All the dots joined together. A former player. A hungry, ambitious coach. His relationship with owner Dave Cormack His work at Atlanta. His penchant for attacking football.
It’s the final point that is perhaps the most salient. McInnes’ Aberdeen had become a hard watch for many. The majority of his near eight-year tenure brought success, but as the wheels started to come off, the lack of entertaining football was highlighted.
So it was no surprise that 15 days from McInnes’ departure, Glass was announced as the Dons’ new boss. Still in the US, quarantine rules make it unlikely he will be in situ right away. Aberdeen had been expected to take more time in appointing a manager, but the reality is that Glass was always at the forefront of their minds. Had he not left this month, McInnes and the club were poised to part ways in the summer, and Cormack had already drafted up plans to replace him. A recent run of rotten form and performances just accelerated the process. With the Scottish Cup campaign starting a week on Saturday and Livingston hunting them down for a European spot, Aberdeen had to act.
There was a line in Cormack’s interview when unveiling Glass that showed what style of play Aberdeen will have under the 44-year-old Dundonian. “His winning mentality, having been mentored in the ‘Aberdeen Way’ from an early age, and desire to embrace the Club’s strategy were key factors in our decision,” said Cormack. “He is committed to an exciting, attacking style of football and maximising our player budget so we can get the best out of, and right balance between, experienced players and, crucially, developing and playing young first team players.”
Cormack and members of the Aberdeen board had become weary of turgid, listless displays by the team latterly under McInnes. One goal and one win in ten matches are statistics that will make most in the north-east blush. That’s relegation form. Of course, it won’t cost them their place in the Premiership – but it has all but cost them third place in the league to Hibs.
Atlanta-based businessman Cormack is big on optics. He launched AberDNA and namechecked the “Aberdeen Way”. He wants to rebrand the club, to make it a vibrant operation represented by a team that plays swashbuckling football, that entertains its public and challenges for trophies and European football. Glass is a smooth, well-spoken character who always looks dapper in front of a camera. He was a smart, cultured player, be it in central midfield or out on the left and won the League Cup in 1995 with the Dons. He was an important component of an attractive Hibs team that dazzled under Tony Mowbray and also excelled in England with Newcastle and Watford. A Scotland internationalist too, if Aberdeen mirror Glass as a player, they will be a suave outfit.
But take this appointment away from the red-and-white fanfare of a former player returning home and you could put in the “gamble” category. Glass has never managed in this country, and is taking over one of Scotland’s biggest clubs. He has risen through the ranks as a coach, starting off in Ireland with Shamrock Rovers and then in the States at Carolina RailHawks, Triangle Futbol Club and Carolina Rapids, but his only experience of front-line management was in a caretaker capacity last year when Frank de Boer left Atlanta in July. He was in charge for 19 matches, winning five, drawing four and losing ten before Gabriel Heinze took over in January this year. Those figures are hardly inspiring, although much of his good work in Georgia was done with the club’s second string. “We can’t thank Stephen enough for his contributions to the club,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales, who also sits on the Aberdeen board, said. “For the past three seasons, he has played a crucial role in the development of players across all levels of the club, from academy to first team. Stephen will undoubtedly be missed.”
Current Celtic captain Scott Brown, who knows Glass well from their time together at Easter Road and was mentored by him as a youngster, is widely tipped to join him at Pittodrie as a player-assistant manager. While yet to be confirmed, it’s an ambitious bit of business and will remodel a coaching set-up long overseen by McInnes and Tony Docherty. Any change to Aberdeen’s management team was going to be eye-catching considering the longevity of the aforementioned incumbents, but it will look even more striking should Brown be in the home dugout.
Glass has a job on his hands, though. His appointment is not universally popular with the Red Army – some see it as an “easy” option given the club’s strategic partnership with Atlanta. Goodwill might be short supply from the support. Aberdeen have not finished outside of the top four for some time and, while jaded with McInnes, fighting for a European spot is a lot more enjoyable for fans than dwelling in the bottom six and flirting with relegation.
He will have a blank canvas. Gary Woods, Shay Logan, Ash Taylor, Greg Leigh, Tommie Hoban, Mikey Devlin, Niall McGinn, Ethan Ross and Connor McLennan are all out of contract, with many likely to move on. Forwards Florian Kamberi, Fraser Hornby and Callum Hendry are all loanees and are expected to return to their parent clubs. A huge rebuilding job is needed.
If Glass is somehow able to overhaul Hibs and claim third place this season – they trail them by seven points with five games remaining – or win the Scottish Cup, then his appointment will naturally be an instant hit. But the likelihood is that Aberdeen’s rebranding will take time, with the hope that a touch of Glass will bring a touch of class.