After pushing Celtic all the way until the split, Aberdeen supporter Jack Thomson takes a look back at the Pittodrie side’s season as they finished second in the Premiership.
Did your club overachieve, meet expectations or underachieve? and why?
The proverbial rollercoaster ride that was Aberdeen’s season eventually fizzled out into something a little more tame. Perhaps our season was more reminiscent of the dodgems; short sharp bursts of excitement but lacking the consistent speed and direction to mount a serious challenge to the big bully incapable of picking on kids his own size.
Despite the final day disappointment of last season, a 2014 League Cup victory provided the Dons with not only a first piece of silverware in 19 years but also a hunger for seconds. The expectations were high. At a minimum, most Aberdeen supporters would have said a second placed finish and cup final appearance was required. Many supporters of other Scottish Premiership sides adjudged the Dons to be capable of such an achievement. Therefore in this sense, the season proved to be a disappointment with the team exiting to both halves of Dundee in the respective cup competitions. A last gasp David Clarkson strike sunk Aberdeen in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, arguably against the run of play, and most Dandies cannot separate the responsibility of serial offender Nadir Ciftci and the uninspiring Scouse fumbler Scott Brown in the late Semi-Final concession to the Arabs.
The elements of cup disappointment were consoled for most of the season by an admirable effort to stand up to the fairground menace, Celtic, in the league campaign. Aberdeen huffed and puffed, achieving an eight game winning streak, including a flawless defensive record of clean sheets in each match, which catapulted the Dons to the top of the league for a period of time. Derek McInnes handled the media pressure which came as a result with aplomb, insisting with sincere professionalism that the team would continue to approach the season ‘one game at a time’.
How do you rate your manager? What did he do or fail to do?
McInnes can be proud of the winning mentality instilled in the side, one that has seen the Dons rescue points at the death of matches or come from behind to claim victories. Perhaps this was no more evident when two late goals inside the final five minutes against Dundee at Pittodrie, achieved an unlikely point following an uncommon disappointing performance. The gaffer’s recruitment in the close season proved to be commendable. Scott Brown is not the long term solution in the sticks but with a decent level of shotstopping and impressive distribution (in comparison to the dreadful Langfield), he has managed to maintain the number one spot for most of the season. The goalkeeper achieved 15 clean sheets, although the praise is probably better directed at Andy Considine, Mark Reynolds, Ash Taylor and dressing room joker Shay Logan. Logan may have been with us last season on loan but his first full season at right back in scarlet red, was an impressive one. Solid defensively and extremely capable offensively he has filled a problem position, but for how long? The former Manchester City defender has been linked continuously with a summer transfer back down South. David Goodwillie is obviously a player capable of brilliance and we have seen glimpses of this, an overhead kick against St. Johnstone and his exquisite assist for Adam Rooney in an away victory at Motherwell come to mind. Ultimately, however, Goodwillie hasn’t shown the effort or desire to be considered a first team regular. The striker’s future remains in the balance following further questionable antics off the field and it may not be long before his career fades into ignominy.
Who were your standout players of the season? and why?
Arguably the signing of the season goes to Ash Taylor. At 6 foot 4, the centre back signed from Tranmere Rovers is domineering in the air and has complimented the much shorter Mark Reynolds in defence with an impressive reading of the game and tackling ability. However, it did not always seem this way after an error prone performance on the opening day of the season afforded Dundee United a comfortable 3-0 victory and several other shaky performances against direct sides such as Hamilton worried the fans into eagerly awaiting the return of captain Russell Anderson. The towering defender soon found his feet, however, and as touched on was undoubtedly a significant factor in the series of clean sheets achieved by the Dons defence midseason.
While Taylor may have been the standout signing, Aberdeen’s player of the season was rightfully the prolific Adam Rooney. The Irishman’s record of 28 goals in all competitions speaks for itself and consequently, he was rewarded with a PFA player of the year nomination and call-up to the Republic of Ireland national squad. A close second to Rooney had to be fellow countryman Jonny Hayes. The winger has grown to become a key player for the Dons with his trickery on the wing in recent seasons but injuries this season have seen the little man fill in at centre midfield. Many supporters were pleasantly surprised by the box to box presence Hayes offered in midfield, a willingness to collect the ball in deep positions followed by direct running into the opposition third. Some called for the winger to be cemented in this position more permanently.
Who failed to impress? and why?
The most eminent failure of the season has to be Jamie Langfield. The sub standard goalkeeper performed poorly in the opening stages of the season and a shamefully timid performance in a 3-0 drubbing at New Douglas Park saw Clangers make way for Brown. A succession of unconfident performances by Brown in encounters with much at stake saw Langfield unfortunately regain his place. Following Langfield’s return in a 2-1 victory over Motherwell, the goalkeeper arrogantly remarked that it was nothing personal to Brown. A mere few matches later, Aberdeen were lucky to draw 0-0 at home to Partick Thistle as Langfield punted the ball into the stands several times and had his blushes spared by the Aberdeen backline when he dropped a simple cross. The former Dundee and Dunfermline player is rumoured to have requested his testimonial match, a glamour tie against Brighton which will unlikely be well attended due to his sullen attitude towards the supporters.
What would you change or focus on within the club over summer?
The management team have been proactive in preparations for next season, recruiting one of the finest fullbacks in Scottish football on a pre-contract in the form of Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s Aberdeen born Graeme Shinnie, while shaving off much of the deadwood and securing several key players on longer contracts. The Aberdeen faithful would like to see certain positions strengthened over the summer. The goalkeeping position has too long been an issue. A brave but correct decision to sack the perhaps irrelevant Jim Leighton should be followed up with the boldness to reprieve Jamie Langfield of his duties and bring in a replacement number one capable of doing the basics; shotstopping, distribution and a command of his area. Scott Brown seems to only tick two out of the three essentials but is an adequate understudy. The departures of Donvervorn Daniels and Joe Shaughnessy mean that additional cover in defence is recommended and will likely be achieved by the impending acquisition of Paul Quinn from Ross County. If McInnes fends off interest for the likes of the aforementioned Rooney, Hayes and Logan, simultaneously with fellow key players Niall McGinn and Ryan Jack then perhaps only an additional striker and wide player is necessary to tighten the gap on Celtic next season.
There have also been calls to improve the training ground situation. With the first team spending as much time travelling to various locations around Aberdeen as training itself, it becomes a glaring deficiency for a club the size of Aberdeen. Progress on this off the pitch aspect is required.
What are your expectations for next season?
Another flirtation with qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League would be pleasant. If Aberdeen recruit shrewdly and develop a consistency across all competitions then a successive second placed finish accompanied by another trophy is not impossible. Beyond that, a stronger challenge to Ronny Deila’s Celtic side would have supporters queuing for another shot on the rollercoaster.