If Derek McInnes has been distracted by talk of a move to Rangers then Anthony O’Connor insists neither he nor anyone else at Aberdeen has seen any sign of it.
Instead the Dons defender, pictured, credits the way their manager has made sure the players have maintained their focus during the swirl of speculation as another reason why he is so highly rated.
Results haven’t exactly been brilliant since McInnes was installed as favourite to replace Pedro Caixinha – the midweek defeat at Ibrox leaves them with just one win from the last four games.
Another loss today would see Rangers move above them into second place on goal difference before the expected launch of an official attempt to land McInnes once the lunchtime clash is out of the way.
However, O’Connor claims all his manager’s attention is concentrated on trying to make sure Aberdeen remain Celtic’s closest rivals with a victory to wipe out the collective pain of that 3-0 defeat at Ibrox last Wednesday.
“The gaffer hasn’t spoken one word about ‘Is he going? Is he not?” claimed O’Connor. “His main focus has always been on the next game.
“That’s why he’s such a good manager – he doesn’t let anything get to him. His concentration is always on the next game for Aberdeen Football Club.
“He had a chat with us again on Friday morning and it was all about putting it right on Sunday. Not only has it been hurting us as players, it has been hurting him as well.
“Not one of us could enjoy our day off on Thursday because we lost on Wednesday night and it was the same with the gaffer.
“So I wouldn’t say speculation has affected us, it’s just some performances haven’t been where they should be but what better way to put it right than against Rangers.
“We know we have to win the game. We’re not going out there just to put in a performance – we’re going out to win.”
Achieving that wouldn’t be a surprise as it’s 14 months since Aberdeen last lost back-to-back league matches and O’Connor for one is determined that’s not a run that will end today.
Someone equally at home in midfield and defence, he admits that collectively the Dons let themselves down at Ibrox in midweek and the worry is those sort of poor performances have become more common this season.
“It has happened a few times – there’s no hiding away from that. There have been a few bad performances,” he added. “There have been 3-0 defeats to Rangers, Motherwell in the cup and Celtic. We shouldn’t be losing games that way.
“You might lose a game like that by one goal but to lose by three is always horrible. It’s something we have to look at, but what better way than to do it against Rangers.
“We let ourselves down in midweek but the great thing about football is that you’ve always got the chance to bounce back.
“If we weren’t playing Rangers again for a couple of months it would have been harder to take but we’ve got them straight away and hopefully we can put it right.”
Aberdeen’s chances of doing that won’t be helped by the loss of Ryan Christie, their most creative midfielder suspended after being sent off in midweek, while Greg Tansey and Gary Mackay-Steven are injured,