My old club Aberdeen have had a terrific start to the season but think the next few games will tell us a lot more about the their title credentials.
After the international break they play Celtic at home, Hamilton at home and then Hearts away and these games will be crucial in shaping Aberdeen’s season.
There is little doubt that the Dons, and Hearts who have also had a great start, can challenge this year but whether they can actually take the title off Celtic will come down to how they perform in the head-to-head matches.
If they win some of those games, or at least don’t lose them all as Aberdeen did last year, they will be right up there.
It’s too early to say they can win the title as they are yet to prove they can beat Celtic but if they beat the Bhoys when the Ladbrokes Premiership resumes then I think it’s fair to say Aberdeen can get there.
While talk of a title tilt is encouraging, however, the realistic target is to improve on last season and they have done that so far. I think the aim is to secure second place again to make sure they have European football next season and then it’s about trying to make a mark on the continent by qualifying for the Europa League. That would be a huge leap forward for the club and one that I’m sure is achievable.
Celtic have got the biggest and strongest squad and really should take the title with the players they have at their disposal but having said that they’ve had a few leave recently so that will give Aberdeen and Hearts some confidence.
McInnes reaping the benefit of early transfer dealings
While many managers north and south of the border were scrambling around on Deadline Day trying to put together the last few pieces of their respective jigsaws Derek McInnes had his feet up, safe in the knowledge that his hard work was already done.
He got his business completed much earlier in the window and managed to strengthen by bringing in three new players. He released a few too and now has a good level of experience and quality and that has been evident in Aberdeen’s performances so far.
He’s confident and happy with the depth in his squad so there was no need for any panic moves. There’s something to be said for setting your stall out early on he is seeing the rewards of that on the pitch.
Some people have questioned if the Dons are over-reliant on Adam Rooney to keep the flow of goals coming but I don’t see any issue there.
I think you can have too many strikers as it can be a problem for the manager if they have to juggle too many players in one position. David Goodwillie is very capable of scoring goals, there’s no doubt about that, and Rooney will be the main striker for sure but they’ve also got Kenny McLean, who is now scoring from that deep lying midfield area, Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn so I don’t think it’s an area that is struggling.
They’re sometimes wasteful in front of goal but that’s just down to the players finding their feet this season. I’m confident that Rooney will consistently hit the back of the net so it’s just a case of providing backup so I don’t see it as being an issue this season.
McInnes has assembled a squad for the long-term
When you look at the names Aberdeen have brought in they are players who have had a chance south of the border, Rooney, Goodwillie and Willo Flood have all have an opportunity to prove themselves in England but it hasn’t worked out for whatever reason and they are now back at Aberdeen. Outside of Celtic and now maybe Hearts, Aberdeen is the club to be at if you’re playing in Scotland so Derek doesn’t have to worry too much about the key players in his squad moving on.
The challenge will still be there going forward to keep hold of some of the younger players but the way the team is playing and the confidence they have with the talent on display means it’s a good place to be and it would be a big wrench for anyone to leave the club at the moment.
Jack and Shinnie have the quality but need to bide their time
Aberdeen duo Ryan Jack and Graeme Shinnie were being touted for a call up to the Scotland squad and while it didn’t happen for them this time round Derek has tipped them for honours in the not too distant future.
I think they definitely are good enough but it takes a wee bit of time. It took me a few years of playing at the top to convince Jock Stein to give me an opportunity. It’s not as easy as just showing form and then getting the nod – it’s a tough slog.
They both have the ability to play at a higher level and if they continue the form they’ve shown of late they will force Gordon Strachan to bring them in sooner or later so Derek is right that they are good enough but these things take time.
If they make it it’d be good to see some Scottish-based players outside of Parkhead back among the squad.
I was part of an era that managed to smash through the Old Firm’s grip on the national team when myself and a few others from Aberdeen and Dundee made it but the history of the national side has always been dominated by Old Firm players and those playing in England.
I don’t think it’s a worry though, to be honest it is something of a compliment. Gordon and his team will be aware of the players playing in the Ladbrokes Premiership and aren’t overlooking them, they’ll just think that the better players are at these other teams.
It’s not a slant on the game in Scotland it’s just a fact that some of these players are now plying their trade down south and that is a compliment to the way these players were raised.
Ash Taylor deserves his chance and should be welcomed to the Scotland fold
Some people have raised concerns about an English-born player who has represented Wales at U21 level turning out for the Scottish national side but I think if it’s within the rules of the game its fine.
I’m sure other people will disagree with me but with the transient nature of modern football, players play all over the world so you can’t be too picky. If someone fits the criteria and has the right performances and wants to reach the heights of international football then I think its fine.
Ash Taylor deserves his chance as he’s come from a small start at Aberdeen, where he was flying under the radar, to convincing everyone that he’s a player of the highest order.