Dec 232010

An AGM in these testing times? Is the Pittodrie Board some sort of masochist collective? David Innes reports on the lack of blood and hair on the walls at the 107th Dons AGM held this week.

Before the meeting’s business got underway, a select few of us agreed that had the board not recruited Brown and Knox last week, the chairman would have been issuing SMG construction hard hats to his top table peers, such is the anger among fans about how this season has slumped from hope to despair.

Out of respect for the new managers who attended, but were not called on to speak, politeness and reason prevailed.

The main business such meetings is formal and, to be honest, dull. Suffice to say, directors Milne, Buchan and Gilbert were re-elected and the current beancounters Deloitte and Touche approved as auditors.

The real meat of the AGM is always in the questions from the floor, and this year’s subjects were predictable, which does not mean dull or uninteresting, given the club’s current position.

Directors are not renowned for being wholly open. Like many politicians, they will tell you what they want to tell you rather than answer the questions posed. There were hints of that, although to be fair, not all the floor questions were questions, rather statements of opinion, which made them hard to answer.

On the new stadium, we were informed that staying at AB24 5QH is a non-starter in that new regulations would see the crowd capacity cut to 12000, the disruption during redevelopment would be considerable and that funding it would be impossible. No mention of the destruction of Loirston’s beauty and tranquillity though.

…along with the forecasts for inflation, there may well have to be a rethink. Or a downsize

The funding rationale for The Aberdeen Voice Arena (aye, OK…) didn’t totally stack up either. Pittodrie’s value in the club accounts is a generous £17m, but this had mysteriously inflated to “around £20m” in the chairman’s review, although this did include, he said, another share issue and a mortgage.

Naming rights, and one can only guess at what corporate horror that will be, letting of spare office capacity and other – unspecified – gains from Loirston developments will net another £15m. Funny, I thought £38m was the last estimate I saw and with The Big Society’s VAT rise coming up in a few days time along with the forecasts for inflation, there may well have to be a rethink. Or a downsize. To 12000 capacity, perhaps?

On fitba matters, The Best Number 6 Ever gave his views, although only once did he admit that we do not have enough experience in the squad. Interesting though his contribution was, his focus was almost exclusively on youth development, which in itself is a very good thing, but will not get us out of the current downhill arse over tit panic in which we’re stuck. His claim that seven of the current first 22 are contributing well to the top team is tenuous – Paton has failed to develop, Megginson and Robertson are loons trying to do a man’s job, and the latter and Ryan Jack could have their careers ruined before they start through the trauma of having to cope with train wreck performances around them week upon week. Hints of new signings in January – also mentioned by Archie Knox when I buttonholed him for a short chat after the meeting – may help us finish somewhere between 7th and 9th (8th?) but did not seem to hold out hope of any sort of breakthrough success for a drifting, dozing club.

Hindsight’s a fabulous musing pastime but doesn’t help us get out of the torpor we’re in. We are where we are. We have a large debt underwritten by two major corporate shareholders with nobody seemingly willing to step forward and offer an alternative to the stagnation this engenders. In the wider context, the SPL is a devalued competition, destined to be won by the bully boys in perpetuity unless someone grows a pair and has a go at their warm fuzzy duopoly.

The 107th AGM suggests that this won’t be Aberdeen FC.

Dec 172010

By David Innes.

On Dexys Midnight Runners’ 1982 fiddle-fest Too Rye Ay, Kevin Rowland, with remarkable prescience nailed down the dilemma that Dons fans are facing following the appointment of Craig Brown and Archie Knox to replace Mark McGhee in the dugout and padded Team Recruitment jacket….

Old, may I sit down here and learn today? I’ll hear all you say, I won’t go away (Old)

You’re the voice of experience, every word you choose….. (Liars A to E)

So, is this pairing old, or experienced?

That they are both in the twilight of their years in football cannot be questioned, Brown is already 70 and Knox is 63, but these are men who have kept abreast of every development in football and approach the game from a contemporary angle. I have no doubt that they will stiffen up our midfield and defence and with a bit of wily wheeling and dealing stop the rot and nudge the Dons to a place of relative SPL sanctuary.

Brown has said that he wants the players to be happy and for the fans to enjoy spectating again. That will be tough. Spirits are low in the squad, confidence has been shattered and there is dangerous apathy among the fans, whose passion in the past has helped drag previous underachieving disgraces to the Sacred Red from the edge of the abyss more than once.

Both know football psychology in and out. Whilst the perception is that there will be a good cop-bad cop culture with Knox in the enforcer role, Brown’s spine of steel must have reminded Motherwell fans that their town used to make the stuff, for he too is capable of being a hard man. His preference though, is to get inside the minds of players – there’s often plenty room in there – find out which buttons need pressing and to work with them to build their strengths and underpin their weaknesses. He is no sentimentalist though and it would be no surprise to see some of the current squad being ‘allowed to leave’ if they cannot or will not accept the changes the pair will bring in.

The next few fixtures, Motherwell at home, Hibs away, Hamilton away and Dundee United at home will be a huge test, not of Brown and Knox’s abilities, but of the players’ attitudes, of their personal and professional pride, of their resilience and their willingness to try to keep the fans, well short of patience, backing them.

We can all point the finger at the Board, which will make Monday evening’s AGM ‘interesting’, we can carp and argue about managerial appointments and man-management techniques, can put forward ideas on emotional intelligence, but come 2.55 every Saturday, or whatever time Murdoch dictates matches will kick off, the only club representatives who can do anything about the Dons’ situation are the players. And they’d better not fail us.