McInnes: We won’t lower our expectations just because Rangers are back
DEREK McINNES, the Aberdeen manager, believes Sunday’s highly anticipated first meeting for four years between his club and Rangers is a battle for second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership, because no team can live with Celtic.
The Pittodrie club have maintained a silence in the face of declarations made by Dave King, the Ibrox chairman, and most of the players that the newly promoted club should at worst finish in the top two this season. This has been a position Aberdeen have made their own in recent years and while McInnes (below) believes the spending power of Celtic makes it next to impossible for anyone to stop their charge towards a sixth successive title, he knows the runners-up spot is up for grabs even with Rangers back. McInnes put forward the case that Aberdeen have earned the right to be considered the best hope Scottish football has of any sort of title race. “We will try to be as competitive as we can once again,” said McInnes. “I said at the start of the last few seasons that it would take Celtic to have a poor season by their standards to allow anyone else to win the league. Ronny Deila’s Celtic team accumulated enough points for them to win the championship in previous campaigns.
“They were just beyond what we could do, to be honest. We had an unbeaten club record within that, we have had great unbeaten runs, we have accumulated the most points outwith the Old Firm and we still fell short.
“I still believe that over the course of a season money does have an impact. It doesn’t over 90 minutes and that’s why we think this is a game [against Rangers] we can win, and we feel as if we can beat Celtic as well.
“But it will take a drop in standards in Celtic’s league form to allow others to get involved in the title race. We have been the one team when Rangers weren’t in the league – and people were moaning about this and that – who put up a fight and made them work for it.
“Whether that is us this season remains to be seen. There are other good sides in the league, but we certainly don’t want to drop our standards. We want to stay where we have been.”
McInnes has been far from impressed by the perceived notion that Rangers, he won every domestic medal with them as a player, would automatically be better than Aberdeen after four years in the lower leagues.
“I think people will not probably be looking at us as much, and the onus will be on Rangers to be offering that challenge,” he said. “That is the perception of other people.
“Within our own club, it’s all about trying to stay competitive. It is all about having a squad which can help us do that in the cups and league. We dropped two points to Inverness when they scored a great goal and if that point becomes three, and I know it’s all ifs and buts, we are sitting in second place.
“It’s not been as poor a start as people have been making out. Draws feel like a defeat here. That’s the big change over the last few seasons. There is nothing wrong with that. We accept the responsibility to strive for better.”
Aberdeen will most likely be without Johnny Hayes. The winger’s season has been disrupted with a hamstring problem which flared up during the warm-up of Thursday’s 1-0 Betfred League Cup quar ter-final win over St Johnstone.