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McInnes is staying cool ahead of tie in the sun

For the 1300 Aberdeen fans who will descend on the Basque country next week it will be a case of vamos rojos - come on you reds - as the scramble for tickets for the Pittodrie side's Europa League third round qualifier against Real Sociedad begins in earnest on Monday.

David Goodwillie can re-establish himself as a top player, according to Neil Simpson. Picture: SNS
David Goodwillie can re-establish himself as a top player, according to Neil Simpson. Picture: SNS

It will be sun, sea and San Sebastian for supporters in the picturesque city in northern Spain, but for Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager, the pre-match talk will be the same as it was before his side beat Groningen 2-1 in the Netherlands on Thursday night, when he batted away all invitations to predict victory and a lucrative tie against La Liga opponents.

Even before Adam Rooney and Niall McGinn scored the goals that put Groningen to the sword, McInnes was preparing for the tournament tie that was to follow, though there was no word beforehand that he had watched Sociedad in a friendly with Feyenoord in Rotterdam the previous night. Now, it is no longer tempting fate to reveal that, rather than return to the Granite City with his team yesterday, he remains in the Netherlands to run the rule over the Spanish side once more when they face Nijmegen today.

And when he points to what will be a glamour tie for the growing band of supporters and assures them "we will be doing our best to get through and keep our European adventure going", it is back to cautious mode for him and his players, who have been drilled to give non-committal replies when faced with media questions.

Yet, the excitement in Aberdeen is palpable, despite efforts by McInnes, the man many fans believe is the club's best manager since Sir Alex Ferguson, to minimise fuss. "I have a huge regard for what I have in that dressing room," he said. "There are some good types. There will be some good times ahead this season and beyond."

He is clearly assembling a squad in which he can have faith, something key to the success he desires. There is a great deal more to it than that, however, according to Neil Simpson, the club's youth development chief and, famously, a member of Ferguson's Aberdeen squad of the 1980s.

"It has been a long time since there has been such a good team spirit at Pittodrie," he insists.

"Everyone is pulling in the same direction and when you see experienced players like Barry Robson demanding high standards at training, this rubs off on the younger ones and it's clear that everyone wants to do well.

"There is also the attention to detail from Derek and Tony [Docherty, his assistant]. The video analysis of opponents is forensic and Graham Kirk, the sports science expert brought in from St Johnstone, is extremely thorough in his work.

"He has been a huge asset and the feeling is that if you do not do these things you are at a disadvantage." Simpson highlighted the pace within the Pittodrie ensemble as a major component in their well oiled machine, as rival teams struggle to cope with the positive runs of Peter Pawlett and the defensive qualities of Mark Reynolds who, since his arrival in the north-east - first on loan following a disappointing and non-productive time at Sheffield Wednesday - has been outstanding in his consistency.

"You can see with Peter that teams just don't know how to handle him," Simpson added. "That was evident in the home tie against Groningen. It was the same with Mark. There were times when they broke, particularly late in the game, but Mark's speed meant he could handle it.

"Then there's Ryan Jack. He is so good at breaking-up the play of opponents and quietly but effectively going about his business. He has come on so much in the past couple of years."

Simpson has high hopes, too, for striker David Goodwillie, still to find his natural football home following his release after three uneventful seasons at Blackburn Rovers.

"Joining Aberdeen will be good for David," he says. "I think he'll see it as a great chance for him to re-establish himself as a top player and we'll benefit."

McInnes, meanwhile, will this weekend mull over how best to dispose of Sociedad in their march out of the qualifying rounds. There will be no idle boasts that his Aberdeen side will do just that, only low-key noises that it is a feat of which they are, on their day, eminently capable.

No matter that their opponents compete in one of the world's great leagues and deploy the skills of Carlos Vela, one of Mexico's World Cup squad, and Antoine Griezmann, who starred for France in Brazil.

McInnes has his own men.

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