Derek McInnes knows Saturday’s return to Pittodrie will be “special and significant”, but he insists it’s all about Kilmarnock between the whistles.
The Rugby Park boss will return to the dugout at Aberdeen for the first time since leaving last year, and he’s looking forward to meeting old friends.
But although he’s expecting an emotional day in the Scottish Premiership clash, his only focus is bringing three points home from the Granite City.
He said: “You cannot give eight years of your life to a club and not have that attachment.
“They were so good to me and I would like to think I tried to give that back.
“We had a strong budget and we had success through hard work and togetherness with everyone playing their part.
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“We did a lot of good work and there was a real upturn in fortunes for Aberdeen over that period.
“I would have liked to have won a few more trophies but success comes in different shapes.
“It was a decent period for us and a lot was down right- and that was down to a whole club working as one.
“And that is what I am now trying to develop here at Kilmarnock.
“The first step was getting promoted and the second was getting the wheels in motion to get the best people in place to be the best version of ourselves.
“That is what I am concentrating on now. My time at Aberdeen has gone and it was always inevitable I would go back as a manager.
“Saturday will be special and significant, but once the whistle goes it will all be about trying to win the game for Kilmarnock.”
Kilmarnock were dealt a boost with backroom changes this week, headlining the list of recruits was Russ Richardson who worked with McInnes at Aberdeen and left Liverpool to join Killie.
On Richardson McInnes said: “Any good ones players we didn’t inherit he had a hand inreally.
“Loan players, his connections getting Danny Ward, Michael Hector, Max Lowe, James Maddison, you can rhyme seven or eight off after that.
“Then you have signings in terms of Sam Cosgrove. £25,000 from Carlisle reserves, we sell him for over £2 million. Lewis Ferguson, part of the process in that.
“Any time we brought players up from England, Russ had a bit handle on that and it was tough trying to reinvent the squad all of the time.
“Apart from those first two or three years where we managed to keep the squad together as everyone was at a certain age and growing with that, but there comes a point, that 2017 Scottish Cup Final, I lost half my starting team after that. It was their last game.
“So to try and reinvent that all of the time. Bringing in Ryan Christies, Kenny McLeans, Gary Mackay Stevens, bringing Jonny Hayes back, Niall McGinn back. It was tough to sustain it.
“But, by and large, you are normally judged by your own standards in time and Russ was a big part of everything we did and he will be now.”
He added: “I think that is the benefit we are going at Kilmarnock with having him in. I missed having anyone really, to be honest, trying to put a squad together with so much to do.
“The beauty of next summer is we only have two players under contract, which for the players who are with us now, there is opportunity to be part of that going forward as a club.
“Having someone with Russ’ experience, knowledge and contacts, his eye for a player. Someone in armoury at Kilmarnock who is going to be so key in trying to utilise the budget that has been afforded to us and trying to get value on the pitch and a team that the fans will come along and watch. You can’t do that in one window.
“All we can try and do is be as competitive as we can at the moment and how we belong in the Premier League as I feel we do and look for those improvements every time we come out of a transffer window we are stronger again.”
McInnes has heaped his praise on Killie’s board who have supported him every step of the way.
He said: “I am delighted the club have supported me in any key role I have tried to change.
“I appreciate there’s a ceiling to what we can do in terms of wages and budgets, but everything within our budget, the support from the board has been clear.
We have umpteen conversations, we’ve all got a clear directive of where we want to see the club go.”
He continued: “Russ was key – we wanted him in before now but he was working at Liverpool and [he] was respectful of his role there and it had to be right for everybody at the time.”
“We advertised the role because we weren’t sure if we could get Russ.
“When it became clear – a couple of weeks ago – that there might be an opportunity to bring Ross to the club, we all worked extremely hard to get that over the time. Delighted the board have seen the importance of it first of all, but also managing to get someone of his qualities in.
“It was tough going doing it myself, but I now know these conversations with Russ and the recruitment team and Russ will head up all of that, and he’ll put all the structures in place. Going into January and next summer we’ll be far more prepared. And it’s so important that we are.”
“We want to be brilliant at recruitment. We want to not just get by. We want to be as good as we can be. And hopefully we can be that.”
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