine an Aberdeen stalwart rather than a legend – “absolutely” he freely acknowledges – even though he now keeps company with many of the latter in having moved into the top ten for appearances with the club.
“I remember before the League Cup final in November the manager said to me that ‘Andy, even with the amount of appearances you’ve got, you don’t really get considered a legend unless you have medals in your pocket. So that needs to improve vastly’,” said the full-back, whose only winner’s medal was earned in the 2014 League Cup.
“Guys like Jim Leighton, Willie Miller, Alex McLeish, these guys have got bags full of medals. I’d need to play on into my 40s to achieve something like that... and I don’t really see that happening. I need to improve vastly on the medal front to be considered something like that, but to be in amongst that company is fantastic for myself. But [medal winning] is something that I need to go and grab to even lace those guys’ boots.”
For an hour at Pittodrie last week, Aberdeen looked fit to lace Celtic’s boots. Celtic had claimed an 11-minute, three-goal lead before that, mind you, but their ability to hem in Rodgers’ men thereafter led to the Irishman praising his side for standing up to “long-ball football”. It irked many in Pittodrie but Considine is sanguine about Rodgers’ comments.
“When you try and play Celtic on the ground it’s tough, they are a very good footballing team with very good technical players. I wouldn’t say there were a lot of long balls, but it’s our strength in certain areas so we’re going to play to that. But we shot ourselves in the foot within ten minutes so it was always going to be a huge ask. We played well for 80 minutes, though, and I did feel it was the most shaken I’ve seen Celtic during a game.”
Celtic this afternoon will look to complete the first unbeaten league season since 1898-99 and, if they avoid defeat at home to Hearts, will go into the Scottish Cup final seeking to become the first club to go through the entire domestic campaign without loss.
If they were to rack up 47 domestic encounters without defeat, it would be viewed outwith these borders as an indictment of standards. “I think it would be [good for Scottish football to prevent the unbeaten record] but it’s going to be a tough job,” said Considine, who joked that shackling Patrick Roberts would be a case of “just keeping your eye on the ball and, I suppose, if you get the chance, putting him six feet in the air – as Andy Halliday tried to do in the semi-final but missed him”.
The Aberdeen man knows that Celtic are the team no Scottish opponent has been able to knock down, though. “With their resources they are vastly ahead of everybody else. On the day we just have to have the right attitude and treat it like nothing else matters.
“I think there is a perception that if nobody lays a glove on them it will reflect badly on Scottish football. That is frustrating because I feel we’ve been very close to them – especially down at Parkhead when we lost 1-0.
“I’ve felt we’ve always been quite close, though I know sometimes the scoreline says different.
“But hats off to the boys, I think they have been brilliant this year. There was a lot of talk with Hearts, and with Rangers coming back into the league, that we would be pushed aside. But the manager has kept everybody’s head down, we’ve pushed on with the job and shown that we are the second best team in Scotland, which is fantastic, and we’re not going to let that up.”