Management Speak

View Fae The YIt has been five years since we have been in the position to speculate on who our next manager will be. Of the SPL sides, only Falkirk and Kilmarnock have had their managers in place for as long as Calderwood was, and it all feels a little bit unfamiliar - from what I hear, the Hearts Mad page has a full time employee dedicated to giving fans the lowdown on potential managerial targets.

While it was hard to like Jimmy, all but the harshest of critics would see that his tenure was a positive step forward - he wasn't Jesus, but he had the same initials.

Whoever takes up the reigns will inherit a good squad, with European football to look forward to, and in a far healthier financial situation than in May 2004. All the pieces are there to suggest that the right man could make a very good name for themselves at AB24.

So, where do we go from here? The bookies' (and most fans') favourite appears to be Mark McGhee. On first impressions he would appear to be an excellent choice. Not only has he got a long lasting affinity with the Aberdeen supporters and years of experience, but he appears to be everything that Calderwood wasn't: understated, articulate and relatively humble.

His preference for an attacking 4-3-3 formation will win him many admirers, and his willingness to field a settled team will doubtless encourage where Calderwood infuriated. Aberdeen may have to act quickly for his signature, to fend off interest from Celtic, but this only underlines the esteem in which he is held.

Appointing McGhee would not be without question marks. Just how much of an improvement on Calderwood could we expect from McGhee? His Motherwell side spent the first half of last season looking as if they could split the Old Firm, but have spent the last eighteen months struggling for any kind of sustained form, while their cup defeats at the hands of lower league opposition were remarkably similar to our own shortcomings.

Being eliminated from the UEFA Cup by a distinctly average Nancy side (currently 14th in Le Championnat) was far from impressive. With a bigger budget and more backing from his board, would McGhee be able to go further than he did in Lanarkshire?

Eric Black is the next strongest contender if you believe the bookmakers, and as with McGhee, his appointment would generally be welcomed with the warmth befitting a genuine club legend.

Black's name is linked to the Dons job every time there is a vacancy, and this time his credentials are stronger than ever. After getting a raw deal from Coventry (being sacked after only 26 games, despite 12 wins), Black has worked as assistant to Steve Bruce at Birmingham and Wigan. Bruce's stock has never been higher, and he has been linked to the Sunderland job (with all the potential riches that may bring). Regardless of whether Bruce is at Wigan or Sunderland next season, it is likely he will want to keep his assistant with him.

The short odds on Craig Levein and John Collins are somewhat surprising. Both are held in high regard by the media and, like McGhee, both have been mentioned as potential candidates to replace Strachan at Celtic.

The United manager gets kudos for his lack of respect for the Old Firm, a criticism that was all too often laid at the door of Jimmy Calderwood. However, the journalists who suggest Levein's name are surely being lazier than a Chick Young metaphor. It will not have escaped the board's attention that Levein's United have finished behind Aberdeen in each of the last three seasons, and have a worrying (read: hilarious) tendency to throw away their season in the closing months.

Collins' main strength appears to lie in his discipline - you can't imagine he would allow a Tuesday night stag party - and his insistence that his players act like, you know, professional athletes. However, his tactical and man-management credentials remain unknown after a less than successful time in Belgium and there is a suspicion amongst some that he might subscribe to the Kevin Keegan school of commitment.

There are other options within the SPL. Jim Jeffries would probably eat his own hands for a chance to manage Aberdeen - no doubt we have at least four or five copies of his CV in a filing cabinet somewhere.

Despite the fact that Jeffries has shown he can work on a budget, with moderate success, his appointment wouldn't exactly set the pulses racing. Besides, we don't really need to be signing Gary Locke or Steve Fulton any time soon.

John Hughes has shown that he can create an attacking side with a limited budget, and his Falkirk side have rightly received plaudits for their passing and movement. It is a long way from the long ball game that all too often appeared as Jimmy's Plan B.

That said, most of us would rather that we won games, than found ourselves in a situation like Falkirk did on the last day of the last season. If we were being kind to Hughes we might also suggest that he has 'communication issues'. If we were being less forgiving we might suggest that he has all the personality of a cardboard ghost.

With jobs this big (and I take great pride in saying that this is still a big job) there are always going to be candidates who evoke more a sentimental reaction.

In Darren Ferguson and Dean Windass there are two potential managers whose appointment would create plenty of headlines before any players take to the pitch.

Darren Ferguson has made great waves at Peterborough with back to back promotions and, despite what Peterborough board members may think, the opportunity to manage a side with the pedigree of Aberdeen must be tempting.

What is likely to be more of a barrier is Fergie Junior's unwillingness to follow his father's direct career path because of the weight of expectation he would come under. Even if Ferguson wanted to take on the challenge, Peterborough's compensation would likely be prohibitive.

There would be no such problems with Windass, who is likely to leave Hull this summer. While any decision to hire an untested manager would be met with scepticism, the boost that the club would receive from knowing 'Deano's coming home' cannot be so easily dismissed.

Take a moment to think what the atmosphere would be like for his return. One suspects that Windass has all the capabilities to become a good manager, especially if he was assisted by a more analytical deputy, but it is surely too much of a risk to opt for an untested manager at such a crucial time.

Perhaps in another five years...

Tubilay

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