As a professional amateur psychologist, I take my half arsed cod psychology seriously. And I was thinking about Mark McGhee and his clear and unnecessary issues with Aberdeen F.C.
So what’s the problem Mark?
As I remember, he and Strachan have always had a problem with Aberdeen. Even when they were still playing, but had moved on to pastures new, there were odd statements made. Now in exactly the same way I take my half arsed cod psychology seriously, I also take my not doing research or fact checking seriously. This is just how I remember things, there will be no Wikipedia foot notes. McGhee would allude to Aberdeen players who had chosen not to leave the club, who said, something along the lines of ‘they think Aberdeen is the centre of the world’, or ‘being king in Aberdeen was important’. He would also talk of how amazing it was at Hamburg. How much more money he was on, I think there was something about his Adidas boot contract being higher than his Aberdeen salary. These statements were made more than once.
Fair enough he had done well for himself. But as I remember no Aberdeen player was ever publicly criticising him for leaving. And it was pretty clear Miller and McLeish were the targets for his derision. Also Miller and McLeish were considerably better players than McGhee or Strachan, as was Peter Weir. They were both incredibly important, but pretty sure Ferguson could have manufactured replacements for them. The other three would have been harder.
On to management
I remember when McGhee landed the Reading job, which it was later revealed to be on the recommendation of Ferguson. It was exciting to see a former Aberdeen player had picked up a bit of the Fergie magic. Jim Leighton was playing for him too, which gave another reason to follow along. There was a period where he was the hottest property as a young football manager in England. In exactly the same way as Owen Coyle, Paul Lambert and a host of others have, before they hit a brick wall and it starts to go pear shaped. He was head hunted by Leicester City and then, at the time, high spending Wolves shortly after. While smarter young managers stick out a job a bit longer, gaining experience, developing skills, showing loyalty. But more on McInnes later.
McGhee was available for the Aberdeen job when Skovdahl got the job, and was turned down. I remember following it, and being devastated for him. However unusually for me in a complex relationship with all things Stewart Milne, I also understood the appointment of Skovdahl, and considered it a brave and exciting appointment. I think Skovdahl inherited the biggest mess of any post Ferguson manager, it was ground zero, and was one of the few, possibly only Aberdeen FC managers, pre McInnes to leave behind a far better team and squad than what he inherited. He was also pleading for training facilities 17 years ago Stewartie.
We got our man in the end
So McGhee didn’t get the job. When he did get the job years later he knew his managerial career span was shorter, he had just missed out on the Scotland job and had appeared to have missed out on the Celtic job by not that much. He was bitter, and here he was back at The Granite City, and no longer three doors up from my sister on Devanha Terrace in Ferryhill like before… Also if you take the big picture of McGhee’s career, and listen to his post and pre-match interviews as Aberdeen manager, you can see he was probably nowhere near either job in reality and can understand why Ferguson lost patience with him when his son was playing for him and got to know him better as a manager.
While managing Aberdeen his post match interviews were astonishing for all the wrong reasons. How someone who had been managed by Ferguson could fail to understand the concept of, or point of a post match interview was beyond me. As an Aberdeen supporter this was on the back of Jimmy Calderwood’s car crash interview technique which was remarkably similar. Similar managers with clear and obvious talents as football managers, but lacking in the basic self awareness as to why their careers were not going as they expected. McGhee and Calderwood, managerial twins separated at birth.
Just how hard is answering a few questions?
There are many skills to a football manager’s job, but one of the few we get to see close up is the post match interview. Probably why they have to do it. A quick summary of what I mean. Ferguson, Mourinho, Klopp give/gave brilliant post match interviews. Nothing is ever said that is not absolutely deliberate, clearly designed to be to the benefit of their respective team. When they are talking they are aware they are talking to their own supporters and their own players. If need be they will completely deflect attention onto themselves or a referee, specifically to stop the media from focusing in on their players, allowing players to train in peace in the run up to the next game. For a talented football manager, having won lost or drawn does not matter in the post match interview, what matters is preparing the team psychologically for the next game.
While mind games with other managers occasionally take place, they are deciding what is being written by sports’ journalists in the media for the rest of the week. They control the narrative. They may destroy a player in the dressing room, but virtually never will they criticise the team or individuals publicly, which breeds trust and team spirit. You may bring up the time Fergie slated the Aberdeen team after the Scottish Cup final in 83. Who were we playing in our next game? There wasn’t one, he knew exactly what he was doing. And who amongst us, who’ve been married, haven’t issued an apology, we haven’t meant a word of.
Go on yersel Jimmy
Calderwood interview. ‘So do you think the Aberdeen supporters expectations are a problem for the Aberdeen team Jimmy?’ Jimmy: ‘Yes, they need to understand it’s no the eighties anymore’. Well Jimmy many of us were well aware Aberdeen were the biggest club you’d ever manage while you were managing Aberdeen, yet you were not self aware enough to know that. As a result you didn’t enjoy the job properly, or concentrate on it fully. Hence the fucked up career. A better football manager than Craig Levein, it could’ve been so much more.
‘So Jimmy, you are playing xxx in the Scottish Cup fourth round, how important is the Scottish cup for Aberdeen FC?’ Jimmy: ‘ It’s incredibly important, important we get to Hampden, get to finals, win trophies, I’m ambitious, I want to manage in the Championship, and then onto…’ Before a fourth round cup tie. We’d go out in the fourth round. One game at a time. Calderwood could jump eight years in one answer.
And McGhee’s while not quite as entertainingly bad, were remarkably similar, and seemed to involve McGhee thinking the journalist was his friend, and they were having a private chat. How did Ferguson do it again at Aberdeen? Were you not listening Mark?
Oh I forgot someone
There is one other football manager who gives every bit as skilled and perfect post match interviews as Ferguson, Mourinho and Klopp, and that’s Derek McInnes. It’s never about him, it’s always about the players, he doesn’t want to be the journalist’s friend, he is talking directly to the support, and also his own players. After the Motherwell game, he sprinted down the touchline out of the limelight, and in the post match interview made sure everyone including Pawlett and Storie got a name check. The whole squad being made to feel good about themselves, preparation for the next game. He regularly says how great the Aberdeen support are (particularly away). Never patronising though, he knows what he’s doing.
After the cup final defeat to Celtic a number of supporters complained his post match interview didn’t reflect the supporters feelings. How would that have helped? The game was lost, he was preparing the team for the next match, to lift them up again. The arm around O’Connor as he was subbed. All sports’ psychology, and a decent human being. What did Jonny say after signing a new contract, ‘as long as the manager’s here’.
And with great irony for Mark McGhee, when the time is right – hopefully not for a while – McInnes will use the Aberdeen FC job as a springboard to a high ranking Championship job, or possibly English Premiership job. Exactly what McGhee didn’t think possible, hence the bad attitude while Aberdeen manager acting like he was doing us all a favour. That must be killing him.
Lock and load
Incidentally the loaded question to Calderwood ‘Do you think the Aberdeen supporters’ expectations are a problem for the Aberdeen team?’, was a standard question for all Aberdeen managers at regular intervals whenever the arsewipes of the Glasgow media were around, ever since Alex Smith got sacked. They did it to McInnes in his first week, and he shot it down in flames, with a ‘No, not that I am aware of’. They’ve never asked it since.
The loaded question is designed to get the Aberdeen manager to agree to the question, which then means our manager is criticising the Aberdeen support, by implying we are delusional because of the success in the eighties. The Glasgow media didn’t like the Fergie years. Will be interesting to see if they try it on future managers.
It’s was also McInnes showing he didn’t want to befriend the media. If you’re a good manager, you don’t need them.
The neep is a swede
But for me the real reason McGhee and Strachan have a problem with Aberdeen is all about Gothenburg. Because it doesn’t matter what they do, the most significant thing they’ve ever been apart of in their careers was Gothenburg. And for some reason, unlike the other members of the squad, somehow that is beneath them. I think it’s an ego issue. It’s not us the Aberdeen support that’s the problem, it’s really Sir Alex Ferguson’s far greater talent and achievements that dwarfs their own. He made them, he got the maximum out of them, he got inside their heads, without him, they may never have made it. And they’ve never achieved anything as big or been able to do the same as him. While others appear delighted to have been apart of it, they take it out on Aberdeen.
After the Aberdeen 7-2 game Mark McGhee said in the post match interview regarding preparing for their forthcoming fixture against Celtic, ‘my job is to get inside my players’ heads’. That’s during the interview his players could see. While McInnes post match interview actually got inside his players’ heads.
The above was written just after McGhee’s Motherwell were turned over 7-2 at Pittodrie. McGhee was sacked a few weeks later.
If you ever listen to him on his criticism of Aberdeen, it’s all over the place. From his time managing, he blamed it on Milne, the supporters, and the players. All separately. It’s like he can’t make up his mind. And as for the players, as manager he had the power to remove any, or all of them. Engendering team spirit was his job. And up until then, he’d had some success at every job he’d had. Albeit followed by a quick down turn.
His present anger is with the 7-2 defeat, the guy with a camera. While his son was there. Not his own behaviour that lead to him being sent to the stand.
Yes he needs to get his name in the papers, in the media, to then get considered for jobs as football directors are like goldfish. But why not state your regret for that evening, show yourself to have grown, regret your outburst. Be the better person. Then we, the Aberdeen support look like a baying mob.
Strangely mixed up. I would still only ever wish him well.
I watched the CWC Final again for the 35th anniversary. McGhee was just brilliant, and what a team player. Still, and always will be a legend. It would be great if one day he would make peace with us. But I don’t think it’ll happen.