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SOS: Turnbull, Leighton & Booth Bearing witness to Dons Decline


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Like everything else at Aberdeen these days, there was something not quite right about Willie Miller's keynote address in the wake of Mark McGhee's sacking last week. It wasn't so much what he was saying in his interview on the Dons' in-house channel, Red TV, it was the way it looked. It was like something a YouTube desperado would have put together in his bedroom. It had all the production quality of a hostage video. Instead of looking at the camera, Miller was staring away to the side, apparently talking to the wall. Apt in a sense, of course, because there can't be many devotees of the club who believed what he was saying about hope and revival.

 

There is a gallows humour about some of the Aberdeen fans, a black comedy that is by turns sad and side-splittingly funny. One exasperated soul on a fans' site said that the club have for years been papering over the cracks - "with cheap B&Q pish". Another - and he's hardly alone - has given up all hope, saying that it doesn't matter if the new manager is given money or no money, that he is doomed to fail in any event on account of a directionless and clueless board of directors. "My own choice," wrote our doom-laden hero, "would be... er, whoever... it makes no difference. Don't care. Just make him cheap and easily disposed of."

 

The fatalism of the Dons is stark. And it's understandable. Only goal difference is keeping them off the bottom of the SPL. They've lost their last six games and have won just four points from their last 13 SPL matches. They were humiliated 9-0 at Celtic, the worst result in their history, and have just been beaten 2-0 at Kilmarnock, a result that could have been 4-0 or 5-0 had Killie had a bit of a luck. They have passengers and no money to replace them. They have promising young players on the scene but the fear must be that they get dragged down and ruined by the malaise.

 

Pittodrie is becoming eerie. Two seasons ago, Aberdeen's average home attendance in the SPL was 12, 928. Last season it fell to 10,461. In their first seven league games of this season that number has fallen again, to 10,005. Their last three home matches have seen crowds of 7,587, 7,013 and 7,841, their worst run of attendances since the final weeks of the 2003-4 season.

 

Nobody doubts that Aberdeen's latent support is considerable, but at what point does latent become extinct? At what stage do they start to lose them permanently?

 

"To be big, you need to think big-time" - Eddie Turnbull

 

Oh, how Dons' fans would love a return to the days when Eddie Turnbull could come in as manager, identify the bluffers and then get rid of them in a day. In his first season, 1965-66, he bulleted 17 players and did it with a brutality that made the rest of his squad sit up and take note. Turnbull set standards. When he was shown the state of the kit his players were expected to train in, he burnt it in a furnace. When one of his players, Bobby Hume, challenged his authority he called him into his office and handed him an envelope.

 

"You know what that is?" said Turnbull. "It's a P45. Right then, f*** off out of here and don't ever come back again."

 

Football has changed, of course. But some things about Turnbull's era are similar. Then as now, Aberdeen were fighting relegation. Then as now, they'd just been walloped by Celtic at Parkhead - 8-0 as opposed to this season's 9-0. Then as now, the home crowd had dwindled to between 7,000 and 8,000.

 

"When I went up to Aberdeen, it was worse than a junior club," says Turnbull. "It was in a brutal state. That was a good number of years ago, but never the less. I had to stamp my authority on it. I was at a big club at Hibs and I wanted to get my Aberdeen players to think like big club players do, which I achieved. That doesn't seem to be happening at Aberdeen now. Am I shocked at what's happening there? No.

 

"You can look for other reasons, but I blame the manager, Mark McGhee, and the players. But mostly the manager. A good manager would be able to fix this. Somebody with a good knowledge of the game and the ability to impart that knowledge to the players, both individually and as a group. They can't just appoint a guy because he talks well. You should go deeper. You need to find out not just what he's done but who he is. Maybe the club has gone soft. I don't know. The idea that Aberdeen are a big club is a fallacy, but they should be doing better than this. A good manager will sort it out. But they need to find him."

 

"There's a real possibility we'll go down" - Jim Leighton.

 

If he was one to wallow - which he isn't - then Jim Leighton could look back at the glory days at Aberdeen and shed a tear for the sorry state they're in. No trophy in 14 years, no Cup final day out in an age, more bottom-half finishes in the league (nine) than top-half (seven) in the last 16 years. Where has it all gone wrong? He's not bothered about the big picture. He says too much has been said about deeper problems at Pittodrie. It's overblown. This weeping and wailing does nobody any good. "It's always easy to start picking on things when results are negative," he says. "When things are going well you never look for negatives.

It's only when results are bad do you start thinking maybe it's this and maybe it's that. There are negative things coming in all over the place. People are talking about a deeper malaise. I don't know about that.

 

"After they won their first game of the season 4-0 they took a massive crowd down to St Johnstone - and won again. Nobody was talking about problems at that stage. Nobody was saying there were huge issues when we finished fourth a few seasons ago. Things are bad at the moment, that's true. The crowds are way down and performances have to improve. The new manager has to get it right straight away. There is no time. There's a real possibility we'll go down. The longer this run lasts the harder it's going to be to get out of it.

 

"We need an old dog as manager, somebody who's been over the course before. Get him in and let him tell people a few home truths. Get the team organised. That hasn't been the case lately. It would need somebody to come in and give the place a shake. There's more in the players than what we're seeing. I believe we're better than this, but we need to start proving it. It's too easy to jump on the bandwagon and talk about a malaise. We just need a manager who can get the best out of the players."

 

"This goes a lot deeper than Mark McGhee" - Scott Booth

 

In the list of former players who feel the hurt of the club's demise, Scott Booth is up there with the most diehard of Dons. The striker was effectively born into the club, played for them for nine years, left for Germany, and came back to finish his career in his hometown in 2003. The club he left, he says, was very different to the one he rejoined. From 1997, the quality has slowly seeped out of the place.

 

"The signs have been there for ten years and more," he says. "Steady decline. Poor decisions made right across the board. There's not one specific person you can point the finger of blame at or one specific thing that's gone wrong. It's deeper than Mark McGhee. I don't think he's a bad manager, so there is a lot more wrong with the club. They've lost the connection with the public. There's a breakdown there somewhere that needs to be addressed. I don't think Aberdeen have been proactive enough on many things. A new stadium, a training ground, getting in the community more. They're not a club that seizes the moment and that goes right back to Gothenburg in 1983. They didn't build on that success. It needs a re-evaluation of where the club actually is and what they need and how to get it. I wouldn't blame Willie Miller or Stewart Milne for this. If Milne hadn't been there for the last 10-15 years this may have happened even quicker. We've stagnated slightly at that level, though. I don't think there's a billionaire hanging around in Aberdeen waiting to plough money into the club but I do believe that there are influential people who want to get involved who then might be able to bring in that type of investment.

 

That's a facet of Aberdeen life that is untapped. I know it's difficult but I really believe there is a possibility to bring in some heavy-hitters in this one-club city. Look at PSV Eindhoven with Philips.

 

"We're suffering from a lack of ideas. We need different thinking. It's really difficult to see what direction they want to go in."

 

The dwindling number of fans would suggest that the faithful believe the direction they're going in is ever downwards. The only hope for Aberdeen is that Turnbull and Leighton are proven right and that their biggest problem is a managerial one. If Booth is right and it's infinitely more complex than that, then the Dons are in for a lot more misery and a lot more black comedy.

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Good to hear from Eddie Turnbull. Was the msanager I first remember, appointed before I was old enough to appreciate footbsall,  but I do remember 1970 fondly.

 

Sadly, nowadays, you cant walk into a club and effectively sack 17 players cos they're shite, then replace them, however, I worry, it's what needs to be done!

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Admittedly I've nae seen this squad in person. I've only listened to seven matches this season, and watched one on the tele. the rest of my knowledge is only based on what I've read in the papers and on DT. Therefore, my opinion probably isn't really on-the-mark, so to speak. But correct me if I'm wrong in thinking the following eleven need to go (and there could be more!):

 

Jamie Langfield

Rory McArdle

Yoann Folly

Zander Diamond

Andrew Considine

Scott Vernon

Darren Mackie

Derek Young

Jerel Ifil

Michael Paton

Mark Howard

 

 

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Yet Mackie scores one goal per season and he stays. And Young does one rally-call in the press per year and he gets labelled with "valuable squad player" for yet another year.

 

It's not necessarily just down to ability though. It's attitude. I think the time has come for Mackie and Young to leave (some time ago really), but they are far from the biggest problems at the club and others have to be shipped out first.

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Admittedly I've nae seen this squad in person. I've only listened to seven matches this season, and watched one on the tele. the rest of my knowledge is only based on what I've read in the papers and on DT. Therefore, my opinion probably isn't really on-the-mark, so to speak. But correct me if I'm wrong in thinking the following eleven need to go (and there could be more!):

 

Jamie Langfield

Rory McArdle

Yoann Folly

Zander Diamond

Andrew Considine

Scott Vernon

Darren Mackie

Derek Young

Jerel Ifil

Michael Paton

Mark Howard

 

Would Agree with most of that, Although if we are binning strikers surely best to bin the ones that arnt scoring?

 

However Folly has been our best player from what i have seen this season and Mccardle is still a decent player. Would add aluko to that list And Magurie if he doesnt pull his socks up and start grafting.

 

 

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Folly, Considine and Vernon have not done much wrong to deserve being on your list Reekie, but all can still contribute a bit more.  I'd go as far as saying that every name on that list could potentially have a future at the club with the right management, with the obvious exception of Ifil of course.

 

We need to be strengthened in every single department, this much is true, but a mass clearout is not the answer, we'd be back to square one if that happened.

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