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Mark McGhee - a tale of Pittodrie woe

Mark McGhee with Aberdeen defender Zander Diamond
McGhee appears to have been unable to get the best out of his squad

By Liam McLeod

"On a scale of one to two, I'd put the Celtic job above Aberdeen."

Those were the words of Mark McGhee on his unveiling as Aberdeen manager in June 2009, having also been linked with his other former club. It was downhill from that moment.

When they were uttered, there was an unease about the appointment, from the fans to the man himself.

For most Dons supporters, there was a willingness for McGhee to do well. He is a Pittodrie legend - he always will be - from his playing days there.

But the club has lurched from one disaster to another under his stewardship.

Among the unwanted records broken under McGhee are a record European defeat (5-1 at home and 8-1 on aggregate to Sigma Olomouc), a record Scottish Premier League defeat (9-0 at Celtic just last month) and a miserable 17 wins in 62 matches with four points from the last 39.

McGhee's final few weeks since the annihilation at Celtic Park have been painful viewing and listening

Cup defeats to lower-league opposition - Dundee and Raith Rovers - added to the pain, while the manager's dealings in the transfer market were also questionable.

The swap deal that led to Ricky Foster moving from Pittodrie to Rangers, with perpetually injured striker Andrius Velicka going the other way, was and still is a head-scratcher.

That left the Dons without a single senior full-back, with central defenders and midfielders being asked to perform that role.

Other McGhee signings have failed miserably.

There was also the treatment of winger Sone Aluko last year, when he went on international duty and was called back supposedly injured.

Jim Leighton's sacking as goalkeeping coach was up there in the strange decision stakes.

Coupling all that with the fact that most of Jimmy Calderwood's Dons' squad did not take to McGhee, it was never going to be a marriage made in heaven.

But anyone who thinks that the club's problems have been solved by the axing of McGhee, along with assistants Scott Leitch and Colin Meldrum, will be mistaken.

In the closing months of Calderwood's tenure, the club won only three of their final 16 SPL matches and went out of the Scottish Cup after a replay against First Division side Dunfermline. There was already a rot there.

The board failed to keep together his and Jimmy Nicholl's best Dons team - the class of 2006-07 - that qualified for Europe.

It is a rot that is threatening to push the loyal Red Army away for good and, if that is to be prevented, there needs to be more focus on the now and not the future new stadium - which, although needed, will need a Premier League club to fill it.

Mark McGhee and assistant manager Scott Leitch
McGhee and assistant Scott Leitch have been under pressure

The club also needs to get out and about the north east - encourage school kids to games, marketing itself around the city better.

Whoever the new manager is, he will have an almighty task reinvigorating the players who are already there.

An out of work manager such as John Hughes or Gus MacPherson would be an attractive option for both the board - and the former managers of Hibernian and St Mirren.

Former Chelsea and West Ham assistant Steve Clarke came close to the Hibs job recently, while former Don Billy Stark - currently youth team coach at the Scottish Football Association - is another in the frame.

Calderwood is unlikely to return to Pittodrie given the nature of his departure last May, but it is the players who must look in the mirror and ask if they gave McGhee 100%.

Perhaps they will be happier with the next appointment than they were the last.

McGhee's final few weeks since the annihilation at Celtic Park have been painful viewing and listening.

Quotes about the supernatural being to blame were testament to that.

For McGhee, his CV - and, indeed, Wikipedia page - have been permanently soiled by this sorry 18-month saga.

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see also
McGhee sacked as boss of Aberdeen
01 Dec 10 |  Aberdeen
McGhee unhappy with Killie loss
27 Nov 10 |  Aberdeen
McGhee did not consider leaving
12 Nov 10 |  Aberdeen
McGhee on the brink at Pittodrie
08 Nov 10 |  Aberdeen
Celtic 9-0 Aberdeen
06 Nov 10 |  Scottish Premier

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