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'In the life of a manager you're either the king or the clown'

There are quite a few smiles around Pittodrie these days.

Derek McInnes wears his well, a product of leading the club to success in the League Cup within his first year in charge. That anniversary comes next week and the manager intends to mark it simply, with wins in the league to maintain a hold on second place in the SPFL Premiership. Aberdeen are at home to Kilmarnock tomorrow.

Supporters are given to look forward to fixtures - Aberdeen have lost only eight times in the league all season - but the momentum that is being enjoyed by his side has also given McInnes occasion to glance back on a less successful time in his career. Some fans sought to show their appreciation for their manager after the cup final by bowing in the stands; it was not so long ago that others were pointing to the exit.

McInnes was the manager of a faltering Bristol City side previously and was sacked just three months before being appointed at Pittodrie. "In the life of a manager you are either the king or the clown," he said.

"You win a few games and you lift a trophy and you can't do anything wrong. You lose a few games and people think you don't know what you're doing. You just have to not get carried away when you win and don't get too down when you lose."

Aberdeen have been entitled to revel in their cup success, though. Yet amid all the red balloons, the paper hats and the relentless chanting of Peter Pawlett-inspired new-wave anthems, one man will be plotting to ruin everyone's fun. Allan Johnston will take Kilmarnock to Pittodrie with an eye on three points. "We want to spoil the party," he said.

A tough run of fixtures - Motherwell away and St Johnstone at home before the split - could cause Kilmarnock to start the series of bottom-six duels behind their play-off rivals. Johnston admits that four points from 15 matches against opposition in the top half of the Premiership this season is not good enough, even if he was unsure why they had struggled.

Simply put, though, the strange truth is that Kilmarnock perform almost exactly as expected: they lose to teams better than them, they beat those worse off. "Maybe it's down to concentration levels," he said. "Hopefully we're learning and improving and hopefully we can start getting results against the top six."

At least the storm which surrounded the club's off-field affairs has started to scatter. Chairman Michael Johnston - with whom the fans have a tempestuous relationship - will stand down at the end of the season and the club has also agreed a deal to write off their debt or convert that into equity, alongside the sale of the Park Hotel.

Johnston welcomed the fact that such news might win back those supporters whose absence has been sorely missed. "There needs to be togetherness with everyone pulling in the one direction," he admitted. "That's the key to being successful."

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