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Sean Wallace: Would Aberdeen be in the Premiership top six if the board had stuck with Peter Leven?

Interim boss Leven has delivered back-to-back Premiership victories to lessen the threat of relegation.

Aberdeen Interim manager Peter Leven during the 2-1 defeat of Ross County. Image: Shutterstock
Aberdeen Interim manager Peter Leven during the 2-1 defeat of Ross County. Image: Shutterstock.

Aberdeen would probably be in the Premiership top six if the Pittodrie board had stuck with Peter Leven in February.

Drafted in as interim boss after Barry Robson was sacked, Leven led the Dons to a 1-1 draw with Celtic days later.

What was apparent, particularly in the second half against Celtic, was that Leven had a connection with the squad and an understanding of how to get the best out of players.

He managed to quickly get a tune out of a squad who had looked devoid of confidence and self belief.

Aberdeen’s board should have retained Leven as interim boss, instead of going for the “glamour” appointment of Neil Warnock.

Interim manager Peter Leven after leading Aberdeen to victory at Motherwell on Saturday.
Peter Leven led Aberdeen to victory at Motherwell on Saturday. Image: Shutterstock.

Yet again, it was left to Leven to pick up the pieces after Warnock brought his tenure as interim boss to an abrupt halt.

And yet again Leven has delivered.

In his second stint in interim charge, Leven has secured back-to-back Premiership wins to greatly lessen the threat of relegation.

Whether Leven remains in interim charge against Livingston on Saturday remains to be seen – and the 40-year-old admits he is taking it “day to day” until told otherwise.

Leven has delivered seven points from his four games in charge and secured 25% of Aberdeen’s Premiership victories this season.

Aberdeen captain Greame Shinnie celebrates going 2-1 up against Ross County.
Aberdeen captain Greame Shinnie celebrates going 2-1 up against Ross County. Image: Shutterstock.

If the Pittodrie board had held their nerve and stuck with Leven in February until a new manager was appointed, they would in all likelihood be in the top six.

They could even have been pushing for European qualification.

All the Pittodrie hierarchy had to do was clarify that regardless of how well Leven did it was temporary until a new permanent manager was appointed.

That would have been the sensible, safe option to keep Aberdeen on on even keel during the process of appointing a new boss.

Neil Warnock waves goodbye following Saturday's 3-1 win for Aberdeen
Neil Warnock waves goodbye following Saturday’s 3-1 win over Kilmarnock. Image: Shutterstock.

Instead the Pittodrie board opted for the Warnock fiasco in an extraordinary act of unintentional self sabotage.

When Leven led Aberdeen to a draw against Celtic they were just one point off the top six.

Warnock failed to win any of the six Premiership games he managed and secured a meagre two points from 18.

When the 75-year-old stepped down after only 33 days, the Dons were seven points adrift of the top six and just four ahead of second-bottom Ross County.

Appointing Warnock was a sliding doors moment where lessons will hopefully have been learned within the Pittodrie hierarchy.

In appointing a big name like Warnock, the board perhaps felt they had a safety net to allow them to take their time in the hunt for a new boss.

It is not a process to be rushed, but the Dons could also have done their due diligence to get the right candidate with Leven at the helm.

Bojan Miovski (9) of Aberdeen scores to make it 1-0 against Ross County.
Bojan Miovski (9) of Aberdeen scores to make it 1-0 against Ross County. Image: Shutterstock.

Aberdeen’s board had aimed to appoint a new manager during the recent international break, but failed to delver within that time frame.

It meant the club entered what was a relegation battle against Ross County without a permanent manager.

Had the Dons lost to Ross County, Pittodrie would have turned toxic and the board would rightly have been the subject of the supporters’ anger.

The presence of Leven lessened the feeling that going into the Staggies game without a permanent manager was a massive gamble, because he has a bond with the squad and brings a calmness.

Amid the uncertainty behind the scenes at Pittodrie, it has been vital.

Of all the fancy cars parked outside Pittodrie, if only one was a DeLorean.

Then someone from the Aberdeen board could travel in time like in Back to the Future.

They could set the controls for February 1, jump out the car and shout to the other board members: “Stop! Don’t get Neil Warnock. Stick with Leven for now.”

Aberdeen Interim manager Peter Leven during a training session at Cormack Park in preparation for the game against Ross County.
Aberdeen interim manager Peter Leven during a training session at Cormack Park in preparation for the game against Ross County. Image: SNS.

Dean Sutherland targeting title glory

Aberdeen boxer Dean Sutherland faces a mouthwatering fight for the British Board of Boxing Control Celtic super-welterweight title.

Sutherland, aka “Deadly”, will face defending champion Sion Yaxley at the Beach Ballroom, Aberdeen on Saturday, May 11.

It has the potential to be a classic fight as both boxers are exciting talents hungry for glory.

Sutherland already has three pro titles and has won 16 of his pro fights, losing just one.

Aberdeen boxer Dean Sutherland.
Aberdeen boxer Dean Sutherland. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson.

The 25-year-old Aberdonian has already displayed his capacity to triumph in high pressure title fights.

He claimed the vacant WBC International Silver welterweight belt in November 2021 with a stoppage victory over Michele Esposito (18-4-1).

The fight, also at the Beach Ballroom, was stopped 1 minute 57 seconds into round eight.

It was the first time Esposito has been stopped in a nine-year career.

Southpaw Sutherland also stopped Mexican Jose Antonio Delgado Velazquez to win the WBO Youth welterweight title at New Douglas Park in Hamilton.

Undefeated Yaxley, who also holds the IBO Continental title, boasts a flawless pro record of 13 wins from 13 fights – with two stoppages.

Sutherland is currently in a training camp in London preparing for the title shot.

It is the biggest fight of his career to date and victory would open up the route to more prestigious titles.

Aberdeen's Dean Sutherland during fight against Michele Esposito.
Aberdeen’s Dean Sutherland (in red) won the WBC International Silver welterweight title against Michele Esposito. Image by Paul Glendell/DC Thomson.

Aberdeen legend Billy Stark retires

I would like to wish Aberdeen legend Billy Stark well in his retirement from football.

Currently Scotland under-19 head coach, the Pittodrie great will call time on his career at the end of the month.

A fantastic player on the pitch he is gentleman off it and has always been a delight to chat with.

During his time at Aberdeen, he won two league titles, two Scottish Cups, a League Cup and a Uefa Super Cup.

All the best Billy.

 

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