A little look at the Aberdeen rumour mill
Addressing the rumours, offering a verdict and adding a couple suggestions of my own. Because it's not summer without a bit of speculation, is it?
ANNOUNCE COUTTS. So they say, anyway. The Aberdeen-born loon has been one of the most widely rumoured players to join the Dons this summer having been released by The Best League in the World™ bound Sheffield United. Turning 31 in the summer, the centre mid' is approaching the tail-end of his career but this shouldn't put McInnes off given the lack of playing experience at the club.
In the 17/18 season he suffered a fairly brutal leg break (Google if you want but it's nae nice) which curtailed his trajectory. Prior to the injury he'd started 16 out of 17 (missing one through suspension), some as captain, and playing the full 90 in all but one for an in-form United team. Since then though, November 2017 until today, he's made one league start. That, coupled with Championship wages, has to be cause for concern. A lot would depend on Coutts' own intentions and he's already implied to the EE that he'd be keen to stay down south. Those DNA big bucks might just come in use though...
Verdict: Too soon. Another year in England to top up his pension and regain match fitness is needed before joining the Dons. Then he can enjoy a career swan-song with Cove Rangers, back where it all started.
The former Dons centre back “travelled north for talks” last week and it's causing much distress and debate in Whatsapp groups across the city. If you are undecided, please allow me to convince you.
Taylor started his Aberdeen league career with a mishit backpass that allowed Ryan Dow in to score in a 3-0 defeat to Dundee United. This was just one of multiple calamitous errors in his time north. My personal 'favourite' was this tackle against Celtic. I've never been so bemused as I was at Parkhead that day, what's he even attempting there? His error-strewn performances were only made worse by his distribution which featured half-volley's to nobody and 40-yard spanks at goal having stepped out of defence thinking he was Der Kaiser.
He joined Northampton Town in League One in 2017 and in his first season he was made captain and voted their POTY. Fair play. But, and this is contextually very important- they were relegated. In his second season, the one just gone, he was stripped of the captaincy before having his contract terminated- not just released at the end of his deal.
Verdict: He does have his strengths but more often than not he was found wanting at Aberdeen and he's done little to prove he'll be any better now. Not for me, Clive. Definitely not.
I defy any Dons fan to read the following headline and do anything but sigh: “Curtis Main: Out of contract Motherwell striker poised to join Aberdeen”. If hoofs from Ash Taylor to Sam Cosgrove wasn't appetising enough…
The positives: He played well in Aberdeen's inept semi-final against Motherwell in 2018 [sidenote: Chidi Nwakali (who?) started in that game, incredible], he has had spells of good form, he works tirelessly for the team and he's a decent age at 26.
The negatives: 3 goals and 4 assists in 31 league games in 18/19, 5 and 3 in 16 in 17/18 having joined in January. A prolific goalscorer he is not. His best return was 8 goals in 14/15 for Doncaster in League One.
It would be an uninspiring signing which would do nothing to comfort the noisy minority who are convinced the board are tightening McInnes' purse strings in order to afford Kingsford. The style of play lately, this latest season especially, has been much maligned and a drop in attendances perhaps lays testament to this. Bringing in a busy, bruising skin-head like Main who's been described as Cosgrove but “less good” does not sound a pretty proposition.
Verdict: Aberdeen can surely find better.
James Wilson, Dom Ball, Max Lowe & Tommie Hoban.
Wilson, Ball and Lowe spent the season at Aberdeen while Hoban’s was ended early due to injury problems. They've all been rumoured to re-join the club on permanent deals.
Wilson arrived with much anticipation having forged a reputation as a goal-scoring wonderkid thanks to his Man United youth exploits. Unfortunately he's seemed disinterested and lacking in any real passion for much of his time in the north east. There's been brief glimpses of natural talent; his stirring substitute performance in Livingston, a screamer vs Hamilton plus his assists and winner in the last two outings of the season. There's also an argument to be made that playing alongside Cosgrove or even wide of him in a more midfield position doesn't do him any favours and so with the right style of play he could prosper. Contrastingly, you'd have to imagine his wage demands are high and that, combined with questions over his commitment and drive, should likely rule a return out.
Dom Ball's had a couple horror shows for Aberdeen but, and I realise this is a complete contradiction, he's also proved to be a fairly reliable player for much of his time at Pittodrie. There is the caveat that he's ultimately not a very accomplished footballer but at 23-years-old and with certain qualities that McInnes appreciates (height, honesty, work-rate and versatility), a permanent deal to bolster the squad would appear inevitable.
Voted POTY by his teammates, you'd be hard-pushed to find anyone in Aberdeen who wouldn't welcome Max Lowe back. Defensively there are still doubts but he's gazelle-like in the way he strides forward with and without the ball. Derby's failure to gain promotion may have scuppered any chance of him returning though as you'd have to fancy that Derby will give him an opportunity next season, especially given Ashley Cole's age, contract and diminishing quality.
Lastly, there is undoubtedly a lot of talent in Tommie Hoban but the fact the 25-year-old has only played 75 league games cannot be ignored. Aberdeen might be the club where he settles and manages to put his injury hell behind him but it would be a gamble for McInnes to offer him a contract. Pay as you play? Doubt he'd be up for that. Good player but, again, there has to be better options out there.
Fit aboot… ?
Arnaud Djoum? The central midfielder has been a mainstay in Hearts' team since joining from Lech Poznan and is out of contract this summer. He's a Cameroon international with a good pedigree behind him and at 30 should still have a lot to offer. There's no doubt Aberdeen need to strengthen their midfield and the prospect for Djoum to play at a bigger club with better players may entice him north. Louis Moult, the perennially Dons-linked striker, only managed 8 starts for Preston in the Championship this season, scoring 4 goals. He was however often used off the bench and spent much of the middle part of the season injured so a quick return to Scotland would seem unlikely. Pavol Safranko has been linked to the Dons too but the fact he's still under contract at Aalborg and failed to propel United into the big league should see this rumour consigned to the recycling bin.
Another potential transfer that may have been play-off influenced is that of Dylan McGeouch. A second term in League One may see him remain but he's endured a frustrating season with a lack of game time that's left fans and Jack Ross wanting more. Also at Sunderland, Lewis Morgan won't be short of suitors next season but Aberdeen will surely not want to deal with Celtic again. Most likely tickling the fancy of many clubs, the dynamic Stephane Omeonga spent the latter half of the season at Hibs on loan from Genoa. The Italian side survived relegation on the final day but have around 483 players on their books and Omeonga appears to be fairly resigned to leaving them. Heckingbottom is keen to get him back but could Aberdeen swoop in under their nose? As always in Scotland, wages may be an issue but perhaps even more stifling to the deal would be McInnes' reluctance to sign players outwith UK & Ireland.
A couple left-field shouts could be Craig Conway and Josh McEachran. The former is leaving Blackburn Rovers this season having forged a successful career for himself down south. A player returning to Scotland from England is a familiar route for Dons signings and Conway would provide some experienced flair although may be regarded as too similar to McGinn. McEachran on the other hand is being released by Brentford but was once pipped for stardom having broken through at Chelsea. He’s 26 with great technique and would provide central quality that Aberdeen sorely lack. Midfielder Lewis Macleod is also being released by Brentford and will be on the radar of Scottish clubs having left Rangers in 2015. One last shout from the English Championship is Jake Bidwell who was a surprise departure from QPR. The left-back, an Everton youth graduate, is also 26 and could fill the void of Max Lowe if Aberdeen can afford his wages.
6 league titles, 3 cup victories, 1 African Cup of Nations and 51 international caps. Step forward, Efe Ambrose. No, seriously. Ambrose is lampooned by Aberdeen supporters but the centre-back has a cupboard full of winners medals and having been one of Hibs’ best players, genuinely, he hasn’t made one appearance for Derby County since his January move. Out of contract this summer, his future’s up in the air and Aberdeen could do with some experience and quality to help McKenna and Devlin continue their progression.
Aberdeen and McInnes have a good record now of keeping their transfer targets under wraps so it'll be an interesting summer at Pittodrie and no surprise to anyone if none of these rumours come to fruition. What is for certain is that there's one almighty rebuilding job on the managers hands which could make or break the season ahead. Oh and it starts again in little over 6 weeks. Good luck.