Former Aberdeen great Duncan Shearer has teamed up with John Hughes at Inverness.
It’s 19 years since Duncan Shearer struck the goal that won Aberdeen their last trophy.
The Red Army sang about “Walking In A Shearer Wonderland” all the way to League Cup glory. The man himself argues there will be plenty who weren’t even a twinkle in their father’s eye back then!
Fast forward to the present day, and the man who downed Dundee at Hampden in 1995 finds himself plotting a way to try to stop the present generation’s attempt for success.
And in the process help Inverness Caledonian Thistle, a club that was a mere toddler in the senior ranks at the time of Aberdeen’s last triumph, land their first-ever major trophy.
Unfancied semi-finalists St Johnstone and Hearts are free to dispute the logic. But in the absence of Celtic, bookmakers confidently predict an all-northern Final.
That scenario would suit the man still hailed as one of Pittodrie’s best-ever goalscorers just fine.
“I think that would be fantastic,” says Shearer.
“You don’t need to tell me about the sense of longing there is in Aberdeen for the club to achieve success. I was up there last Saturday for our League game and you can feel it.
“The groundsman, Jim Warrender, asked me to sign a teamsheet from the 1995 Final and it brought it all flooding back.
“We were wandering around the corridors at Pittodrie, looking at the photographs of the celebrations the players on the park and the thousands of fans going daft in the stands.
“The current squad walk past these every day. You can’t do that without picturing yourself up there in their place.
“Derek McInnes will be telling his players to go out and make themselves part of history, and become the people who will be looking back in 20 years time with a smile on their face. For us, the motivation is different but perhaps even stronger.
“Inverness Caledonian Thistle only joined the senior set-up in 1994. Since then, it has been progress, progress, progress. We keep pushing ourselves to go higher and do better. We are in the semi-finals of the competition and have earned the right to believe we can win it.
“We won at Aberdeen last week, and have already beaten Hearts this season, though their fightback against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park shows the spirit there is in their camp.”
It is impossible to mention the word ‘spirit’ in connection with Inverness Caledonian Thistle without thinking of Terry Butcher.
The previous Caley Jags manager’s success in the Highlands saw the former England captain take up the offer of a more lucrative post at Hibs.
And his place has been filled, slightly ironically, by former Hibs hero, John ‘Yogi’ Hughes.
“The gaffer has been great,” says Shearer, who was caretaker boss in the wake of Butcher’s departure and now assists the new man.
“Terry was a huge character, someone known by everyone in the game. His departure was always going to leave a void but John has managed to fill it.
“He has a big personality himself, and has a terrific enthusiasm for the game which rubbed off on everyone. The players clicked with him straight away, and have embraced the type of football he wants the club to play.
“We have been working hard on the training ground and playing good football, which paid off in the win at Pittodrie. Now we have a semi-final to look forward to, which is a great start to the New Year.
“At one of the four clubs, there is going to be a new set of heroes.”
Shearer can clearly remember the feeling of joy winning the League Cup gave him it is the detail he needs a little reminder about.
“I looked at the teamsheet and was immediately struck by what a strong team Dundee actually had back then,” he continues.
“They were in the First Division, but they had so much quality throughout the side. You are talking about guys like Neil McCann, Jim Hamilton, Iain Anderson and, of course, Morten Wieghorst.
“These were all really good players who went on have very successful careers in the Scottish game. That wasn’t the end of it, either. They had a very solid core with Michel Pageaud in goals, plus Neil Duffy and Dusan Vrto in front of him.”
Jim Duffy, the Dark Blues manager at the time, later spoke of the Final being lost before a ball was kicked.
Of seeing his players freeze when the bus pulled into the grounds of Hampden Park to be met by the sight of thousands of Dundee supporters. It is an assessment which strikes a chord with Shearer.
“I can’t testify if they froze, but I do remember it being a straightforward win,” he says.
“We were going pretty well in the Premier League at the time and carried that momentum into the Final. I got a goal, Billy Dodds got a goal, we kept things tight at the back and that was it the Cup was ours.
“It sounds simple when you say it like that, but there is so much work that goes into getting to the Final in the first place.
“People speak about the magic of Cup competition and part of the reason is that knowledge that anything can happen. No-one would have expected Queen of the South to beat Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final in 2008.
“In just the same way, no-one would have fancied us to beat Celtic at Parkhead back in 2000 when Kenny Dalglish and John Barnes were in charge there. But both happened and are part of folklore now. That’s what today’s players are striving to achieve for themselves.”