Will Dons return the glory days?
Scottish Cup shows Aberdeen are improving
Aberdeen fans watched on this season as their side made giants strides towards establishing themselves as Scotland’s second team. Runner-up in the Premiership behind Celtic, they were beaten finalists in each of the country’s two major cup competitions.
What made their achievements all the better for followers of The Dons was that it came despite Rangers being in the top-flight. The Gers, managed by Mark Warburton at the time, and boasting a recent cup win over Celtic, went into the top division promising to challenge for titles, instead they were well beaten by Old Firm rivals Celtic, and kept at arm’s length by Aberdeen.
Dons push Celtic all the way
Derek McInnes, who was dragged over hot coals by some in the granite city earlier in the season, may have played second fiddle to Celtic from the off, finishing 30 points behind Brendan Rodgers’ side in the league, and losing to The Hoops at Hampden in the final of the Scottish Cup and League Cup.
Their effort in May’s final was a marked improvement from the 3-0 hammering suffered at the hands of the same opponent back in November in the League Cup however. Back at Hampden, Aberdeen took the lead through Jonny Hayes, who broke the deadlock and silenced critics with just nine minutes on the clock. For a brief moment, fans dared to dream. Could they get their name on the trophy for the eighth time, and first since 1990?
The answer was, of course, no. Stuart Armstrong struck a peach of an equaliser less than two minutes later, and that was the way of it, until cup final hero Tom Rogic grabbed a dramatic late winner on 90 minutes. It was a deserved victory, but one thing was obvious from the day – Aberdeen are edging back towards the glory days.
Europa League progress the aim
As well as those seven Scottish Cups, more experienced followers of the game, certainly north of the border, will remember Aberdeen winning the league in the 1983/84 and 1985/86 seasons, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1982 – beating Real Madrid – and UEFA Super Cup in 1983. Yes, Aberdeen. Will fans ever see a return to those dizzy heights, or has football changed, both financially and professionally, so much so that a club of The Dons’ size will never again be involved in a major European final?
Recent showings in the early rounds of the Europa League suggest that’s the case, and it’s doubtful even dyed-in-wool Aberdeen backers would fancy their men to make waves on the continent again. Winning the Premiership seems a long way off too, without some serious investment from a cash-rich owner.
In their current shape, and with an eye on the short-term, respected manager Derek McInnes will view progression, and improvement, in the Europa League as a must. There’s plenty of work to be done over the summer months – and with an almost non-existent transfer budget – before going into the early rounds of Europe’s second-string competition, but fans will never give up hope that the sleeping giant will, one day, awake.