Kilmarnock boss Derek McInnes has praised the job his enthusiastic former player Barry Robson has done in steadying the ship at Aberdeen.
The pair worked together for almost eight years, with McInnes making Robson one of the first signings of his long Dons reign in 2013 before handing him a coaching role when he hung up his boots.
Robson was promoted from his role as under-18s coach to become interim boss following the sacking of Jim Goodwin in January and was last week handed the reins until the end of the season.
The 44-year-old former Scotland midfielder has overseen five victories in seven matches ahead of this weekend’s visit from mentor McInnes and his Kilmarnock side.
“I speak to Barry regularly,” said McInnes. “He was an important team member (player) first and foremost and then he became a member of my staff when I gave him a coaching role.
“He was a valuable member of my staff, so important to me. He was a great competitor and a great learner. He was full of enthusiasm, particularly on a match day. He was really important for me in the dressing room.
“He’s obviously been doing the 18s for a while now and he’s been bursting for an opportunity. He’s been given this opportunity and he’s done very well.
“Looking at Barry and looking at Aberdeen, I think they’re a very good team. They’ve got good players and for whatever reason, they weren’t really getting that consistency but Barry’s managed to get a bit of consistency in the last period of time.
“He’s kept it simple, pretty basic. It’s not ‘we’re going to do this and that’, it’s been pretty structured in terms of playing the ball forward, supporting quickly with good energy and physicality.
“They’re not pretending to be something they’re not. They’ve got two goalscorers at the top end of the pitch (Luis Lopes and Bojan Miovski). They’ve got good players and Barry’s managing to get a tune out of them.”
The Dons looked in danger of finishing in the bottom six when Robson first took over but he has hoisted them to within a point of third-placed Hearts.
McInnes – who presided over consistent top-three finishes during his time in charge – believes Aberdeen will have budgeted for a European place this term and was keen to point out their expenditure under Goodwin last summer was higher than he was used to in his time at the helm.
“I think that is the demand that was set out for them at the start of the season – the Holy Grail of third place and Europe,” he said. “Aberdeen have invested really well in terms of the squad.
“They probably spent more in three or four weeks in the summer than I did in eight years – that’s a fact. They’re certainly being backed to try and get third or fourth spot and get into Europe.”