For the Jim Goodwin era to be successful, Aberdeen will likely have to pick up points and results at Ibrox and Parkhead.
But I think Aberdeen’s approach in their 1-0 defeat at Rangers on Saturday – Goodwin’s first chance to lead the Dons in Glasgow – was acceptable.
With several players missing due to a number of factors, Goodwin, who is still getting to know his players and finding his feet, set the team up to be organised and to try to press the home side out of possession and force a mistake.
They didn’t camp-in, but the manager was sensible with the hand he’d been dealt, and the Reds almost left Glasgow with a point as a result.
However, as the Goodwin era progresses and following game-less periods like the one they are away to go into, where he’ll have a couple of weeks to work with his players on the training ground, the Aberdeen fans will start demanding more. His chance to strengthen at the end of the season in the summer transfer window will also be a vital moment.
As Goodwin himself admitted, the honeymoon period which comes after being appointed at a new club is over in the blink of an eye, and the team will certainly need to show more attacking threat to go with the organisation they showed at Ibrox and the improved defensive displays they’ve been putting on.
The Dons are currently on a 10-game winless run and need to start picking up victories again. And, eventually, fans will want to see them go down to places like Govan, and Parkhead, and take all three points.
Ultimately the moment discussed most in the aftermath of Saturday’s game was one Aberdeen’s manager thinks had a huge bearing on the outcome.
In the build-up to Kemar Roofe’s close-range winner, the Dons’ young right-back Calvin Ramsay ended up on the deck following a coming together with Gers defender Calvin Bassey.
Bassey then worked the ball back out to Glen Kamara, who beat both Ramsay and Funso Ojo before sending in a cross which James Tavernier knocked down to Roofe to finish.
Afterwards, Goodwin said he thought it was a “simple decision” for referee John Beaton to give Aberdeen the foul for Bassey’s challenge on Ramsay.
My view is this – when you go away from home and go into the cauldrons of Ibrox or Parkhead, the home team are going to get the advantage.
I don’t want to hark back to the olden days and say that’s what it is like now, but I don’t necessarily think it’s changed from my days as a player.
If it is one of those situations where it might be a free-kick, but it might not be a free-kick – and Jim Goodwin, based on his post-match comments clearly thought it was the former – then the likelihood is you aren’t going to the get the decision. It’s just a fact, and one we’ve heard so many managers talking about over the years.
It’s a combination of the fans – the atmosphere you’re playing in – and you have to be strong and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say you have to be better than them on the day. That’s a difficult target to meet for the full 90 minutes, especially nowadays.
Watching the specific incident in the build-up to the goal, I don’t blame Ramsay for not anticipating the contact for the home player, because he’s still a young player who is very much still learning the game.
Aberdeen could’ve done better from the perspective that there was plenty of time after the clash between Bassey and Ramsay to stop the goal happening.
Yes, it has a bearing on what unfolds, but the ball still goes back out into the wide area before it ends up in the back of the Aberdeen net, and there was plenty of opportunity for the Dons to solve the situation in their favour.
Aberdeen are still an unacceptable 10th in the Premiership table, although they’re only five points behind four-placed Hibs. It was this slide down the division which was partly responsible for Stephen Glass being relieved of his managerial duties a few weeks ago.
Everyone associated with the Dons will still be looking at the table with disappointment, seeing teams above them they wouldn’t expect to be below in the standings.
However, with players hopefully coming back before the next game, I think the opportunity is still there to climb into the top six.
The three fixtures before the league split are Hibs at home, then Dundee away and then Ross County at home.
Hibs boss Shaun Maloney is still finding his feet and Aberdeen have to take advantage, while County – currently in a top six berth – will probably have to be defeated for the Dons to have any chance. But they should be winning those two Pittodrie games, as well as away at Dundee, who are still bottom despite a couple of points of late.
For me, nine points from nine will take them into the top six and that’s the target. Anything less than that and they’ll be relying more heavily on things falling for them elsewhere.
Manage to do it – and they’ll go into the post-split with optimism, able to build even more momentum and rally the supporters behind them through the summer and into next season.
Every chance Scott Brown might decide role at Aberdeen no longer suits
Aberdeen player-coach Scott Brown is at a crossroads – and it’s probably decision time regarding what he does next.
Brown, 36, is in an exceptionally difficult position. He decided to leave Celtic for Pittodrie in the summer for a player-coach role in friend Stephen Glass’ coaching set-up, which gave him the best of both worlds – he could still play regularly, but also make his first steps towards a career in management at the top level.
In theory it was a great idea. When I was Aberdeen manager, I offered my former defensive partner Alex McLeish a similar chance to help with coaching, as he was getting older and maybe wouldn’t be starting every game.
Alec decided it would be better to go to Motherwell as player-boss instead, which was understandable.
Like Alec, Brown’s near the end of his playing career and is at the point where he will need to prioritise experiences as a coach – as that’s where his future lies.
With Glass, someone he is close to, leaving the club and his responsibilities reverting more to being a player only, I think there’s every chance he might decide being at the Dons and his current role no longer suits him.
If there’s going to be reduced game time under Goodwin as well, I’m sure this will also be a factor, because – although he’s nearing the end on the playing side – Scott, with his history and competitive nature, will want to pack in as many minutes on the field as possible before he hangs up his boots.
Teams edging races at top and bottom of Premiership
The weekend marked the start of the final quarter of the season.
I think the bottom two, Dundee and St Johnstone, have been decided and it’s now a battle to decide which one goes down automatically and which one contests the play-off with a Championship outfit.
Mark McGhee has taken over at Dens and, although his team are currently bottom, in two games so far – including Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Motherwell – as well as games at the end of James McPake’s tenure, there have been good signs. The hammering at the hands of Livingston was dreadful, however.
St Johnstone, meanwhile, just a point above Dundee, having played a game more, got a point at Hibs at the weekend as well.
Although I think Dundee are maybe edging it at the moment, it would be a brave man who would predict who will finish 11th and who will be 12th.
Up at the top of the table, I think Rangers’ continued involvement in Europe could have a big bearing on the Premiership title race.
From experience in 1983 with Aberdeen, prolonged European adventures can take it out of you in terms of fitness and sharpness when it comes to the crucial domestic games at the end of the campaign.
Celtic aren’t in Europe anymore and, although – like with Dundee and St Johnstone – the head-to-heads will be very important to the final outcomes, I think the Hoops have a slight edge in the title race at the moment.
They’ve strengthened well, are playing well and have a three-point lead as things stand.