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Straying off course: trophy would be better than Ryder Cup points

Paul Lawrie sometimes has the reputation of living up to PG Wodehouse's description of a Scotstman with a grievance.

PRIORITIES: Paul Lawrie with the Ryder Cup at Pittodrie, but the Aberdeen fan has decided to miss out on qualifying points to attend the League Cup final. Picture: SNS
PRIORITIES: Paul Lawrie with the Ryder Cup at Pittodrie, but the Aberdeen fan has decided to miss out on qualifying points to attend the League Cup final. Picture: SNS

Saying that, the former 1999 Open champion - who famously triumphed in the gloaming at Carnoustie and was one of the heroes of the Ryder Cup "Miracle at Medinah" in 2012 - was in sparkling form yesterday when he talked about his imminent trip to watch his beloved Aberdeen in next weekend's League Cup final at Celtic Park.

The Scottish golfer has been following the Pittodrie club since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. He was in Gothenburg when they prevailed over Real Madrid to lift the European Cup-Winners Cup in 1983 and was in thrall to the great teams who snaffled all manner of trophies under Alex Ferguson in the 1980s.

In the intervening 30 years, he has shared the pain of his fellow supporters, who have watched a string of managers toil to replicate Aberdeen's former glories.

Yet Lawrie believes that the new management duo, Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty, have provided the necessary spark to transform the club's fortunes.

And he replied immediately - "Not at all" - when asked if he had any regrets over missing next week's Moroccan Open tournament.

"There are eight of us going down - my wife and I and our two boys, and some family friends - and we'll be in the North stand at Celtic Park, along with thousands of other Dons fans," said Lawrie, who has joined forces with Aberdeen-based company, EnQuest, to raise money for local causes, including the golfer's own thriving foundation in the city.

"I think the fact there are going to be 40,000 Aberdeen supporters at the game shows what a sleeping giant we have been in recent years. But, ever since the 1980s, I have loved my football. I'm impressed with the way the side are playing, and I think we will win the final.

"I'm not expecting it to be easy, because Inverness are tough opponents and their manager John Hughes is a real character, who will get his men fired up.

"But the lads have achieved some impressive results recently and you don't beat Celtic home and away without having the right mental toughness in these big matches."

Lawrie knows his football history and reeled off various dates and exploits from his beloved side. He elicited laughter when he was asked if he was feeling nervous about Aberdeen's first appearance in a final since 2000 when they were hammered 4-0 by Celtic.

"No, I'm not actually playing, so nerves don't come into it, and I don't think I would fit into the Dons strips these days," he replied, with the deadest of pans. "So I'll leave it to the guys on the pitch and shout myself hoarse in the crowd."

Similarly, when he was asked if Aberdeen residents should be given a holiday on the following Monday if the side ended their cup drought, he responded: "It's just a football match. And most of my staff are going down to it, so they better be back in here [the Foundation] the next day or there will be trouble."

Yet, even as he talked about the showpiece occasion, Lawrie expressed the view of many supporters in reacting to their recent resurgence.

"I was there in 1995 when we won the Coca-Cola Cup final [against Dundee] and I suppose we had grown used to reaching finals and being successful," said Lawrie, who remains hopeful of gaining a place in the European Ryder Cup squad for Gleneagles in September.

"Recently, though, we have fallen away a little but I think the size of the support going to the final shows that people are just dying to come back and support the Dons.

"Derek has brought in players such as Barry Robson and Willo Flood and when you have these quality of guys, I'm not surprised at the way things have improved.

"In fact, there's a buzz around the city and I can see football becoming a really big deal again if this keeps up. Will we win? Yes, we will."

Lawrie took a final question from a journalist, who, unfortunately, mentioned that her father was an Inverness fan."Well I think he's going to be disappointed," said Lawrie in a flash. It was a side to him not too often seen on the golf course.

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