Brendan Rodgers backs Derek McInnes to succeed in England

In an environment as precarious as football, where fortunes fluctuate depending on ever-changing circumstances, it is dangerous to consider either failure or success as something permanent.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has been praised by his Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNSAberdeen manager Derek McInnes has been praised by his Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has been praised by his Celtic counterpart Brendan Rodgers. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS

That is why Brendan Rodgers believes Derek McInnes can one day head back to English football and prove that his spell at Bristol City was a blip.

McInnes had made the shift to Ashton Gate from St Johnstone in October 2011. He saved them from relegation in his first season but he was relieved of his position midway through the following season, with the team back at the foot of the table. But Rodgers puts that down to bad timing rather than a lack of managerial nous.

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“Can he go to England and work in a big job? Of course he can – 150 per cent he can. It’s just about timing. He is a very good manager,” said the Celtic boss who will pit his wits against his Aberdeen counterpart at Pittodrie tonight, with Aberdeen looking to consolidate their second-place status and give themselves some momentum ahead of the upcoming Scottish Cup final. “He was unfortunate more with circumstances and if you think of his management career and what he did up here before he went down, he did very well.

“But Bristol City at that time were going through managers. Steve Coppell went in there as a pretty prestigious manager and it was very, very difficult. He wasn’t in there that long before he left. He obviously saw issues there. Bristol have their stadium now and got a young manager in in Lee Johnston who has done a great job but it’s all about timing and at that time, with Derek, it was difficult.”

Rated highly, there are some who view the current campaign as an indication that McInnes may have taken the north-east club as far as he can. Aberdeen have proved to be the Glasgow champions’ main rival in the Premiership for the third successive season, but have found it tougher to launch a realistic title challenge this term. They were also the foiled League Cup foes and will have one last opportunity to steal a share of the season’s spoils when they meet up at Hampden on 27 May. But with Celtic’s immediate future looking bright under Rodgers, there is a feeling that McInnes may become fed up playing second fiddle.

Rodgers, who describes the former Rangers and West Brom player as “conscientious” and “diligent”, does not necessarily buy into that. “I think he is happy – when I speak to him,” said Rodgers. “He sees a plan going forward, for a new training ground and hopefully a new stadium.

“He recruited very well last summer, adding to boys who are very much in tune with how he works. They have performed well for him. Some may leave in the summer but there is a chance to go again. I think how he has done that in the time he has been there has been exceptional.

“He went in four years ago after coming up from Bristol City. I know that was a tough gig and when Derek went in there he was working with two sets of players from two different managers. But in football you are going to be up and down and you have to have that ability to pick yourself up and go again. To pick himself up and go and do the job he has done? He has done a fantastic job.

“Derek speaks about the game really well. What impressed me initially was he was all about development, he wasn’t scared to put a young player in.

“I gave him Danny Ward when I was at Liverpool and I can obviously look at it a bit closer since I’ve been here. I mean they haven’t got a training ground! That is something fundamental you need. So he is developing players without having a stable environment for them. But he’s made them very competitive. We’ve played them four times and they have been tough games. He’s done a brilliant job there.”

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“I remember that the drums were being beaten quite loudly that Rangers were going to come in and win the league or certainly be the closest challenger, but Aberdeen are sitting nine points clear in second place having been consistent. They will want to be up there again [next season]. Rangers will want to be up there, Hibs and Hearts, and St Johnstone will be there or abouts. But I do expect Aberdeen to be there because they have been there consistently for the last few seasons.”