Shay Logan signing a new contract to remain at Aberdeen for the next two seasons was a genuinely surprising piece of news yesterday. For the last 16 months there have rumours continuously circling that the following transfer window, whenever it was, would see the right back leave Pittodrie.
After initially arriving on loan from Brentford - where, yes, his boss was Mark Warburton - he agreed to join Aberdeen permanently when his contract expired with the west London club. In the time between, he played nearly every game for the Dons, including the League Cup final where the club ended their 19-year wait for silverware in front of 40,000 fans at Celtic Park.
This must have been very persuasive in keeping Logan to stay in Scotland, because once the dust had settled he began to doubt his decision. His partner and young child remained in England while he worked hundreds of miles away in our North East. Despite launching a surprise title challenge to Celtic with a fantastic run prior to the New Year, there was talk that Derek McInnes was going to lose his trusted right back in last year’s January window.
He stuck around for the rest of the season and though a summer move was regularly mooted, it never transpired. It was assumed this was down to Aberdeen digging their heels in and demanding absolute professionalism from their under-contract player. That was until yesterday when Logan decided, finally, after much soul searching, that the best thing for his career, which only has a shelf life of another five or so seasons, was to remain where he was.
From a career perspective it’s easy to see why. Returning to the Championship or, perhaps more likely, League One in England could have meant a better wage packet and the ability to play closer to home, but the opportunity to experience real football glory, like Logan did in one of his first games against Inverness CT in the League Cup show-piece, is greater north of the border. With 24 teams in each of England’s lower divisions it’s so difficult to stand out from the crowd. That’s true of both teams and players.
Aberdeen’s business over the last two seasons would have played a big part in Logan deciding to give this another go. They’ve been so adept at holding on to their stars. Typically, the downside to our teams doing very well over the course of a season or two is that we tend to lose our best players as a result, particularly if you’re a non-Old Firm side. Look at Dundee United at the turn of the decade, or the Inverness CT cup-winning side from last season. Even the Motherwell team, which did nothing in the cups but managed to finish best-of-the-rest three years running, saw the heart of their side ripped out in year two of that run. Aberdeen, on the other hand, will keep the entire core of their team through the next campaign. Only goalkeeper Scott Brown - whom finding an upgrade on will be priority No.1 for McInnes this season - and the near-retirement Barry Robson are out of contract from the first team squad.
If they can strengthen the squad this summer with a new goalkeeper, centre back and a back-up striker who can add something a bit different than Adam Rooney or Simon Church, if they can keep the latter, is there any reason they can’t have another go at winning the title?
People would say they’ve missed their shot. That the opportunity was there this season to finish above a poor Celtic side and they failed to take it. However, as I wrote in a previous article on Aberdeen’s title hopes, they still needed at least 84 points to win the title this season. That’s the likely total that Celtic are going to get and, regardless of what you think of the ability of Ronny Deila’s side, that’s a pretty high number to try and better. I don’t think this Aberdeen team was good enough to get that many points from a single season. But if you do believe this current side was good enough to reach such a total then you should retain some confidence in their ability to right this season’s wrongs and hit such a mark next term.
Ah, I hear you say, what about Rangers coming back into the league? Won’t that make it more difficult? To an extent, yes. If you’re a “provincial” club like Aberdeen - and you can add Hearts into this as well - one of the barriers that makes it hard to put together the type of runs required to put in a substantial title race is playing two teams, four times each a season, who have much greater resources. It means you’re likely to lose these matches more often than you’ll win, which diminishes the opportunity to put together a confidence boosting run, the type you definitely need to put together a title challenge.
By the same token, we’ve seen that Aberdeen are capable of taking points off Celtic this season and, on their day, performing better than the Parkhead side. If they can continue to play in a such a positive manner against Celtic then it should mean they can take points off Rangers as well, while at the same time Rangers cause more problems for Celtic, lowering the bar in which to reach the top. Even if Hearts strengthen and get involved, that’s another side who could potentially cause Celtic or Rangers to stumble.
This is exactly the sort of thing they would have been saying to Logan while persuading him to sign a new deal. He knows that this season’s team was on the verge of something great, something historic, something that would have been forever remembered at a club with an already proud tradition. They fell short on this occasion, but they’re not ready to throw in the towel yet. They’ve got a strong group of players, the best of whom are all still in the prime of their careers, who feel they can do it next time around. Logan obviously believed in that dream and he signed on for another two years to help try to make it happen.