Josh Walker hopes Aberdeen can add to feel good factor over Derek McInnes’ Sunderland snub by reaching European group stages



Josh Walker knows Aberdeen are feeling good about themselves after manager Derek McInnes rejected the chance to move to Sunderland.

But the former Dons midfielder insists they will be on cloud nine if the current team match what he experienced in reaching in the Europa League group stages.

The Pittodrie club have failed to qualify the lucrative group section since then boss Jimmy Calderwood guided the side to an unforgettable last 32 tie with Bayern Munich in the old UEFA Cup during the 2007/08 campaign.

Walker (third from right) helped launched City’s new strip at Football Nation in Edinburgh

After finishing third in a daunting group that included Atletico Madrid, Panathinaikos, Copenhagen and Lokomotiv Moscow, Walker sensationally gave the Dons the lead against Bayern in a 2-2 home draw before losing the second leg 5-1.

No Scottish club outside the Old Firm has come close to mirroring that achievement, with the Dons falling at the third qualifying round hurdle in the last three straight seasons.

Aberdeen discovered yesterday that they will face either Kazakh side Ordabasy or Široki Brijeg of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the second qualifying round and Walker would love to see the side team create more European memories.

Walker, who now captains League Two side Edinburgh City, said: “That Bayern Munich game was a great night not only for myself but for all the lads that played in it and the staff and the fans.

“It’s a night that no-one will ever forget, so to be part of that – it was a great occasion. I just hope that the club can go on and get some more nights like that.

“There’s a lot of games to try and qualify so it was a great achievement by Aberdeen back when I was there.

“I had actually joined after they qualified so I got the luxury games but there’s a lot of hard work and effort that goes into it.

“They’ll be back in pre-season now and they’ll be working hard.

“They’ve got some good players there although I know they’ve lost a couple, but I’m sure they’ll replace them.

“The manager has stayed which is a good thing for the club and I would love to see them doing well. I would love to see them go one step further than we did.

“It’s really hard to get there and obviously now with the Champions League and the money from that, teams from English Premier League that would expect to get there are not even qualifying for the Champions League, they’re going into the Europa League so it makes it even tougher for the Scottish teams.”

Aberdeen fans were celebrating last week when successful manager McInnes turned down the chance to move to English Championship side Sunderland and former Middlesbrough player Walker admits he was stunned by the 45-year-old’s decision.

He added: “There’s definitely a feel-good factor just now with the manager staying and I was definitely surprised by that.

“The pull of going down south, especially to a big club like Sunderland, would have been a no-brainer but it shows his loyalty to Aberdeen.

“I’ve read a few articles saying that he has unfinished business there so that shows his intent and he has obviously been given some backing from the club and the board and I think it’s great.

“It’s also good for Scottish football that a high quality Scottish manager is staying in the Premiership and I think it bodes well for the season ahead.”