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The way things are going I’d back Aberdeen to beat another of my former sides Hearts to third – Jim Bett

Dons midfield legend Bett thinks Barry Robson's Reds have found 'spirit and momentum' at perfect time to secure lucrative Euro slot.

Aberdeen's Jim Bett playing against Hearts in the 1986 Scottish Cup final. Image: SNS
Aberdeen's Jim Bett playing against Hearts in the 1986 Scottish Cup final. Image: SNS

Aberdeen legend Jim Bett is backing the Dons to pip another of his former clubs Hearts to third place in the Premiership.

The Reds are locked in the battle with the Jambos to finish behind Celtic and Rangers and secure a position which potentially guarantees lucrative European group stage football next term.

Last Saturday’s workmanlike 1-0 victory at St Johnstone means fourth-placed Aberdeen, who have got back to rattling off the wins under Barry Robson, are just one point behind Hearts with eight rounds of matches – three pre-split and five post-split –  remaining.

Aberdeen defender Angus MacDonald celebrates after his volley is fumbled into the net by St Johnstone keeper Remi Matthews last Saturday. Image: Shutterstock

Based in Iceland, former Scotland international midfielder Bett still follows his old club Aberdeen and watches games with his 10-year-old grandson Markus – whose dad Baldur, Bett’s eldest son, also made two appearances for the Dons around the turn of the Millennium.

He thinks Aberdeen look to have found form at the perfect time to overhaul Robbie Neilson’s stuttering Hearts side, who were defeated 2-1 by Derek McInnes’ Kilmarnock – Aberdeen’s opponents at Pittodrie on Saturday – last weekend.

Bett said: “They all seem to be clicking and enjoying it just now.

“Barry Robson has instilled that different mentality now where you feel like they can come out and win games. In the past, when they were coming out, you would think: ‘it’s a bit dodgy today’, but you can see them getting stronger towards the end of the season.

“I think Hearts have lost four out of five in the league. But you can never write off Hearts, because they always seem to be strong at home, like Aberdeen in a sense.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson at full time after the Jambos defeat to Kilmarnock. Image: SNS
Hearts’ Alex Cochrane looks dejected. Image: SNS

“Aberdeen have got three good games coming up – games they can win. They’ve got Rangers at Pittodrie, and they’re capable of winning that as well if they’re positive in the way they play and don’t sit back.

“Hearts I think have got two winnable games coming up, and they’ve got a derby – a Hearts-Hibs game – left.

“Aberdeen and Hearts will be hoping to finish strong before the split, because obviously they’ve got to play each other again.

“The way things are going at the moment I’d back Aberdeen, because I do think you can see the spirit in the team. They’re winning games, which is important (in itself), but also important for confidence as well.

“You can see as well the supporters have got more hope.

“They’re more than capable of finishing third if they keep that spirit and momentum going, and their good players to stay fit, which you always need.”

Robson has Dons playing for each other again

Bett thinks a key part of Aberdeen’s turnaround since Robson took over from sacked boss Jim Goodwin – first as interim manager and now on a deal until the end of the season – has been the hard-to-measure spirit and togetherness the former Reds midfielder appears to have re-established in the Dons ranks.

Bett, who was voted into Aberdeen’s greatest-ever XI after playing 338 times in midfield for the club across eight seasons between 1985 and 1994, said: “I think they’ve picked up a lot after the Darvel result in the Scottish Cup, which was really poor and an awful result.

“They were going through a bad spell.

“But since Barry Robson’s come in and took over, they’ve certainly picked up and I think they’re more direct now.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson shouts from the sideline against St Johnstone. Image: SNS

“It’s been much better to watch as well.

“He’s instilled that – and I think he’s instilled a good spirit in the team, which is important.

“You can see all the players are all for each other, and it makes some difference.

“I think he (Robson) has probably spoke to them all individually and reminded them why they were brought to Aberdeen in the first place.

“I never seen the game last Saturday against St Johnstone, but, from what I heard, they didn’t play that great. But it’s still a good result and keeps them going.”

Shinnie addition has brought balance to Aberdeen’s midfield

Bett played in Aberdeen’s 3-0 1986 Scottish Cup final win over Hearts, and would go on to play for the Jambos the season after his long spell with the Dons ended.

Aberdeen players celebrate winning the Scottish Cup against Hearts at Hampden in 1986. Image: SNS

He likes what he is seeing from the Reds players at the moment, including in the middle of the park.

“It’s important, especially at home, that the team’s attacking all of the time. It makes a big difference,” Bett said.

“You need good widemen.

“I always like to see Jonny Hayes playing, because he’s really direct and runs at the other teams full-backs when he’s playing in that area.

“I think you need good balance in the team, and you need a playmaker.

“You need a guy like (Graeme) Shinnie who is always on the go and always working. He works really hard and tries to win the ball back quickly and seems to be a good influence on the team as it rubs off on other midfield players as well.

Aberdeen’s Graeme Shinnie, right, and Jonny Hayes with referee Colin Steven at St Johnstone. Image: SNS

“It’s bringing the best out of them as well, because they are good ball players in the middle. (Leighton) Clarkson’s very good and (Ylber) Ramadani as well.

“Duk’s doing very well – he’s really good to watch. His first thought when he gets the ball is to go forward with and I think Aberdeen have always been used to players like that, attacking all the time, over the years.

“He tries to make something happen and create stuff.”