Tomorrow marks yet another end of a managerial era at Pittodrie. The game against Hearts will be Craig Brown’s last home game in charge of Aberdeen, but what will his legacy be as power at Pittodrie is transferred into the hands of Derek McInnes after the trip to Tanadice.
Its worthwhile looking at where we were when Brown assume the reigns at Pittodrie. The team left by Mark McGhee was just appalling. It lacked real quality, and had its collective confidence destroyed by poor tactics, suspect team selection, and questionable transfer activity. It might be argued that Scott Vernon has proved to be a good acquisition, as perhaps has Josh Magennis bearing in mind recent performances. But let’s not forget Jerel Ifil! We had a squad wholly unsuited to McGhee’s 4-3-3 vision after we jettisoned all our recognised fullbacks. There seemed to be a failure to communicate his vision to the squad we had, as some of the results were nothing short of a disaster. McGhee’s reign will be forever remembered for the 9-0 thrashing endured at Celtic Park. Milne probably let his reign go on too long, but finally McGhee went. Brown’s appointment seemed a smart move. He had a reputation for building functional, unspectacular teams that are tough to beat. If he had any illusions about the task in hand, they were shattered at Tynecastle as Brown watch on as we crumbled 5-0 to Hearts.
All-in-all, Brown’s first season in charge can be considered a success. He was brought in to stop the rot, and ensure we avoided any flirtation with relegation. We managed enough wins to make sure we avoided the drop, and there was a cup run to be had, although they petered out in disappointment again. Brown’s transfer dealings in his first offseason were all decent ones. A lot of experience was added to the team with Gavin Rae coming in, Stephen Hughes and prodigal son, Russell Anderson returning. Brown pulled off a couple of big moves, landing Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn. I’d rate last summer as B+ if not better on the transfer front. Hughes has generally disappointed, but McGinn has been excellent beyond expectation whereas Rae & Anderson have given us a lot more games than anyone thought we’d see from them.
Unfortunately, Brown failed to utilise a squad with a decent amount of quality. There have been some good signs along the way, but they’ve been far and few between. Scott Vernon has had his confidence wrecked, and Hughes has been used all to much to no effect. Brown’s reluctance to use the young players at Pittodrie may have held us back. Cammy Smith showed real promise when given a few games, but he, Declan McManus, Nicky Low have all seen precious little action. Smith in particular has shown he’s capable of exciting the fans, and that’s something that’s desperately needed.
To be fair on Brown, injuries haven’t helped him. The loss of Ryan Jack & Andy Considine on long term injuries left us lacking in quality and solidity at the back. Losing Ryan Fraser to the English leagues has affected our creativity, and Brown’s use of slow, deliberate midfield players has led to the goals drying up. Thankfully Niall McGinn’s goals this season have been in sufficient quantity to keep our heads above water. Generally we’ve been disappointing and negative though.
Still, I think Brown has improved the team, and the one he’s handing over to Derek McInnes is significantly better than the one he inherited from Mark McGhee. We’ve got some quality young players and good experience in the team with the likes of McGinn, Hayes & Vernon. Players like Peter Pawlett really need to step up though, and McInnes will hopefully let the young lads get a run in the first team to show what they can do. I’m happy that Craig Brown is moving out of the dugout and into the boardroom, but happy enough he improved the team. Its up to McInnes to moves us on. Time will tell if that will be the case.