By Ally Brown | Guest Contributor
It's not easy to get Rangers fans to agree, but I'm sure we would all unite as one if Walter Smith announced he was bored of crosswords and Countdown and was craving a return to the Ibrox dugout. Sadly we have to accept that's not going to happen, now or in the future, so perhaps we should be asking the question: who is the next Walter Smith?
Hear me out: it might be Derek McInnes. It might not be, but let me make his case.
Whether you think it's important or not that we hire a British manager, or a Rangers man, McInnes ticks those boxes. There is no chance that a man who was born and raised a Bear and who won a league in our shirt would have any misunderstandings about what the club means and what the fans expect. McInnes knows all about the club and the league already. Any new Walter Smith would need to be a Rangers man at heart and - as far as we can tell - McInnes is that.
But so is Ally McCoist and so are me and you and we don't deserve the job. So let's look at the far more important factor of McInnes's record as a manager.
Some fans are downplaying what he's done at Aberdeen, as if it's only natural that they'd be the second best team in the country without us. But Aberdeen had been terrible for 20 years before McInnes came in. In the four seasons before McInnes arrived they finished 9th, 9th, 9th and 8th. And in the four seasons since? 3rd - and a trophy - 2nd, 2nd and 2nd. That's a huge turnaround.
He has turned Aberdeen into a points-winning machine. He's turned them into us, or what we used to be. This season, they're on 26 points from 11 matches - that would usually be called title-winning form. Celtic are on their best run for 100 years, and Aberdeen are one solitary point behind them.
Last year they won 76 points and got to two cup finals, their best season since they won the league in 1984-85 under Fergie. In the summer they lost their two best attackers and their captain, and they brought in five to six new players, and it's been a seamless transition: last year was their best season in 30 years and this year, they're even better.
He's done this with very average players. Are any of their players going to ever play in the EPL? I doubt it. Are any of them ever going to play for Scotland? Maybe a couple will get a handful of caps at most. It's not a dream team. In 1985 they had Alex McLeish and Willie Miller in front of Jim Leighton, players who are among Scotland's all-time greats, never mind Aberdeen's. Now they're relentlessly hoovering up points with Mark Reynolds and Greg Tansey.
We keep saying this is what we need: we need a team that's reliable enough to beat all the other teams every week, rack up the points, and then we'll deal with Celtic one-to-one. That's where Aberdeen are already. And yes, it's true that one-to-one, Aberdeen keep failing against Celtic.
But perhaps that is because Celtic have a massive budget that completely overwhelms Aberdeen's? Celtic have spent more on a one-season loan fee for one player than McInnes has spent on his entire squad. Give McInnes a bigger budget and better players, and of course he'll be able to do better in one-off games against them.
He has moulded an efficient, winning team out of a squad of average players on a budget about a quarter of ours. Wherever he can take Aberdeen, he can take us a lot further. And he's taken Aberdeen as close to Celtic as it's plausible to get for that money.
Walter Smith had no record as a manager before he became ours. So there is more evidence in favour of McInnes than there was in favour of Smith in 1991. And Walter himself approves. McInnes is a pragmatic boss who can build a relentlessly winning team on a limited budget, and he's also a Rangers man. Why would we look anywhere else?