Billy Stark favourite to take over as Mark McGhee is sacked by Aberdeen

Scotland Under-21 manager Billy Stark is the favourite to take over from Mark McGhee after Aberdeen dispensed with the services of the Gothenburg legend last night.

• Mark McGhee was sacked as Aberdeen manager last night after a dismal run of results. Picture: PA

Stark is a former Dons player and the work he has done with the young Scots is admired by former team mate Willie Miller.

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The Aberdeen director of football is the main man when it comes to choosing a successor to McGhee and Stark fits the profile given Miller's emphasis on the Pittodrie club's youth academy.

The search for a new manager started in earnest last night after McGhee, assistant Scott Leitch and goalkeeping coach Colin Meldrum were dismissed following a dismal sequence of results.

They leave after a run of just four points from the last 39 available and with Aberdeen only kept off the foot of the table courtesy of a superior goal difference over Hamilton Accies.

The weekend postponement of the home game against Celtic provided the board of directors with the ideal time to make the change as chairman Stewart Milne finally ran out of patience.

He backed McGhee following the 9-0 defeat at Celtic Park last month, the worst in the club's 107-year history but, on the back of worrying financial figures released last weekend, there had to be immediate signs of improvement at Kilmarnock.

The club's losses for last season pushed Aberdeen to more than 12m in the red at a time of dwindling attendances and when they are trying to finance a new training ground and state-of-the-art stadium.

Instead of getting better, though, the Dons turned in one of their most feckless displays of a disappointing season that even had the normally ebullient McGhee admitting he was worried for his future.

Those concerns were well founded as he was sacked along with his assistants after a board meeting yesterday, with Milne limiting himself to a simple statement.

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Now Milne will have to fund another dismissal just 17 months after the substantial pay-off for Jimmy Calderwood's managerial team. This time the bill will be in excess of 300,000.

Milne said: "On behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to thank Mark, Scott and Colin for their time at Aberdeen.

"It goes without saying that everyone at Aberdeen Football Club wishes Mark, Scott and Colin every success in the future."

Miller, who appointed McGhee in what had been a final choice between his fellow Gothenburg great and John Hughes, was unavailable for comment.The Aberdeen players were also remaining tight-lipped as far as on the record comments were concerned, but their off-the-record quotes confirm the long-held opinion that McGhee had lost the dressing room.

One said: "I think the feeling is that Christmas has come early with this news and I don't think too many will be unhappy at a change of management.

"That's not letting us off the hook, because we know that we need to be doing a lot better for the club, but there's been no enthusiasm from the three of them for a while now.

"To be honest, we were left with the feeling that they were just going through the motions at training and that doesn't help lift anyone."

Another revealed: "The players haven't covered themselves in glory, as we shouldn't be in this position, but it's hard to work for a manager who gave the impression that he didn't want to be there. The jungle drums were beating all day because we got wind of the fact that there was a board meeting and it was a boost for everyone that they are finally gone.

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"I think the boys will be delighted that there will be a fresh face and fresh ideas coming in as I don't think there was any doubt that they totally lost the dressing room some time ago."