So It Comes Down To This

By Stand Free Ed
Last updated : 10 May 2009

So it comes down to this. Wins against Hearts and Hibs in Aberdeen's last two home games of the season, and the Dons are likely to meet this and every season's goal of European football the following term (click here for details).

This should come as a major surprise: Aberdeen have been poor this season. Sone Aluko's sporadic moments of skill aside, the quality of football has been uninspiring overall, and at some points desperate and idea-free.

The cup exits have been pathetic and littered with question marks over the manager's selection policy (why Bossu at Kilmarnock? Why no Tommy Wright against Dunfermline?), the number of draws has been painful and damaging, and goals have been hard to come by - yet again, our top scorer has barely scraped into double figures.

The only real plus-points were a great run of results around December-January, that saw Lee Miller scoop Player of the Month and Aluko the youth equivalent, and a defence that has been notably tighter than the one that collapsed to many 3-goal deficits the previous year.

The fans have come to Pittodrie in bigger numbers than any season since 2004/05, yet are split on the way forward for the club. An angry letter to the press and club came from the AFC Trust/Supporters Society, and a laudable/laughable (depending on your viewpoint) and tiny protest was held in the wake of the team's Scottish Cup exit.

But while these extremists do not account for anything more than a small minority of the Dons' support, there is a palpable feeling of overall despondency in the Pittodrie stands. There's support, sure, but there is also a tacit awareness that we are competing at a certain level well below the Old Firm, above which we shall not rise. And this is very dispiriting.

This is called apathy by a number of the more extreme members of the support, but that term is insulting to those similarly hardcore supporters who simply disagree with others about the best way to help the club out of its current situation.

So, how much of this mire of dire fare is Jimmy Calderwood's fault? Despite record profits last year, the purse has been opened this season to the tune of only around £100,000 to strengthen the squad - about as much as John Prescott spends on toilet seats. The squad has been trimmed closer to completely bare than a Brazilian wax; the only thing about AFC that could be described as Brazilian-like.

Yet the fans are not rounding on Stewart Milne or the rest of the board of directors for failing to invest in possible success. The focus of blame has switched to Calderwood and, to a lesser yet very surprising extent, to club legend and Director of Football Willie Miller.

This is terrific news for the board. They can get on with the job of trying to steady the debt-ridden ship and the tricky subject of moving from historic Pittodrie to an out-of-town stadium, and the fans' attention has been entirely deflected by wanting rid of the manager who has unarguably played his part in the ship-steadying.

But here we are, two weeks of the season to go, and despite all this we are in the mix for Europe again. How can this be? We've all seen the poor quality of fitba from the men in red. The only logical answer to this is that other SPL teams are no better.

Which fans in the league are actually getting entertained? We continually hear that Falkirk and Hibs play Samba fitba, and Hamilton give good value for money, but any time those teams have appeared live on television, they have fallen woefully short of this hype. Hibs have stopped playing 'Keegan's Newcastle' football under Mixu, and the result is fairly similar to what we see at Pittodrie. Falkirk look like they are going to 'Samba' their way to relegation - would Aberdeen fans be happy with that? Of course not.

The Edinburgh derby on Thursday was a festival of long-ball hoofing - Hibs trying to get the ball over the top to Riordan and Fletcher; Hearts looping towards Nade's noggin. No pass-and-move here I'm afraid.

While our top scorer Miller has only 10 goals, there are only two non-OF players who have scored more this season: David Clarkson and Stephen Fletcher, both with a mere 12. No non-OF team is anywhere near having the hallowed 20-goal-a-season striker; in fact, only Kris Boyd can claim that title.

Rangers have got to the top of the league on the back of some absolutely spirit-crushingly defensive performances, so typical of their run to the UEFA Cup final last season. Effective, but not entertaining in any sense of the word.

'The worst Old Firm in decades' is the oft-repeated quote, but whether they are or not is immaterial - the Old Firm's strength is measured not on how well they would perform against previous Old Firm teams, but how much better they are than the rest of the teams in the league. A glance at the SPL table tells that sad tale.

Aberdeen are no more or less entertaining than any other team in the league. The SPL is suffering from lack of quality players due to the inability of clubs to pay wages comparable to the vast majority of clubs in the top three divisions just a couple of hundred miles away, south of the border. If the football cash boom was going on in Italy or France, there would be less of an effect as this would involve a major upheaval for players. There is little to upheave when moving to England.

It is due to this, amongst a number of other things outlined by thestooge in his recent article, that the quality is getting sapped from the SPL, and it is due to this that our league is dire, and it is due to this that despite the Dons appearing to be murder, they are actually a major player in an extremely tight battle for Europe.

And it is Europe that earns Aberdeen FC the cash - proved two seasons ago - that will pay off the debt, meaning there will be no excuse in a couple of years' time for the board of directors not giving the manager, whoever that is, cash to help raise us above the mediocrity that we are currently witnessing.

So let's grit our teeth, temporarily accept the humdrum fare, and get right behind the Dons for the crucial Pittodrie Edinburgh double-header.

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