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The Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee's bullish stance in the aftermath of Saturday is understandable in part. This is an era when managers hardly ever resign – such a scenario waives their right to compensation after all . Therefore, even a 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Celtic was not sufficient for McGhee to call it a day. He fell only marginally short of claiming: "It's only three points, chaps, let's move on."


Financial pay-offs aside, the bad news for McGhee is that received wisdom suggests a failure to beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle tonight will cost him his job. Inverness, it must be noted, have not lost an away game in a full calendar year.


It has now become a question of when, not if, McGhee's tenure at Pittodrie will end. Saturday's display was a sacking case in itself, so bereft were the Aberdeen players of spirit amid what became the worst defeat in the club's history. Aberdeen have become worryingly used to embarrassments, European defeats to Skonto Riga and Bohemians among them, but the saddest aspect about the weekend capitulation was that it actually did not come as a major surprise.


McGhee has cited budgetary constraints and injuries as reasoning for a poor start to this season. Such issues have not hindered Motherwell or St Johnstone, who have both outshone Aberdeen over the past 12 months. The players McGhee has placed faith in have shown nothing in return; one of them, Sone Aluko, was hauled off before half-time on Saturday.


McGhee has made a generally welcome return to the Scottish game. The articulate and often amusing manager revived the fortunes of Motherwell before knocking back a £300,000-a-year salary to take over Hearts at the last minute. McGhee pointed to bad and impulsive moves earlier in his managerial career, in England, as motivation for that change of mind. His subsequent decision to take over Aberdeen, the club at which he was part of a golden era in the 1980s, appears a flawed one. It is now easy to forget that McGhee was indeed a manager with a hot ticket at one point south of the border.


McGhee's bullish defence of his managerial record with each passing week has been entertaining. "Look me up on Wikipedia," he retorted to a radio interviewer three weeks ago. Such questioning has been entirely valid, however, and as was the case with John Hughes at Hibernian, there is now an overwhelming sense that the McGhee experiment at Pittodrie simply won't work.


A deeper issue is obviously prevalent at the club, a malaise in fact. It remains ludicrous to suggest Aberdeen can return to the form they had under Alex Ferguson but the sight of a vast expanse of empty seats at Pittodrie is a depressing one. Scottish football needs a strong Aberdeen, if only for their large fan base, but at present the football followers in this one-team city appear to have given up hope. Which isn't, of course, entirely the fault of the current manager.


In the Aberdeen board's defence, there aren't a variety of appealing options to replace him. The club captain, Paul Hartley, has been mooted as a potential successor, a move which would represent a major risk given the midfielder's total lack of coaching experience. In this era where Scottish clubs frequently appoint on financial rather than football grounds, though, that cannot totally be ruled out.


Nor can Aberdeen sticking by McGhee. But even if they do so after tonight's game, they can only be delaying the inevitable.

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