Stewart Milne was prepared to man the barriers to keep Rangers from removing Derek McInnes from the manager’s office at Aberdeen. But the Dons chairman admits that had his team boss decided he wanted the opportunity to take over the job vacated when Pedro Caixinha was sacked six weeks ago, he would have reluctantly allowed him to leave.
But the bond between chairman and manager was too powerful for Rangers to break and Milne was overjoyed that the man he describes as “more than just a football manager” told him after a two-day deliberation that he had a job to finish with the Dons.
The man who built up his housebuilding business into one of the country’s biggest was quick to rebuff a call from the Ibrox club on Tuesday night for permission to speak to McInnes, even though he feared it was the beginning of the end of his manager’s time in the North-east.
Indeed, he had expected that telephone conversation to have taken place soon after Rangers had defeated the Dons a week ago.
“Nothing happened on Monday nor all day Tuesday,” Milne said, “and then the call came on Tuesday night and that was really when things crystallised that Derek knew for sure they wanted him for the post.
“If he had made up his mind that he definitely wanted to go to Rangers, we would have found a way to make that happen.
“I think he realised that if he left Aberdeen at this stage under the circumstances he had before him, much of what he has done might have been tarnished and I believe that’s a measure of the man.
“He’s a proud guy. He’s a demanding guy who knows what he wants but he brought a great deal to the club and has a real energy and belief and everyone can see how he’s instilled that into the team.”
McInnes, who has guided Aberdeen to a League Cup triumph and four successive years of Europa League football, not to say a hat-trick of second-place finishes in the league, pleased Milne by his decision, especially as it was made for positive reasons.
“I think he made up his mind he wanted to stay at Aberdeen as opposed to saying ‘I don’t want to go to Rangers’,” Milne added.
“There was a disappointment regarding the time it went on but we got the right result at the end of the day, which is the most important thing.”
Over many weeks and with tension within Pittodrie building, the chairman decided to try and bring it to an end, but couldn’t. With his manager’s agreement, he issued a statement that McInnes was going nowhere and the man at the centre of the whole affair endorsed that claim 24 hours later. It was designed to end the relentless questioning about the issue, but didn’t.
“It appears Rangers had a reason to keep the matter alive,” Milne added, “and we don’t really know when they made up their minds that they were going to go for Derek.
“The first we knew for definite was when the approach came in on Tuesday night.”
It was on Thursday afternoon that McInnes called his chairman to say he was staying at Aberdeen and talked Milne through his reasons and took the view he could not turn away from what he had achieved in his current role.
Milne added: “He looked at what we have embarked on over the next two or three years – the proposed £50 million stadium and training complex – and he knows the importance of that challenge and continuing to grow the club to bring in more revenue. He has a key role in all of that and that appeals to him. He is a central part of Aberdeen FC and he’s helped create that over the last four-and-a-half years.
“He is a forward-thinking guy and that’s why I enjoy working with him.
“He’s started something at Pittodrie and has been very much part of the progress we’ve made in recent years and he clearly sees a lot can be accomplished in the coming two or three years.”
Milne was unimpressed by the statement Rangers put out following McInnes’s rejection of their offer but hopes Aberdeen’s relationship with the Ibrox club is not soured.
He said: “What they chose to say was up to them and we can have no influence over that.
“What I would say is that we have a good relationship with Rangers and I think most of the Premiership clubs want to see a strong Rangers. It’s great to have them back in the top tier of Scottish football and we want to see that club grow stronger.
“Maybe what happened over the past few weeks brought some strains but it will not affect our long-term relationship with Rangers.”