Aberdeen have a chance to lay down a marker for the second half of the season as they make their return from the winter break against Rangers tonight.
Trust me, games don’t come any bigger for the Dons than when Rangers come to town. I saw that for myself when I joined the club in 1992.
I treated every game with the same importance, but I know a lot was made of the Reds supposedly raising their game whenever they played the Light Blues.
I don’t know if I would go so far as to call it raising our game – it was more a case of Rangers brought a sharper focus.
I would sit in the dressing room five minutes before kick-off and see team-mates who were usually as quiet as a mouse before a game finding their voice as they were so pumped up.
The Celtic matches were massive, but Rangers were the dominant team in the country at the time and I think it was a case of everyone wanting to beat the champions.
I don’t believe Aberdeen were the only side to go out with that mindset.
Aberdeen fans love to beat Rangers
There is no team the Dons fans want to see their side beat more than Rangers, which is why I’m delighted the fans will be back for the game.
The noise levels go up, as well as the number of fans at the game, when these two teams meet, which is why it is one of the big games in the Scottish fixture list.
I wouldn’t reserve the big-game atmosphere just for Pittodrie either. I think Rangers looked at Aberdeen games the same way and the atmosphere was always more intense whenever we went to Ibrox, too.
It has been a long time since I was in the Aberdeen dressing room before one of these games, but I don’t expect it to be any different when the two teams meet tonight.
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass will be hoping his players can tap into everything a big occasion like this brings.
To use the cliche, we know the game will be played at 100 miles per hour and Aberdeen will get chances. It’s whether they manage to take them which will shape their fate.
Keeping the door closed defensively is the other part. Aberdeen made an excellent start when the sides last met, racing into a two-goal lead at Ibrox before being pegged back by the home side.
Much has changed since then, with Rangers arriving at Aberdeen with a new manager in Gio van Bronckhorst in charge.
Joe Aribo’s absence due to African Cup of Nations duty will also be a big miss for them, but they have a huge squad and I expect van Bronckhorst will be accepting no excuses for this one.
County should be looking up the table
It feels like a new era for Ross County again as they also make their return from the winter break tonight.
County boss Malky Mackay has tweaked his squad during the break with two new defenders arriving in the shape of Kayne Ramsay and Declan Drysdale.
Arbroath have shown under Dick Campbell how far a group of like-minded players can take a club when they all pull together in the Championship, and I’m not surprised to hear Malky talk about trying to build that same culture at the Staggies.
County have opened up a four-point lead on bottom club St Johnstone in the Premiership and, with Saints facing a Hearts team in good form, County’s match against Motherwell in Dingwall tonight is a chance to potentially increase that gap further.
But, on the back of a decent December, County will not want to be looking over their shoulders too long.
They have built up some momentum in the last couple of months to move off the bottom of the Premiership and it is St Mirren and Livingston who County are now targeting.
Deas a distraction Doddsy doesn’t need at Inverness
Caley Thistle have fended off St Johnstone’s initial bid for Robbie Deas, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Perth Saints return with an improved offer for the Inverness defender.
Deas has had a fine season so far for Caley Jags and St Johnstone need to improve their defence as they fight to stay in the Premiership.
The money the two cup wins will have generated last season has given Callum Davidson scope to make bids for players and I expect them to try again for Deas before the window closes.
It’s the last thing Billy Dodds needs at a time when his side is pushing for promotion at the top of the Championship and I am sure Doddsy doesn’t want interest in his players distracting from the task at hand.
Saturday was two points dropped for Inverness against Queen of the South at Caledonian Stadium, even if the circumstances were controversial.
Ally Roy took his goal well to make it 2-2, but I think the Queens player was offside and the officials got it wrong in allowing the goal to stand.
Queens were delighted to leave with a point, but – after watching four players go down with cramp in the second half – I’d suggest the visitors need to work on their fitness in the weeks ahead.
The result leaves Caley Thistle four points behind leaders Arbroath and makes Saturday’s trip to Dunfermline, where they play their game in hand, absolutely vital.