By Tom Macintyre | Guest Contributor
Derek McInnes has emerged over the weekend as the bookies favourite for the vacant position of Rangers Manager. This has been partly due to journalists and pundits who were touting him for the job last time presenting him as the automatic choice. There is also a feeling amongst some Rangers supporters that he represents a safe option. But is McInnes the right man?
Well if you believe that a “Rangers man” is required then McInnes certainly ticks that box. Having played for the club and been a fan since he was a boy, McInnes knows what Rangers are about. But then again so do lots of people. Being a “Rangers man” does not qualify you for anything beyond supporting the club. If you are the right person for the job and have the same love for the club as the supporters then great. But if you are the wrong man then that affinity with the club is not going to help you.
Barry Ferguson and Kris Boyd, along with numerous journalists who are too lazy to examine alternative candidates for the position, back McInnes for a variety of reasons. In Barry Ferguson’s case maybe he thinks McInnes will give him the opportunity of the job he didn’t get last time round on the coaching staff. Journalists who are out the loop at Ibrox might feel their personal relationships with McInnes will give them an in to the club - with those they previously relied on either gone or likely to be on the way out. Regardless, the “Rangers man” argument is flawed. What is required is someone who can understand the pressure they are under, deal with it and get results.
McInnes has done what was expected of him at Aberdeen but little more. He took a club that was languishing well below its potential and turned it into the second best team in Scotland during a period where Rangers were not in the league. At no time have Aberdeen challenged Celtic seriously for the league during his tenure - although given the gulf in resources that is perhaps to be expected, even with the hapless Ronny Deila as his adversary.
After two false starts with Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha, the next manager will be expected to cement second place and begin to seriously challenge Celtic for the title. There will need to be trophies and progress in Europe.
The biggest issue with McInnes is that he has not been able to demonstrate that he has any real ability to build a team to challenge Celtic. Under his stewardship, Aberdeen have failed to beat Celtic in two cup finals and only squeezed past Inverness in the League Cup final on penalties in his first season. Considering this was the first trophy Aberdeen had won in 19 years you could argue McInnes overachieved but they have been unable to repeat that success and did not have to beat Celtic to achieve it. A one-off cup success and a succession of second places in four years would not be acceptable at Rangers.
The lack of expectation at Aberdeen and everywhere else McInnes has managed is a clear negative for him. If anyone is trying to convince me that there is a weight of expectation at Aberdeen that is in any way comparable to the one at Ibrox, then I’ll have some of what they’ve been drinking. Aberdeen could win, lose or draw any given game and as along as McInnes maintained a top four position there would be no serious pressure on him.
Despite regular qualification for European football in Rangers’ absence, McInnes’ Aberdeen have failed every year to make any progress. That is acceptable to Aberdeen - it would not be acceptable to Rangers. Euro qualification is a must going forward and after this year’s disastrous exit the Europa League group stages should be a target going forward. Aberdeen have gone out to such European luminaries as FC Kairat, NK Maribor and Apollon Limassol. Whilst Rangers are not in a position to brag about recent European exploits, McInnes would still have to seriously up his game to meet expectation on the European front at Ibrox.
There is some superficial justification to McInnes being touted as a safe option - a man who knows the league, could probably secure Rangers in second place, maybe win the odd trophy and possibly make modest progress in Europe. To be fair to McInnes he’ll also have a much bigger budget at Rangers than he has ever had before and he’ll have better players. He would also not be subject to the immediate character assassination dealt out to Caixinha.
McInnes might well have it in him to make the required step up, but he would have to. Any appointment represents a risk and McInnes is no exception. He has never won a league - something he would have to do if he were to remain Rangers manager in the longer term. He has a poor record in Europe. He has never managed a big club and he has never had any weight of expectation placed on his shoulders.
McInnes is almost certainly the only realistic Scottish based choice but that does not make him the automatic choice some would have us believe. There is a big, wide world out there full of managers who have achieved more than McInnes. A cursory glance across the border would present several candidates with stronger CVs.
There is also the small matter of compensation payable to Aberdeen. Rangers have already shown they are willing to stump up for their man with Pedro Caixinha but remunerating Aberdeen is a different matter. If reported figures of £1-1.5m are accurate then that is a major outlay for a man who has never won a league title. The money could arguably be better spent on higher wages for a more proven manager.
Rangers will have to carefully consider where they go from here and at least in Graeme Murty they have a man they can rely on to keep things steady while they decide. The club simply cannot afford to get it wrong. A manager with a track record of winning leagues, operating well in high pressure situations, improving existing players or over achieving in any environment would likely be of less risk than the supposed ‘safe option’ of McInnes. Those who can demonstrate such traits might well be more attractive options to a Rangers board that took a gamble on Pedro Caixinha that didn’t pay off.
If McInnes does convince the Rangers board that he can rise to the challenge then we should all pray that is the case. Walter Smith was able to emerge from relative obscurity and go on to be arguably the best manager our club has ever had. McInnes could only dream of achieving similar but a fraction of that success would justify his appointment.