THE Aberdeen players have had the golf clubs out.
It could be seen as either a harmless little round on Scotland's most prestigious course, or else a dress rehearsal which might have caused a chill if it had been witnessed by anyone from Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
A team competition was held and there was a trophy up for grabs. Eight or nine of the Aberdeen players were on the winning team, taking hold of the cup and having some fun with it. It was only a wee bit of silverware, but there was no harm in putting some practice in ahead of potentially lifting the League Cup on Sunday.
Loading article content
Aberdeen will return north today after three nights at The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews. It was a calculated move by the club to drain tension out of the group of players who will soon have to satisfy the expectations of 40,000 supporters inside Parkhead for the final. The golf was an obvious distraction.
The gear some of them wore was "shocking", said defender Mark Reynolds. Calvin Zola played for the first time in his life. So did Nicky Low, although the young midfielder's scorecard suggested he is either a natural or a hustler.
"I asked him how he did," said Reynolds. "He said: 'I did all right. Most of the holes I was the number I was supposed to be [par] and the rest I was just one over'. I was like: 'What!' He did better than just about anybody else . . ."
None of this knockabout stuff is what Inverness would wish to hear. Their best hope of upsetting the bookmakers' odds on Sunday is for Aberdeen to fold under the weight of expectation being shoved down on their shoulders by fans who have waited for a trophy since 1995.
No-one can be sure exactly how they will cope with the unprecedented level of support behind them at the game, but there was no discernible stress on the faces of the handful of players who fulfilled media obligations at the hotel yesterday afternoon.
McInnes referred to there having been "a lot of intensity in and around the city in the last wee while, a lot of excitement, which is brilliant to see." Having escaped from it, the contrast with sunny, relaxed St Andrews, a town permanently preoccupied with another sport altogether, seemed to be visibly soothing.
The players were in front of reporters' cameras, microphones and notebooks to talk about the cup final, of course. There was no escaping it. Reynolds was asked what it would mean for the club to win its first trophy in eighteen-and-a-half-years. "It would be massive. You walk up and down the corridors at Pittodrie and see the pictures on the wall. There are the cup-winning teams of the past and you like to think about being up there alongside them. It would be amazing to be part of a winning Aberdeen team.
"The club could really take off if we win the cup. No disrespect to Motherwell [his former club] but we finished third in the league and were in Europe but there was never the potential to increase the gates.
"They sat at 5000 and they weren't going to get any higher. But at a club like Aberdeen, with the history it has and the fanbase and support, you can see the crowds going up visibly if the team are doing well.
"You can see the crowds going up by their thousands. If we can win a trophy and keep playing the football we are playing and maybe get European football then you can be looking at 15,000 to 16,000 average gates.
"Coming through the city you can see the red and white in the windows of the shops up Union Street. That is what you want. You want to do well and for the city to feed off the back of it. The tickets sales have been incredible. We were coming in each day at 9am and there was thousands of people queuing up outside Pittodrie.
"It could be the start of something special. It's hard for me to say because we could be sitting in three years lamenting the fact that this looked like the start of a great Aberdeen team but nothing came of it. But if you look around our changing room you see a good team. There's not many players you'd take instead of ours."