Stick or twist? The conundrum facing Aberdeen over the future of manager Derek McInnes

Derek McInnes is currently experiencing the most intense pressure of his Aberdeen career. Across their last eight league games they’ve won only once, picked up five points from a possible 24, and found the back of the net on just four occasions.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes received a vote of confidence from the club's board after recent results. Picture: SNS
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes received a vote of confidence from the club's board after recent results. Picture: SNS

The rut has left them five points behind Hibs in the race for third place and ruined any hope of competing with Celtic for a spot in the qualifying rounds of next season’s Champions League. It likely means a third consecutive campaign finishing in fourth place and a third consecutive campaign in which the football has mainly been endured rather than enjoyed by the Aberdeen support.

This is the crux of the matter for most Dons fans. It’s all just become boring and predictable. Finishing top four three years running is a level of consistency that no other club in Scotland outside of Glasgow can seemingly match, and that’s without taking into account the previous five years of success where the Dons didn’t finish any lower than third and even beat Rangers to the runners-up spot in consecutive seasons.

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But it’s also an indication of sustained regression and underachievement. Aberdeen have the third highest budget in the country but have found themselves behind Kilmarnock, Motherwell and now Hibs in the battle to call themselves the best of the rest. It would be forgivable if the football was entertaining, but Aberdeen have long treated the Scottish Premiership as a battle to be fought with attrition rather than gusto.

It also rankles that they were comfortably defeated by a Celtic side in full-on crisis mode in the Scottish Cup semi-final, while the first trophy in this post-Parkhead dominance will be won by either Livingston or St Johnstone.

There are still McInnes defenders and with good reason. Aberdeen were a basketcase before the former St Johnstone boss turned up in 2013. They’d finished in the bottom half 11 times in the previous 17 seasons, with most of them coming under Jimmy Calderwood’s tenure. Since then there has been sustained success and, if McInnes hangs around next season, it will almost certainly end with a top four finish and a place in Europe. Furthermore, his rejection of Sunderland and, most importantly, Rangers displayed the kind of loyalty all too rare in football these days.

The case of Calderwood is a ‘be-careful-what-you-wish-for’ warning for those demanding McInnes get the chop. While the former manager wasn’t quite as successful as the current boss, he did have the team in the top six every season. Once he was booted for seemingly taking them as far as he could, Aberdeen dropped like a stone under Mark McGhee and remained in the doldrums through Craig Brown’s tenure. You only have to look at the yo-yoing of Hearts and Hibs over the last decade to see that it could easily happen again at Pittodrie if they don’t get McInnes’ replacement spot on.

But a club with ambition should never shy away from change due to the prospect of failure. The foundations have been put in place, the club is in a much better place than which he found it, so it’s time to say ‘thank you for your service’ and see if someone else can push them forward.

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