McInnes has been widely praised for his commitment his team of four years after turning down the chance to take the reins at a club that has just banked a £93.5 million parachute payment on the back of dropping out of the English top flight.
Yet, despite the fact that the 45-year-old has clearly passed up the opportunity of a huge wage hike and the chance to work with a multi-million transfer budget in favour of preserving Aberdeen’s status as the second-best team in Scotland with limited resources, Hartson refused to commend McInnes’ conduct in the face of being pursued by the Wearsiders.
When it was put to the former Celtic striker that McInnes’ decision to stay put showed where his heart lies, the Welshman retorted: “No, it doesn’t. If it did then why did he even speak to Sunderland? Why talk to other clubs if you’re happy? You just say: ‘I’m content here and I don’t want to speak to anyone else.’
“He’s obviously gone down to Sunderland looking to get the job and then hasn’t been impressed by them. They haven’t matched his ambition or given him what he wanted – whatever he’s seen, he’s not been pleased by it so he’s gone back to Aberdeen.
“Derek’s said that he’s happy to carry on up there but when I was a player and enjoying my football I would tell my agent not to bother informing me about any other clubs who were interested in me.
“And, when I was happy at a club, I also asked my managers not to bother telling me if anyone else came in for me. It was only when I was unhappy and looking for a move that I would ask my agent to find me something else.
“If things had added up at Sunderland, he wouldn’t have come back but it’s not gone right for him down there and he’s not liked what he’s seen and heard. But he’s gone and spoken to them and, to be honest with you, I think he’s very fortunate that he’s been allowed back in at Aberdeen.
“Sunderland obviously wasn’t the right job but he’s clearly looking for a way out of Aberdeen. If Sunderland had matched what he was looking for, he’d now be their manager.
“Even my taxi driver on the way here thought that. Derek may have felt he wasn’t sure about it once he was down there but the crucial fact is he went there in the first place.
“He was clearly given permission to speak to them but he’s lucky that Aberdeen think the world of him and they’re delighted to get him back. In other situations, if you’ve shown that you want out, you’d be fortunate to be given the opportunity to go back.
“When you start talking to other clubs then a few alarm bells start going off for the fans. They’ll be asking: ‘Is the manager committed to us?’ Because he wanted to go, didn’t he? And he’s only gone back because it didn’t work out at Sunderland.”
l John Hartson was speaking at a media event for his Foundation which recently donated £20,000 to the Les Hoey Dreammaker Foundation to help children with cancer. The Hartson Foundation has raised almost £700,000 since 2010 and plans to reach £1 million.