Aberdeen, however, will rue the day it was ever mooted as a possibility. Their form since the break has been catastrophic enough to cost the job of one manager and maybe even put off a host of other potential replacements. Former Poland manager Czeslaw Michniewicz, who left his post shortly after his side were knocked out of the World Cup at the last 16 stage, is the latest to be linked with the Pittodrie vacancy, as surreal as that match-up might seem.
In the meantime, caretaker manager Barry Robson has stepped into the breach once more and he will hope to be granted a slightly more level playing field in Saturday afternoon’s death-rattle clash with Motherwell at Pittodrie than he was afforded at the same ground against Livingston on Wednesday night. All the training work ground and all the loan-signing scouting in the world can’t legislate for being reduced to ten men due to a disputed elbow from one of your most accomplished players in Ross McCrorie.
Are Aberdeen in a relegation battle? More will become clear come at around 5pm on Saturday evening. Another home defeat, their second in quick succession, cannot surely be borne on the back of three of the worst defeats in the club’s history. The Scottish Cup loss to Darvel, which was comfortably the worst since formation in 1903, was bookended by 5-0 and 6-0 reversals at Hearts and Hibs. Seven defeats in nine league outings is relegation form in anyone’s language. A rather unmemorable 2-0 win over St Johnstone in the first week of January has been invested with significance, since the three points keeps Aberdeen just about above the danger zone, for the time being at least.
Others are seriously fretting however, including Motherwell, this weekend’s visitors to Pittodrie. Ross County, meanwhile, face an arduous task at Ibrox but have added a goalscorer to the ranks in Simon Murray. Kilmarnock, just above the Highland side in ninth, look to be in peril because they have lost one in Kyle Lafferty. Liam Fox claimed Dundee United would emerge stronger from the window than they were going into it, but it’s hard to see how he can argue this has proved the case.
Goals are the precious commodity keeping clubs from the trap door. Tony Watt, who scored United’s winner when they last secured three points, at St Johnstone at New Year, has been allowed to leave on loan for St Mirren. Fair enough. But angering fans, who displayed an “Asghar Out” message at Kilmarnock in midweek, is the fact he has not been replaced. The damage from the 9-0 defeat to Celtic is still plain to see. United, at Hearts, sit bottom on goal difference despite the atrocious form of Motherwell, one place above them.
The Fir Park side haven’t won a league game since a victory over United in October. It’s how teams do against other teams around them that is likely to be the telling factor in who does in fact go straight down at the end of the season and who survives to fight another day, or indeed two days, in a home and away play-off tie.