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Page last updated at 22:01 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 23:01 UK

Dons will welcome returning hero

Mark McGhee and Scott Leitch
The arrival of McGhee and assistant Scott Leitch heralds a new Dons era

By Colin Moffat

Mark McGhee arrives at Pittodrie with Aberdeen seemingly on the up.

The Dons will be playing in Europe after securing fourth place in the Scottish Premier League and they have not finished outside the top six since season 2003/04.

It doesn't sound like the backdrop for widespread discontent but former boss Jimmy Calderwood was the victim of some venomous flack from supporters, disgruntled by erratic performances and a number of cup exits at the hands of lower league opponents.

So, is McGhee the man to satisfy a large fan base desperate for success?

He will certainly be afforded a warm welcome, having scored an impressive 63 goals in 164 appearances for the Dons during his playing days.

And just to cement his legendary status in the north-east, six of those came during Aberdeen's successful European Cup-Winners' Cup run in 1983.

The 52-year-old Glaswegian's managerial track record is patchy, with a pattern of promising starts followed by leaner times and he is no stranger to disquiet among supporters.

Dons are not second choice - McGhee

However, Motherwell fans will be sorry to see him leave even though he could only steer the Fir Park club to seventh in the SPL after the success of third spot in his first season.

Dealing with a small squad, Motherwell were beset by injuries in mid-winter and narrowly failed to make the top half of the league split.

There is no doubt he galvanised the Lanarkshire team and had them playing an attractive style of attacking football, although the appalling Fir Park pitch often made the slick passing he promotes impossible.

Indeed, his impact at Motherwell led former Dons team-mate Gordon Strachan to recommend McGhee as his replacement at Celtic.

Hearts came calling last summer, only for McGhee to change his mind about the move at the last minute, while he was interviewed for the Scotland job, losing out to George Burley in the race to succeed Alex McLeish.

McGhee maintains the fierce will to win that marked him out as a powerful, aggressive forward with Morton, Aberdeen, Hamburg, Celtic and Newcastle.

An intimidating presence, with a withering stare inherited from his mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, McGhee is not a man to be messed around.

And that may be cause for alarm in a Pittodrie dressing room, which has been lacking in discipline of late.

But there is far more to McGhee than his hard-man image. Few of his fellow managers would use the term 'Kafkaesque' when explaining the complexities of the Uefa Fair Play qualifying process.

Alex McLeish and Mark McGhee celebrate their 1983 Scottish Cup win
McGhee enjoyed great success as a player with Aberdeen

And his "contest for everything but dispute nothing" approach, which resulted in Motherwell reaching Europe via the bewildering Fair Play route, is most refreshing.

However, after McGhee said at the media conference for his Pittodrie unveiling that the Celtic manager's job had been the role he was after, one may question his wisdom.

McGhee's first management job came at Reading in 1991 and he had spells at Leicester, Wolves, Millwall and Brighton, winning the old Second Division twice and suffering relegation twice.

McGhee assumed control at Motherwell in June 2007 and was an instant hit, with a bold front three of Chris Porter, Ross McCormack and David Clarkson terrorising defences.

His dignified handling of the tragic death of club captain Phil O'Donnell also won him many admirers.

At Pittodrie, McGhee will inherit the core of a good side, with talent like Jamie Langfield, Zander Diamond, Charlie Mulgrew, Mark Kerr, Sone Aluko and Lee Miller at his disposal.

And his shrewd transfer dealings at Fir Park suggest he can find the three or four more quality players needed to progress. He has already made clear his intention to try to convince the out-of-contract Stephen Hughes to follow him from Fir Park.

The new manager won three consecutive Scottish Cups during his trophy-laden playing days with the Dons.

Not even the most zealous Aberdeen fan is expecting an immediate challenge to the Old Firm's SPL dominance but some silverware at Hampden would have the Red Army in raptures.



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see also
McGhee dedicated to new Dons post
12 Jun 09 |  Aberdeen
Miller pleased to get his man
12 Jun 09 |  Scotland
Mark McGhee's career in pictures
12 Jun 09 |  Scottish Premier
Well not rushing boss appointment
15 Jun 09 |  Motherwell


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