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Danny Stewart: Aberdeen’s deck of cards can still be trumped by defiant Derek McInnes

© SNS GroupAberdeen’s board are standing by Derek McInnes
Aberdeen’s board are standing by Derek McInnes

The transient nature of the top jobs makes “stick or twist?” one of the most intriguing questions sport has to offer.

Last Sunday night, the power brokers of the New England Patriots were part of a US television audience of 96.4 million people who watched 43-year-old Tom Brady propel Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory in the Super Bowl.

Brady, by their own admission the greatest quarterback American Football has ever seen, and the man they effectively got rid of last March through their refusal to give him the extended contract he was after.

While their former star was working miracles in Florida, the Patriots failed to reach the play-offs for the first time since 2008.

Over here, the board of Aberdeen have been weighing up the hand they have been dealt after a poor run of form from Derek McInnes’s team. For now, they have decided to keep what they hold, but felt compelled to release a statement spelling out they were fully behind their manager.

This followed a defeat to Hibs which extended a run to just one win in eight, a failure that further fuelled fan anger and frustration.

However, so bad is the reputation of the vote of confidence, that even that benign message brought to mind the image of McInnes being gently directed over the trap door.

Consider, for example, the fate of Claudio Ranieri, the man who pulled off the biggest miracle in the history of the English Premier League.

February, 2017 – “Leicester City Football Club would like to make absolutely clear its unwavering support for its First Team Manager, Claudio Ranieri.”

March, 2017 – Ranieri is sacked.

Announcing his backing for the Dons boss, chairman Dave Cormack said he had proved his ability to turn things around countless times – a phrase which could conceivably stretch to cover director disquiet.

So why did the Dons choose to stick rather than twist?

Tom Brady after winning the Super Bowl © Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Shutterstock
Tom Brady after winning the Super Bowl

McInnes has been in charge of the Pittodrie club for over seven years, and almost 400 games.

He is the top flight’s longest-serving manager by a distance. No one could accuse them of hurrying him out the door.

The length of his stay is a significant factor in another way.

Stewart Milne, the previous leader of the board, fought off offers from other clubs for his manager with ever more lucrative terms and conditions.

The cost of severing McInnes’s contract now – while it still has 16 months to go – could run into seven figures.

McInnes, too, is in credit when it comes to balancing the clubs’ finances, with the sales of Scott McKenna and Sam Cosgrove having raised some £5-million in fees.

That is a huge amount for a Scottish Premiership club to be taking in, and a godsend in a time of a global pandemic.

It is unlikely he will have been thrilled about making do with loan players coming in the other direction, but has got on with it anyway, recruiting the trio of Fraser Hornby, Florian Kamberi and Callum Hendry.

As is this case with every manager, long-serving or not, there have been times where recruitment has not gone to plan.

The £800,000 paid out for Venezuelan international, Ronald Hernandez, in January, 2020 was one of the biggest fees in Aberdeen’s history.

Thirteen months on and with just three starts and three further appearances off the bench to his name, Hernandez is back home, having been given compassionate leave to be with his wife and daughter.

He will not be coming back.

Curtis Main has had his contract cancelled after failing to make his mark, and has found a new home with Shrewsbury Town.

Kevin Nisbet, snapped up by Hibs from Dunfermline for around £300,000 and now worth more than 10 times as much, stands out as a missed opportunity.

There are always flip sides to any argument, with the capture of Lewis Ferguson from Hamilton Accies at an early stage of his development now looking similarly good business.

By showing what is possible with less, the shiny success of Martindale’s Livingston undermines the efforts of the club with the country’s third largest budget.

Had they beaten St Johnstone when Aberdeen were losing to Hibs last weekend, they would have cut the gap between the Premiership’s fourth and fifth placed sides to just two points.

As it was, their loss was probably timely. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

All of which will doubtless be aired on Tuesday when Dave Cormack takes on a Q & A session with Dons fans on the club’s YouTube Channel.

The suspicion remains one of the main reasons for opting for the status quo might have been a fear that McInnes might go elsewhere – in good Tom Brady style – to show Aberdeen what they were missing.

You value most what you let you go.

Now, there is a romantic thought for Valentine’s Day.