Andrew Considine believes the current Aberdeen squad is not only the best he has been involved with but they remain superior to Rangers and will prove it by finishing as Celtic’s closest challengers for a third successive season.
The Dons have made the runners-up spot their own in recent years during the Ibrox club’s enforced absence from the top flight of Scottish football and it is a position the defender is unwilling to relinquish.
Last Saturday’s goalless draw at home to St Johnstone denies them the opportunity to move back into that slot tonight as victory against Motherwell would merely reduce Rangers advantage to a single point.
However, Considine is used to deferred gratification at Pittodrie after so many years spent in struggling Aberdeen teams before Derek McInnes arrived to steer the club in a positive direction.
After all, he made his first-team debut during the dark days when Steve Paterson was in charge back in 2004 and now 369 appearances later is convinced this current side are good enough to split the Old Firm.
“Beating Rangers to second spot is something the manager told us we need to achieve,” Considine revealed. “I feel we have a stronger squad than they’ve got and have proven that over the last few years.
“I still think that with the games we have to go we have every chance of being above Rangers by the turn of the year.
“They still have Celtic to play before then but we have to just focus on ourselves and concentrate on what we can do.
“Rangers coming back has made it a lot tougher.There has been a lot said about them but they are a fantastic team and they’ve held their own since they came up.
“They have a bit of momentum at the moment but this Motherwell game gives us a chance to get the St Johnstone result out of our head and build some momentum ourselves over the next few weeks.”
Considine, Peter Pawlett, Ryan Jack, Ash Taylor and Niall McGinn are all out of contract in the summer and talks on new deals are on hold for now, but more immediately James Maddison’s fate needs to be sorted out.
His loan deal with Norwich City ends at the start of next month and as yet Alex Neil hasn’t decided whether it will be extended, although Aberdeen are understandably anxious to keep the influential midfielder.
Maddison’s team-mate Adam Rooney, right, is also anxious to see referees offer the player more protection given some of the treatment dished out by opponents recently, but McInnes reckons the officials have already got the balance right.
“I understand a team-mate saying what Adam did but I’m fine with it” the Aberdeen manager said. “For me, James is a player who attracts people to the ball and invites challenges. He takes the ball in tight areas of the pitch, has great close control so opponents are aware that he can cause problems if you give him time and space.
“Dealing with that is something all good players have to learn to cope with and it’s a compliment if people are paying you close attention.
“In my career I was one of the guys managers asked to stop people playing! That happens when other teams see you as a threat and in James’ case I don’t think it has gone too far.
“He doesn’t see it as a problem and I don’t see it as a problem either. I’m relaxed about it. I don’t think there has been any game where it has been over the top.”