Let’s be honest, it would be extraordinarily fickle to describe Aberdeen’s season as anything other than an impressive success. To push the substantial resources, not to mention efficient ability, of Ronny Deila’s Celtic side so close for so long in the chase for the league title broke new ground in recent Aberdeen and Scottish football history.
There is a bit of a hollow feeling to the campaign in the way it petered out though, as well as a lack of real defining moments, thanks to a couple of puncturing cup exits to Tayside opposition. That is to nit-pick at twelve months of clear progression though and, as such, breaking down the squad is a largely cheerful exercise. Although, not exclusively positive. We’re still Aberdonians, after all.
Scott Brown – 5
Instantly popular with a significant section of supporters by virtue of not being Jamie Langfield, his debut season has ended up little disappointing. A decent shot-stopper, but with the alarmingly similar tendencies of his positional rival to distribute poorly and command his area like a substitute teacher. A microcosm of his Dons career came in the last few minutes at Rugby Park – smart penalty save, but by god he owed it after a mindless, flapping foul. There’s a niggling feeling that he’ll need to be improved upon if Aberdeen are going to get any closer to the league’s summit.
Jamie Langfield – 3
The better Aberdeen get the less compelling the arguments for keeping him become. And they weren’t especially convincing to start with. Sure, he’s about as loyal as they come, but his well documented flaws aren’t ever going to change. It may seem heartless in his testimonial year, but his time’s been up for a while.
Shay Logan – 9
Probably the best right-back in the division. Naturally attacking but not without defensive qualities, he’s become an integral part of the side in eighteen months. Plays with a languid quality which makes football looks deceptively easy. Has nailed down some impressive consistency, even amid having a fairly hefty distraction imposed upon him.
Andy Considine – 8
Several Aberdeen managers have pushed him to left-back, and several have been rewarded with the sight of a centre-half awkwardly operating an a position he isn’t best suited to. Perhaps it’s the all-around competency of this side, or the amount of time they spend in possession and on the front foot, but for some reason Consi has flourished there this year. Adding a rampant attacking dimension to his game that few knew existed, he’s been one of many pleasant surprises. The arrival of Shinnie could make for a difficult decision over where to play him next, but play he should.
Russell Anderson – 5
Okay, so he only played twice in the league, in a pair of forgettable 1-0 defeats to St Johnstone. But, his peskily depleted last campaign for the Dons still featured a handful of impressive Europa League displays, proving he could still lead his club onto the continent. And, hey, he’s Russell Anderson. I’d give him a twelve if it wasn’t so mawkishly cloying.
Mark Reynolds – 6
A bit of a funny one given that the season he’s finally gained national squad recognition is the one where his form hasn’t been quite so imperious. Noticeably struggled without Anderson initially (and with Taylor still finding his feet), and has had patchy distribution throughout the season. Still a fine defender however, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Even though this mark suggests I’m doing exactly that. Basically, he’s good, but can be even better.
Ash Taylor – 7
Cast your mind back to early Autumn. Aberdeen were enduring a shaky start, and nowhere was this more apparent than in their new young centre-half Ashton Taylor. A series of high-profile mistakes and a general cumbersomeness suggested his Dons career would be short-lived. As it happens though, Taylor was just a bleary-eyed, wobbly-legged foal staggering out of the horse-womb, and it wasn’t long until he matured into a mighty steed of a defender. Too much? Yes. But he’s a lot better now, and has bags of potential to improve further.
Donervon Daniels – 5
Aberdeen’s finest ever Monseraat international peaked too soon. His opener in the League Cup semi final proved to be the high point, as his Reds career petered out like their hopes of retaining the cup that afternoon. A sensible short-term replacement for Taylor, in that they’re both big, clunky and a bit raw, he featured little after the Ash returned from injury. Was tried in midfield by McInnes for a little game time towards the season’s conclusion, an experiment lasting around half an hour. Which was plenty.
Joe Shaughnessy – 3
Perfectly competent cover, but featured in just three matches this campaign, and is understandably moving on for more football. Nearly caused carnage with a thunderous 30-yard effort on the last day of the season, which could’ve denied new club St Johnstone European football. Either side of Alan Mannus and it’d have made for an interesting first day at McDiarmid Park.
Ryan Jack – 8
A huge player, tremendous in possession and with plenty of the tools to be one of the finest deep-lying centre midfielders in the country. Though his form mirrored the club’s in diminishing a touch towards the season’s close, it’s still been another hugely impressive campaign for Jack. If we’re being hyper-picky, he arguably has a tendency to play within himself in the really big matches, either at the business end of cups or against Celtic. But, barring a significant offer to trump his new contract extension, he’ll continue to be a fundamental part of the spine in 2015-16.
Peter Pawlett – 7
Would always be difficult for Pawlett to follow up his sensational breakthrough season. He had a thoroughly decent go at it though, playing 36 matches and scoring six goals in the league – more on both counts than last time around. Not bad for someone once unfairly known as a flakey diver. He’s tailed off since the turn of the year though, and has probably suffered a touch from McInnes being less tactically rigid this campaign. Every so often he’ll display that head-down, turn-of-pace charge which makes him so good to watch. For that alone he’s tremendously valuable.
Jonny Hayes – 9
The pick of the bunch were it not for Rooney’s hors catégorie year. Hayes started the season on the left of a midfield diamond, and has since spent various amounts of time at left-back, centre midfield, centre forward and, on either side of a front-three. And, frankly, he’s been so remarkably able in each spot, trying to guess his best position now is like picking your favourite Radiohead album. He’s combined the pace and trickery he always had with positional intelligence and effectiveness. In short, when he isn’t on he park, no matter which part of it, the team are noticeably worse.
Willo Flood – 6
A bit of an odd season. Still one of Scottish football’s more curious figures, still a nuisance to play against and still with the boundless energy of a toddler on Haribo. A hamstring tear against Celtic in October put paid to any momentum he might have built up this campaign though, and he’s been patchy since returning. Can be a frustrating player to watch in possession too, particularly when chasing a late goal. Certainly isn’t the integral figure he once was and might have his place in the side under greater threat next season.
Barry Robson – 5
On the face of it, it seemed unusual that Robson was handed a year’s contract extension. For all the world his Dons career appeared to be winding down, playing around 1,000 fewer minutes and not registering a single goal, while finding himself linked with just about every lower league player-manager gig going. With the dressing room a Russell Anderson lighter though, it does seem logical to retain an influential, senior figure at the club, especially one that still has a cracker of a left foot. Probably worth having around for that reason alone.
Cammy Smith – 7
Still ticking over nicely and looking more and more like an accomplished part of the side, it’s easy to forget Smith is sill a teenager, despite racking up over 75 first-team appearances. Overly critical viewers, a disproportionate amount of whom seem to have a fondness with going to Aberdeen games, would say he should be contributing more goals for an attacking midfielder. While a few more late penalty-box darts, like the one which earned him a goal at Rugby Park, would be welcome, he’s still showing more than enough to be persevering with.
Kenny McLean – 6
After a fairly promising start, there are still a few question marks over McLean. His ability isn’t in question, and his range of attributes means he fits neatly into a number of midfield roles. That versatility may be counting against him though, in that he hasn’t quite found his identity in this Aberdeen side. At the risk of stating the obvious, he could also use a goal to get him off and running, especially given his predilection for shooting from distance. Next season is important for him, as he’s needed to take the creative burden off of McGinn and Pawlett.
Nicky Low – 4
Although hampered by injury throughout the season, Low always seemed as if he’d remain just not quite at the level required to hold down a regular first team place. Not short of energy, and has a cracking left foot (see his strike against Partick Thistle at Pittodrie), he’ll probably make a mid-table Premiership side reasonably happy one day, hence his impending move to Dundee. We’ll always have that penalty in the cup final, Nicky.
Jeffrey Monakana – 2
Ten sub appearances. A few step-overs. His name fitted quite well into a chant. Has since had spells at Mansfield and Carlisle, as he continues to tick off the UK’s cultural hotspots, one by one.
Adam Rooney – 10
Obscenely prolific. 28 goals in all competitions – including a belter against St Johnstone – the highest tally in the Premiership and worth a significant amount of points on his own. Folk’ll moan that he doesn’t do much outside the box (which is still a bit harsh), but that’s like complaining about your Lamborghini’s boot space – who cares? Probably the best striker to pull on the jersey since fellow ginger predator Duncan Shearer, and one who could easily become an all-time great if he continues anything like the form he’s shown in his eighteen months at the club for a few years more.
Niall McGinn – 8
Perhaps the most technically proficient Aberdeen player, it’s been another strong season for McGinn. While he isn’t scoring as frequently as he once did for the Dons, Rooney is a primary beneficiary of his creativity. He’s more than capable of the odd screamer himself – his lob against Hamilton in December was exquisite. Was one of the most consistent performers in the Dons’ winter unbeaten run. As far as I, and many others are concerned, he can stay for as long as he likes.
David Goodwillie – 5
Fast slipping into dangerous figure-of-fun territory among Scottish football fans, it’s difficult to know what to do with Goodwillie. McInnes seemed determined to have him in the side back in Autumn, and he was showing flickering signs of danger, with decent hold up play and a nice touch. He’s been less than effective though, and has almost dropped entirely out of contention since signing a contract extension in January. His determination to squeeze a bicycle kick into every appearance is wearing a touch thin. With Rooney currently undroppable, he has some task to force his way back into the team.
Lawrence Shankland – 5
A much-vaunted youngster, with an impressive record in the development league, he’s still searching for a first-team goal with conspicuous impatience. It may come as a surprise to see he’s made as many as 17 appearances – albeit with an average pitch time of just under 15 minutes. Will likely continue to be a back-up option next year.
WRITTEN BY JOHN CALLAN
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