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A love affair which turned sour as McInnes departs Aberdeen

Derek McInnes
Derek McInnes


Derek McInnes arrived wanting the city of Aberdeen to fall in love with its local club. He has departed claiming no-one loves the Dons more than he does.

He may have been reaching for the stars with that one, uttered at Easter Road last month prior to a 2-0 defeat to Hibernian, but when it comes to engaging and energising a fanbase into caring for the club he can certainly consider that as mission accomplished.

It is not difficult to see why McInnes found professing his affection for the Dons an easy task. After all he has poured eight years of his heart and soul into the job at Pittodrie.

But there rarely is a happy ending when a manager leaves a club. That’s the nature of football. It’s a ruthless business where everyone is dispensable. Fans revere players and managers as heroes but eventually the desire for something new inevitably creeps in.

Despite how it has ended, with one win in nine matches, McInnes’ overall impact at the Dons can be measured easily.

He took over a club languishing in the bottom half of the top flight of Scottish football and with some astute signings added some steel and a cutting edge which transformed the team into cup winners and serial challengers.

The League Cup win at Celtic Park in 2014 was a glorious day. The game itself against Caley Thistle was abysmal but to see 43,000 supporters of Aberdeen inside the stadium was astounding.

Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne (left) and manager Derek McInnes celebrate with the trophy

It showed how the depth of feeling for the club and the collective desire to see the Dons lift a trophy for the first time in 19 years that fans travelled from across the globe for the game.

The final was the first step towards Aberdeen being thought of in successful terms again but the seeds had been sewn in the 4-0 demolition of St Johnstone at Tynecastle in the semi-final.

Adam Rooney celebrates after all but wrapping up victory for his side in the League Cup semi-final.

The home of Hearts has always been a favourite away ground due to the atmosphere in the stadium but the cheers which rang around the ground as the Dons put Saints to the sword still resonate seven years later.

It was the first tangible sign something was changing at Aberdeen; that the years of treading water were coming to an end.

However he did it, McInnes had, to use a Jurgen Klopp quote from his arrival at Liverpool, turned doubters into believers. Little did we know how long that belief would last.

The cup final was a forgettable affair but the celebrations were anything but and the incredible scenes of fans celebrating with the team back in Aberdeen during the open top bus parade still swell the pride of Aberdeen fans today.

Aberdeen parade the Scottish League Cup trophy through the city centre in 2014.

It was that expression of love McInnes had called for and certainly the honeymoon period continued for several years.

The reason for that was further cup final appearances and trips to Hampden for semi-finals too. From being starved of visits to the National Stadium Aberdeen fans had grown accustomed to being back there.

McInnes was the commander in chief of the Red Army and his beloved status was assured when he rejected advances from both Sunderland and Rangers to remain at Pittodrie.

But nothing can last forever. Players move on, teams are rebuilt, other clubs get stronger. When you are third best and left playing the role of onlooker in a two-horse race it can become frustrating, especially for fans who have revelled in splitting the big two from Glasgow.

Slipping further to fourth place in the last two campaigns rubbed salt in the wounds and with third place looking anything but assured again some of those lovers of the Dons feel jilted.

That love McInnes talked about came full circle in the end. He wanted to continue but the same affection he had been shown in the early years was beginning to wear thin.

Where once there was acclaim, doubts had reached the surface not just among the fans but within the boardroom at Pittodrie.

There is no doubt McInnes will be hurting with at his time at the club reaching an end but in time hopefully he will see his tenure as a whole as something to be proud of rather than dwell too much on how it has ended.