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Derek McInnes: Why has he gone and what now for Aberdeen?

Derek McInnes.
Derek McInnes.

His departure has hung like the sword of Damocles over his head but in the end the cutting of the cord between Derek McInnes and Aberdeen has been swift.

The 49 year-old has been under a microscope for the last month following intense speculation about his position at Pittodrie on Monday night the Dons finally confirmed a parting of the ways with McInnes and his assistant Tony Docherty.

Their departure brings to a close a significant and successful eight-year spell at the helm of the Dons and it is clear, despite his side showing signs of limping towards the finish line this season, McInnes leaves behind a club which has changed significantly during his tenure thanks in no small part to his efforts.

Here, we recap a dramatic evening of developments at the Dons and cast an eye over the work which now needs to be done by chairman Dave Cormack as he faces up to the challenge of his first managerial appointment.



When the statement from Aberdeen was finally released at 9.30pm on Monday it came a little surprise to anyone.

It has been apparent a change was coming but you suspected Derek McInnes would make it to the end of the season. His side was three points off fourth place with six games remaining. Did he deserve the chance to see it out? Personally I was in the yes camp but I can understand why a parting of the ways has come.

Nine games, one goal. We can debate the reasons for it but still it is hard to argue against those statistics.

However, what is clear is what follows next will determine whether it is the right decision.

What has been surprising is the reaction to his departure.

Scroll through one social media platform and you will see fans saying not before time. Look through another and you’ll see criticism of the decision.

We felt Dons fans were divided over whether he should stay or go. Nothing posted since by fans following the announcement has altered that view.

Whatever happens now McInnes will get no credit. If the Dons do finish third, and as frustrating as yet another goalless draw was on Saturday, let’s not forget Aberdeen moved a point closer to Hibs, it will be because of the interim coaching team of Paul Sheerin, Barry Robson and Neil Simpson.

If they don’t it will be because of Derek McInnes. That’s how this works.



Derek McInnes delivered the League Cup for Aberdeen in 2014.

It is easy to forget where the Dons were when Derek McInnes arrived in 2013.

Jimmy Calderwood left Aberdeen in 2009 after guiding the team to Europe. The feeling was the football hadn’t been sparkling and the poor cup displays were behind that decision.

Then came Mark McGhee – a nice guy but he had a horrendous time of it. It was disastrous and the club was deep in the mire by the time he left and Craig Brown was brought in to save the day.

Looking back I still don’t think Brown and Archie Knox’s feat in keeping the team up is truly acknowledged.

But the progress from the bottom of the league to top six was not really gathering momentum which is why Brown moved upstairs and McInnes was brought in. He had a platform to build from but there is no doubt he took it to another level.

Brown put some of the foundations in place but it was McInnes who really built something exciting on top of it.

Aberdeen under McInnes have never finished outside the top four, celebrated a League Cup win followed by three other cup finals and appeared in several domestic cup semi-finals. They also qualified for Europe every year under his watch.

Compared to what Dons fans have watched since the League Cup final win in 1995 it has been not only hugely impressive but incredibly consistent. But nothing lasts forever.



For all his longevity it has felt like a team running out of steam in recent years and it’s a measure of how competitive Aberdeen have been that fourth place has been viewed as failure in the eyes of some.

The consistency has meant the turnover has increased which in turn has led to a bigger budget for the manager and with that comes higher expectations – judged on that basis you can see why it is has been viewed as underperforming.

Aberdeen striker Callum Hendry misses a chance against Hamilton.

The teams who pipped the Dons to third in the last two seasons, Kilmarnock and Motherwell, did so on smaller budgets but they have been one season wonders in that respect.

But Aberdeen fans are not concerned with what their rivals are doing. They are interested solely on their own club and many have come to the conclusion Aberdeen had not only hit a glass ceiling but were slipping back, albeit gradually.

The spectacular implosion of Aberdeen as an attacking threat in the last nine matches has succeeded in cementing that view among those calling for change.



Whether you agree or disagree with the call, now the decision has been made it is time to look to the future and what happens in the weeks and months ahead will shape Aberdeen as a club for the foreseeable future.

They are a top four club, in Europe every season and have a track record of reaching the latter stages of cup competitions. In terms of Scottish football they also have a very competitive budget.

Unlike when McInnes arrived, they have a training ground, which is fantastic, and a fanbase which will get behind the next manager and give him a chance. After all, the last incumbent just spent eight years there.

Aberdeen FC opened the new training ground at Kingsford in 2019.
Aberdeen FC opened the new training ground at Kingsford in 2019.

What’s the remit for the next manager? Is it third place? Win another cup? Reach the group stages of the Europa League?

Those are the obvious ones but in general terms, producing more homegrown talent and a more expansive or exciting brand of football will be what Cormack is looking for.

Football is an environment where you need to have that ego and confidence in yourself that you can succeed where others have failed. But that is what makes the Aberdeen job such an interesting one.

They’re perhaps teetering and a little unsteady but we’re not talking about a club on its knees here.

Monday’s statement suggests Sheerin, Robson and Simpson are in place for the rest of the season but we’ll see.

No disrespect to the guys who are taking over the reins, but the advantages of appointing a manager before the season ends are obvious. An analysis needs to be done of the squad and what is needed in the summer.

Aberdeen defender Tommie Hoban is out of contract this summer.

There is a clean slate there if the new boss wants to start afresh. Just look at the names out of contract: Tommie Hoban, Ash Taylor, Greg Leigh, Mikey Devlin, Shay Logan, Niall McGinn, Bruce Anderson, Miko Virtanen and Ethan Ross. That’s before you add in the four loan players: Gary Woods, Florian Kamberi, Fraser Hornby and Callum Hendry. That’s 13 players in total, 13 decisions to be made.

We could be looking at a major overhaul of the first team squad this summer and would be bordering on negligence to not give McInnes’ successor time to make an assessment of these players.

Going in blind in the summer seems a needless gamble in the circumstances.

There is not an exact science to this but the spotlight is now firmly on the chairman. He has to get this right.

If he doesn’t we could see a scenario where the Dons are back to where they were before.



Clearly, the ball will already be rolling on appointing a new manager and undoubtedly football operations manager Steven Gunn’s email alerts have been pinging all day at Pittodrie. He can expect that to continue until such time as a new boss is appointed.

Aberdeen want to take their time on this but right now there are some obvious early contenders under consideration.

Ex-Celtic manager Neil Lennon (left) with Derek McInnes.

Neil Lennon – the leading character among the out of work guys with experience in Scottish football. Like McInnes, ended badly at his last club and a man with a point to prove.

Whether he’d be welcomed to Pittodrie with open arms by Dons fans who really didn’t like him as a player would be interesting.

Stephen Glass

Stephen Glass – an obvious link given the partnership with Atlanta United but you would have to say he’d be a huge risk. Perhaps if he had an older head alongside him.

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin.

Jim Goodwin – a manager on the rise who has done well at St Mirren this season. Just signed a new deal though so would be costly.

Derek Adams

Derek Adams – another with a Dons connection and certainly seems adept at getting the best out of his sides – Ross County, Plymouth Argyle and now Morecambe. Whether he fancies a return to Scotland however is another matter.

From there you are heading into the more radical appointments – a coach from another club or a player looking for a chance at management.

There are risks involved in any appointment but at this point that’s the options. That’s why Dave Cormack is looking to take his time over this.