Walter Smith’s suggestion that Derek McInnes should be Mark Warburton’s replacement at Rangers may have been ignored at Ibrox but it has reinforced Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne’s determination to extend his manager’s contract to make sure he leads them into their new stadium in 2020.
McInnes’ current deal is due to end 12 months before they plan to leave Pittodrie for Kingsford on the outskirts of the city, depending on planning permission being granted in June for that and a training ground, which could be delivered as early as next year.
It’s been a long and frustrating fight for the Aberdeen board of directors to get this far with the plans as two previous projects floundered, and Milne wants McInnes to be the one to benefit.
However, the building tycoon is a realist and knows that the recent link with the Rangers job is unlikely to be the last. Milne accepts there will come a day when a bigger club will lure McInnes away but is determined to do everything possible to make sure it’s after the club move to their new home.
“We would definitely hope Derek is still here at that time,” said the Aberdeen chairman. “Managers who are doing well being linked with other clubs is just part and parcel of the game. It always draws attention from elsewhere.
“We have just got to make sure we keep working with Derek to ensure he’s convinced he will still be able to achieve what he wants to with Aberdeen.
“You always know there could come a day when Derek feels he has to look at a fresh challenge. There would be nobody happier than me to see Derek going into a top job in the Premiership in England but only after he has done what he says he hopes to do for Aberdeen.”
It’s four years ago this month since McInnes replaced Craig Brown as manager and Aberdeen haven’t looked back since.
They remain on course to finish runners-up to Celtic in the Premiership for a third successive season and are one game away from a first Scottish Cup final in 17 years.
McInnes has already delivered their only piece of silverware since 1995, winning the League Cup by defeating Inverness Caley Thistle on penalties in the final in 2014.
“The evidence of what Derek has achieved is there for all to see,” said Milne. “You have to look a long way back for us finishing in the top three in the league four years in a row. We have also become regulars in Europe, too. The challenge for Derek next season will be to see if we can go from qualifying for the Europa League to actually getting through to the group stages. Derek has been quick to tell us that is what he wants to achieve, along with maybe winning more trophies. That’s the great thing about him for us. He is a manager who is always looking for more and demanding more out of everyone. He’s never content with what he has already achieved, he sees it as simply a stepping stone up to the next level.
If Milne does keep hold of McInnes until at least 2020 then only Sir Alex Ferguson will have lasted longer in the job in the last 50 years.
The current manager would have to go some to beat Fergie’s trophy haul but victory over Hearts on Saturday would equal the great man’s home run record of nine-in-a-row achieved in 1986.