Derek McInnes and his staff have talked through their Hampden agony with “each and every one” of the Aberdeen players this week.
The boss and assistant Tony Docherty were sent to the stands, with Lewis Ferguson and Dom Ball also dismissed by referee Craig Thomson, as the Dons fell 3-0 to Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-finals.
In the aftermath, McInnes expressed his frustration at the two bookings – for an innocuous trip on the Hoops’ Jonny Hayes and an accidental mid-air collision with Ryan Christie – which saw Ball receive the game’s first red card.
The gaffer today revealed how he and his staff have made sure the likes of Ball, and youngsters Ferguson, Dean Campbell and Connor McLennan, are able to turn their focus towards Saturday’s crucial opening Premiership post-split game with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, with the aim of overhauling Killie in third and securing European football for a sixth successive season.
McInnes said: “There wasn’t so much an arm round, but you talk to them individually about dealing with the frustration and situation of it. We’re there to support each other.
“I’m a big believer that you need to show that enthusiasm and positivity among the disappointments.
“That’s the test of any team and any person – to try to generate that energy.
“There’s a lot to look forward to this season.
“A lot of my younger players and senior players, we’ll speak to each and every one of them this week to make sure the focus is there for the remaining games.
“It’s important to us and we need to remind ourselves, just because we’ve qualified for Europe for the last five years, it doesn’t become any less special.”
If the Reds need a shot of confidence after their cup humbling, they can find it in their away record at Killie.
They haven’t tasted defeat there since 2011 and could leap three points clear of their rivals for Europa League qualifying with a win.
Lewis Ferguson, handed an immediate one-game ban, plus another in next year’s cup, for a reckless tackle on Celtic’s Tom Rogic at Hampden, will miss the league clash.
However, skipper Graeme Shinnie – who has held talks with English Championship Derby County and will reportedly seal a pre-contract with Frank Lampard’s Rams this week – will return from his own suspension.
McInnes, who was sent to the stands for reacting to sectarian chanting, said: “It’s important we go into the last five games now and hopefully get the results we want to achieve. It’ll be tough playing against the best teams in the country.
“But it’s important every team we play against finds it tough against us and we get the results we’re after.”
He added: “It’s clear the improvement in Kilmarnock over the last year or so.
“They’ve got a very experienced squad, who have consistently churned out results.
“It’s a difficult place to go, but we’ve had a difficult record down there. It’ll be all systems go on Saturday.
“There will be a fantastic atmosphere in the ground, probably as good as we’ve seen there, because of the anticipation from their club about getting into Europe.
“Hopefully we can generate that ourselves. It’s important we all, players, staff and fans alike, see the importance of Europe for us.
“Lewis Ferguson is suspended and we’ve still got injuries. But we’ve got Shinnie back and we’ll try to get a positive result.”