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Half-term report card, Aberdeen: Recent mutterings of discontent are the price of Del’s Dons success

© Craig Williamson / SNS GroupAberdeen's Sam Cosgrove
Aberdeen's Sam Cosgrove

The league table suggests Aberdeen are motoring along nicely at the halfway point.

However, the mutterings of discontent among Pittodrie punters tell a more nuanced story.

Yes – the Dons sit just a point behind this season’s surprise package and current third-place occupants, Motherwell.

Yes – they are also a luxurious 11 points clear of Livingston in fifth.

Yes – they boast a striker in Sam Cosgrove who has already bagged 20 goals this term.

But after five straight seasons of relative success, that isn’t enough for some in the Red Army.

For those fans, the headlines that define the first half of Aberdeen’s campaign are very different.

They’re about the way the Dons crashed out of the Betfred Cup to Hearts, denying them a shot at that longed-for second trophy of the Derek McInnes era.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes

They’re about how McInnes’ side have only managed one run of consecutive wins (against Hamilton Accies, Kilmarnock and Ross County) domestically.

And they’re about how Cosgrove’s goal haul is papering over the cracks for a team that has often struggled to impose itself on games.

Those criticisms are legitimate, especially coming from fans who pay their money week-in, week-out.

But they don’t erase the other side of the story, the one that Aberdeen’s manager prefers to emphasise in public.

The bottom line is the Dons are not far away from where they should be.

There have been wobbles, surprising losses, a creeping struggle to finish games off, and their Betfred Cup quarter-final loss was a failure to meet stated targets.

But for all of it – and for all the squad surgery McInnes has had to perform – they remain comfortably ahead of the pack.

The fact that some in the Granite City see such a scenario as something akin to stagnation tells a story about how far their manager has raised expectations.

Watching how it unfolds will be a fascinating – and McInnes will hope redemptive – experience.



He arrived at Aberdeen with zero fanfare, but over the last year, Sam Cosgrove has become the Dons’ talisman.

Yet while his 20 goals have driven the Dons up the table, they have also driven Cosgrove himself into the sights of goal-hungry English sides. McInnes has gone public on his desire to hang on to his top striker in the transfer window. But money talks, and a substantial bid will test the resolve of new chairman, Dave Cormack.

Cosgrove’s goals are one thing. But the vast improvement in his all-round game has been another huge factor in Aberdeen’s campaign.

The raw, awkward, gangly youngster he appeared to be when he arrived from Carlisle United is long gone.

These days, the 23-year-old is an intelligent, composed, deadly front man.

Keeping him until after the current window is closed would be huge for Aberdeen, but if he continues his form from the first half of the season, a summer move will become near-inevitable.



Finishing third would be considered par for the Dons, and that must be their aim.

But Granite City punters expect more from their team.

Managing those expectations has become a big part of Derek McInnes’ job.

It’s a task that must frustrate the Dons boss but, as ever, he will back himself to get the job done, both on the field and in the PR sense.

As the longest-serving manager in the Premiership, McInnes knows his club inside out, and enjoyed a solid relationship with former chairman, Stewart Milne.

But how things pan out over the next few transfer windows between the Dons manager and new chief, Cormack, will define whether the club’s new era begins with stability as the watchword.

A renewed charge to secure third place – and keep chasing for second – after the winter break would strengthen McInnes’ hand.

Chuck in a Scottish Cup Final – and ideally a win – and Aberdeen would be a happy club in a healthy place.