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2017: A review with Derek McInnes

December 31, 2017 5:00 pm Author: RedMatchday team

The Aberdeen manager recently spoke to RedMatchday and looked back at 2017:

“I think that, without doubt, we really felt the benefit of the last winter break and in January and February we were really strong. Obviously we had plenty to play for, certainly towards the back end of the season. In previous years, we had been confirmed in second place some weeks before the end. We still had work to do to clinch that second spot and although we eventually landed up nine points clear, it was important we kept winning games. We had a Scottish Cup final to look forward to and it kept the focus. We could not really take our foot off the gas at any point.

“This season has been different after losing a number of players in the summer. I do think that whilst we have won games this season, we haven’t had too many where we have wiped the floor with teams and had a big scoreline. We’ve won games through doing enough but still always having that underlying feeling there is more in us.

“I think that comes down to the fact that when you make so many signings, you have different players coming in at different stages of their careers. It takes time for them to settle and get used to us and we also had players arrive who had not played for a while. A few of the signings hadn’t had regular football over the last few years so it took them time to get up to speed, but by and large the consistency of results has still been there. To be five points better off at this stage of the season compared with last year may well surprise a few people and considering the adjustments we have made, we have all got to be pleased with that”.

With European football starting so early in the summer, getting a new squad together is anything but easy as the manager concedes.

“Europe is the key thing. It is different if it just one or two new players you are looking for which it has normally been. But when you are trying to replace five of your starting outfield players then there is a concern there that you need to get those signings in quickly. Sometimes you can jump too early because you need them in. In an ideal world, the process of signing players would be a bit more relaxed and a longer period may help because good players can always become available later, but we took the initiative.

“After the cup final there was a bit of speculation about my own position but once that was settled, it was all systems go. We got some really good work done in a short space of time. Making those signings is one thing, but expecting them to be 100% at that early stage of season, even with our players, is always a bit of a challenge. European football is now so quickly upon us that we need to bring a high level of performance immediately.

“I think signing the players we did was pleasing. We can all see that they have got a talent and they are going to bring a lot to us. We have obviously got a few on loan such as Greg Stewart and Ryan Christie. We would have preferred to have those boys as our own players, but it was not possible even though we tried. So we have utilised the loan system, made some good permanent signings and by and large, all the players have settled in well.

“Now that we have come to the end of 2017, having had that time to settle and realise what is expected of them, hopefully we can go and kick on during the second half of the season and have a really strong 2018.

“You have to have real focus on each and every game. I don’t think we have ever been complacent. We have always tried to give each game the same importance. From the coaches’ point of view we get the reports in on a Saturday night and then we do the video analysis so the training that week can be specific to the game. That takes a lot of hard work. Sometimes it is work you could do without, you could think “we don’t need to do the work this week because the players know them” but I think if the players see us coming off the intensity of our preparation, then it might give them that ready made excuse for not be there themselves.

“Doing the work is a challenge especially when the games are coming thick and fast as they are now. You need to give each game the same focus and that is not easy but I do think the players deserve a lot of credit. They are the ones who have to go and try and implement what we do. Sometimes the result does not come, but it does not mean we haven’t worked towards it. Sometimes you don’t always get the reward for your hard work but we give the players the best chance to be successful. The players deserve a lot of credit for having that real focus to their game and I think good players and good teams have that focus each and every game”.

A remarkable stat is the 41 points that the Dons have won on the road this year.

“I think the away record highlights that whether we are home or away, the intention is always to go and win the game. There has never been any hint of “we are going here to get a draw”. I think we are always disappointed if we get a point and don’t win. Sometimes like in the game against Hearts at Murrayfield, you put your hand up and say it was a good point because we did not play at all in the second half and we have Joe to thank for getting us that point. Sometimes when you don’t play anywhere near your best, you just have to take your medicine and try and get out with something.

“I think the away stats highlights the bond and spirit within this group of players. We do a lot of travelling and we are in hotels a lot, so the players spend a lot of time with each other. We also have a brilliant travelling support so when we run out at whatever ground we are at we immediately see and hear them whether it be in Glasgow, Dundee, Edinburgh.

“People have made an effort to come and watch us and I think like the supporters, the players enjoy playing away from home. The players recognise that the game can mean that little bit more because of how vocal the fans are and how much backing we get from them.”

Another stat is some 16 outfield players have scored so far this year.

“I think the set play stats are better this year again. We have always been at the forefront of the SPFL on that over the last few years. The stat would suggest that defenders are getting involved and chipping in with goals. That is pleasing.

“On the scoring charts we don’t have anyone in double figures, but we have more goals than last season. That is quite surprising because when you look at other teams, most sides have a striker who is in double figures at this stage of the campaign. It highlights the importance of us having so many contributing. Hopefully we can maintain that standard and get a few boys into double figures before long.

“I think there have been a lot of positives in 2017.

“The young boys are bulking up the squad and they are all gathering important experience. I think that has been part of a lot of clubs this season and we have been one of those where youngsters are getting more game time.

“I want all my young players to be the way Scott McKenna is. Scott has waited for his chance long enough and now there is no way that he is letting that jersey go. For me, it is not enough for the youngsters to get bits and pieces and feel part of an Aberdeen first team squad. The next step for them is to grab a jersey and make sure they are not giving it up and McKenna is the shining example of that.

“He knows there are good players waiting to come in, he knows there will be a feeling amongst some that as soon as he dips, it is a ready made reason for him to come out of the team and have a rest. He has shown no hint of that at all. He has been absolutely fantastic and he’s the one that Scott Wright, Frank Ross, Danny Harvie, Seb Ross, Dean Campbell, Connor McLennan and Bruce Anderson should all take real inspiration from because the opportunities will be there for them and the opportunities to stay in the team will be down to how they perform when they get that chance.

“Finally, on behalf of everyone at the club, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support throughout the year and wish you all the very best for a happy and successful 2018.”

 

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