Fiery fix­ture’s re­turn ap­peals to McInnes

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP - NEIL CAMERON

THIS sum­mer in far off As­tana, Kaza­khstan, some of those few Celtic sup­port­ers who had made the ar­du­ous jour­ney struck up a con­ver­sa­tion with the Scot­tish press pack. Af­ter the usual ques­tions about Celtic’s chances in Europe, one fan piped up with one from left field.

“When do Rangers go up to Pit­to­drie?”

There is real ex­cite­ment and ex­pec­ta­tion about the re­turn of a fix­ture that for years had be­come al­most as toxic as the Old Firm. Some would ar­gue even more at times. No won­der the neu­trals, if you could call them that, were look­ing for­ward to the re­turn of such a spec­ta­cle.

It goes back to Neil Simp­son’s shame­ful tackle on Ian Dur­rant in 1988. Since then th­ese games have wit­nessed some dread­ful scenes in the stands at both Ibrox and Pit­to­drie.

“Th­ese peo­ple didn’t just dis­like us, they de­spised us,” said Clyde man­ager Barry Fer­gu­son this week as he re­called his trips to the north east dur­ing his days as a Rangers player.

But for all the nas­ti­ness, this fix­ture has been missed.

“I do think it is a game that both sets of sup­port­ers have been look­ing for­ward to,” said Aberdeen man­ager and for­mer Rangers player Derek McInnes.

“Play­ers pre­fer to play in front of full houses in games with a bit of edge to it, and I think this game is one of those. Ev­ery­one wants to be in­volved in it. It’s a sig­nif­i­cant fix­ture on the cal­en­dar, Aberdeen against Rangers. It prob­a­bly gets ev­ery­one fired up.

“They’re a good side, they had an im­pres­sive per­for­mance the other night when the beat Queen of the South. Rangers have got a lot of qual­ity, hav­ing in­vested heav­ily in a squad that al­ready looked good in the Cham­pi­onship, to con­sider them any­thing but a tough nut to crack would be wrong.

“I don’t know about us be­ing favourites. I can’t go and spend £2m or £3m and pay the wages they do. But we al­ways feel we can win, es­pe­cially at Pit­to­drie. Sun­day is no dif­fer­ent.”

While McInnes may not have the fi­nan­cial back­ing of op­po­site num­ber Mark War­bur­ton, he has en­joyed tremen­dous back­ing from the Pit­to­drie faith­ful. And while it might be

rea­son­able to as­sume that any­one com­ing in to Pit­to­drie with pre­vi­ous ties to Rangers can find it takes time to en­dear them­selves to the Aberdeen sup­port. this has not been the case with McInnes.

Per­haps this is down to the fact that the for­mer Ibrox mid­fielder rarely speaks about his time as a player at Ibrox.

“It has never, ever been men­tioned [his time at Rangers],” he said. “I had been 13 years away from Rangers and played for so many clubs af­ter that. For me it has never been an is­sue to be hon­est. I’m never really asked about it. This is prob­a­bly the first time I’ve been asked about.”

What has been men­tioned this week is that Aberdeen’s game with St John­stone was moved to a Thurs­day two days af­ter Rangers played Queen of the South in their tie.

“Look, it’s eas­ier to move Aberdeen-St John­stone than it is Celtic and Rangers,” said McInnes. “Celtic are in Europe next week so that’s dif­fer­ent.

“It’s not right that Rangers have 48 hours more go­ing into a league game. That shouldn’t be. Twenty four hours is usu­ally the norm. It’s wrong but it is what it is. The is­sue has been men­tioned.

“The play­ers won’t be tired; it’s the prepa­ra­tion. We’ll get play­ers in for mas­sages, ice baths and the like. Look, we will be ready.

“It’s not as if we are feel­ing sorry for our­selves. The bounce we get from beat­ing St John­stone, and add to that we have a semi-fi­nal to look for­ward to which will light a fire un­der our sup­port­ers.

“We have had a cou­ple of late wins and they are the best kind of wins. They really are. It tells you a lot about your team.”

If Aberdeen do get a goal, a late win­ner or oth­er­wise, then chances are Adam Rooney will be in­volved. Hav­ing come off the bench to get the game’s only goal against St John­stone, the Ir­ish­man has been happy for Rangers to take some of the lime­light off his team so far this sea­son.

“We just fo­cus on our­selves,” said Rooney. “Rangers be­ing back in the league draws some of the at­ten­tion away from our­selves but it doesn’t bother us.

“We want to get as far as we can in each com­pe­ti­tion. The cups are some­thing we need to aim to win. We didn’t do too well in them last sea­son. We now have a semi fi­nal and a big game with Rangers to look for­ward to. Hope­fully, we can now go out and take the three points.”

SOAR­ING: dam Rooney came off the bench to score against St John­stone.

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