Last year Derek McInnes rejected lucrative offers to take charge of Sunderland and Rangers but insists that doesn’t mean he has abandoned plans to eventually leave Aberdeen for a bigger club.
This week the Dons manager celebrates five enjoyable years in charge at Pittodrie but even being sacked by Bristol City in 2013 hasn’t blunted his ambition of returning to England if the right team come calling.
His judgment that Sunderland wasn’t it has been reinforced by their near certain relegation to League One, while Aberdeen still have as much chance as the Ibrox club of finishing second in the Premiership and winning the Scottish Cup this season.
Given Celtic’s dominance in the league, achieving the latter is about all that’s lacking for someone who has transformed the Dons from bottom-six strugglers under Craig Brown into the Parkhead club’s closest challengers in recent years.
Now, the all-clear’s been given for the club to start work on a £50 million new state-of-the-art training ground and stadium on the outskirts of the city but those are not the only plans on McInnes’ mind as he’s already plotted out his own long-term future.
“I’m happy here and you know how important this job is to me so there’s no burning desire to move from here” he said. “But I have got a plan for myself and there are certain clubs I would like to manage and certain countries you would like to manage in.
“I think you have got to have a plan for yourself in a career whether you eventually fulfil those ambitions or not.
“There’s still a lot to do here for me, though, as I still want to make sure we do a bit more at Aberdeen first.”
Finishing runners-up to Celtic for a fourth successive year would be a major achievement but McInnes’ legacy would really be secured if they end that 28-year wait for an eighth Scottish Cup success.
It took a late Tom Rogic goal for Celtic’s Invincibles to get the better of them in last year’s final that had added poignancy for the Dons manager, who knew it signalled the end of an era at Pittodrie.
He added:“I said when we came in that winning cups or getting to cup finals was very important for us and we’ve got to try and get a team on the pitch that can meet that demand.
“I felt that the team we inherited when we first came in wasn’t giving ourselves a chance to be competitive.
“I think what we have shown over the last few years is that we got a team on the pitch who can meet that demand. I feel we’ve still got that now.
“I actually felt as though losing last year’s cup final was the end of three or four years’ work with that team.
“If we can get to a cup final now and hopefully win it in our first year together then that would be good going.
“This is for me the start of working towards where last season’s cup final team were. We were that close.”
Five players from the starting line-up in last season’s final left the club last summer, although Niall McGinn did return after an unsuccessful spell playing in South Korea.
That left McInnes with a major overhaul on his hands and not all of his additions have been successful. Greg Stewart, Nicky Maynard, Dominic Ball and even £400,000 signing Stevie May have struggled to impress at times, but on the plus side youth academy graduate Scott McKenna has attracted big-money offers from England and made Alex McLeish’s Scotland squad.
McInnes would obviously preferred to have kept the likes of Ryan Jack and Jonny Hayes last summer but he believes the current side will benefit if they beat Motherwell at Hampden Park next month to reach another final.
He said: “Ideally, I would have liked to have kept that team together and added bits to it. Hopefully we can get the experience into this squad and get to another cup final this season. We certainly feel we’re capable of that, it’s just finding our form individually.
“You find out a lot about your players through the season as you work with them. You hope that you can make that improvement in them to get the trust and get that consistency out of them.”