The consensus among many Aberdeen supporters and, crucially, chairman Dave Cormack was that McInnes had run his race at Pittodrie and fresh blood was required. The Dons were not McInnes’ success stories of previous seasons, and eight years in one job is an awfully long time in the cut-throat world of football management.
What Aberdeen needed to do, though, was to find the person to take them to the next level, to win a trophy for the first time since 2014 and to reach the group stages of European competition.
Stephen Glass’ appointment did not come as a surprise. Cormack knew the former Aberdeen player via Atlanta United – the American club that has strong links to the Dons, where he was coaching. Yet when he was unveiled, there were some doubts: why replace a seasoned manager such as McInnes with a relative rookie like Glass when you are looking to improve. This appointment was a gamble – and one that has not paid off.
It is perhaps a smidgen unfair to judge Glass on the tail end of the 2020/21 campaign, given that he was working with McInnes’ players. Aberdeen ended up in fourth place in the Premiership, narrowly missing out on third to Hibs. The 3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat at home to Dundee United was a horrible result that left Glass in no doubt that he needed “men” to reach the standards expected of Aberdeen. The result was a blot on his copybook though, given that McInnes led Aberdeen to Hampden on multiple occasions.
What we have witnessed this season is not good enough for a team of Aberdeen’s standing in Scottish football. Glass leaves Aberdeen in ninth place in the league and while a victory over St Johnstone at home on Tuesday night would lift them back into the top six, Cormack and his board clearly felt the chances of that happening are enhanced without Glass in the dugout.
Cormack recently flew back to Aberdeen from the US and was in attendance on Saturday to witness the Dons’ Scottish Cup exit at the last-16 stage to Motherwell. Leading thanks to an early Christian Ramirez goal at Fir Park, the Steelmen fought back and prevailed 2-1. A decent number of supporters in the midweek match against Celtic called for Glass’ head and those chants grew louder at full time in Motherwell, with players and staff barracked as they ran the gauntlet past the fans on the way back to the dressing-rooms.
Cormack had seen enough. Glass was informed of the decision to relieve him of his duties on Sunday morning, with coaches Henry Apaloo and Allan Russell also exiting the building.
Glass was in charge of Aberdeen for 41 competitive matches and had a win ratio of 35 per cent. While there were promising moments this season – victories over Hearts and Hibs at Pittodrie, a 2-2 draw at reigning champions Rangers and reaching the Europa Conference League final play-off round – there were also extremely damaging defeats. Aberdeen were homesick under Glass, really struggling for wins away from Pittodrie, while there was a dire exit from the Premier Sports Cup in the last 16 stage to Raith Rovers. The style of football was far from flowing, and while key man Ryan Hedges spent much of his time under Glass either injured or unsettled by the spectre of an eventual move to Blackburn Rovers, Glass had quality players at his disposal. Ramirez, Lewis Ferguson, Ross McCrorie, David Bates, Scott Brown and Calvin Ramsay would improve many teams outside of the top two.
Glass’ remit was to coach and mould a good team. Aberdeen appointed Darren Mowbray, the brother of former Hibs and Celtic manager Tony, last summer as their new head of recruitment and the former Burnley man is believed to have identified many of the players brought in. Dutch winger Vicente Besuijen, signed last month to augment Aberdeen’s attack, was chosen by Mowbray. This way of working is becoming more and more common in Scottish football. Glass wanted more attacking options in January, with the club linked with free agent Robert Snodgrass in the past week.
Aberdeen’s players will be undertaking a bit of soul-searching right now. Ramirez, undoubtedly not an underperformer considering his goal-return, reacted on social media with a one-word expletive when Glass’ departure was announced. A squad of such repute should not be sitting where they are.
As always, the manager carries the can. Cormack and his director of football Steve Gunn will now lead the hunt for Glass’ successor. There is no timescale for an appointment. Former Hibs boss Jack Ross is the early favourite for the role, with St Mirren’s Jim Goodwin and Neil Lennon, out of work since this time last year, also listed. Interestingly, they are all far more experienced than Glass and such an appointment would show that the Aberdeen hierarchy want a steadier hand on the tiller.
Cormack’s punt on Glass turned out to be a costly one – on and off the pitch. He and his two departing assistants will need paid up, while failing to reach the latter stages of the cups will hurt the coffers. Finishing in bottom six would be catastrophic, however, considering the legacy left by McInnes less than a year ago. Where Glass goes from here, a thoroughly decent man to deal with but now sporting a failure on his fledgling managerial CV, is unclear. For Aberdeen and Cormack, though, it is crystal clear: they must get this next appointment right.