Dons can go all the way and win the cup – but they must be wary of this dangerous St Mirren side

Billy Stark in his Aberdeen playing days

Dons legend Billy Stark has warned the current squad to be wary of Scottish Cup opponents St Mirren.

But he believes if Aberdeen get past the Buddies tomorrow they can go all the way and lift the cup, ending a 28-year drought stretching back to 1990.

The Reds face the men from Paisley in the fourth round in the lunchtime kick-off at Pittodrie.

It’s a meeting of two of Stark’s former clubs. He started his career with St Mirren, making his debut in 1975.

After eight years at Love Street he was signed for Aberdeen by former Buddies boss Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer of 1983.

While at Pittodrie he won the European Super Cup in 1983, the Premier Division title in 1984 and 1985, the Scottish Cup in 1984 and 1986 and the League Cup in 1985.

He left the Dons in 1987 for Celtic and also played for Kilmarnock and Hamilton before moving into coaching.

The 61-year-old has been impressed with the job manager Jack Ross has done leading the Saints to the top of the Championship, and believes they could cause problems for Aberdeen.

He said: “It’s been a remarkable turnaround that Jack Ross has overseen.

“This time last year he shipped out nine or 10 players and brought in the same sort of numbers.

“You’re effectively changing your squad and he obviously got good backing to do that, and it’s what needed to be done.

“But you need to bring in the right players, and he also did that.

“They’ve had a cracking first half to the season and they’ll be dangerous opponents for Aberdeen.

“When you get the winter break it can be difficult for big teams coming back to go right into a Scottish Cup tie.

“I think it helps Aberdeen that the game is at Pittodrie.

“But you see Rangers going to Fraserburgh and you can get inclement weather, and when they have been used to 30 degrees and more during their warm weather training, coming back can be a shock to the system.

“And it can cost you over 90 minutes in a cup tie.

“I think the draw has been reasonable for Aberdeen.

“It’s a Championship club – yes, they are top of the Championship. But it’s at home and if you are going to win the Scottish Cup you have to take care of these type of ties.

“It will be difficult – you need to wait and see how the winter break has benefited or affected Aberdeen.

“And you can’t really tell that until the game starts.”

Stark, now the manager of East Kilbride, who are top of the Lowland League, does believe if Aberdeen get past St Mirren they can go on and lift the trophy.

It would end a 28-year wait going back to 1990 to win the competition. Stark played against the Dons, who won 9-8 on penalties after a 0-0 draw, for Celtic in the final.

He added: “I was on the wrong side with Celtic that day.

“It was a 0-0 but it was a really good game for a 0-0 and it was the first cup final to be decided on penalties.

“That was my only Scottish Cup final loss, so it was a sore one.

“But when it goes to penalties anything can happen.

“Twenty-eight years for a club like Aberdeen is a long time especially when you see clubs like St Johnstone, Ross County and St Mirren winning trophies in recent years. That sort of exaggerates it a wee bit.

“But you still have to go through five rounds to win the Scottish Cup and these ties can throw up any opposition.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to win the Scottish Cup.

“The Dons will be desperate to get to the final again because they gave Celtic a fright last year, and they are well capable of winning it.

“You need a bit of the luck of the draw in the cup and I don’t think Aberdeen can complain too much about getting a home tie against the Championship leaders.

“They need to show they can handle that and build a bit of momentum in the cup run.

“Cup draws can throw up things that make life difficult and that’s when you’re talking about Celtic at Parkhead or Rangers at Ibrox, or Hearts at Tynecastle or Hibs at Easter Road.

“But on their day Aberdeen can win any of those ties.”

Stark was impressed with the Dons during the first half of the season when they accumulated 43 points from 22 games to sit in second, eight points behind leaders Celtic.

With Derek McInnes’ summer signings now bedded in, and Niall McGinn and Chidi Nwakali also signed in the January transfer window, Stark believes the Dons will be even stronger in the second half of the campaign.

“I thought the players Derek McInnes signed looked pretty good, the likes of Gary Mackay-Steven and Ryan Christie,” he said.

“It has taken a wee bit of time for some of them to show what they can do.

“Ryan hit the ground running but Gary has taken some time.

“But he has really good ability and you saw him getting the hat-trick against Hibs.

“Those players were bedding in and I would expect them to be even better in the second half of the season.

“They’ll have the new signings as well, so I think Aberdeen will be stronger in the second half of the season.

“They can be reasonably happy with the first half.

“At the start of the season everybody would have thought it was a battle for second place and I think that’s how it’s going to be.

“Rangers strengthened, Hearts have a solidity about them now and Hibs have proved they are dangerous opponents.

“So finishing second is going to be a job in itself, but I think they are well placed.”

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