Frustrated Derek McInnes is in no doubt Aberdeen can finish third but has insisted his team are playing catch-up because they left their January transfer business so late.
The Dons manager got a vote of confidence from chairman Dave Cormack and his board on Monday after there was growing speculation on social media that he was about to be sacked after last weekend’s defeat at Hibs.
McInnes has insisted he is as frustrated as any of the Dons fans over their current predicament, as they sit five points off Hibs, although they have a game in hand.
He is frustrated that the club couldn’t land top targets like Ross Stewart and Eamonn Brophy, had to sell top striker Sam Cosgrove and then had to wait until the last day to bring in three loan signings, in Flo Kamberi, Fraser Hornby and Callum Hendry.
McInnes stated: “There are a lot of things I’m not particularly pleased about.
“We could have maybe done some of the work earlier in the window this time around but we had to wait on Sam Cosgrove’s money coming in before we could make some headway in making signings.
“Scrambling about the window on the last day is not how I wanted it. We shouldn’t be scrambling about trying to get loan signings in.
“We knew we needed to strengthen the forward line before the window opened and we have done that with these new boys and now we have to get them up to speed.
“There is a lot about the team that is right and we’re still up there challenging for third spot.
“I think third is still in our grasp. Normally post-split sorts a lot of it out anyway.
“A lot of the time you are touch tight with teams around you going into that spell and those last run of games are normally where things are decided.
“But for us to be confident of achieving what we want to achieve we need to improve between now and the end of the season and we’re focused on the players who are available and not those who are unavailable as we look to get the job done.”
McInnes was pleased to get the backing of his board but has insisted he wasn’t looking for it. He has also received a lot of support from the Red Army and the general footballing fraternity.
He admitted: “I think you are grateful for any support when you are going through tough times. I think we all feel that as individuals.
“I’m not a needy person but I’ve been really pleased with the amount of support I’ve had externally with people, supporters getting in touch.
“The amount of emails, letters and messages of support, I’m grateful for any support in tough times.
“Any manager looks for that in certain times, but I’m not a needy person.
“I’m concentrating on what we need to do better and we need to get better results. That’s always been the way. When you have got the support of the people around you — players, board, supporters — you feel the confidence to carry on.“
McInnes has guided Aberdeen to seven consecutive seasons of Europa League football. They have slipped to fourth over the last two seasons but McInnes is adamant that third would still be a success this season.
He points to the fact that every other club outside of Rangers and Celtic would see it as the Holy Grail.
He stated: “What we need to remind the players is that finishing third for other clubs is like the Holy Grail, but finishing third sometimes does not feel like that any more for Aberdeen.
“It’s something that the players and I have to work towards. It’s still the same achievement as it was in my first year.
“Qualifying for Europe is still the same feeling of achievement. There are other clubs who would love to have been us over the last wee while and there are other clubs who would love to finish third this season.
“It should be the same for us.”
The argument put up by a lot of the disgruntled Aberdeen support is that their club should be doing far better with their superior budget than they are.
McInnes insisted:“I don’t buy this that our budget is way above other clubs.
“We’ve got a competitive budget and we’re pleased with it but it doesn’t take us away from other clubs.
“We have to do a lot of good work to finish third every season and we have to do a lot of good work as a club to qualify for Europe.
“To do it for eight years in a row in the top places and get European football, if it was easy everybody would be doing it.
“It’s not easy and it has been a real challenge this season.”
Aberdeen hope that new signing Flo Kamberi will be able to train for the first-time on Friday and he will be available to make his debut against St Mirren. It would soften the blow that defender Greg Leigh has been ruled out for the season with a hamstring injury, suffered at Easter Road last week.
-- to www.dailyrecord.co.uk