Derek McInnes yesterday told all of his players they had a chance to play for their Aberdeen future as he officially took over as Dons manager.
McInnes met the players two days after a 1-0 defeat at Dundee United in Craig Brown’s last match in charge consigned Aberdeen to their fourth consecutive season in the bottom six of the SPL.
He warned them that a contract did not necessarily mean their futures were secure – but he insisted he would give the players a chance in the final five games of the season.
“I have not made any judgment on any players yet,” said the former St Johnstone manager. “Every player will have the chance to still be here next year. Players are not daft. Players know when a new manager comes in, the out-of-contract ones, that things change so they will be concerned.
“I totally understand that but there have been no decisions made on any of the out of contract players, or any of the players in contract.
“It would be wrong to suggest just because you are under contract you are going to be part of things going forward. I have to see a collective effort from everybody.
“They have to make their case to me as well. Prove that they want to be part of something because we all have a role to play.”
While McInnes said he had seen signs of encouragement in his first few hours in the job, he also hinted that he has a major rebuilding job in front of him as he tries to improve on Aberdeen’s recent poor record in the league and end an 18-year cup drought.
“I am not going to make any knee-jerk reactions,” added McInnes. “We have the luxury of being able to work with the boys for the next few weeks before the end of the season and that is why it was important that I got in now.
“The fact we haven’t made top six for the past four seasons would suggest there is a lot of work to be done but from what I have seen of the team there is also things to be encouraged by.
“But we cannot pretend everything is great. We all know the expectation levels that are at this club and they have not been met in the past few seasons so we have to start making small steps and making some progress.
“We have to improve things on the pitch but there is a lot of things in and around the club that can also be improved.
“We feel with some additions, and it is clear to see that we need some additions, and if we can get more from the boys we work with next year as well, thing will improve on the pitch.
“But the playing element is just one part of it. We have to make sure we are better than other clubs in other areas as well. Without commenting too much on that there are areas we can improve on right away. I have only been here two weeks but I have already seen where we can improve in certain areas.”
McInnes was confirmed as Brown’s successor on 25 March, and speaking to the media after his first training session yesterday afternoon, he revealed that he has been working hard in the past fortnight or so to assess the squad at Pittodrie.
He explained: “I have watched the recent games. We had a really good home performance against Hearts but we did not get to those levels against Dundee United on Saturday. There was a lot riding on the game and there was a lot of tension but we needed to dig deep individually to get things more in our favour.
“So I have seen both sides, a good performance and a disappointing performance. I have also been to a couple of the under-20 games, I have been to see one of the loan players and I have also been trying to get things in motion for pre-season, so there has been work that has been getting done behind the scenes but the most important part is working with the players.
“That is the best bit about being a manager, the contact with the players. I can look from the outside in, but it is only working with the players every day that you get to know them, personality wise, their character, so you are not just judging them on their performances. There are a lot of things that go into trying to get a squad together for what you hope will be a successful campaign.”
McInnes also paid tribute to the supporters who have stuck with Aberdeen in recent years and is desperate to bring them some success. “Having been at Tannadice on Saturday and seen the level of support, it has made me even more determined,” the manager said. “We are very lucky to have that support. We know there are more out there if we can just get them stimulated again and get them believing in their team again. I think the support will turn out if they see a committed, hard working, winning Aberdeen team. That is the challenge for us all.
“Success does not just come from putting a new manager in charge. I will take a huge amount of the responsibility in trying to get a team that the fans will be proud of but we all have to try and inspire the city. We have to get the city falling in love with the team again.”