Warm weather break in desert can lead to white-hot Hampden final as McInnes looks for new impetus from rejuvenated Reds

Aberdeen Manager Derek McInnes.

Boss Derek McInnes today challenged the Dons to use Dubai as the launching board towards lifting the Scottish Cup in May.

Aberdeen are more than 3,500 miles away sweating it out in the Middle East but McInnes is plotting how to end 28 years of Scottish Cup agony.

The manager was today taking his squad through their paces in the warm weather training camp in Dubai.

As the mercury hits 25 degrees Celcius at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence, the Reds gaffer is looking towards the white heat of a season-ending cup final.

Aberdeen’s first game after their return from the Persian Gulf is a Scottish Cup fourth round tie against Championship leaders St Mirren at Pittodrie on January 20.

Last season, McInnes also took the Reds to the United Arab Emirates and was rewarded with a run to Hampden.

He has stuck to an identical blueprint this year and is using the same training facility and hotel.

The only thing he wants to change is to see skipper Graeme Shinnie lifting the Scottish Cup on May 19.

McInnes said: “We want to try to win the Scottish Cup and finish the season strong.

“That is the target, to revisit Hampden and hopefully make the final go our way this time.

“Hopefully the time in Dubai can help that.

“We really felt the benefit of the last winter break and in January and February we were really strong.

“Last season the winter break was a godsend for us.

“It definitely helped in the second half of the season.

“We came back from Dubai really strong and went on to have our strongest finish to any league and cup competition.

“There was more energy in the team and the winter break helped that.”

Aberdeen arrived in Dubai just after midnight and were out on the training field at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence this morning.

They will face Uzbekistan league winners Lokomotiv Tashkent in a closed-doors friendly on Sunday.

Lokomotiv Tashkent are also in the United Arab Emirates for a training camp as they prepare for their first Asian Champions League group match next month.

Again there is a similarity in the preparation for the Scottish Cup as last year the Dons faced an Uzbek side, FC Bunyodkor, at the same complex in Dubai last year.

Aberdeen beat FC Bunyodkor 2-1 last year and went on to see off Stranraer 4-0 in the Scottish Cup less than a week later.

For McInnes, securing another extended Scottish Cup run, all the way to the final, is vital as he reckons it can also provide the propulsion and focus for the Premiership campaign.

He said: “Coming back so strong from the winter break last year went a long way to ensuring we still had a lot to play for, certainly towards the back-end of the season.

“In previous years, we had been confirmed in that second-placed finish some weeks before the end of the Premiership campaign.

“Last season we had more of a fight to clinch that second spot and although we eventually ended up securing that by nine points, it was important we kept winning games.

“Having that Scottish Cup final to look forward to at the end of the season kept the focus.

“Being in the final meant we could not really take our foot off the gas at any point.”

There is a certain irony that Aberdeen have travelled to a millionaires’ paradise where the streets are literally paved with gold in search of another precious metal – silver.

Dubai’s newest landmark is a 50-storey high gold-plated picture frame that forms a snapshot of the city’s panoramic view.

The Frame, which cost an estimated Dh160 million (£35 million), consists of two 150m high, 93m wide towers connected by a 100-square-metre bridge – all covered in gold plating.

From the bridge connecting the two towers tourists can take snapshots of “Old Dubai” in the north and “New Dubai” in the south.

Gold glitz is everywhere, from the ATM cash machines, coated in a thin layer of gold, that offer bullion to customers.

Through a computer system, the ATM gold machine updates the gold price every 10 minutes to match international markets.

Dubai also boasts the gold souq (market) which is the largest retail gold bazaar of its kind in the world.

“There have been a lot of positives from 2017 and going into the New Year we want to go for the Scottish Cup,” said McInnes.

“When you look at our stats for the year, they underline the bond and spirit that is there within this group of players.

“We did well away from home last year (41 points) and the players spend a lot of time with each other.

“We do a lot of travelling and we are in hotels a lot so there is that strong bond.”

Aberdeen will spend the next week together at the five-star Jebel Ali Beach Hotel as McInnes attempts to mastermind ending that near three-decade wait for Scottish Cup glory.

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