DEREK McINNES, the Aberdeen manager, committed to a new deal at Pittodrie yesterday as chairman Stewart Milne insisted the club would build on the fans' exceptional response to the League Cup final.
McInnes and assistant Tony Docherty had contracts to the end of next season but both signed extensions committing them to the club until 2017. Less than a year after taking over, they could deliver Aberdeen's first trophy in 18-and-a-half years if Inverness Caledonian Thistle are beaten at Celtic Park tomorrow.
"When Tony and I arrived at Pittodrie we knew we would need time to transform it into our squad," said McInnes. "We have demonstrated this season that we are definitely heading in the right direction but we're far from the finished article. We both really enjoy working at the club but we are only some way towards what we would like to achieve here. It's great that the board also believes we are doing a decent job and the additional contract allows us time to really plan for the future in terms of developing the squad."
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Milne was delighted with McInnes' decision. Aberdeen, second in the SPFL Premiership and in a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against St Johnstone, are on course for their best campaign for years. "We were convinced from day one that Derek and Tony didn't see the task at the club as being anything other than a long-term project," said the chairman. "And having our management team on long-term contracts, in addition to an important nucleus of the playing squad on similar deals, bodes extremely well for the future. Derek and Tony have had a major impact on the club. But as Derek keeps reminding us we are very much at the start of a journey."
The chairman promised that the club would try to build on the fact that an unprecedented 40,000-strong following will be behind the team tomorrow. "I think we've all been a bit taken aback by the numbers of people wanting to go to the game and it really does underline the huge level of latent support out there for the club. Almost a complete generation has not experienced what, to supporters of a certain vintage, became a regular occurrence in years gone by and there is a real hunger for success.
"It's fantastic that we're looking at an all-north final and it's perhaps indicative of a shift in the landscape of Scottish football, particularly if you also look at the surviving sides in the Scottish Cup too. Naturally, after going through some very difficult times in recent years, both on and off the field, the onus is now on the club to produce the goods on a sustained basis.
"Sunday will be a big occasion, not just for me, but for everyone connected with AFC, and irrespective of the outcome, is sure to be one that lives long in the memories of all lucky enough to be there."
Milne said he accepted
the police and stadium safety officer's decision to keep the Lisbon Lions upper tier closed for the final despite additional demand for tickets from the Aberdeen support. "The sad fact is that segregation is part and parcel of the modern
game and I can completely appreciate why the authorities would not permit Aberdeen supporters to be housed
above Inverness fans."