How Aberdeen remain captivating work in progress under Stephen Glass - playing identity, intriguing recruitment, midfield options

Aberdeen are in the nascent stages of a new era under the management of Stephen Glass.

Stephen Glass alongside coaches Allan Russell and Henry Apaloo. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Stephen Glass alongside coaches Allan Russell and Henry Apaloo. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

For Dons supporters this summer will provoke feelings of excitement, anticipation, intrigue, apprehension and even concern. The first time in eight years they are under new management.

The appointment of Glass, like that of 99 per cent of managerial selections, is akin to heading on a night out somewhere new. It could be a complete bust, only one place to go but it is lifeless and expensive. You could be judged too much of an outsider and chased out of town. Or it could be a huge success and you’re out for days.

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The not knowing feeds back into those feelings of excitement and apprehension.

A real find for Steve Clarke early in his tenure, settled back into the team having missed the recent World Cup qualifiers. Replaced at half-time.

On arrival, Glass talked of “attacking football”, playing without fear no matter the venue or the opposition.

“When I came into the club as a really young kid, that's what was expected of me,” he said. “Attacking, trying to win games every week. When you go to Glasgow, you're going to win. That's the aim – fast, attacking football, scoring goals."

Evolving process

It’s something every fan wants to hear when a manager comes to town. It’s admirable and ambitious but never as straightforward and easy to put into practice. The reality is that it will be an evolving process.

The good news, in addition to the handful of games at the end of the last season, Glass has three further weeks with the players on the training ground – and for signings – before they face Hacken in the Conference League qualifying encounter.

Owner Dave Cormack swiftly replacing Derek McInnes with Glass prior to the end of the season could actually be a masterstroke. That time with the squad, getting actual games, will be crucial. You could argue acted as somewhat of a reality check or a sobering experience but one which should be looked upon as a positive.

Take the loss to Dundee United in the Scottish Cup. That wasn’t a performance from a team buoyed by a new manager. It was a team weary and in need of rejuvenation.

"I want to think forward,” Glass said after the loss at Pittodrie. “We will prepare the players in a way they are able to do this.

“Next year, I'm hoping they will be a different group and a different mindset in handling that sort of thing, a group of men that is able to compete.”

Recruitment intrigue

Those last nine words take on greater significance and are even more meaningful now we are almost into July and Glass has begun to make his mark on the squad.

Seven players have been added. And it’s the age profile which is most interesting. The average age is 28.6 with five of the seven 30 or older.

There is plenty of experience and know-how now, right through the squad.

Take Declan Gallagher, Scott Brown and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas for example. Yes, they are men, but they also know how to compete. They may not be the sexiest of signings but they provide Aberdeen with a solid spine and that understanding of Scottish football. Battle-hardened, physical, the knowledge of what is required when games are scrappy or not going your way.

In essence, they seem like signings McInnes would make.

And some Dons fans may be thinking the team is already well versed in the grittier side of the game. It is a fair point.

The recruitment so far can’t be described as exciting and doesn't quite fit with the “fast, attacking football, scoring goals" Glass spoke about.

Christian Ramirez may well be one of the most compelling recruits anywhere in Scotland this summer.

The 30-year-old US international is not the quickest and can be cumbersome, while his scoring rate has been on the wane with a goal every three-and-a-half games since 2018. Yet, he is a shrewd link man, good with the ball at his feet and consistent and precise passer which will benefit supporting forwards or midfielders breaking forward.

In every likelihood it will be him or Emmanuel-Thomas as the focal point each week.

Where everyone fits

Working back, Ryan Hedges should play an important creative role, the best of Matty Kennedy is still to be seen at Pittodrie, while Niall McGinn will have his moments and Glass will be hoping to progress the development of Connor McLennan, who finished the season playing at right-back.

Another striker is a must as is more pace in the final third if the "fast, attacking football" the manager talked about is to come to fruition.

One area of the pitch which is well stocked is the centre of midfield. Teddy Jenks’ arrival on loan from Brighton means Glass has Ross McCrorie, Lewis Ferugson, Brown, Dylan McGeouch, Dean Campbell, Miko Virtanen, Jenks and the returning Funso Ojo as options.

It is very likely some of those depart, possibly Ferguson or McCrorie for decent money.

There is a nice blend in there with players who can protect the defence, provide verticality, control the tempo and offer a goal threat but as has been the case for a couple of years, the Dons lack a creative No.10 who can operate artfully between the lines.

The team's foundations will be built around the leadership of Gallagher. With Mikey Devlin and Andy Considine the other centre-backs it is a position which certainly needs reinforcement, especially someone with pace.

Jack Gurr, described as an attacking full-back, and Calvin Ramsay should compete for the right-back position and it will be interesting to see if Glass considers Jonny Hayes as an option at left-back, with Considine and Jack MacKenzie other options within the squad.

With a month until the start of the cinch Premiership season, Aberdeen remain, alongside Celtic, the most captivating work in progress.

A new manager, a new era but so far not quite the revolution many may have expected. There is still plenty time left, however.

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