ONE of football’s most-celebrated friendships will be reunited at Pittodrie on Wednesday when Aberdeen host Celtic.
Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong were already close when they played together for Dundee United.
And when they switched to Celtic Park together at the start of 2015 they were quickly nicknamed “Zig and Zag” because they were inseparable on and off the training pitch.
Their professional relationship came to an end when Aberdeen snapped up Mackay-Steven for £275,000 in the summer, a change that Armstrong supported.
“I think it was an important move for Gaz to make and I’m pleased it is working out well for him
“Having played football with him for half-a-dozen years or so, I have seen what he can do and what he is capable of.
“He is a top-quality player, but everyone wants to play football regularly and he wasn’t always getting that with us.
“Up at Pittodrie he certainly has a chance to do that.
“They are a good side, Aberdeen. They have maybe had a couple of dodgy performances here and there but they are still right there with us at the top and they have a lot of good players.
“He scored the winner against Hibs at Easter Road at the weekend, and that is something he can take confidence from.
“I think it will be an interesting game.
“When we play Aberdeen at Pittodrie they are always really up for it. It is always tight and it is a physical battle as well.”
Wednesday’s match will also be a pleasing reminder for Armstrong of the clubs’ last meeting which was nothing if not dramatic, Celtic clinching their Invincible Treble in the dying seconds of a tumultuous Scottish Cup Final.
“I enjoyed that one,” said the 25-year-old, with a grin at the memory.
“Although we went unbeaten all season there were a few times we got ran close and the Final was definitely one of them.
“Jonny Hayes, later to be signed by Celtic, scored for them early on, I got the equaliser and then for a long time it was 1-1.
“So you thinking maybe it is going to go into extra-time but then Tom Rogic comes up with his bit of magic.
“It was a fairytale finish to the season for us. You couldn’t have written it any better, right down to the lightning streaking across the sky when he scored.
“But that was last season. At Celtic it is always about building, getting more trophies as well as progressing and improving and not focusing on what we have already done, but what we can achieve next.”
The midfielder’s happy knack of coming up with goals in big games – he also scored in the champions’ 3-1 win at Pittodrie back in May on their last visit to the ground – has helped make him one of the most popular players with the fans.
So much so in fact he is now constantly serenaded with his very own song, one which includes lines such as “His hair is fine,” inside and out of the dressing room.
“Kieran Tierney likes that one, he has been singing it to me,” said Armstrong.
“It is a good feeling when they make up a song about you, it makes you know you are part of something special.
“Especially as in this case too they have gone to a bit of effort with the lyrics, it is up to yourselves whether it is accurate or not.
“Our fans have got some good songs, one for Scott Brown and a few others. It is nice, especially when you are out on the pitch and you hear them singing your name.”
It has not all been good news, though, with the 25-year-old left despondent by Scotland’s exit from the World Cup and the subsequent departure of manager Gordon Strachan.
“It was disappointing. Having been involved in the previous games, there was a lot of momentum and good feeling in the camp that we could go on and reach the play-offs,” said Armstrong.
“It was a really good feeling so not to be part of that was frustrating. When we had got the three points at home to Slovakia there was a genuine feeling we could go on and do it.
“Sometimes you don’t get the luck in football. There were things that were maybe a wee bit unfortunate. I think with the squad we have, how we played in 2017 there is certainly a good feeling going into the next campaign.
“The manager going was also disappointing. Gordon gave me my chance and he believed in me.
“There was certainly a good feeling in the camp and I think I speak for everyone when I say that.
“Our recent record was really good and it felt we were really building something.”