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What is potential SAFC manager Derek McInnes really like? We ask an Aberdeen fan

Derek McInnes is someone we know little about. Former Scottish Young Journalist of the Year finalist, Elgin’s bonniest baby 1991 and - perhaps most importantly - lifelong Dons fan Findlay Mair gives us the lowdown on the Aberdeen manager and what we can expect if he makes the move further south.

Hibernian v Aberdeen - Scottish Cup Semi-Final Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

RR: We’re in a mess and it's going to take one hell of a man to fix Sunderland. What was the situation at Pittodrie when McInnes took over?

FM: The situation at Pittodrie wasn't great when he arrived, and as an ex-Rangers player who had failed at Bristol City, there was a decent section of fans who were skeptical of his appointment.

We had finished 9th, 9th, 9th and 8th (he was appointed in the final 5 games of the 12-13 season) which for a club our size is not acceptable. We were in millions of pounds of debt which, since results have improved on the park, has since been cleared. We were mediocre and in desperate need of change.

RR: At SAFC, whoever takes charge is going to need to restructure almost an entire playing squad. What has his squad building been like at the Dons?

FM: He has never been one to make wholesale changes, preferring to bring in quality over quantity and strengthening areas he has identified as weak.

In his first season he brought in Barry Robson and Willo Flood to bolster our midfield and help us both break up and start counter-attacks. In January that season he felt we were weak at right back and brought in Shay Logan; he didn't think we were clinical enough up front so brought in Adam Rooney who had been proven in Scotland before at Inverness CT. So, he knows what he wants from his squad.

Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McClean and Irish winger Jonny Hayes are all likely to be linked with Sunderland if he moves. Good hard-working players with plenty of skill.

Aberdeen v Ventspils - UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round: First Leg Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

RR: Should McInnes come to Sunderland, he’ll have his hands tied with a very small transfer budget. What is his record in the transfer market like?

FM: His best signing to date has been Graeme Shinnie from Inverness CT on a bosman. A local born player with an incredible amount of determination, work rate and overall ability who would be comfortable anywhere on the park but McInnes favours him as a defensive midfielder.

The only fee he has ever paid was £250,000 to St Mirren for playmaker Kenny McLean, who has recently been linked with QPR. He likes to use the loan market and seemed to be quite close to Brendan Rodgers having brought in Danny Ward, Ryan McLaughlin and Ryan Christie from teams he has managed. Other loan successes include Michael Hector, Logan (who later signed on a free) and James Maddison.

Hibernian v Aberdeen - Scottish Cup Semi-Final
Graeme Shinnie (right) has recieved rave reviews north of the border and could be someone who makes the move IF McInnes gets the manager’s role.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

RR: What is McInnes preferred formation and his philosophy? Is he more attack minded, or a keep it tight at the back kind of manager?

FM: He generally favours a 4-2-3-1 but will experiment with a more defensive formation in Europe or against Celtic.

I think in his first season he was a bit more cautious as he was not sure what to expect from his squad but has gradually gotten more experimental as time has progressed. In the majority of games he wants Aberdeen to take the initiative and play in the opponent's half. This season has seen us score 97 goals in 53 matches - including a 7-2 win over Motherwell, 7-0 vs Dundee & a 6-0 away to Partick Thistle. But in games where Aberdeen are not fancied he has opted to play an extra centre back instead of an attacking midfielder. In the Europa League this worked to a degree but only reaching the 3rd Qualifying round each year has been a disappointment.

One of the most remarkable results of his reign has been a 3-0 win away to Rijeka of Croatia (who had avoided defeat at home in Europe for two years facing Feyenoord, Sevilla & Lyon in that time).

There is a perception among Scottish fans that McInnes' teams don't show up in big games but whether the reasons for this are tactical are not completely clear. He is yet to figure out Rodgers' Celtic side - with Saturday's performance in the Scottish Cup final being the closest he's gotten to beating the Champions. However, he can boast two victories over Rangers this season (including a first win at Ibrox for Aberdeen since 1991) and a 100% record against Hearts this season as well as reaching the finals of both cup competitions and comfortably finishing second.

RR: He failed at Bristol City. Just how did he manage overcome that disappointment of Bristol City and be looked at as a bright young manager capable of managing a club like Sunderland?

FM: I think when he arrived at Bristol City they seemed to be in a bit of a mess themselves and perhaps the job was too big for him at the time, having only been a manager at St Johnstone before earning his move.

Bristol City v Blackburn Rovers - npower Championship Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

He's easily won over the vast majority of fans at Aberdeen and firmly established the team as the closest challengers to Celtic in Scotland. A club with a history such as ours naturally has a very demanding support and he quickly set about restoring pride in the team. There are probably some parallels between Sunderland and Aberdeen in that regard. He has improved the team every season he has been in charge, with this past year seeing Aberdeen break their records points total in the 3 points for a win era.

RR: Finally, do you think McInnes should make the move, and most importantly, do you think Sunderland are looking at the ideal candidate to repair the damage?

FM: It's hard to take a non-biased view when it comes to McInnes. It depends on whether he thinks he has taken us as far as he thinks he can. When he has previously been linked with jobs elsewhere, he has stated that he didn't think his job was finished at Aberdeen.

I have a feeling he might want another go at winning the Scottish Cup and getting the team into the group stages of the Europa League. But it would certainly be a more imaginative appointment than the usual candidates on the English managerial merry-go-round. He would bring enthusiasm and a sensible approach to Sunderland and would be quick to identify those who are either not good enough or not giving their all for the club.

If he were to move then I'd expect Sunderland to be in contention for promotion.

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