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Aberdeen: Up to Archie's expectations

THE introduction to Archie Knox brought with it a warning to stay out of his way.

It would seem an ominous instruction from a man used to others doing what they are telt, had it not owed to the lighter side of his character.

A former coach with a reputation for terrorising players during training and within the dressing room, the 66-year-old was to appear more concerned with his renown as a darts player. Knox had caught sight of a board hanging on the wall behind him but confessed to no longer being certain of finding his mark.

It was to test the strength of the perception of Knox as the model hard man, an image he cracked with a smile. His notoriety was forged during time served as a valued confidante to Sir Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith and Craig Brown, the latter working with him to form the management team of Aberdeen until January last year.

His departure from the club has left Knox to look on from the sidelines as the Pittodrie team prepare for a Scottish Cup semi-final with St Johnstone today, and an interest in how they get on at Ibrox has so far resisted retirement.

His departure from Aberdeen has taken him out of reach of the finer details of the club's season and Knox took a moment to absorb an account of some of their more recent results and performances. The erstwhile coach - who most recently held a scouting role at Dundee - found satisfaction in the team's encouraging form, even if it has only fulfilled his own expectations of a squad he worked with for three years. He would leave Aberdeen anchored in the bottom six of the top flight but comfortable in the opinion that he had at least helped steady the ship.

"When you think about the time that Craig and I were there, if you'd have had a scorer then you would have done a bit better, there's no two doubts about that," said Knox, with reference to a current side able to rely on Niall McGinn, Adam Rooney and Peter Pawlett for goals.

"They've done remarkably well this season and getting the results they have been getting, that gets them the confidence. I had a look at them [in Monday's 2-0 win] against Hibs and you knew they were going to win; they were going to get a goal from somewhere. And they knew."

He had been convinced too that Pawlett would find prominence at Pittodrie and Knox can recall meeting a quiet wee boy, one whose talent cried out to be put to use in the first team.

His abilities were to be quietened by persistent injuries and a subsequent loan move to St Johnstone - Pawlett would play just four times for Aberdeen in Knox's final season - and it remains a subject of some frustration for the coach that he was unable to make more of an impression on the Scotland Under-21 forward.

Knox is at least satisfied that a consistent run of matches has begun to coax the best from a player he has been unwilling to give up on. "People had been saying to us, 'aye, there's a player in Pawlett all right' but then the boy has to produce it on a regular basis to confirm all that. For me, there's a hell of a lot more to come from Pawlett," Knox added of a player who scored against Celtic to put Aberdeen into the semi-finals.

"He probably was too quiet. He's one of these lads that come in, do his training and you never heard much else of him. But he's got assets: he's two-footed, has genuine pace, can beat a man, which not a lot of them can now. He's playing in a good position in the team because he's got places to run. He's got the freedom to move."

The experience wrought from nearly 40 years as a coach prohibits Knox from making a call on which team will triumph today. He considered, though, what it would mean were Aberdeen to add the Scottish Cup to a season which has brought success in the League Cup already.

"There were 40,000 Aberdeen supporters at that final," he said of Aberdeen's penalty triumph over Inverness Caledonian Thistle last month. "I didn't know there were 40,000 people in Aberdeen. Football people, anyway.

"The concern will be if they lose players. That's the problem for this team, afraid so. Or any of the teams, even Celtic - they lose players to finances. But with the funds Aberdeen will have behind them, I would have thought, then their budget might improve again next season. Then they can bring in another couple of players that keeps the thing going."

And which will act as a warning to others to get out of their way.

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