St Johnstone v Aberdeen: Dons’ new mentality

Mark Reynolds, Peter Pawlett and Willo Flood gear up for tomorrow's Scottish Cup semi-final. Picture: SNS
Mark Reynolds, Peter Pawlett and Willo Flood gear up for tomorrow's Scottish Cup semi-final. Picture: SNS
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MARK Reynolds admits Aberdeen are playing football with a bit of a swagger again nowadays, but is anxious to avoid that being misconstrued as a sign of undue arrogance at Pittodrie.

St Johnstone v. Aberdeen

William Hill Scottish Cup Semi-Final

At Ibrox, Tomorrow,
Kick-Off 12:45Pm

Referee: W Collum

TV: Live On Bbc2 Scotland & Sky Sports 2

Radio: Radio Scotland

Of course the defender and his team-mates have a lot to be pleased about right now with the Dons closing in on their best season in 24 years after lifting the League Cup last month.

They ruthlessly destroyed St Johnstone in the semi-final of that competition and are determined to defeat the same opponents in the last four of the Scottish Cup tomorrow.

Predictably, that 4-0 thrashing at Tynecastle has had some of the Perth club’s players speaking about their thirst for revenge at Ibrox, but Reynolds knows talk is cheap. Aberdeen have been content to do their talking on the pitch where they haven’t conceded a single goal to St Johnstone in four previous meetings this term.

The former Sheffield Wednesday and Motherwell defender credits that to confidence, rather than cockiness, in the way Derek McInnes’s players have strutted their stuff this season.

That’s why he’s happy to let their opponents say what they like because they will have a long wait if they expect Aberdeen to become victims of their own conceit.

He said: “They can talk all they want about what they’re going to do to Aberdeen, this or that. That’s how they prepare for games. It’s not how it’s done up here, not how this Aberdeen do it. We concern ourselves with our own team, what we can do, as there is a fine line between swagger and arrogance.

“There are plenty willing to say that Aberdeen are getting cocky or getting ahead of themselves but I think it’s easier for us to be confident now with the history we’ve got behind us this season. The main attribute is we’ve got a team full of winners. Everything is competitive and everyone wants to win – purely for the sake of winning. When you’ve got a lot of guys like that, it breeds within the team. Younger guys learn from it.

“The manager needs to be complimented for bringing in that kind of player – and for the way he makes his players carry themselves on and off the field.”

That sort of togetherness was evident when Aberdeen claimed their first trophy in 19 years last month in a penalty shoot-out with Inverness Caley Thistle. That sparked wild scenes of celebration among their 43,000 supporters at Celtic Park with more than double that number lining Union Street to salute the team the following weekend.

Now, having waited so long for one open-top bus parade, Reynolds wants a second one in quick succession. That would certainly guarantee McInnes’s side a significant place in the club’s history as it would be only their third domestic cup double. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side did it in 1985/86 and Alex Smith’s team achieved the same feat just four years later. Reynolds sees the pictures of past glories every day at Pittodrie and is determined to earn a place in that hall of fame.

He added: “Once you taste that wee bit of success and see Union Street packed with tens of thousands of people, it’s definitely a feeling you want to relive.

“This club is steeped in history, the walls are plastered with pictures from a great past. It’s been imposing for Aberdeen teams to live up to it but it has always been something that this current team has aspired to.

‘To be up there with the better teams, we need to try to win this other trophy as well.”

Jonny Hayes misses the game at Ibrox as he hasn’t recovered in time from the shoulder injury he picked up in the early stages of the League Cup final at Celtic Park. Fortunately McInnes knows he has plenty of potential matchwinners with Niall McGinn back scoring regularly, Adam Rooney banging in the goals and Barry Robson pulling the strings in midfield.

Peter Pawlett is in the best form of his career as he showed when destroying St Johnstone in the League Cup. McInnes insists the midfielder is not only a gifted player but an intelligent one and said: “Peter’s bright and he works the space brilliantly, whether it’s in front or behind defenders. We don’t want him standing still too much. He’s the type of player we don’t want sitting back watching the game.

“With his pace he can commit defenders. What hasn’t been documented is his workrate. Against St Johnstone in the semi he scored a great goal but he also pressed for the Adam Rooney goal. There’s a willingness to do the dirty side of the game, probably more so than before, and he is the type of unselfish player who can be at the heart of a game and make an impact.”