‘At the minute it is a bit of a challenge’ - Derek McInnes on trying times at Aberdeen
Former Manchester United striker James Wilson has recovered in time to face Motherwell tomorrow, but teenager Dean Campbell is the only fully fit midfielder the Dons manager has available.
Scott Wright and Funso Ojo are out long term, while Stephen Gleeson and Craig Bryson have only just resumed training and are unlikely to be risked at Fir Park.
To make matters worse Lewis Ferguson joined former Motherwell striker Curtis Main in receiving a straight red card during the draw against Hibernian prior to the international break.
That means the pair not only miss tomorrow’s match but they are also banned for the visit of Celtic on Sunday week.
McInnes admits it’s a far from ideal situation at time when Aberdeen have won just three of their first eight league games and been knocked out of the Betfred Cup.
He said: “Sometimes as a manager your job can be easy as you pick the same team and tell them ‘on you go again’.
“You have that natural team selection and when we have had our best results over the years that has been the case.
“Over the years with our different squads when everyone was fit you could probably have named 10 of my starting 11 for games.
“Sometimes being a manager is difficult and at the minute it is a bit of a challenge, and you have to find different ways to pick up points until players come back.
“That’s exactly the sort of the challenge we’re facing just now with so many midfielders still unavailable, and the suspension of Ferguson makes it even more frustrating.
“He is a natural central midfielder and was outstanding against Hibs, but I spoke to him after the Hibs game. It wasn’t a reckless challenge but it was mistimed.
“He was in midfield on his own putting out fires left, right and centre, and he was maybe over-eager to make a challenge and stop Hibs from countering. I’m not going to be too critical of him but his absence adds to an already difficult situation.”
It shows just how important Ferguson has become to the team that McInnes rates the 20-year-old as one of their most valuable assets.
The Dons manager is a realist when assessing his players and knows there’s already interest in someone signed from Hamilton Accies under freedom of contract last year.
McInnes expects more offers for former Aston Villa, Celtic and Hull City target Scott McKenna during the January transfer window.
Sam Cosgrove’s 14 goals in 15 games so far this season mean the striker will also be on a number of clubs radar for the January transfer window.
McInnes puts Ferguson in the same bracket, even though there will be no rush or pressure to sell any one soon.
He added:“When you look at value in the team in terms of assets I would say McKenna, Cosgrove and Ferguson have value. In terms of what they give to me on a Saturday I’ve had that value from them on a regular basis.
“January has always been a window where you have to react to the situation, but as a manager you have to deal with situations all the time.
“If you have a young, international first pick centre half in McKenna you expect people to see what we see and what Steve Clarke sees.
“Anybody who is doing recruitment acknowledges there is a striker with size and ability in Cosgrove. I don’t worry about interest being shown in these players and I know if they fulfil their potential, their form and ability will take them elsewhere at some point.”