Hampden is a home from home for Aberdeen's Mark Reynolds

It isn't through boastfulness that Mark Reynolds answers a gentle question about his previous Hampden experiences with the remark: 'How long have you got?'
Aberdeen's Mark Reynolds says he virtually lived at Hampden as a kid. Picture: SNSAberdeen's Mark Reynolds says he virtually lived at Hampden as a kid. Picture: SNS
Aberdeen's Mark Reynolds says he virtually lived at Hampden as a kid. Picture: SNS

The Aberdeen defender isn’t preparing to list a long litany of appearances at the national stadium, though he has played there, for his current side as well as Motherwell.

Instead, he is reflecting on how he as good as grew up at the stadium. His father, Brian, was a coach at Queen’s Park under long-time manager Eddie Hunter’s regime in the 1980s and early 1990s. While Aberdeen have not played a final at the stadium since 2000, the central defender, whose family lived in Glasgow’s southside, certainly knows the way there ahead of Sunday’s Betfred Cup final with Celtic.

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“My dad was the Queen’s Park coach so I was in Hampden every day,” he explains.

“In terms of my professional career, I haven’t had that much experience.

“I am very familiar with the place but I am hoping to get more familiar with a trophy in my hand. I have had a few semi-finals which have been a mixed bag. This will be the first final I have been involved in so it will be nice to go there.”

Another return to the stadium so soon after last month’s semi-final victory over Morton will surely stir memories of messing around on the Hampden pitch.

Back then, when 29-year-old Reynolds was only a child, the old stadium could feel awe-inspiring even without anyone in it. On Sunday it will be packed to the rafters with over 50,000 fans, half of them urging Reynolds and his team-mates on. It will feel nostalgic for many of the older Dons fans, as it will for Reynolds.

“My Dad coached the first team alongside Eddie Hunter years ago,” explained Reynolds. “He did that for about 10-12 years so I was well used to playing at Hampden. I wasn’t supposed to be on the pitch.

“They used to train at Lesser Hampden and Eddie used to make them run up the stairs at Hampden a good few times. There is a lot of stairs at Hampden and they would be doing that for a while so I used to get a ball and knock it about with my brother on the park.

“It will be nice to go back and score a few goals like I used to when I was a boy. There was no goalkeeper, the way I like it! I am used to being at Hampden but it will be nice to go back and play for a trophy.

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“It was great to have that opportunity as a kid,” he added. “You had the run of the place. I would take pals with me and they couldn’t believe they had the chance to run around Hampden.

“For me, that was every Tuesday and Thursday night. However there is an added edge this weekend as you have earned the right to be on the park and you are playing for silverware.

“That is what you want in your career. There are guys who never get a chance to play in a final during their career. We have managed to do it once and we have seen how good it can be. We want more than anything to make that happen again.”

Reynolds concedes that his own involvement this weekend hinges on manager Derek McInnes, who has preferred to start Andrew Considine and Anthony O’Connor at centre-back in recent weeks.

“We have got a strong squad this season,” said Ryenolds. “I sat out at the start of the season, came back in and played well.

“Then I got suspended, he never changed it, and then I got back in and played a few games. That is what can happen in football.

“I have spoken to the manager before and we both came to the conclusion that all I can do is put in good performances and train well. He is going to pick the team and he has got a job on his hands picking 11 players because this is the strongest squad we have ever had at Aberdeen since I have been here. We probably have 14 or 15 players who could play every week.

“We have been getting results and good performances so you are not expecting wholesale changes,” Reynolds added, with reference to back-to-back away wins against Partick Thistle and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, both of which times he appeared as a late substitute.

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“The manager has tweaked the team in the past for certain opposition and it is good he has the strength in depth to be able to do that.

“It is frustrating as I have been used to playing every week every year of my career and that is changing now. All I can do is get my head down, work hard and make it a more difficult decision not to play me.”