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Paul Third: Will ex-Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes silence the doubters at Kilmarnock?

Former Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes.
Former Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes.

Derek McInnes’ self-imposed break from the game has perhaps lasted a little longer than he anticipated but that itch to get back into the dugout has become a scratch he can no longer ignore.

The former Aberdeen manager is returning to the game with Championship challengers Kilmarnock after the Ayrshire club made their move for the 50-year-old over the weekend.

On paper, it seems a very good fit for both parties.

It is 10 months since McInnes parted company with the Dons, with the ex-West Brom and Rangers midfielder opting to take a break after eight years at the helm at Pittodrie.

For all his work in maintaining consistency in terms of his Aberdeen’s league placing and regularly reaching the last four of cup competitions, McInnes has had to bide his time to get back in the game.

He has been linked with several jobs since leaving the Dons, most notably a return to England with his former club West Bromwich Albion last summer, Cardiff City in October and Ipswich Town last month.

He was also briefly linked with Hibernian, before the Easter Road outfit opted for Shaun Maloney as Jack Ross’ replacement.

All those links proved fruitless in the end, but Killie have come forward with a bold bid to bring McInnes on board at Rugby Park.

Kilmarnock in need of inspiration

Killie’s 28-year stint in the top flight of Scottish football ended with a whimper in May when they were beaten by Dundee in the Premiership play-off final.

The appointment of Tommy Wright, who led St Johnstone to Scottish Cup glory, was supposed to be the catalyst for keeping the club in the division at the end of the last campaign.

Tommy Wright was sacked by Killie.

He was also given the tools to rebuild his squad completely and lead a promotion push in the Championship this term.

But the spark Killie hoped Wright would bring has failed to materialise.

Kilmarnock have lost six of their 19 matches in the second tier so far, four of them at Rugby Park.

The inconsistency has left them fourth in the division, five points behind Dick Campbell’s Arbroath, albeit with a game in hand.

They are only two points behind second-placed Caley Thistle, so clearly the situation is far from irretrievable.

David Carson of Caley Thistle celebrates after his side beat Kilmarnock in December

However, Premiership football is vital for Kilmarnock.

Can McInnes help a club realise its potential again?

With a near 18,000 capacity stadium and an average home attendance of almost 7,000 just a few years ago, the Ayrshire outfit are one of the bigger clubs in Scottish football.

There is certainly potential there just begging to be realised if someone can get it right.

Sounds awfully similar to the situation McInnes found himself in when he replaced Craig Brown at Pittodrie in 2013.

The Dons were in the bottom half of the SPL when McInnes arrived. They finished third in his first full season in charge and were never outside the top four in the other seven full campaigns of his tenure.

Dons chairman Stewart Milne and Derek McInnes with the League Cup following the 2014 final at Celtic Park

He guided the Dons to their first trophy in 19 years when they won the League Cup in 2014 and he delivered European qualification every season.

McInnes also led the Dons to three other domestic cup finals and five semi-finals in that time, too.

It all turned sour towards the end at Pittodrie with Dons fans believing the manager’s ability to get the best out of his side on the wane and new chairman Dave Cormack agreed, ending McInnes’ tenure on March 9 last year.

But a refreshed McInnes is ready to return and no doubt he will have a point to prove to those who doubt his capabilities after accepting Killie’s offer.

Kilmarnock have pulled out all the stops to give him that opportunity he craves with trusted lieutenant Tony Docherty also heading to Rugby Park with him.

To Killie’s credit, convincing McInnes dropping down a level should be the first step on his route back to the top is impressive.

McInnes has accepted the challenge, which will be a major shot in the arm to Killie’s hopes of getting their promotion push back on track.

An already fascinating Championship title race has just become even more exciting.

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