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Richard Gordon column: Entire Scottish season without fans is looking more and more likely

Aberdeen's Pittodrie Stadium.
Aberdeen's Pittodrie Stadium.

The announcements by the Scottish Government this week made it clear that football teams are going to have to get used to playing in near-empty stadiums for the foreseeable future, with every possibility that the entire 2020/21 season will be played out without supporters watching on.

There may be limited numbers allowed later in the campaign, but that is unlikely to be a priority for the nation’s decision-makers, and given the rise in coronavirus cases, they have far more important matters to consider.

I said at the time of the test case game against Kilmarnock that I felt uncomfortable about three hundred people congregating in the stadium when other gatherings were limited to six, and with lockdown measures now reinforced, it would be crazy to expect Scottish football to be given further special treatment.

The game has already been given more licence than most other businesses, and clubs will have to continue to adapt and meet all the protocols if the freedom they have been afforded is to be maintained.

The Dons have done everything they can in that respect, and I think it was outrageous they were fined by the SPFL for the well-publicised actions of eight of their players back in August, even if the bulk of the fine was suspended.

What the club has also done is to try to give season ticket holders as much value for money as they possibly can; something, it seems, they will now have to continue for many more months. The board invested in beefing up the Red TV coverage and are certainly offering a better service than before.

It looks as if that will be the way most fans will be following the team throughout much of the campaign.

The effects of the pandemic have drained Aberdeen’s finances, despite the cutbacks and deferrals put in place by Dave Cormack and his board, so the sale this week of Scott McKenna will have come at a highly opportune time.

The days of the manager immediately going out and splashing the cash after a major sale are long gone, and in any case, Nottingham Forest will only have paid a portion of the initial £4.5 million fee up-front.

The money that does arrive in the Dons’ bank account will go largely towards covering costs and making up the shortfall in players’ wages.

Aberdeen will miss McKenna – that was blatantly obvious during the shambolic defensive performance against Motherwell – and while the timing of his move might have suited the club, it couldn’t have come at a worse moment for the manager.

Scott McKenna has left for Nottingham Forest.

Just when Derek McInnes had a settled, dependable back three he has had to start all over again and finding a line-up that works will be key to just how successful a campaign lies ahead. Tommie Hoban and Andrew Considine are no-brainers; the big decision for Derek will be who slots in alongside them, or whether he should instead revert to a back-four.

There have to be doubts over Ash Taylor after he was hooked at half-time last weekend; Shay Logan and Ross McCrorie are other options, although the latter’s impact in midfield would be sorely missed; while a fully fit Mikey Devlin would certainly enter the reckoning.

It is a big call and I will be fascinated to see which way Derek goes.

Aberdeen never had quality to seriously worry Sporting

The Dons’ European adventure ended at a familiar stage on Thursday night – for the sixth time in seven seasons, the third qualifying round proved to be a step too far as the team went down narrowly to Sporting in Lisbon.

From a tactical standpoint, it was a decent enough showing, they certainly looked more solid defensively than last weekend, but we never really had the quality to seriously trouble the Portuguese.

The big chance fell to Ryan Hedges, but he lacked composure, and, in the end, from an attacking point of view, it was all too little, too late.

With hindsight, the manager might have taken the shackles off a little earlier, but that would have opened things up more, and Lisbon may well have capitalised on that.

Ryan Hedges misses a late chance after being played in by Dons sub Scott Wright.

The only plus is that with midweeks now freed up, Aberdeen will get the chance to rearrange the Hamilton game postponed in August, and hopefully get closer to the teams above them.

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