Vacant Aberdeen job should be of interest to Celtic interim boss John Kennedy

By Euan Davidson

March 10, 2021

Yesterday, Derek McInnes left Aberdeen FC after 8 years in charge [The Guardian].

If anything, it’ll be quite strange, from a Celtic perspective, seeing someone else in the Dons dugout. For all McInnes’ reign only yielded a single trophy, he caused us bother over the years. When our rivals south of the Clyde were battling behemoths like Brechin City and Queen of the South after financial meltdown, McInnes’ Aberdeen filled the gap as “title rivals”.

They amassed some pretty impressive squads over that time. Impressive enough for us to steal Jonny Hayes [Scottish Sun], for example.

While Stephen Glass is likely to remain the favourite, and Neil Lennon is in the frame, there’s every chance that Celtic interim boss John Kennedy could be the man to take McInnes’ old Aberdeen job. It’s becoming increasingly clear that he doesn’t want to be the Bhoys’ manager long-term. However, some career building in the Premiership might be just the ticket.

Pittodrie in the sunshine / (Photo by Scott Baxter/Getty Images)

Aberdeen job represents ideal opportunity for John Kennedy

We’re not careers advisors, but we’re going to play the role here. John Kennedy is a talented coach, but prior to this month, he’s had no top-level managerial experience.

A prominent voice under Ronny Deila, Brendan Rodgers and – of course – Neil Lennon, Kennedy is by all reports a forward-thinking, modern coach with a clear tactical view of how the game should be played. It’s extremely noteworthy that he was the number 1 choice for Hibs, before they hired the impressive Jack Ross [Edinburgh Live].

Given the education he’s had at Celtic, there’s a quality manager in there. Yes, the draw with Dundee United at the weekend will have left him with few clamouring for him to replace Neil Lennon long-term. But at a club with a high set of expectations, a similarly expectant fan-base and one of the bigger budgets in the Premiership, Kennedy could absolutely thrive.

If we was allowed a full pre-season, Kennedy has the nous and the contacts to immediately improve the Dons. Yes, they’re an impressive defensive outlet, but Aberdeen lack creativity and attacking spark. That’s a risk, when you essentially have to rebuild your first-team annually.

We don’t know much about Kennedy the man-manager, but if there was a better opportunity for him to test himself at a high level, we aren’t aware of it. This opportunity, at this time, feels tailor-made for John Kennedy.

John Kennedy on the Celtic touchline / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

High expectations, yet room to fail: to an extent

Aberdeen supporters have sky-high expectations. They want to finish at least 4th, win domestic trophies and qualify for Europe. You could argue that, given their budget in comparison to the teams around them, that it should be achievable. Yet, their squad turnover suggests that the Aberdeen job isn’t an easy one..

There is, however, the wiggle room that he couldn’t get at Celtic. Even a draw is a crisis at Paradise, as well it should be. At Aberdeen, there is room to learn on the fly, to some extent. If Kennedy can at least keep Aberdeen in the top half going into Christmas, while introducing his own style and tactics, then that’s a success to some extent.

Similarly to Hibs, the fans will be accommodating provided there’s a bigger picture in mind. If the Dons are getting horsed every week, not so much; but if there are reasonable indicators that Kennedy’s imprint on the club will lead to better days, there’s time for him to build something.

I’ve little doubt that Kennedy sees managing Celtic in his long-term plans. It would be very strange if he didn’t. But the Aberdeen job is the perfect landing spot for him right now.

There will be Aberdeen fans who argue that coaching at Celtic alone doesn’t qualify you for the top job at Pittodrie, and that’s reasonable.

However, it’s an educated gamble for Dave Cormack and his board. If their profile is a young, Scottish manager with a high ceiling for growth who’s available relatively cheaply, there are few if any better candidates just now.

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