Friday, 27 May 2011

Aberdeen FC Season Review: 2010/2011

It is fair to say that the 2010/2011 season has been a resolutely disastrous one for Aberdeen Football Club, with the wreckage including a manager, a captain (and his vice captain) and several first team players - not to mention a healthy portion of dignity. A resounding 4-0 victory over Hamilton on the opening day ultimately seems to have been more a false dawn than anything else as the team have seemed to plumb new depths with every week. While the appointment of Craig Brown as manager in December brought a brief resurgence, the club soon reverted to type, staggering over the finish line in 9th place. With money in short supply in the SPL and Brown inheriting a team lacking in confidence, personality and most importantly ability, the magnitude of the task on his hands must not be underestimated.

The Managers:

Mark McGhee - McGhee's reign was in hindsight a disaster from start to finish, and probably should have ended long before it actually did. Despite making a few decent signings in the close season he was hamstrung by his bizarre refusal to sign any full backs, leaving the team reliant on playing centre backs out of position. During a shameful four month spell McGhee demonstrated a lack of tactical nous, motivational skills and media handling ability. The good times were few and far between and I for one was delighted to see the back of him, Aberdeen legend or not.

Craig Brown - Undoubtedly an upgrade on his predecessor, it will be difficult to judge Brown fairly until he has had a full pre season under his belt. Off the field he handled affairs with ten times more grace, class and politeness than McGhee ever seemed capable of. On the field, a brief initial improvement aside it was more of the same unfortunately. The team struggled for goals, inspiration and defensive stability and could have easily been dragged into more of a relegation battle than they eventually were. For the most part Brown's signings were a success, while his tactics looked hit and miss - the sides capitulation in the first semi against Celtic could be attributed in part to Brown's willingness to tinker with a winning formation. At the moment I am happy with Brown, but there can be no more excuses come the start of next season.

Player of the Season: Scott Vernon
Despite not being subject to a great deal of competition from the rest of the squad, Vernon is a worthy winner. Arriving without the pedigree of more notable recent signings he has got on with it from day one, growing gradually into the most effective striker I have seen at Pittodrie in the last few years. Not blessed with great pace, strength or ariel ability Vernon's main attribute is his ability to hold the ball and bring others into play, as well as his shrewd off the ball movement and work rate. Despite having to play injured for a spell and missing the tail end of the season Vernon finished with a respectable total of 14 goals and should come back even stronger next term.

Young Player of the Season: Ryan Jack
There is perhaps even less competition for this award, but again Jack is a more than worthy winner. Coming into the side this season without a first team appearance to his name, the 19 year old has grown into a vital member of the Aberdeen squad, earning plaudits for his energetic midfield displays as well as his versatility. Despite having to turn out at full back earlier in the season he has never looked out of his depth and has put some of the more senior members of the squad to shame.

Disappointment of the Season:
Where to start with this one, in truth I could probably write an entire article on the subject. Could it be Zander Diamond alienating ever quarter of the Aberdeen support? Michael Paton forgetting how to play football? Or perhaps the shambolic swap that saw Rangers rob us blind with an inexplicable swap deal that saw us lose our own full back in exchange for a perma-crocked striker that we really didn't need. All of those were awful, yes... but this season there can only be one winner:
Celtic 9-0 Aberdeen, 6th November 2010
I don't think I even need to provide an explanation - simply the most embarassing day in all the years that I have supported Aberdeen F.C. Truly awful, and the moment that I realized that McGhee had to go.

Signing of the Season: Scott Vernon (Free Transfer from Colchester United)
Oddly enough, Mark McGhee's business in the transfer market last summer was fairly decent. Hartley was perhaps overhyped but carried us through the opening months of the season and Yoan Folly looked a solid, no frills acquisition. But given that I have already named him as my Aberdeen Player of the Season, this award has to go to Scott Vernon. His arrival on a free from Colchester United hardly set the pulse racing but he has looked a very solid striker, scoring some important goals and working very hard for the team.

Worst Signing of the Season: Nikola Vujadinovic (Loan from Udinese)
Despite arriving with arguably the greatest pedigree of any of Aberdeen's close season captures (bar Hartley), the Montanegrin defender was an unmitigated disaster. Although he possessed decent ball skills, Vujadinovic quite simply could not defend. It is a mystery to me how he was ever worth £1 million.

Goal of the Season: Rory McArdle vs St Mirren, 12th March 2011
Any who were lucky enough to see McArdle's scrappy final minute effort would testify that it would be fortunate to find its way onto any conventional Goal of the Season lists. Despite this, no Aberdeen goal this season has come to close to matching the euphoria I felt when the Northern Irishman hammered the ball home in the final moments of stoppage time. Up until that point it had been business as usual for the Dons, outplayed by an inferior opponent and heading for yet another embarassing cup exit. McArdle's goal allowed me to believe, however briefly that this season would be different...

Game of the Season: Aberdeen 4-0 Hamilton, 14th August 2010
There isn't really another candidate, as an Aberdeen supporter our opening day demolition of a poor Hamilton side had it all. A hat trick from out new captain, a clean sheet and most importantly three points on the board. There could have been no better way to start the season, and it's unfortunate that what followed was such an appalling travesty.

The Future:
A revamp is obviously needed at Aberdeen, but then the same could have been said for the last three or four seasons. The squad is in need to reinforcements in virtually every important area, without the budget to do so adequately. All signs point to a long and hard pre-season for Craig Brown, with the departure of Paul Hartley hastening the search for a new captain. There are positives of course - Fyvie, Mackie and Folly are all due to return from long lays offs - Fyvie actually appeared in the final two matches of the season - and while it seems a cliche to say it, they will be like new signings and will strengthen the side in vital areas. The last few seasons have also brought renewed belief in the clubs youth development system and the likes of Jack Grimmer, Clark Robertson and Mitchell Megginson to name but three will no doubt play a greater role in the first team picture next season. The objective is clear - for a club of Aberdeen's stature a place in the top six of the SPL should be the absolute minimum, and if there is any manager in Scottish football to deliver this then I believe it is Craig Brown.
Stand Free.

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