Aberdeen’s task of upsetting the odds in Sunday’s Betfred Cup final against Celtic is one Billy Dodds is familiar with from his own experiences of winning the competition.
Dodds lifted the League Cup twice as a player, with the former Dons attacker claiming the first major silverware of his career when he netted in a 2-0 Coca-Cola Cup victory over Dundee in 1995. Dodds also won the tournament with Rangers in 2002.
The 49-year-old also enjoyed success in the competition during his spell as Jim McIntyre’s assistant at Ross County, when the Staggies defeated Hibernian 2-1 to lift the trophy in 2016.
Dodds played the role of underdog in his path to glory with the Dons and the Staggies, and he feels Derek McInnes and his players cannot allow their belief to be dampened by being written off as the Reds boss aims to secure the second trophy of his Pittodrie reign.
Dodds said: “I’ve gone through the League Cup as a player and as an assistant manager. What we had to handle in the semi-finals with Aberdeen and Ross County was what like Derek will face in the final against Celtic.
“In 1995 we had to handle Rangers in the semi-final. Rangers had all the top players then, they were always going to have most of the ball.
“We were the underdogs but we turned up, had a go, and defended well and won 2-1.
“The final was completely different. We had to handle the pressure of being massive favourites, and we saw it out pretty well.
“It was the same as a coach when Ross County played Celtic in the semi-final. They had all the big stars.
“It helped that they had Efe Ambrose sent off, but we were a goal down after a minute when Gary Mackay-Steven scored.
“We thought it could be a long day but we still had a go again, and we defended well to turn it around and win 3-1.
“I’ve had it both as staff and player, in knowing what you’ve got to do to win a cup. It’s how you handle that mindset.
“I’m trying to get into the mindset of what Aberdeen have to handle in the final – and that’s where Derek has to get to on Sunday.”
Dodds reserves particular fondness for the League Cup given his success in the tournament, and he added: “It’s one of my favourite competitions. Every cup final is good to win. People say the Scottish Cup is better than the League Cup and of course, that’s why it’s got the prestige of being on the final week of the season.
“Winning the League Cup was special though. We all want to be in cup finals. As players and managers, taking a team to a cup final is brilliant. I know how good it feels to get there.”
Sunday’s final will be McInnes’ fourth since he took charge of the Dons in 2013, with the League Cup final victory against Caley Thistle the following year his sole triumph so far.
Dodds feels McInnes’ record holds strongly in an increasingly competitive Premiership, however he feels the Reds supporters will be eager to add to the trophy cabinet, adding: “I know what it means to the Aberdeen fans going into it.
“I have always said, they are realistic. They don’t expect to win the league but they expect to win a trophy now and again.
“I keep saying that every time a cup final comes around, but it’s a good feat getting there.
“Derek has been there a lot which is what he keeps reiterating. He’s got teams to cup finals, which is such a hard place to get teams to now.
“Aberdeen are one of the biggest clubs but there are so many challengers that are capable of making cup finals, such as Hibs, Hearts and Kilmarnock.
“To get there is a good thing, but once you get there you want to win it as well.”