Scottish football fans are accustomed to being driven to drink.
Dundee United defender Ryan Edwards hopes that was the case over the weekend — but for altogether more positive reasons.
“I’m sure they enjoyed the night and I hope they cracked open a few beers,” smiled the big Liverpudlian as he reflected on the absence of fans at Pittodrie over the weekend.
What an away day it would have been for the United faithful. Sweeping aside their New Firm rivals with style, swagger and — in the case of Edwards’ thundering header for the second goal — brute force.
A 3-0 win over Aberdeen on their own patch would have been cause for boisterous celebrations on a glorious afternoon up north; grey granite glistening in the sunshine.
The lack of fans hit Edwards especially hard given the send-off United were afforded 24 hours earlier. The first he knew of the gathering, which boss Micky Mellon would later describe as the driving force behind their win, was during their team lunch.
“When we left Tannadice, we saw the fans in their numbers cheering us on and I really do wish they could have been at Pittodrie,” he continued.
“We knew how big the game was and how important the rivalry was, but we didn’t know that was going to happen.
“We were eating dinner in the canteen and all we could see was orange-and-black T-shirts and smoke everywhere.
“It just gives you more fuel to the fire and we turned in our best performance this season.
— Dundee United FC (@dundeeunitedfc) April 26, 2021
“From back to front, the gameplay worked a treat. We worked on that all week. We knew they wanted to play out from the back and, with the legs we have up front, that we could cause them problems. They couldn’t deal with it.”
Not that any of that surprised Edwards.
Aberdeen will be happy to see the back of Dundee United this term. The Dons have faced the Tannadice outfit four times — with three different managers — and failed to win any of them. Indeed, they failed to score a goal.
So, if United were going to turn in the finest showing of the Mellon era against anyone, it was perhaps inevitable that it would be against Stephen Glass’ Reds.
“We knew Aberdeen wouldn’t want to come up against us,” said the ex-Plymouth Argyle and Blackpool man. “They haven’t scored a goal in four games against us, now.
“So we knew if we stayed solid and didn’t give Deniz [Mehmet] much to do, then with everything else we worked on — the pressing and pressure — we’d cause them problems.
“It could have been three or four at half-time and it would have been game over.
“When you play teams that always seem to get the better of you, then you don’t want to come up against them in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup. I’m sure that’s what they would have been thinking.”
— Scottish Cup (@ScottishCup) April 26, 2021
United’s attention now turns to the Scottish Cup semi-final against Hibs and the mouth-watering proposition of a tournament blown wide open by Rangers’ remarkable elimination at the hands of of St Johnstone.
With prestige, European football and substantial riches awaiting the winning club, Edwards — a defeated FA Youth Cup finalist with Blackburn in 2012 — has no intention of letting this opportunity at senior silverware slip.
“It will mean a lot to me to walk out at Hampden. I’ve never even been there before and it will be a special moment,” added Edwards. “But we’ll also have a job to do. We want to go one better now and get to the final.”