Dundee United cup exit wouldn't be a bad thing, says Billy Dodds
On the day he turned 49, Dodds reflected yesterday on Aberdeen’s poor return. He was in his mid-20s and the prime of his career when he scored to seal a 2-0 win over Dundee in the League Cup final at Hampden. Aberdeen have won only a single trophy since.
“It’s one trophy in 23 years,” he said, slightly incredulously yesterday. “I scored in 1995 when we won the League Cup. Derek [McInnes] will look at it with realism. He will say, ‘We probably won’t win the league’ but he will want to go as far as possible in the cups.”
They came as close as they’ve been for a long time to lifting the Scottish Cup last season. A winning goal at the death from Celtic’s Tom Rogic robbed Aberdeen of extra-time in last year’s final. But the harsh truth is that Dundee United, their opponents on Sunday at Pittodrie in an attractive fifth-round tie, have won the Scottish Cup on two occasions since Aberdeen’s last success in 1990. The Tannadice club are operating in more straitened circumstances now.
According to Dodds, another of his former clubs might be better served by being eliminated this weekend. United, who have now slipped 14 points behind leaders St Mirren in the Championship title race, have far more pressing priorities. But the Scottish Cup, in Dodds’ eyes, should be Aberdeen’s main concern.
McInnes, pictured inset, often talks down the Pittodrie side’s chances of challenging Celtic for the title since success relies on consistency as much as anything. But cups are a different matter.
“They were so close last year, losing both finals, and it’s the one thing that will nip away at him,” said Dodds. “Aberdeen are a big club and he will want to win the Scottish Cup. Other clubs have won it in the last few years. It’s possible to get a run and go and win it. It will be nipping at Derek. He’s won the League Cup but he will want the Scottish Cup.”
Most observers predict they will have little trouble overcoming an out-of-sorts United side. Dodds scored twice for United in a 4-0 win at Pittodrie shortly after signing for them from Aberdeen during the 1998-99 season. This did not raise eyebrows quite so much as it would now.
While Dodds knows a cup shock is not out of the question, Dodds does wonder if United might benefit from keeping all their focus on the league. Their season is threatening to go off the rails after three defeats in their last five league outings, losses which have left them battling to maintain a play-off place. Dodds considered the current gulf between two former so-called New Firm rivals.
“It has probably been as wide at some point, thinking back, but it is quite wide just now,” he said. “I’m not saying Dundee United can’t go and get a result in a one-off game. But it will take a huge effort. Probably on a consistent level against Aberdeen they will know there is a gap. But in this type of match, a cup-tie, plus this fixture – which has something special about it – they are capable of getting themselves up for it.”
But should the visitors fall, as expected, to defeat, Dodds believes it could help their chances of securing what really matters – promotion.
“Looking in from the outside, I wouldn’t think it would be a bad thing,” he said. “I know Csaba Laszlo won’t be saying these words but I don’t think it would be a bad thing for United to go out the cup.
“It is a bold statement and the reason why I say that is because it lets them totally concentrate on the Championship campaign because they have some catch-up job and that’s if they have the mentality and the right group of players.
“For me, United are maybe missing something. You always talk about the balance of experience and energy and I think they maybe have too many experienced ones.
“I think you need it to be a half-and-half job and they have lost a couple of their energetic players through injury – their playmakers who get about the pitch [Scott Fraser and Fraser Fyvie]. They have been hit with that. So even though they might lose this result might be a blessing in disguise.”
l Billy Dodds was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.