AFC Season Preview 2009/10 Part 2

The Players

Not very many ins and outs to speak of — the same amount as went through the managerial revolving door in fact — but some crucial ones nonetheless, particularly considering the defence we saw against Sigma...

Out: Lee Mair, Scott Severin, Jamie Smith
In: Jerel Ifil, Stuart Nelson

Two central defenders out (let's not get into the Severin midfield/defence debate — he was latterly predominantly playing as a defender), and that left us a tad short at the back for the Europa League qualifier... after Mark McGhee phoned every 18-40 year old male in the city and shire to see if they were available, he was forced to play fans' favourite Stuart Duff at centre-back and former SFL free agent Derek Young at full-back.

Looking back, is ANYONE surprised that we got tanked?

Severin had decided he wanted to leave well before the summer, and while it is disappointing that potential replacements weren't targeted in this time, this became complicated by the managerial change.

We lost Mair while we were managerless, and this was an unfortunate but unsurprising sequence of events. How can a club deal with a player when there's no boss there? There is nothing to benefit from finger-pointing here; very little could have been done, and other clubs swooped in while the uncertainty was forcing Mair to consider his options.

But Mair would not have made the difference between us qualifying for the next round of the Europa League qualifiers or not. It was right to dispense with him, as he was back-up at best and while he was occasionally solid enough against most mediocre SPL outfits, he also showed too many lapses in concentration during games.

Andy Considine gets it in the neck for this, but the fact is that Mair is similarly prone to mistakes, bad judgement and has the turning ability of a Hummer in an alleyway, despite being older and having more experience.

Hopefully Jerel Ifil will improve on Mair, but it will be more difficult for him to improve on Severin, who was generally solid and occasionally (like his very last game for the Dons against Hibs) outstanding.

It's easy to have a pop at players like Severin, who sometimes look like they are doing very little on the pitch (which can be partially explained by pacing himself to deal with injuries that crippled his early spell at Pittodrie).

However, he was a key component in Aberdeen's team — particularly when he played in midfield — and we will be lacking a couple of almost undefinable qualities in his absence.

Firstly, is a certain element of nastiness. Seve would be, I bet, someone that most SPL midfielders would not like to come up against. He was never afraid of a challenge, and was very in-your-face. OK, he was no Roy Keane, but in general he liked to throw himself into a juicy confrontation.

Some will argue we have Kerr for that now, but for all Kerr's aggressive streak, he does not have the attack-dog physicality of our former captain.

Seve was also a big game player. He relished games against the Old Firm, particularly Rangers, and was exceptional in most of our UEFA Cup games, particularly Dnipro. His Hearts roots would also come through in games against Hibs, when he would frequently charge around like a cage fighter on crystal meth — and would ALWAYS blast the football into the Hibs support at one point in the game.

It's not easy to put your finger on these qualities — there's no "testicular fortitude" attribute on Football Manager — but Scott Severin had them, we'll miss them, and they are difficult to replace.

The Red Avenger is fond of using the phrase "an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in..." etc, and this is the first thing that came to mind when thinking what to write about Jamie Smith.

In some ways it's quite a simple story — quality player riddled with injuries, which is why we could afford him. Great goals and performances when fit, followed by average performances when fit, followed by history-makingly epic goals against Copenhagen, followed by poor performances and he's gone.

It's a moot point that Jinky needs replacing — it has become apparent that this is what Sone Aluko was brought in to do. But we are still a man shy in the wide areas, and playing Darren Mackie or Bebo Maguire ain't the solution.

This may appear like it is dwelling too much on the players we have lost, but if anything, what that should make abundantly clear is that there are still holes to fill before August 31st.

As for the more familiar faces, it's a case of same again... but with a new manager clicking his fingers to make them jump his way.

The good news is that we have the likes of Diamond, Aluko, Maguire and other relatively young players continuing their SPL progress under a new manager, giving them new ideas, filling in some knowledge gaps.

We still have the amazing left foot of Charlie Mulgrew (can McGhee's coaching help him defend?), the height, strength and skills of Lee Miller (can McGhee's tactics squeeze more goals out of him?), and the shot-stopping and heart of Jamie Langfield (can the manager focus his training on cross balls and distribution?).

But, of course, the same weak links are still hanging around like the ghosts of failures past.

Darren Mackie's on to his fifth Dons manager now, and the question of whether another one can turn him into a reliable finisher is getting more and more easy to answer in the negative.

Andy Considine has had a partly promising, mostly disappointing, and occasionally disastrous last two seasons. With the defence at the bare bones, we need to see more of his Anderson-esque performances and less of the Dave Bus if he is to continue at Pittodrie.

Ricky Foster is more frustrating than most because there IS some talent there to go with the speed. He has undoubtedly been stifled by continually changing position on the football pitch, but will McGhee find a position for him and stick with it?

Derek Young... [comments removed by admin]

Then there's Gary McDonald. Does anyone know how to judge him? Some games he's been like Barry Nicholson never left, but mostly he has been quiet, unassuming... invisible. Perhaps that was Calderwood's tactics. Perhaps it's Gary himself. He certainly could do with making a name for himself this season. Stand up and be counted son!

An interesting wildcard this season could be Tommy Wright — if he stays fit. McGhee brought John Sutton to Motherwell, so clearly likes players of that ilk. That could be Tommy Wright, who has not been short of enthusiasm at Pittodrie but who has been well short of match minutes.

The youth continues to show promise, and it would be great to see Fraser Fyvie make his first-team debut at some point as he looks like a real star in the making — arguably our first for about 20 years.

But while we definitely need the youth production line that was cranked into life a few years ago to start churning them out at the other end soon, we also are crying out for some experience — if not by deadline day, then it will be glaringly obvious by January.

Stand Free Ed

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