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Irvine's up for the cup as life-long supporter

The tall figure among the 70,000 ecstatic well-wishers who cheered the heroic Aberdeen players from one end of Union Street to the other, smiled, applauded and remembered the feeling of holding aloft a trophy before so many adoring disciples.

Brian Irvine holds the trophy aloft after Aberdeen's victory in the Scottish Cup Final against Celtic at Hampden in 1990. Picture: Ben Radford/Allsport
Brian Irvine holds the trophy aloft after Aberdeen's victory in the Scottish Cup Final against Celtic at Hampden in 1990. Picture: Ben Radford/Allsport

That was a little more than three weeks ago, as the Dons paraded the League Cup on an open-top bus following their win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the first time such an event had taken place in the city since 1995, when that same trophy had been won, courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Dundee in the final.

But Brian Irvine, now 48, and with a distinguished 300-plus games career at Pittodrie now a distant memory, recalled his moment in the sun 24 years ago as he and his team-mates triumphed over Celtic in a penalty-kick shoot-out after 120 thrilling Scottish Cup final minutes - and how he had struck the decisive spot-kick.

Today, the former centre-back, signed from Falkirk by the then Aberdeen manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, feels the satisfaction of a fan, a face among 70,000 others.

"Yes, I was there," he said, "but the guys wouldn't have seen me as I was just one of the throng. Having been on the bus and on the Town House balcony, it is actually just as good being in the crowd.

"That is from someone who has done both. It was a great feeling to be there and cheer on the team in among the supporters. I am one of the supporters and, now I am finished with football, that is who I identify with first and foremost. It would be great to do that again."

Aberdeen aim to take another step towards winning the William Hill Scottish Cup when they face St Johnstone in a semi-final at Ibrox Stadium on Sunday with Irvine, now living and working in Inverness, set to join those wearing red-and-white favours and pledging to return to the Granite City to add his appreciation should the Dons complete the double and book another bus trip through lines of adoring supporters.

The Bellshill-born former Elgin City coach, who has thrown his hat into the ring to become manager of Cove Rangers, the Highland League club, saw his playing career threatened when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in June 1995. Yet, he returned to action just four months later and, in 1997, he was transferred to Dundee, featuring nearly 70 times in two years, before finishing his playing career at Ross County in 2003.

"The momentum is still with the Dons," he attested, "and I would be positive and confident that they can get a cup double. When we did the cup double in 1990 we also finished second in the league, so hopefully the current team can emulate that."

Irvine believes that the appointment of Derek McInnes as manager a year ago was a defining moment for the club and the reason they are now favourites to finish the season, not only with two trophies, but as runners-up in the Scottish Premiership.

"A lot of teams can have a dip in form after winning a cup," he added, "but the big difference is Derek McInnes.

"He has a great gift of being able to keep the players focused and sticking to that old cliche of taking it one game at a time. That is how they approach every game. Winning the League Cup was massive, but that is forgotten about now.

"They can remember that in the summer, or at the end of their careers, but for now they have to get on with the next game, as they have done throughout the season.

"When it is comes to the business-end, when they are going for finals and aiming to win cups, that approach is making Aberdeen almost unbeatable.

"Although Celtic have won the league, if Aberdeen can get second place and win the two cups then for me that is a better season. So, I think Derek would be a strong candidate for manager of the year. Time will tell how the voting goes, but for me it is a no-brainer."

Meanwhile, in the wake of Aberdeen's win over Hibernian at Easter Road on Monday night, which put them three points ahead of Motherwell in the league table, McInnes stressed that second place was not imperative to the club's ambitions.

"We just want to get into Europe if we can," he said. "We're not obsessed with second. We're just obsessed with keeping up a level of performance."

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