Underwhelming. That was the general reaction from the Aberdeen support when Derek McInnes was announced as Craig Brown’s successor at Pittodrie on March 25, 2013.
The former St Johnstone manager had returned north of the border after an unhappy stint in charge of Bristol City which culminated in him receiving the sack after a 4-0 defeat by Leicester City that left the Robins eight points adrift at the foot of the Championship.
In his first press conference as Aberdeen manager, McInnes spoke of his desire to make the Red Army fall in love with their club again after four consecutive seasons of bottom-six league finishes.
He made an immediate impact with 43,000 Dons supporters painting Parkhead red as the club ended a 19-year wait for silverware by winning the League Cup thanks to a nervy penalty shootout victory against Caley Thistle in March 2014.
McInnes went on to establish the Dons as Scotland’s second force with his side finishing runners-up to Celtic in each of the past three seasons. They also reached both cup finals last term, only to find Brendan Rodgers’ treble-winning Hoops too stern an obstacle to overcome.
Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Rangers was McInnes’ 221st game in charge of the Dons. If he leaves Pittodrie before tomorrow’s match with Dundee, he will depart with an enviable record of 124 wins, 39 draws and 58 defeats.
It is difficult to argue with those who claim McInnes has been the club’s best manager since Sir Alex Ferguson. But if his time at Pittodrie is at an end, McInnes is likely to harbour some regret at his inability to add more than one piece of silverware to the Aberdeen trophy cabinet.
Caley Thistle, Ross County, St Johnstone and then Championship side Hibernian all won trophies during the time McInnes has been in charge at Pittodrie.
With Rangers, Hearts and Hibernian absent from the top flight during large chunks of that period, the Dons were able to establish themselves as Celtic’s closest challengers in the top flight. The 2015-16 campaign was the closest they came to the title and will be remembered as Aberdeen’s best chance in a generation.
McInnes’ men were only one point behind Celtic with eight games to go but wilted as the finishing line approached, taking only six points from a possible 24 to allow Celtic to seal the title. If this is the end to McInnes’ time at Pittodrie it has been an uncomfortable, drawn-out conclusion for the club’s supporters and for the man himself.
History will judge McInnes, who brought European football and regular trips to Hampden back to the Dons, as a very good Aberdeen manager and a shrewd appointment.
McInnes will feel he should have won more than one trophy during his time at the club but, if he goes, replacing him won’t be easy.