EVERY Friday afternoon Derek McInnes picks up the phone to Stewart Milne and gives him the Aberdeen team before anyone else.
The manager reckons it’s the least his chairman deserves.
Now he’s hoping after 21 years of? commitment through thick, thin and even thinner, the man at the Dons helm gets more than just his boss’s respect as a reward.
As 90 crucial minutes loom for a side who have spent months playing down their title credentials, it’s impossible to believe Milne won’t be scraping himself off the ceiling of the Celtic Park boardroom if his side pull level with the Hoops at the top of the table at lunchtime.
But McInnes believes the ?multi-millionaire building magnate has earned the right to any highs his team give him after so many years of lows.
The emotional side of the 64-year-old shone through at the same ground last season as Dons hoisted their first trophy in a generation in the League Cup Final.
McInnes said: “I think the fan came out in him that day. He has been a huge supporter of the club, he’s had to endure a lot in his tenure here and it hasn’t always been enjoyable so he more than anybody deserved to enjoy that day.
“But other people tell me he’s excited about the team again and got that?real bug again – and that’s good for?everybody. He’s stimulated by what he’s getting from the players and the team. There’s a lot to like about the club, on and off the pitch.
“There are good things happening but we know it’s key what happens on the pitch to keep that whole thing stimulated and crackling along. If?we don’t keep winning he’ll not be smiling and neither will I.”
McInnes’ working relationship with his employer is built on respect and that manifests itself on a weekly basis.
He added: “I don’t need to speak to him every day but we do speak a couple of times a week. I always phone him on a Friday and give him the team, he deserves to know the team.
“I always give him his place that way, I think that’s important, and I give him my reasons for the team.
“Then we always meet up every two or three weeks. I go out and see him and sit with him for three or four hours and we go over everything. There’s nothing I can’t talk to him about.
“We have a good relationship. You’ve got to work for people who are keen to improve as well.
“I feel I’m working for a club and ?chairman who wants standards to improve, who wants a new stadium, who wants a new training centre, who wants a team of value on the pitch, who wants the city to be excited and fall in love with the team and people to come along and watch Aberdeen, not just through blind loyalty but because they actually want to come to the game.”
Milne’s matchday experiences at? Pittodrie haven’t always been as?positive. During the darkest days he and his family had to walk a gauntlet going into the ground as the club grubbed around the lower reaches of the league and slumped out of cup after cup. McInnes said: “He’s been the one who has written the cheques which has seen the club through it, the one who more often than not has kept the club going without a lot of thanks, from the outside looking in.
“I think he’s delighted now we have other people investing and believing in the club and he deserves the chance to see Aberdeen keep moving forward.”
Despite his constant denials that three points this afternoon would be any different from the three they earned last weekend from St Mirren, there’s a steely resolve underlying McInnes and a deep-seated belief in the side he’s built. He said: “Aberdeen teams should be going to the end of the season with something to play for.
“There’s nothing worse than playing out a season for the sake of it and for a long time that’s the way it was.
“We have to improve our standards every year and we can look ahead with a lot of optimism but whether we can maintain a title challenge remains to be seen because at the minute there’s only one team that can lose it.
“I’m not being clever with that, that’s a fact. They are 12 points less than?they were last year and we are nine points more so there had to be an improvement from us and a?deterioration in their results to get where we are now.
“We know the significance of Sunday for us – for both teams. Although it’s the same three points you get for beating St Mirren last week the opportunity?to go level with Celtic?at this stage of the?season is motivation enough.”