The last time Aberdeen met Hearts, the contest exposed the glaring holes in Jim Goodwin’s side and the resounding scoreline set off a chain of events that resulted in the 41-year-old losing his job. This time, Barry Robson hopes, the men from the north east will be able to show just how far they have come in that time.

Aberdeen’s previous encounter with Robbie Neilson’s side – a 5-0 drubbing at Tynecastle back in January – acted as the starting gun on one of darkest fortnights in the club’s history. A humiliating 1-0 defeat to sixth-tier Darvel that dumped the Dons out of the Scottish Cup followed, leaving Jim Goodwin clinging on to his position as manager by his fingernails, before a 6-0 capitulation at Easter Road a few days later sealed the Irishman’s fate.

Robson picked up the reins on an interim basis and the team’s performances have steadily improved since – so much so that a win at Pittodrie on Saturday would cut the gap between third-placed Hearts and Aberdeen in fifth to just four points. Victories over Dundee United, Livingston and Motherwell in recent weeks have led to an outbreak of cautious optimism and Robson hopes to maintain that momentum with another strong showing this weekend – even if he won’t allow himself to look beyond the match itself.

“What we’ve been looking at is the last few games and I think we have improved as a team but we have so much more improvement to come,” Robson insisted.

“We’re looking sharper and we have to keep doing the basics well. If we do that we’ve got a chance but if you take your foot off the gas at any point you know what can happen – we’re coming up against a very good Hearts team.

“That [potentially cutting the gap to four points] is something I will think about on Saturday night or Sunday morning to be honest. It must be boring listening to me but that is what I was like as a player and what I’m like as a coach as well.

“You want to get all the details into the players to make sure you get a result for the club. That’s all I focus on.”


The lengthy period between fixtures should help in that regard. Aberdeen weren’t in action in the Cup last weekend and so the players have had the best part of a fortnight to prepare for Saturday’s match, as well as receiving a little downtime.

“We gave the players a couple of days off as we have to be mindful of the stage of the season we’re at,” Robson explained. “Some of them have played more than 30 games and you have to get the balance right.

“Sometimes less is more so we’ve tried to be mindful of that to keep everyone fit. But we’ve also made sure we still get our points across in how we want to do things and the boys have been working hard with a good intensity and tempo since coming back, so we’re pleased with that.”

Robson will have an almost full complement of players to choose from this weekend, with one or two exceptions.

“We’re all right at the minute,” he said. “Connor Barron is back training again which is good but Cal Roberts has a hamstring problem so we won’t have him.

“We’re waiting on an update on Cal but we’re hoping it will be sooner rather than later. I feel for the kid. He has just come back and has looked really good in training and been enjoying it. We’ll need to get some clarity but hopefully it’s not something which will keep him out too long.

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“Kelle Roos is also back training. We’ve had to be careful with him due to the [thigh] injury he had.”

Robson, who has been placed in charge of the team on an interim basis while the hierarchy at Pittodrie search for Goodwin’s permanent successor, was tipped for the role by his former team-mate Scott Brown earlier in the week.

Brown, now managing Fleetwood Town in England’s League One, played alongside Robson at Celtic and for the national team and under him at Aberdeen in the wake of Stephen Glass’ dismissal a year ago. He said Robson has impressed so far during his audition for the position and would like to see him given the gig on a full-time basis. Robson, though, believes another motivation may have been at play.

“He’s a good friend of mine so that’s maybe why he’s saying it,” Robson grinned. “He’s a good mate and when we took over in the interim last time he was really good. I’m glad to see how well he is doing down at Fleetwood as it is not an easy league to be in.

“He’s done a terrific job and I think he needs to consolidate with them this year then push on next year. I’ll maybe send him a text and thank him.


“No [there has been no indication of a timescale for the appointment of the next permanent manager], we are just the same from the last statement, we are just focusing on Saturday.

“It is going on in the background with the board and it is something you would need to ask them about. For me it has been total focus on this game at Hearts. I sound like a broken record but it genuinely has.

“I have just got to try and win football matches for the club. While I’m here that is the key factor in what we need to do. We want to send fans home happy at quarter to five on a Saturday and it is my job to try and do that for them.”