Remember a few months ago, before it all went spectacularly wrong for him, when Derek McInnes was telling the whole country that Celtic could be caught and that he and his team were the ones to do it? He was still trotting that stuff out before the League Cup Final last week.
His side failed in the league, and in the cup, in spite of all the big talk.
Perhaps that’s why he’s downplaying his team’s chances of going to Ibrox this weekend and getting a result. Perhaps it’s why he’s now telling everyone that the Ibrox club are favourites to finish second and that his side should never expect to finish in front of them.
But that kind of talk should infuriate Aberdeen fans just the same. It is defeatist. It is weak. It undermines his players and it sends a signal to the world that is undeniable; in spite of our dominance he doesn’t fear Celtic. But he fears the club at Ibrox.
Which makes no sense, unless you look at the world through blue tinted glasses.
And someone whose vision is so badly skewed is not the right person to be leading a club that wants to be more than just also-rans, especially when their biggest rivals this season are the team in blue.
It looks to me like McInnes has surrendered already. I watched the first game between these two teams earlier in the season – the first ever game between them – and I was unimpressed by both teams. Aberdeen have better players than Sevco; I can’t say that enough times. If everyone was fit an Aberdeen-Sevco best XI would be dominated by the Pittodrie club; that’s an undisputed fact. Yet in that match, in front of their home fans, they were ridiculously cautious, putting every man behind the ball, refusing to close down … it was scandalous.
In the end, class told. Aberdeen won the match. But had they been in the mood and gone for the throat they could have given Warburton’s team the sort of hiding we did at Celtic Park. If they attack them at Ibrox this weekend it could be embarrassing for the home crowd.
But McInnes has already talked those prospects down.
He’s told his players that although it’s not alright for them to settle for second place that if that’s inevitable he’ll actually be fine with them finishing third. The gig is up already. He says he still views his side as contenders for the crown but If they fail to cement their status as the second biggest team in the country well that’s okay. What more can they expect?
Sevco is there for the taking; that’s the part that’s hardest to understand. This isn’t a good team, far less one that any side should respect or fear. McInnes’ players are more than capable of going to Ibrox and winning. If they play with self-belief they will.
That’s what should have been ringing out yesterday; self-belief.
Aberdeen are fourth in the table, two points behind Sevco. But they have two games in hand on the Ibrox club and Hearts, and with Sevco next up the message they should have been sending is “be afraid, be very afraid.” Instead he’s downplaying it.
This isn’t the first time he’s seemed in awe of what’s happening at Ibrox either, although the only awesome thing about it is how hilarious it all is. Some say McInnes fancies himself as boss there one day; I can tell you right now that the prospect doesn’t exactly strike terror into the hearts of Celtic supporters I’ve spoken to, who rate him – as I do – as mediocre at best.
I still think he’s underachieved at the club.
Aberdeen are our biggest challengers, and Sevco’s wage bill ought not be intimidating anyone at Pittodrie. That wage bill is being squandered on third rate junk. It’s dragging the newco into the same black hole that swallowed Rangers. Aberdeen’s squad is better, and although I’m criticising McInnes severely here he is a better boss than Warburton is. He should have the belief in his team tomorrow that they go there and attack from the start.
Aberdeen’s players certainly don’t fear this game. Johnny Hayes has been quite vocal in pointing that out.
If their boss approaches things in the same manner, that 25 year wait for a win at the ground of their most hated foes will end at five o’clock tomorrow and his team will move ahead of them in the league … and they’ll still have those two games in hand.