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Aberdeen FC

Parkred: The inside story of Aberdeen’s League Cup triumph at Celtic Park

On the 10-year anniversary of Aberdeen's League Cup triumph at Celtic Park, former Dons coaches, players and directors tell their tales which will last a lifetime.
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It was the day Aberdeen painted Glasgow red.

An incredible Dons support of 43,000 came from all across the globe to watch Derek McInnes lead the Dons to cup glory for the first time in almost 20 years.

A penalty shoot-out provided a fittingly dramatic finale to a day full of tension as Aberdeen pipped Caley Thistle to lift the League Cup for the first time since 1995.

BBC commentator Liam McLeod summed up the sentiment perfectly as Adam Rooney stepped up to slot home the winning penalty.

“Adam Rooney with the chance to win the cup for Aberdeen … AND HE DOES! AND HE DOES!

“The almost two decades of pain, hurt and at times ridicule at the hands of others is over for Aberdeen Football Club.”

The Aberdeen faithful came from all across the world for this moment as the painful memories of cup final defeats in the 1999-2000 season under Ebbe Skovdahl were finally replaced by the sight of the Dons being crowned cup winners again.

As the tears flowed and the songs rang out around Celtic Park, the tales of joy among those involved were about to be written.

Now, on the 10th anniversary of the club’s triumph, we bring you the full story of the Dons’ date with destiny.

From the build-up away from a Granite City gripped by cup final fever to a day of celebration in front of tens of thousands down Union Street – and a truly remarkable epilogue regarding the trophy.

We begin an epic tale with the manager who was so superstitious he would not allow anyone to touch the cup until they had won it.

McInnes had been in charge less than a year, but the progress being made at Pittodrie had been rapid.

He galvanised a Dons fanbase who had grown used to having precious little to sing about and the Reds were strong favourites heading to Celtic Park.

McInnes, however, was taking nothing for granted and greatness had to be achieved before it could be touched.

He said: “We didn’t touch the League Cup at any stage this season.

“We refused every media opportunity as I wanted our first touch to be as winners.

“I haven’t touched the Scottish Cup either. I used to look at managers and think they were daft, but it looks like I’ve joined the club.”

Preparations at St Andrews

Derek McInnes took his team to St Andrews to prepare for the cup final. Image: SNS.

The Granite City was abuzz with anticipation in the build-up to the final – but McInnes wanted no part of it.

Focus on the game and not the occasion was his mantra and he took his players away from Aberdeen for a pre-final training base at St Andrews.

McInnes said: “It was good for the players to get away from everything that had been going on in Aberdeen that week.

“We had to get the right balance between relaxing and focusing on the job they have to do. Everything went well at St Andrews, but the kick-off couldn’t come quickly enough.

”We all wanted it to be a day to remember. Finals and bigger games that I lost as a player are the ones I remember more than the ones I won.

“Even now that still annoys me. I told the players how important it was to make the most of the opportunities that come along in their careers.”

McInnes, having taken his squad away from the cup final fever of Aberdeen, ensured everyone was kept in a relaxed frame of mind.

What better way to do so than to swap one ball game for another?

After all, if you are based on the doorstep of the home of golf, then it would be rude not to.

Striker Scott Vernon, who had scored a hat-trick in the 5-0 win at Falkirk in the third round, found himself linking up with his manager against some of the other coaching staff.

Striker Scott Vernon. Image: SNS.

He said: “We had a great week at St Andrews and there was a real buzz around the team for the final.

“At St Andrews we did a lot of training and preparation for the game with meetings.

“It was a great idea from the manager to get us away for the week so our only focus was on the final.

“We had a day off where we had a game of golf, which was good for team spirit and camaraderie.

“Then it was back to training again.

“I played a round with the manager, Tony Docherty and Jim Leighton.

“I was in a fourball with them and in my round I started really great in the first three or four holes – thinking I was a bandit… to rapidly going downhill and showing that I definitely wasn’t a bandit.

“It was Derek and myself versus Tony and Jim – and we won.

“Derek was a good player, but they could all play golf.”

Injury concerns ahead of the final

Aberdeen’s Ryan Jack missed the semi-final after suffering an injury in the previous league match at Motherwell. Image: SNS.

For midfielder Ryan Jack, the cup final had come at the right time.

Jack had missed the semi-final victory over St Johnstone at Tynecastle due to injury and had feared he would miss out on the final.

But he managed to get back to action in March, playing in the league win over St Johnstone and the Scottish Cup quarter-final win against Dumbarton to prove his fitness before the game.

Jack remains indebted to the club’s medical team for helping him recover from a double tear to tissue around his hip in time.

He said: “In the back of my mind, I was thinking we are coming up to the final, will I make it?

“I was out injured when they played in the semi-final and won. At that time I was thinking it could be touch and go.

“The physios, John Sharp and Davie Wylie, deserve great credit as they worked tirelessly to get me back fit in time for the final.

“They did a great job to achieve that and I am really thankful.”

Jack had timed his recovery perfectly.

His team-mate Peter Pawlett was not so lucky.

Pawlett was in the form of his career at the time and his displays had led to him becoming a cult favourite among the Red Army.

But an injury 48 hours before the final was enough to keep him out of the game.

It was a huge blow for the Dons manager.

McInnes said: “Peter was actually fine from the middle to the back end of the week.

“We thought he was going to be with us for the final – I even had set Peter up in the team to be with us.

“But he had a shot in training on Friday and felt something go in his groin.

“From then on the final was too much for him.

“Peter was brave enough to come to me on Saturday morning to tell me he was not fully fit and we had to rule him out.

“It was a blow for him as Peter had played a huge part in getting us to the final.

Peter Pawlett with his Dons team-mates after their League Cup final penalty shootout win against Caley Thistle in 2014. Image: SNS.

Pawlett could have kept quiet and tried to play through the pain. In hindsight, given how the final started, he is glad he did not.

The attacker said: “That was a huge decision as I could have gone to the manager and said I was okay, then played five minutes before coming off.

“But I think that would have been unfair on my team-mates as I did not want to let them down.

“You saw that with Jonny Hayes coming off injured in the final after the opening few minutes.

“If I had played, then came off after five minutes we would have been down to just one substitute remaining.

“That would not have been ideal for the team.

“I had that decision to make and I tried my best to get there for the final.

“But it just wasn’t quite right.”

Pawlett realised what had been his team-mate Jack’s worst fear – missing out on a cup final due to injury.

Jack said: “I am close friends with Peter, so when he told me he couldn’t play in the final I was gutted for him.

“He was also gutted. I had that feeling when I sat out the semi.

“To miss the final is twice that.

“Peter has been great for us all season and you could see that by the way the fans reacted.”

The trip to Celtic Park

Derek McInnes’ cup final message to supporters on the back page of the Evening Express on the eve of the final.

Pawlett’s absence was a huge blow, but with the day of the game upon them Aberdeen were ready.

McInnes, however, was planning for every eventuality, any scenario he could think of – and Nicky Low was part of the plan.

Nicky Low with the League Cup in 2014. Image: DC Thomson.

Low recalls: “I remember coming out of the shower and I got a call and it was Tony Docherty saying the gaffer wanted to speak to me.

“I had to go to a wee meeting where he told me to be ready because I would be playing a big part.

“He wanted me to be ready from the first minute I stepped on to the pitch.

“He said if someone got injured, I could be the first or second sub – I felt ready.”

Low’s pep-talk came from the manager. But Barry Robson received a good luck message of his own from his national team manager Gordon Strachan.

Robson said: “I actually got a text message from Gordon on the morning of the game.

“He told me to stay focused and that I had to enjoy it. I sent him a text back to say I’d only enjoy it if we win.

“Gordon is a terrific man and that was a nice touch from him.”

As Aberdeen got closer to Celtic Park – the venue for the game due to Hampden Park being prepared for the Commonwealth Games that summer – the sense of what was at stake became clear as far as the eye could see.

Caley Thistle had sold 7,000 tickets for their first final.

Aberdeen had sold 43,000 – and been denied more.

The demand was astonishing and the sheer size of the travelling support took the Dons players by surprise.

Willo Flood said: “Our fans at Parkhead were unbelievable.

“I don’t think any club other than the Old Firm could take that number of fans to a game.

“And thankfully I was at that club!

The display from Dons fans as the teams took to the field at Celtic Park. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

“I spoke to my mate on the night before the final, and said: ‘you will not believe the crowd we are taking to Parkhead.’

“The atmosphere they created was absolutely incredible.”

Flood, a former Celtic player, had lots of experience of Parkhead. So too had his team-mate Niall McGinn.

But the sea of red was a sight to behold.

McGinn said: “When we arrived at Parkhead in the team coach, the amount of fans there was unbelievable.

“Then we walked on to the pitch to see a huge display, and that, along with the atmosphere, was incredible.”

The game – and the tension – begins

The game was always going to struggle to live up to the build-up, but even those with more realistic expectations were left disappointed.

As a spectacle, it was memorable. As a sporting occasion fit for a final? Not so much.

Perhaps we should have seen it coming.

After all, all of a minute had been played when Jonny Hayes landed awkwardly on his shoulder following a collision with Josh Meekings.

Even with his team-mate lying prone, Flood was convinced Hayes would recover.

He said: “The thing with Jonny is you are always a bit worried.

“He looks as if he has been shot and then he gets up and is back flying soon after.

“So when he went down I never really took much notice to be honest.

“It was only when I saw him with the sling that I thought: ‘right, we’re struggling now.’”

How the teams lined up at Celtic Park in 2014. Image: Mhorvan Park/DC Thomson.

Following a lengthy period of treatment, it was clear Hayes could not continue and he was replaced by 18-year-old Cammy Smith.

McInnes said: “Jonny was in a lot of pain and was struggling to breathe so we had to take him off.”

The loss of Hayes, who had been pivotal with Pawlett that season, was a huge blow. Their pace and direct style had been a feature of Aberdeen’s play under McInnes.

Losing one was hard to take. Losing both blunted Aberdeen’s attacking play significantly.

The closest the Dons came to a goal was a 24th-minute volley from captain Russell Anderson which struck the post before being cleared off the line by Richie Foran of Inverness.

Aberdeen captain Russell Anderson (left) claims a shot has crossed the line as it’s hacked clear by the ICT defence. Image: SNS.

Caley Jags goalkeeper Dean Brill saved two Robson efforts and a Ryan Jack shot as the Dons searched for a breakthrough.

At the other end, Jamie Langfield kept out a Greg Tansey free-kick for Inverness, while Foran headed over for Caley Jags in the closing stages.

With no breakthrough made, extra-time was called for and the tension continued to build.

Langfield saved from substitute Aaron Doran before Low and Doran fired wide with their respective free-kick efforts as the additional 30 minutes passed with neither side able to break the deadlock.

With 120 minutes played and not a goal to be seen, the 2014 final would be decided by penalties.

The penalty shoot-out

It should come as no surprise that McInnes had spent the week preparing for such a scenario unfolding.

The former Dons boss said: “The standard of penalties was terrific and we practised them all week.

“Before the penalties, I told the players to have confidence, pick their spot and get the job done to get that cup.

“I told them not to buy into it that penalties are a lottery because they are not.

“Even when it went to the shoot-out I still felt the cup was ours and thankfully they were good enough to get the job done.”

Billy Mckay was first up for Caley Thistle – and Dons goalkeeper Langfield was ready.

Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield in celebration at Celtic Park. Image: SNS.

Langfield said: “People say penalties are lucky but we did our homework.

“Inverness had a shootout in the semi-final so I’m not saying I knew where Billy McKay was going to go with his kick, but I went the right way and I’m glad I got my hand on it and kept it out.

“I didn’t watch any of the penalties. That’s just something I do, but by all accounts they took them well so I was delighted about that.”

With Mckay having seen his effort saved former Caley Jags midfielder Robson sent Brill the wrong way to put his side ahead.

Greg Tansey then blazed Caley Thistle’s second effort over the crossbar, allowing substitute Low the chance to put his side firmly in control.

He took it.

Low said: “We had done a lot of homework on penalties.

“I knew as soon as I went on the pitch that I would be taking a penalty if it went to a shootout.

“I have always taken penalties since coming through as an eight-year-old at Aberdeen and I have always felt confident taking them.

“As the game went on, Del and Tony picked their penalty takers and they had three or four names written down, including Barry Robson, Adam Rooney and myself.

“He asked a couple of other people, but I think a few players for the fourth and fifth pens said no.

“It is a big occasion and some people don’t like taking penalties.

“If you don’t like taking penalties then it’s not an easy thing to do in front of 50,000 people.

“I was confident in my ability, so I wanted to take one.

“Thankfully I managed to stick it away.”

Nick Ross got Inverness off the mark with their third spot-kick, but Scott Vernon converted his effort to maintain the advantage.

For Vernon, it was a case of sticking to his tried and trusted routine.

He said: “I made my mind up before my penalty.

“I didn’t take anything out of the penalties before and had made my mind up where I was going to go.

“Take a fairly straight run up – which I always liked to do – open my body out and put it in the bottom right hand corner.

“Luckily the keeper went the wrong way and it nestled in the corner.

“I was very, very nervous at the time as you can imagine. It is a pretty intense walk to the spot. You are fairly numb and just have to trust your routine and technique.

“Luckily the ball went in.

“I have taken penalties for a lot of teams, but have never really been the one penalty-taker.

“It is something I wasn’t a stranger to, but when I did take them I liked to mix them up.

“On that day I felt comfortable that I wanted to go there, so that’s what I stuck with.

“Bottom right hand corner is where I’m most comfortable putting the ball, so that’s what I went with.”

Aaron Doran also scored for Caley Jags with penalty No.4, which meant it fell to Adam Rooney, another ex-Caley Jags player, to win the cup for Aberdeen.

The striker was a picture of calm, but inside, his old Caley Thistle team-mate Ryan Esson was uppermost in his thoughts.

Adam Rooney scores the winning penalty for Aberdeen in the 2014 League Cup final.
Adam Rooney scores the winning penalty for Aberdeen in the 2014 League Cup final. Image: SNS.

Rooney said: “I have hit a lot in my career and I don’t think I have missed as many as I have against Ryan Esson, so with him on the bench I knew he would be telling Dean Brill where I would be going.

“I decided to go down the middle.

“We worked on penalties in training. The manager had been on to us to make sure we all had a penalty in mind that we would hit.

“There was a lot of pressure, but I was delighted to score the winning penalty.”

As Rooney and his team-mates raced off to celebrate with their jubilant support, Dons striker McGinn was left pondering what might have been.

McGinn said: “I was set to take the fifth penalty and was looking forward to it.

“Taking the fifth can work out to be the best – or the worst.

“Thankfully Adam managed to score and all of our penalties were well taken.

“Jamie Langfield did his bit by saving their first penalty.

“It took penalties, but we won and that is all that matters.”

Flood believes he would have been at the very end of the queue of penalty takers.

He said: “I think Tony Doc had me after Langers (Jamie Langfield)!

“He had seen me miss a few for Dundee United, so I was way down the pecking order.”

Cup joy followed by an Ofcom investigation

For watching Dons chairman Stewart Milne, seeing his side finally celebrate silverware was long overdue.

But Milne, who is still on the Dons board as a director, never doubted McInnes and his assistant Tony Docherty would deliver, which is why he signed both to new deals on the eve of the final.

Milne said: “The way we lifted the trophy was no fluke.

“We won the final on penalties, which is what we also did to Alloa in the first round.

“Derek and Tony had the players practising penalties every day before the final just in case they were needed.

“He and Tony kept a record of the players who did best and chose their kickers accordingly.

“It’s all part of the meticulous planning that made us desperate to ensure Derek and Tony were secured on longer deals.

“If you get the small things right it helps the bigger ones to naturally fall into place.”

Dons vice-chairman George Yule with his sons, Joel (left) and Bailey with the Scottish League Cup.

Vice-chairman George Yule was thrilled to see his chairman finally celebrating a trophy win.

He said: “When Adam scored the winning penalty, I jumped up with Duncan Skinner and we hugged each other.

“It was such an experience to see the reaction of the Aberdeen fans.

“I was pleased for Stewart Milne considering how long he had been with the club and how much service he had given to Aberdeen.

“It was great payback for him.”

The Aberdeen chairman, however, went on to provide a hilarious cup final postscript when he swore live on air during a BBC radio interview.

Milne’s now infamous quote summed it all up succinctly: “19 years, 120 minutes and then f****** penalties.”

The chairman’s expletive prompted an Ofcom investigation.

Their findings stated: “Given that the post-match interview was broadcast at 17:50 on a Sunday, the most offensive language was broadcast at a time when children were particularly likely to be listening.

“Rule 1.14 was therefore breached.

“Ofcom, however, took into account that this use of the most offensive language was during a live unscripted interview and that the sports presenter promptly intervened and apologised for the inappropriate language used.

“We noted that further apologies followed by Stewart Milne and the studio presenter. Ofcom therefore considers the matter resolved.”

Milne said: “I genuinely thought when I was standing with Chick Young I was just chatting with him and had completely forgotten we were on-air and doing it live.

“I’d spoken to so many people after the game and everyone was so full of enthusiasm.

“I was swept away by euphoria, but it was one of the most memorable days of my lifetime. Anyone who was there won’t forget it.”

The celebrations

Russell Anderson becomes the last man to captain Aberdeen to silverware.

Dons captain Russell Anderson had the honour of lifting the cup and he knew how big a moment this was for his club.

He said: “Every day we would come back from training and there was a queue down the street for tickets from the ticket office and as the build-up continued, the size of the support really brought home how big this was.

“The length of time since we’d been there, the fact so many fans could go and it was against Caley Thistle and not Rangers or Celtic meant everybody wanted to go.

“People came from all over the world for the game and the last thing any of us wanted was to leave that amount of people disappointed.

“The celebrations at Adam’s winning penalty were bigger than lifting the cup itself. The relief at that moment was unbelievable.”

For Flood, it was an unforgettable moment.

Willo Flood celebrates with his son Aaron.

He said: “When Adam scored the winning penalty it was a bit of a weird feeling as you are buzzing, but also relieved at the same time.

“I had my family there, which was a proud moment.

“I brought my son Aaron on to the pitch which was an unbelievable moment to look back on when you see the pictures.

“My son was only six then.

“It is a day we will always remember.”

A joyous – and expensive – journey back to Aberdeen

That relief soon turned to a very real sense of dread for penalty-taker Robson, however.

A late arrival for a team meeting had turned out to be a costly error on his part as Robson’s counter-offer to a fine being imposed came back to bite him on the backside.

He said: “I had to buy the entire carry-out for the boys on the bus home.

“I’d been late for a team meeting.

“The annoying thing was I’d been sitting in the hotel room thinking: ‘I’ve got to wait another 15 minutes.’ I hadn’t realised the team meeting was actually then.

“It wasn’t like I was late. I was sitting waiting in my room.

“I remember coming down to the meeting and they were the happiest team I’ve ever seen.”

Robson’s outlay had taken its toll by the time the team arrived back at the Marcliffe Hotel to celebrate with their families and the rest of the staff at the club.

Vernon recalls: “There was definitely some booze getting chucked about that bus.

“We were all on a high. Straight up to the players’ lounge after the game to celebrate with them before getting on the bus and getting on the booze.

“It was non-stop chanting on the way back, a really great atmosphere.

“And then back to Aberdeen and straight into the town.”

Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes arrive back at the Marcliffe Hotel following the final. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson.

The bus trip back to the Granite City was certainly a memorable one for Gothenburg Great Jim Leighton, who was goalkeeper coach in 2014.

Leighton said: “That was the best trip back up the road I’ve ever experienced.

“Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed ourselves, as footballers do, after our victories in the 1980s.

“But nothing like the team did on that bus back up from Celtic Park.

“The players celebrated, but also made a point of thanking every other member of staff, too. Not a single person on that bus was made to feel left out.

“Almost everyone took turns on the microphone to sing songs and tell jokes, it was so much fun.”

One song given due prominence was the Human League’s 1980s chart hit Don’t You Want Me, which had been tweaked by the Red Army to Peter Pawlett Baby and was given a run-out on the bus.

Leighton, however, declined the chance to serenade his colleagues. It seems he wishes some had joined him in not taking on the role of bus crooner.

Leighton added: “Having sung on Top of the Pops, I decided it would have been beneath me to start doing it on a bus.

“I don’t like to put them down, but I suspect I may actually have made more appearances than the Human League ever did.

“I have earned the right to pick and choose my audience,  so I stuck to being part of the chorus because I didn’t want my talents to overshadow those who did choose to sing.

“It has to be said that not all of them were in the Tom Jones category.”

Flood echoed Leighton’s thoughts on the calibre of some of the singers on the journey home, with assistant manager Docherty in particular standing accused of almost killing the mood entirely.

Flood said: “I remember Tony Doc singing The Wanderer and that nearly killed the atmosphere as it was a horrific song.

“Everyone had a singsong, it was a great time.

“There was bad traffic on the way back, so we ended up going the Edinburgh route and Barry Robson paid for all the drink as he was due fine money.

“It was a great day and one that I will remember for the rest of my life.

“I’m sure the manager sang – I think he did The Killers.

“Everyone sang that day.”

The Union Street parade to remember

Winning the cup was a day which will live long in the memory for the Dons squad and supporters.

But so, too, was the open-top bus parade down Union Street a week later.

An estimated crowd of 70,000 came out to celebrate their cup-winning heroes in what was a moment, which has left an indelible mark on those who were there.

Dons captain Anderson said: “When I looked across the top of the bus as it turned into Union Street what I saw was just staggering.

“It’s one of those things that stays with you for the rest of your life.

“Taking 40,000 supporters with us to the cup final was special enough.

“But the scenes in the city were just unbelievable. Simply breathtaking.

“I’m glad I’ve got the photos and videos to prove I was once at the heart of something as spectacular as that.”

Flood was proud to have repaid the supporters’ backing by bringing the cup back to Aberdeen.

He said: “When you come to Aberdeen you know the tradition and that it’s a big football club.

“On the day we had the homecoming, it was a lot bigger than we ever thought it was.

“We couldn’t thank the fans enough as they were brilliant for us that season.

“The support and backing they gave us, they deserved a cup.”

For Shay Logan, who had joined the club on the eve of the semi-final win against St Johnstone, the cup win and parade was a highlight of his career.

He said: “When we won the cup, I had never experienced anything like that before.

“That has been my highlight in football.

“I played in the Premier League in England and everyone wants to do that, but to win the cup and go down Union Street on the open-top bus is what dreams are made of.

“I have never experienced anything like that.”

The Red Army turned out in their thousands to welcome their cup winning heroes

Penalty-taker Vernon made sure his bus journey down Union Street was a family affair.

He said: “That was special and something that will live with me forever.

“I still have a picture of the bus going down Union Street and the amount of people was crazy.

“You can just see the little bus in the middle of all those people.

“I took my daughter Pippa on the bus with me as she was three at the time, so that is something special to look back on.

“I thought it would be nice to take her on the so we could share the experience although she was so young there’s no way she would remember it.

“But I can show her the photo so that’s always nice.

“I have been lucky to have promotions twice from League One to the Championship and once from League Two to League One.

“They were really good achievements – but season long, week in week out, grinding the three points out.

“To do it in a cup run was really special.

“I contributed along the way with that hat-trick at Falkirk and this and that.

“It is definitely one of the highs of my career.”

For Dons assistant manager Docherty, the parade reinforced the strength of feeling towards the club from the city.

Docherty, now manager at Dundee, was honoured to be part of it all.

He said: “Winning the cup was very positive for everyone involved with the club and the best experience was the open-top bus parade we had the following Sunday after the final at Parkhead.

“It blew me away just how much it meant to the city.

“Aberdeen hadn’t won a trophy for almost 20 years and you could see and feel that.

“I had seen the videos from the Sir Alex Ferguson days at Aberdeen when that happened and the atmosphere on the day really was fantastic.

“It brought the people of Aberdeen and the football club together in a way that hadn’t been there for a while.”

Former Aberdeen vice chairman George Yule, left, and Mark Reynolds lift the League Cup on the balcony of Aberdeen townhouse after the homecoming trophy parade. Image: George Yule.

Yule added: “The homecoming along Union Street was memorable, culminating in Derek holding up the trophy at the Town House.

“As I wasn’t sure if it would be a once in a lifetime one for me, Mark Reynolds offered to come out on to the Town House balcony with me and hold up the cup.”

It was not just the squad on the bus who enjoyed the occasion, however.

Former Don Brian Irvine, the man who scored the winning penalty in the Scottish Cup shoot-out win against Celtic in 1990, was among the fans on the street.

Irvine knew how the players on the bus felt, but was thrilled to be experience the moment as a fan.

He said: “I was there when they came down Union Street on the bus the following Sunday. The players wouldn’t have seen me as I was just one of the many in the crowd.

“But having been on the bus and the Town House balcony, it was actually just as good being in the crowd and that is coming from someone who has done both.

“It was a great feeling to be there and cheer on the team in among the supporters.

“I am one of the supporters and now I am finished with football that is who I identify with first and foremost.”

Emotional visit as League Cup went on tour

Having brought the League Cup back to the Granite City for the first time since 1995, the club was keen to share in the glory with supporters wherever possible.

For former vice-chairman George Yule, one visit in particular proved an emotional and unforgettable experience.

He said: “An Aberdeen supporter who was in his early thirties lived in Rothes and unfortunately the young lad lost his life in a car crash.

“His dad wrote to the club and asked if there was any way his grandson who was about 10 could get a jersey or a programme

“Ian Jack, who was a director at the time, Ally Proctor, who was head of the Community Trust, and myself made a trip up to Rothes.

“We arranged it with the grandad and surprised the young loon by knocking at the door and having the League Cup in our hands as well as a signed jersey and ball.

“His reaction brought tears to us.”

The touching gesture by Yule and his colleagues, however, came mighty close to ending in tears of a different nature just a few short miles out of Aberdeen.

Aberdeen veteran Russell Anderson (centre) celebrates with his team-mates as he lifts the Scottish League Cup trophy in 2014. Image: SNS.
Aberdeen veteran Russell Anderson (centre) celebrates with his team-mates as he lifts the Scottish League Cup trophy in 2014. Image: SNS.

Yule said: “On the way up to Rothes, we cut through Blackburn and went to an oil services company where I knew the MD and there were a lot of Dons fans.

“He asked if there was any way we could go in past.

“The reaction was unbelievable – you could see it meant so much to these people.

“But after coming out of that place, Ally Proctor hadn’t closed the boot of my car properly.

“The boot sprung open and the League Cup, which was in a padded case a bit like a cylinder, started rolling down the Blackburn Road towards a yellow bus coming up the way.

“It was like the Bouncing Bomb, bouncing down the road towards a yellow bus.

“I was thinking: ‘Oh no. The bus is going to flatten the League Cup and I’m going to post it back to the SFA under their door!

“We checked the cup and thankfully everything was okay.

“It missed the bus.”

Yule believes the decision to take the League Cup around the region helped strengthen the bond between the fans and the club.

He said: “It was a cup for the people – not just Aberdeen Football Club.

“It couldn’t just be something that made the boardroom look pretty. It had to be out there in the community.

“I came from the Aberdeen terracing as a supporter to be vice-chairman.

“I never lost that connection with the terracing.

“You appreciate something more if you haven’t had it for a long time.

How the Evening Express covered the Union Street parade in 2014.

“As it had been such a long time I said there’s no way this cup is going to sit on a shelf in the boardroom.

“We are going to get out in the community with people who have supported us over the decades and let them see the cup.

“I was all round the region with the cup – companies, hospitals, schools.

“So many people got their photo taken with the cup – and why not?

“A visit to see some patients who were terminally ill in hospital sticks out in my mind.

“We got up as far as Hopeman, Grantown and Inverness.

“I just felt we hadn’t won a trophy for years, we don’t know when we’ll win the next one, so why should we not share it as we are a community club.”

Gallery: Were YOU at Aberdeen’s League Cup final parade? More than 60 of the best pictures from Union Street celebrations