After a traumatic summer which began with Scottish Cup final defeat by Celtic and continued with the loss of key players, Aberdeen supporters were given a lift last night when Derek McInnes anounced he had spurned the advances of Sunderland and would be staying at Pittodrie.
McInnes, who has been in charge of the Dons for over four years, spoke to the relegated Wearside club and had seemed poised to succeed David Moyes at the Stadium of Light. Aberdeen and Sunderland had even agreed a compensation package but the former Scotland international has opted to remain in the North-east of Scotland rather than relocate to that region of England.
While insisting he still has lofty ambitions which likely stretch beyond Pittodrie, McInnes cited unfinished business and the building of new training facilities as the chief reasons for staying.
He also vowed to replace those who have left the club this summer with players who are their equal. In the aftermath of the cup final loss at Hampden in May, Aberdeen’s deposed captain Ryan Jack joined Rangers, Niall McGinn, Ash Taylor and Peter Pawlett also departed, while winger Jonny Hayes is on the verge of signing for Celtic.
“I have ambitions in the game and, while there was interest from elsewhere, and I did talk to Sunderland, I feel there is so much still to be done here at Aberdeen,” McInnes said.
“While we have lost players from last season, they will be replaced by signings of similar quality and our first challenge is to reach the group stages of the Europa League after coming so close in each of the last three seasons.
“Since the first day I arrived at Pittodrie, my biggest gripe has been the lack of training facilities and, with progress on that front, it’s something I am keen to see through.”
For Aberdeen’s board, who hope to move the club to a new stadium and training facility in Kingsford, last night’s announcement is a major triumph. Sunderland chief executive Martin Bain had wooed McInnes and appeared to be on course to land his target.
It was on Wednesday that Aberdeen confirmed they had “reluctantly” granted permission for McInnes and assistant John Docherty to speak to Sunderland.
But, after the decision was taken to stay put, chairman Stewart Milne paid tribute to McInnes’ achievements since 2013.
“I am personally absolutely delighted that Derek and Tony have agreed to stay and have never doubted their commitment to the club,” he said.
“Given what Derek has achieved here, there is inevitably going to be interest from other clubs and in making the decision to stay, he has demonstrated how much Aberdeen Football Club means to him.
“It is now up to all of us, the board, staff, players and supporters to show how much we appreciate having him at the helm by getting right behind him in every way possible.”
Losing out on McInnes will be seen as a blow to Sunderland. Preston boss Simon Grayson and former striker Kevin Phillips remain in the frame.