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Clark watching as 'survivors' make most of sticking around

A view of the Scottish Cup final was often restricted while Sandy Clark was at Aberdeen.

He would perceive the club's route to this season's showpiece from an office block in the west end of Glasgow, his current capacity as the assistant manager of Kilmarnock having offered only a glimpse at how his former club are likely to fare in a semi-final on Sunday. Aberdeen will meet St Johnstone at Ibrox.

His understanding of what faces the Pittodrie team is anchored more securely in past experiences, some of which he shared with members of the existing first team. Clark spoke fondly of his days working with those players, so much so that one suspects that there were a few lugs burning in Aberdeen. And not just because the sheep, the sheep, the sheep are on fire.

Jamie Langfield, Peter Pawlett, Russell Anderson, Andrew Considine and Ryan Jack all worked with the 57-year-old during his previous guise as a first-team coach at Pittodrie. He filed these names under the collective term "survivors", a reference which spoke strongly of their capacity to succeed against the odds but whispered too of a past troubled by a moment of adversity.

Each of them was attached to the club as it suffered a hurtful blow in a knockout tie; a storm in a cup competition against Queen of the South in 2008.

A 4-3 defeat at Hampden left scars on the face of a club but has been no more serious than acne for Jack. It might have left the midfielder self-conscious at the time yet it has since faded as he has reached maturity. Now 22, he has earned recognition in a Scotland shirt for the under-21s and in a League Cup final victory last month, accomplishments which Clark could only predict while he watched him at play in the youth team.

There are some characteristics that the midfielder has not outgrown, though. Clark recalls a young man who was no Jack the lad, warranting instead his less roguish moniker: Wee Ryan.

"He has been an old head on young shoulders for a long, long time. You will probably hear people saying the same things about Ryan and his career in 10 years' time," said Clark, who departed Pittodrie alongside Jimmy Calderwood and Jimmy Nicholl in 2009.

"Ryan is a real unsung hero of that Aberdeen team. Ryan is a certain starter in Derek McInnes' team every week now. He drifts around the pitch and makes playing football look effortless. He's also a goal threat."

That was hit home with the same certainty which Jack showed as he registered the winning goal last month in a league match against Kilmarnock. It is an ability close to Clark's heart since he is also a former centre-forward and the father of Rangers striker, Nicky.

Clark hopes to watch his son contest the other semi-final, against Dundee United on Saturday, but showed a moment of parental concern. "We lost 3-2 to United in a league game at Tannadice and we lost a cup game 5-2," he added. "The fact I'm talking about them winning 3-2 and 5-2 shows United have that energy about them."

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