Jim Goodwin is currently caught between two stools. When the new manager arrived in February he probably didn’t envisage a scenario where he would be tasked with looking ahead to next season – he has revealed “five or six” new players have already been identified – amid ongoing uncertainty about where Aberdeen will be playing when the new campaign kicks off.
This is not a reference to a since-shelved new stadium plan in Kingsford. A more recent proposal is to move to a new ground next to Pittodrie. Whether it is demolished or preserved, the old stadium will not want to witness a first-ever relegation.
Aberdeen have flirted before with this doomsday scenario, even finishing bottom in 2000 when the top-flight was being expanded to 12 teams. They were saved from a play-off due to Falkirk’s ground not fulfilling the 10,000 seats criteria.
It is, then, a high stakes afternoon for Aberdeen as they host Dundee, the Premiership’s bottom club. The struggling Dens Park side might not have won for ten games under new manager Mark McGhee but home fans will still treat them warily. Dundee’s own situation is so dire they have nothing much left to lose. McGhee, meanwhile, will be viewed as someone who would love to turn his old team over at home given the way his stock has fallen at Pittodrie over the years.
Defeat is almost unthinkable for Aberdeen and if combined with a St Johnstone victory against St Mirren would invite serious concerns to form at Pittodrie. Only two points would then separate them – and St Mirren – from the Perth side in 11th place. Aberdeen’s next two games are away at Hibs and then St Johnstone.
The Hibs comparison above seems relevant. The Easter Road side were enduring a poor season in 2013-14 but few thought it could lead to relegation via the play-off until they found themselves in the bottom six and lost four of their last five games. The panic really started after Terry Butcher’s side fell 2-1 to already relegated local rivals Hearts in the second game post-split.
While Goodwin has contended that the mood is upbeat at Cormack Park Jonny Hayes did confess that the players’ confidence has taken a hit in recent weeks. However, the winger is still looking up – which means he is eyeing the five-point gap between Aberdeen and Livingston and Hibs above them. Those two teams play today at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
“For me personally, I always try and look forward,” he said. “We want to do our best to try and catch the teams above us in the league. It’s all very tight at the bottom of the league and we obviously need to be aware of where we are in the table.”
Hayes signed a new deal earlier this season and has no plans to spend next season in the Championship. He believes it’s already reached a nadir and the only way is up.
“Where we are in the league, some of the results we have had, it can't get much worse to be honest,” he said. “It has to get better. Everyone associated with the club expects better.”