Derek McInnes has dismissed any suggestion that speculation surrounding his possible move to Rangers has anything to do with Aberdeen’s worst run of results in the Premiership this year.
The Pittodrie club’s manager remains favourite to replace Pedro Caixinha at Ibrox, with an official approach expected to be made after tomorrow’s league meeting between the two clubs.
That’s despite the fact McInnes was so fed-up with the continuing rumours about a potential switch that he tried to put them to bed by claiming last weekend that he was happy at Aberdeen.
In the meantime, Aberdeen’s results have certainly suffered on the field with last week’s win at Kilmarnock the only one they’ve managed in the last four matches.
A draw at Hamilton and defeats at home to Motherwell and at Ibrox on Wednesday leaves them with just four points from those fixtures and another loss at Pittodrie tomorrow would move Rangers above them into second place on goal difference.
McInnes understands why some think it’s more than mere coincidence they are on such a poor run right now but he doesn’t believe the uncertainty about his future is a factor and said: “It’s an easy thing to say and it may be a reason but I don’t see it that way.
“We are professionals and we just get on with the job. I think the players would admit themselves that nothing has changed in my preparations for matches.
“I think that for us we have had a good strong win at Kilmarnock, which was a far more Aberdeen-like performance on the road.
“We had ten wins and two draws, up until Wednesday night, away from home this season so consistency has been there.
“But I get that losing to Motherwell at Pittodrie then losing away to Rangers means... I can understand why people might assume that. I don’t see that myself though.”
The Aberdeen manager admits that, on the face of it, another showdown with bitter rivals Rangers might not be the best prospect after what happened when the pair met for the first time this season in midweek.
That 3-0 defeat was a chastening experience for him and his players, but the Dons faced a similar problem just days after losing by the same scoreline at Motherwell in the League Cup in September and recovered in style.
Now McInnes is demanding a similar response in what might well turn out to be his last match in charge of the Pittodrie club, and is has no doubt his players will deliver.
McInnes added: “We came away from losing at Motherwell in the League Cup on the Thursday night and probably the last thing anyone wanted to do was to go back to Fir Park on the Sunday.
“In hindsight it was the perfect antidote in terms of what was required as we came back up the road with a win in the league.
“To be honest we would be happy to have a game against anyone after what happened at Ibrox, but the fact that it’s against Rangers again means it can be a similar outcome to what we did against Motherwell.
“We have an idea how we want to play and obviously it has got to be a lot better than we did the other night.
“We all take responsibility for the outcome at Ibrox. We set the team up to give us the best chance to win the game, but it is up to the players to match runs, win individual battles, get on top of your direct opponent and win headers.
“We just need to make sure we respond positively as we are sitting second in the table, which we have been for the last few years because we do respond quickly to set backs.
“Looking back, there was a lot of basics that weren’t done right and with hindsight we would probably have set up a bit differently. But I still expect more from the players to impose themselves more on the game individually.”
McInnes will be forced into changes for the visit of Rangers as Ryan Christie is suspended after being sent off in Wednesday’s defeat, while Gary Mackay-Steven and Greg Tansey are injured.
Kari Arnason will start after a couple of days where it would be understandable if he was distracted by the prospect of facing Lionel Messi in Iceland’s opening match of the World Cup in Russia.
The smallest nation to ever reach the finals, with a population of just 300,000, have been drawn in a daunting group along with Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria, but the Dons defender is unfazed by the prospect.
“We got the group of death in the qualifiers with Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey and we won it,” he said.
“I think we’re always confident and we believe 100 per cent that we can qualify from almost any group.”