Mark McGhee doesn’t care what you think.
Aberdeen’s destruction of Motherwell last night was comprehensive. Two goals scored in the second half softened the blow for the Fir Park team, but, in reality, the game was done and dusted in the first 34 minutes.
It wasn’t always like this, of course. Wednesday’s game at Pittodrie saw three survivors from the high water mark of McGhee’s time at Motherwell. Hammell, Considine and Reynolds played (with Lasley on the bench) as Motherwell dug deep to overcome Aberdeen on a topsy-turvy afternoon in May, and secured a place in the UEFA cup.
McGhee’s first Motherwell team was a breathtaking sight. An attacking trident of Ross McCormack, Chris Porter and David Clarkson, directed ably by the shrewd addition of Stephen Hughes. Teams were defeated in 45 minutes and spent the second 45 trying to remember which way was up. There is a distinct irony that Aberdeen, having been on the end of this during his time at Motherwell, returned the favour, and then some.
His arrival in Motherwell for a second spell has seen him fulfil a different role. Returning to the club after Ian Baraclough’s disastrous start to the season, the priority was survival. Having escaped one play-off, the club had little desire to return, so went for what was deemed a ‘safe pair of hands’. A string of results from February to April propelled the club into the top six, and safety.
And yet…two European qualifications, and a record of 3rd, 7th and 5th; to refer to McGhee as a ‘divisive’ figure is akin to calling Dundee’s Scottish Cup exploits ‘a bit of a dry spell’.
McGhee’s prevalence for shrugging off defeats, mistakes and most controversially, multiple severe cuffings, has left some at the end of their tether. It is difficult to begrudge Aberdeen fans their crowing, as they know this all too well. Following their record beating 9-0 defeat to Celtic in 2010, McGhee explained: “We could play the best we have in 10 years and lose 1-0. There are all sorts of dynamics in football. Likewise we could win 6-0 and doesn’t really change a lot. We’ll play the game then reassess.”
Responding to defeats is never going to be an easy task for a manager at any level but McGhee seems to revel in it.
“Maybe the last six games has taken it out of them and they needed this hiccup to kick them on again. I hope so.”
This came after a game in which Motherwell were thoroughly outclassed by Hearts, allowing six different scorers, and saw the left-footed Stevie Hammell slow roasted to perfection at right back.
“We were totally outclassed. Celtic were flying, Rogic and their wide players were brilliant at times.”
This, after a game where Saidy Janko nearly played the entire match, and Motherwell took their aggregate against Celtic to 12-0 in 180 minutes.
Motherwell fans are rightfully, spitting tacks. A run of two wins in twelve, with little hope of that changing at Parkhead on Saturday (Baraclough was binned after two wins in ten), leaves questions that need answered, or shouted into an internet void, at least.
The overwhelming difference between his tenures as Aberdeen and Motherwell manager, has been his ability to find a result when he needs it at Fir Park. Digging out a win against Inverness in December 2008, the 3-0 victory against a resurgent Dundee United in February 2016 and that day in May, when Darren Smith and Chris Porter scrapped like hell.
Dundee at Fir Park looms large.
Written by Graeme Thewliss