Ross County boss Malky Mackay is reading nothing into Aberdeen’s dreadful start to their Premiership season.
When the Staggies side reach Pittodrie on Sunday afternoon, he’ll expect Barry Robson’s Reds to come at County full-pelt, showing the form that secured third place in May rather than their early-term troubles.
By the time that game kicks off, Aberdeen could be bottom of the league – if St Johnstone avoid defeat in their Saturday’s fixture away to Hibs.
It will be the first of two meetings between the sides in four days, with Wednesday’s Viaplay Cup quarter-final in Dingwall to follow.
After a summer of major changes and 13 new faces recruited by Robson, who only became permanent manager in May, there’s no getting away from it being a horrible start for the winless Dons.
However, Mackay said: “This is nothing other than a really tough game.
“I love going to Pittodrie. It’s a great stadium and a great environment to go and play in.
🦌 Ahead of Sunday’s trip to Aberdeen, we decided to dig into the archive for a rather memorable day at Pittodrie where we secured top 6 football!
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) September 20, 2023
“Aberdeen have clearly invested heavily in players. They have a big squad of experienced players.
“Barry is dealing with something like we have in the past couple of years, in terms of the amount of new people arriving in a short space of time. He is trying to navigate that, create that blend.
“I am not getting carried away with some of the criticism going Aberdeen’s way. This will be a tough game for us on Sunday.”
Physical recovery will test Aberdeen
Aberdeen’s minds this week have been fully on their Thursday night Conference League Group G tie in Germany against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Mackay knows, however, during the Reds’ trip back to Scotland, their opponents will already be hard at work on working out how to get the better of County on Sunday.
He said: “It is not any different from us playing a midweek game in the league.
“Thursday night, on the way back on their plane, someone will be watching and working on us.
“They will kind of know us anyway. It isn’t as if there’s anything hidden here.
“Given the size of their staff, they might even have had someone back home working on us while they are in Germany.
“They’ll definitely have watched us on Saturday (in the 1-1 draw with Livingston), and they might have had someone cutting clips during the European game. I don’t have that advantage, unfortunately – it is just as well we’re not in Europe!
“In a couple of days, if it is anything like the way I work, they will have everything wrapped up and ready to go.
“The biggest issue for them will be the physical recovery, from Thursday to Sunday.
“But they have a big squad and have invested heavily, experienced players, a big club – I’d expect them to put a team out there against us on Sunday that will be running hard.
“It will be a tough, hard game for us.”
Pittodrie had ‘hell of an atmosphere’
The head-to-heads between the sides over the past two years since Mackay became the County manager are 50/50 – with one win apiece and four draws.
It is clear the Staggies gaffer is fond of visits to Pittodrie, with two magical games there in particular coming to mind.
He added: “When I was growing up, Sir Alex’s Aberdeen was the team. Aberdeen and Dundee United were the New Firm and romping through Scotland.
“Then there was playing against them at Pittodrie, when I did at Celtic. There wasn’t so much live television and Pittodrie was always rammed.
“It was a hell of an atmosphere and great to play in.
“I’m looking at one of Scotland’s big clubs. I’ve always been treated well over there and there’s another little touch in that I was Scotland manager there as caretaker – an evening I’ll never forget (in a 1-0 friendly defeat to Holland in 2017).
“The Aberdonian public were very good to me that night. Aberdeen are a monster club and Ross County are a tiny town in the Highlands punching above their weight.
“I love testing ourselves against the big city clubs, and there are few bigger in Scotland.
“I take that as a personal challenge and have really enjoyed it and embraced it.
“The day at Pittodrie when we secured a top-six place in my first season, for the first time in a while at this club, that was a magic moment.”
Allardice makes return to training
Mackay, meanwhile, is boosted by seeing midfielder Scott Allardice getting closer to a return to action following a knee injury he suffered in the opening day 4-2 defeat away to champions Celtic.
He said: “It is fabulous news as he has been out for about seven weeks now.
“At one point, we thought it might be longer and require an operation.
“He has worked really hard, and I’m delighted to have him back in the group. He may need a wee reserve outing to get him sharper, but he’s back at it.”