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SoS: McGhee interview


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Interview: Mark McGhee, Aberdeen manager


Published Date: 28 March 2010

By Tom English

SO WE'RE sitting in his car heading through town and he points to the pedestrians and says: "Watch this". Jaywalkers. Aberdeen's full of them. No concept of traffic lights, it seems. Heading towards Union Street and the green man has come and gone, but still there are people walking. A young guy on his phone, an old woman inching along, a couple on a gentle stroll across the path of a lorry. Amazing there are not more accidents round here, he says. Truly amazing.

Well, there have been a few. A couple of miles from here. Big stadium, red in colour. Plenty of incidents in there of late. Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Hearts, Motherwell. Four home defeats in a run of 11 games without a win before yesterday's defeat of St Mirren. Old Dons are spinning in their graves at what's going down. Not since the late 1920s had Aberdeen gone so long without a victory. It's Wednesday and Mark McGhee says aye, it's not been easy, then he thinks back to the night before and Ross County's victory over Hibs. "Yogi's getting it now," he says. "He's taken the pressure off me for a bit. Must send him a cake and thank him."


The other week, McGhee got talking to a punter outside Pittodrie. The fan wanted to know how the hell Aberdeen's results have fallen off a cliff since Jimmy Calderwood's time. "It's the same players you've got," said the Don. "Well, not really," said the manager. Scott Severin's away for a start, he said. Lee Miller left in January. Zander Diamond's been injured a lot. "We haven't a won a game since Lee left. Important player for us, Lee."


Just after the drawn game with Raith, the man from the BBC stuck a microphone under his nose and asked if McGhee thought he'd be sacked had he lost. "Not sure about the sack," McGhee responded, "but I think I'm going to swear at you for asking that question."


So we ask it again. The sack. Is it on his mind? "No, I have no fear of it. Look, if I get the sack my conscience will be clear. I mean, I got the sack at Wolves, got the sack at Millwall, got the sack at Brighton. It's something managers get. Now, in those circumstances I got it after being successful first and then things changed and I had no problem with that. Were I to get the sack now, what can I do about it? What? I'd think 'What was my part in that?' I'd find things, sure. Could have done this, could have done that. But, really, it's out of my hands. I don't have any fear that the board will buckle, but if it happens, it happens. What I would say is that I had a meeting the other night with Stewart (Milne] and Willie (Miller] about players and things and they know what I'm trying to do. We're clear. That's why I can sleep easy at night. I know for sure that in a year's time, if I've made the changes I want to make and the results are the same then I'll be down the road and I'll deserve it. No problems with that at all. But let's make the changes first."


The changes – lots of them – could happen in the summer. There are players out of contract, players who don't look as if they want to stay at the club and players that the club might not want to keep. There are loan players who'll be heading home and youngsters who'll be coming in. McGhee reckons that for one reason or another there could be upwards of ten footballers leaving Pittodrie. A natural cull, he calls it. A chance to put his mark on it. An opportunity to start again.


He's got the names of 60 player targets in a file. He's also got hopes for the next wave of Aberdeen's youth. We've seen Fraser Fyvie and Peter Pawlett and what terrific prospects they are. There's a few more with a chance, too. Jack Grimmer, a midfielder just turned 16, Ryan Jack, a midfielder barely 18, and Mitch Megginson, a striker aged 17.


More than that, though, McGhee's got a clear head. Maybe there's a lot to panic about it, but he ain't going there. No point. He says he can see where he wants to go and that his past record of success at clubs should indicate that he's well capable of getting there. But it's been rocky this season for sure. Way rockier than he thought it would be. "This is the first time I've ever gone to a club and stalled," he says. "That's been a bit of a shock.


"Look, the Raith Rovers one, that's not the first time that's happened here. It wasn't something I introduced at Pittodrie. There's a logical explanation for everything. Like, if somebody tells you they saw a ghost. No, they didnae. If you start working it out there'll be something to explain why they think they saw a ghost. We lose against Raith Rovers. There's a reason there. And it's not a reason I invented. It's endemic. It's there and it has to be sorted. There's something going on in the game over the past number of years that's levelling things out. We lost to Dundee in the League Cup as well, remember. There is less of a difference in quality and if you continue to source SPL players from a lower and lower and lower level then clearly you're going to bring down the standard.


"Most of us are in the same boat now. We look at Scotland first, but we also rummage around in the second division (League 2] in England for players. You might get lucky, you might have somebody who's got a bit of sympathy for you. Big Alex (McLeish], or that, might loan us a player. That's entirely possible. I'm Big Alex's mate, but Big Alex has got lots of mates. Gus (MacPherson] is his mate as well and we're all looking in the same place. We're lucky in that we're better off than a lot of clubs. In terms of budget, I've got more than, say, St Johnstone. So I'm not complaining about my budget in comparison to others in Scotland. My disquiet is not about the money I have to spend, but what I can get for it these days."


He feels he's in a different game in Aberdeen. At Motherwell, it was all sweetness and light. He was popular with the media – still is, mostly – and relations were good. Things are a bit more intense at Pittodrie. He says that a hostility has come into the equation in certain quarters. Some of the tabloids have been twisting things, he thinks. "I'm not a cynic and I'm not one who dwells on stuff or holds grudges, but I do think there is a certain amount of edge towards Aberdeen that certainly didn't exist towards Motherwell. Now, whether that's because they don't like me or they don't like Aberdeen or simply because we're not winning enough matches, I'm not sure. But I've never known a job, particularly these last few months, where I've had to be so conscious of what I say. I'm not going to change. I'm maybe slowing my mouth down a bit to lessen the ammunition they can use against me, but ultimately, I won't come out of this period with grudges or bias against anybody, that's not my style. I appreciate that it's tomorrow's chip paper and that next week, next month, it'll be somebody else getting it.


"I don't have any regrets about taking this job. I've been frustrated by the way it's went. I won't argue that it's not as good as I hoped it would be. I'm culpable as well. I'm not going to fudge that one. I know I've got to prove myself and that's what I'm in the process of doing. I'm only made more determined to do it by the circumstances that have evolved here. The one thing that frustrates me a little bit, and maybe I shouldn't expect it, but wherever I've been I've had success and therefore I don't understand why people don't think I'll be successful here eventually. In fairness, there's plenty of people out there giving me support and I don't want to let them down. I want to prove them right."


He believes he'll turn it around. Won't stop until he does. "It's what I'm here to do. And I will do it."

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if you continue to source SPL players from a lower and lower and lower level then clearly you're going to bring down the standard.


Well, finally one of them acknowledges the obvious.


Now maybe if they also couple that fact with this piece of information...


[/b]... We lose against Raith Rovers. There's a reason there. And it's not a reason I invented. It's endemic. It's there and it has to be sorted.[/b]


...it might slooooooowly begin to dawn on them why we keep losing to pish, why we've won nothing in 15 years and why crowds are declining to the point that Dundee United looks like becoming a better supported team.



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