Another dismal week for Aberdeen saw back-to-back defeats, two blanks, boos ringing around Pittodrie, and the Dons left languishing second-bottom of the Premiership with more than a third of the season played.
Having generally shrugged off what has been a series of poor performances throughout the campaign, and remained bullish and optimistic, Barry Robson sounded very different in the wake of the midweek loss to Kilmarnock.
He offered no excuses, accepted the display had been sub-par, and made it clear he understood it simply had not been good enough.
Post-match reaction from Barry Robson. pic.twitter.com/DJ1X7ZEboK
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) December 6, 2023
That assessment is spot-on, not only of the Killie game, but the Premiership season as a whole.
Of course, there have been a few highs – the wins at Fir Park and, particularly, Ibrox, but those are two shafts of light in what has overall been a gloomy, depressing showing.
What good football there has been has come, largely, in spells during the Europa Conference League, but, even then, that has not been enough to win a single match.
After the defeat at Easter Road last weekend, Barry hailed it as the best performance of his time in charge. That might be debatable, but even if accurate, it is perhaps telling it ended in another loss.
That was followed up by the poor display against the Ayrshire side, and when St Johnstone scored deep into stoppage time to win their encounter with St Mirren, Aberdeen plunged to eleventh in the table.
In any other season, this statistic might well have been the final straw, the moment that had chairman Dave Cormack readying himself to sack a fourth manager in less than three years.
The saving grace for Barry is the League Cup final with Rangers a week tomorrow.
With that massive game on the horizon, Dave simply cannot afford to make a change right now.
But he will be hurting, and well aware the return this season in the league has fallen short of expectations – especially given the considerable transfer budget afforded Robson last summer.
He was backed, but the painful truth is he has not delivered.
Barry deserved the job. What he did last season in turning the side around was pretty remarkable, and the run of seven straight victories last spring secured European football.
They wobbled a bit after the split, but got the job done, and the manager, rightly, enjoyed much praise.
Following the close-season investment, hopes were high, and there were optimistic noises coming out of the club.
But the campaign kicked-off with a shocking goalless draw at Livingston and the stage was set for what has followed.
There have, undeniably, been some bright spells in the Conference League, some thrilling football played, but that has occurred all too seldom, and for the most part it has been a hard watch.
Reaching the Viaplay Final has been a noteworthy achievement, but it has taken just three matches. Aberdeen survived a late scare at Stirling Albion in the third round, and were fortunate to beat Hibernian in the semi, so even that run has not been plain-sailing.
The season now hinges on the Hampden meeting with Rangers.
Win it, and the manager goes into the history books, but a defeat – particularly a heavy one – could be the tipping point.
Other Premiership outfits have shown difference managerial switch can make
While the Dons have been slipping, relegation rivals Ross County and St Johnstone both took decisive action, making managerial changes which have, in the short term, paid dividends.
Following the return of Derek Adams, County have amassed seven points out of nine, are yet to concede a goal, and have moved up to eighth.
With Craig Levein now at the helm, Saints have picked up three wins in six, have lost only to Hearts and Celtic, and nudged ahead of Aberdeen on Wednesday evening.
Motherwell are the Premiership’s crisis club right now – a run of 12 without a win dropping them down the table – and the Fir Park board will inevitably be monitoring the position of boss Stuart Kettlewell.
Livingston are at the foot right now, but it will not take much for them to get back in touch, and this season’s basement battle could be one of the most intense we have seen.