Dumbarton manager Stephen Aitken knows that facing Inverness Caledonian Thistle in today’s Irn-Bru Cup final at St Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park is a big game because his assistant Ian Durrant is getting butterflies in his stomach at the prospect.
Aitken who had a modest playing career at Morton, Stranraer and Stenhousemuir, compared to Durrant’s Rangers and Scotland exploits said: “This is a huge game in Dumbarton’s history. The club have gone over 120 years since a Scottish Cup final appearance, never been in a League Cup final and this is our first one in this competition. Keeping the club in the Championship has been terrific but this is something that has got the team and the town united with more than 2000 tickets sold.
“As a manager it is a huge game as I could be a manager for another 20 years and not get to another final. It must be exciting as Ian has told me he has butterflies. When you consider the games he has been involved in then it shows you how big it is.”
“He played in Europe and won nine titles in a row with Rangers. It is good to have his experience around to help our players.”
Whatever happens, Aitken has already done more than any other Dumbarton manager since the cup was launched to mark the centenary of the Scottish Football League in 1990. He said: “As a club we had the worst record in this competition and had only won five ties in 27 years. This season every round was a potential pitfall but we came through them.
“In the first round Rangers’ under-20 side had five players with first-team experience, Connah’s Quay Nomads were unknowns from Wales who took the lead and started time-wasting before half-time. My former club Stranraer were up next and it was my first game against my former assistant manager Stephen Farrell, but we managed a 2-1 win before facing Raith Rovers who are a full-time side.
“We then travelled to Wales to take on a side with European experience in The New Saints but won that as well.”
Inverness sit directly above Dumbarton in the Championship table and Aitken was not interested in talk of trading a cup win for league survival. He said: “The league is always your priority. However, we are going to Perth looking to win and we can win.
“Inverness are the favourites and they have some of the best players in our league with Iain Vigurs, Liam Polworth, Carl Tremarco and Gary Warren. However, we are not there to make up the numbers.”
Aitken is hoping that there are no travel problems this morning as he has two players who will begin their journey to the game by flying in to Edinburgh Airport.
Striker Dimitris Froxylias pictured, will jet in from Paphos after international duty with Cyprus against Montenegro and he will meet team-mate Liam Burt after he flies in from Andorra following Scotland Under-21 duty.
The pair will hopefully be whisked off by car to make the 4:15pm kick off in Perth. Said Aitken: “I will not be handing my team-sheet in until I know they are at the ground. It is high risk but it is all we could do in the circumstances.”
Liam Dick, Aidan Wilson, Andy Stirling and Kevin Nesbit are all cup-tied and miss out. On-loan Celtic defender Sam Wardrop has failed to recover in time from an ankle injury.
Tom Walsh is available to face the side who were keen to bring him on board during January while Grant Gallagher is included in a potential Roy of the Rovers storyline after 18 months out injured.