Aberdeen have signed ex-West Ham United striker Nicky Maynard but manager Derek McInnes has admitted that the tight Europa League transfer deadline has proved testing as he seeks to fill the void left by former stalwarts.
With Thursday night’s start to their Europa League campaign, against Bosnian side NK Siroki Brijeg, the Aberdeen boss was relieved to seal the one-year deal with his former Bristol City forward.
“We are under a wee bit of a squeeze because of the European deadline and because we’ve had a big turnover of players,” said McInnes. “It has put us under more strain.”
Last night’s midnight cut-off point leaves scope for just one more Europa League-eligible signing – between now and up to 24 hours prior to their first tie – and made Maynard’s arrival all the more welcome.
“The short time we had with him [at Ashton Gate, before the player was sold on to West Ham], we recognised his quality both on the training pitch and at the club,” added McInnes. “He’d come to us as a big-money signing but found himself playing in a team at the wrong end of the table.”
But his attributes were still obvious. “Nicky was always one who, technically, was a good player, really quick over the top, but more importantly a fantastic finisher. He has that calmness around the box.”
McInnes accepts that the intervening years have made the player’s arrival at Aberdeen possible but also rendered it a bit of a gamble. But, without the attacking threat of Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn for the first time in his Pittodrie tenure, it is a chance he is willing to take.
“He got a big-money move to West Ham but didn’t play much. He’s drifted about and not played as many games as he’d have wanted and he’s picked up injuries. So there’s an element of risk but we’re not going to be able to make a quality signing like him without an element of risk. I feel strongly that he’s a player of real quality. If we can keep him fit, he’s hungry and he’ll enjoy the platform we provide.
“We can genuinely say to players ‘there’s the opportunity to play in cup finals and at the right end of the table and in Europe’. He’s looking forward to getting a slice of that.”
The main challengers to Celtic in the league and denied only by Brendan Rodgers’ men in both cups last term, Maynard has already stated his determination to break Celtic’s stranglehold on domestic glory.
“You don’t go into a season expecting to finish second,” said the new arrival, who believes the Aberdeen management team know how to get the best out of him. “Whether I’m being unrealistic or not, I don’t know, but I feel like we can challenge them.”
Maynard’s arrival dulls the club’s interest in Stevie May but McInnes, who wants to strengthen his central defence and recruit a ball-carrying winger to help his team break at pace, says he has not written off enlisting Shaun Maloney, whose moved stalled when he flagged up some niggling injury concerns. It earned him McInnes’s respect but with the focus on Europe, and Maloney unfit to feature immediately, the deal has taken a back seat.
“Shaun was very transparent and honest,” said the manager. “Unlike most footballers he was keen for us to see the full picture. We are hopeful that we can still get Shaun but what is clear is that he is not going to be fit for the next few weeks or so. What we will do is dig a little bit deeper to get more reassurances for us but more importantly for the player. In Shaun’s words, he wants to be my best player and not be a burden and the more I speak to him, the more I like him.”