After fearing they were losing a popular managerial team just a few weeks ago, Aberdeen fans can now look forward to an extended period of stability under Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty.
Nothing is guaranteed of course. Although still under contract, McInnes had looked set to leave for Sunderland earlier this summer.
But the news from Pittodrie yesterday afternoon that McInnes and Docherty, his assistant, had signed new contracts until 2020 is a further fillip for supporters who had every reason to feel downbeat at the end of last season. A last-minute Scottish Cup final defeat to Celtic was compounded by knowledge of Sunderland’s interest in McInnes and the expected imminent break-up of a talented side.
Confirmation the manager has now extended his deal for another 12 months will potentially put off other suitors while adding to the sense of positivity at Pittodrie.
Aberdeen might have their work cut out to reach the third qualifying round of the Europa League against NK Siroki Brijeg tomorrow night. But they now appear to be in good shape ahead of the league kick-off next month.
“We’ve still a lot to do both on and off the pitch and as I’ve mentioned on several occasions I want our tenure here with Aberdeen to be remembered fondly as a successful period and one where we were winning trophies,” McInnes said after signing the new deal.
“I am committed to trying to bring more success to the club and with the excellent squad of players we have and the backing of our brilliant supporters, it is important we keep driving forward both on and off the pitch and maximise our full potential as a club.”
“I love working for the club,” he added. “Our aim must always be to have a competitive, confident Aberdeen team on the pitch, producing young players and training professionally in a modern facility that is in keeping with the ambitious club we are. We require the full support of the city and all our supporters to help us achieve that.”
McInnes had already explained he felt there was “unfinished business” at Aberdeen, who finished runners-up to Celtic in all three major domestic competitions last season.
Fans last week displayed their delight with the summer developments after initially fearing they were losing the managerial team, unveiling a banner at last week’s first leg v Siroki Brijeg which read: “The cycle continues thank you Derek & Doc”.
This referenced a comment from Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha towards the end of last season where he appeared to suggest Aberdeen’s current period of success and status as nearest challengers to Celtic was coming to an end.
With Niall McGinn then on the brink of departing and speculation surrounding Jonny Hayes’ future, Caixinha’s words were based on at least some evidence.
While both these players have since left the club McInnes was in a good position to demand fresh funds from the board to replace them, re-signing Ryan Christie on loan from Celtic and adding Birmingham City’s Greg Stewart, another loan signing. Gary Mackay-Steven has also arrived after a £150,000 transfer from Celtic – only the third time the Pittodrie club have paid a six-figure fee in the last decade.
Nicky Maynard and Greg Tansey, a pre-contract signing from Inverness Caledonian Thistle, also joined this summer as McInnes engages with the task of rebuilding his squad.
The manager’s decision to stay at Aberdeen also helped convince established first-team players Joe Lewis and Shay Logan to sign contract extensions.
Stewart Milne, the Aberdeen chairman, yesterday saluted the latest club employees to commit their futures to the club. “I mentioned recently that Derek and Tony had demonstrated their loyalty to and ambitions for the club when they elected to remain and this contract extension reaffirms that,” he said.
Aberdeen fly to Bosnia this morning in search of a result that will extend their participation in the Europa League.
After drawing 1-1 at Pittodrie last week they need to win outright on the night or secure a high scoring draw – 2-2 or higher. They could also go through on penalties in the event of a 1-1 draw.
McInnes last week recalled good results already secured abroad in his reign, including wins against Dutch side FC Groningen and also Rijeka, in Croatia.
Siroki Brijeg skipper Josip Barisic has even labelled Aberdeen as favourites to go through, despite his side having home advantage.
“I’m happy with how we played at Aberdeen and we scored away from home which is brilliant for us,” he said. “But I still think Aberdeen are the favourites for the second match.”