In The Dugout

If a week is a long time in politics, it is an aeon in football.

Celtic began the week reeling from recent setbacks, including being dumped out of the Champions League and ending up losers in a towsy encounter with Aberdeen. Whispers of unrest in the camp didn’t help, nor did the PR nightmare that was the Stinkgate story.

The defeat to Aberdeen has given Celtic a catching up job to do in the Premiership and tough European fixtures are looming. It very much looked as if the club could soon be in a confidence crisis. However, that has all been blown away with a credible 2-2 draw against Ajax and a 6-0 drubbing of Dundee.

Just over a week ago it looked like Rangers’ soaring progress might see them eclipse their arch rivals but two very flat performances – albeit producing two wins – have meant a harsh note of reality has returned to analysis of where Rangers really are at the moment. This will be demonstrated in the Scottish League Cup clash with St Johnstone, arguably the first real test of progress under Mark Warburton.

The ups and downs of the Old Firm aside, the real story of the week is the form of Aberdeen, who have demonstrated a hunger to win that has not been seen in a long time at Pittodrie. On this current form, there can be no doubting the Dons’ title contender credentials but they must sustain the fighting spirit and quality play that has seen off Celtic and, most recently, Hearts at Tynecastle.

Derek McInnes has got Aberdeen playing a winning combination of tough and skillful football. It could be argued that the new look Dons owe more to McInnes’ absorbing a Rangers philosophy than that of Alex Ferguson’s but if he can keep the momentum going he may bring back the glory to the North East not seen since the Fergie heyday of the 1980’s.

Aberdeen fans won’t really bother much about McInnes’ influences if he continues to put out teams that look like they can win something. It still might be stretching it for many observers of our game to think that McInnes’ men stand a chance of beating Celtic to the Premiership title but there is no doubt that the much-admired young boss will give it a real good go.

McInnes was, for me, an obvious choice of manager at Ibrox and I can still see this happening at some point.

Another team supposedly sinking into the crisis zone last week was Chelsea. However, a comprehensive victory in the Champions League midweek, coupled with a more significant victory over Arsenal at the weekend, have made talk of Jose “losing it” look rather foolish.

Refreshingly, Manchester City’s capitulation to West Ham – on the back of a 2-1 deficit at home in the Champions League to Juventus – means that the EPL is not likely to be the one-horse race it looked like being a couple of weeks ago.

Two defeats in a row might actually be considered a crisis for Man City these days.

Recent events up here and down south have proven two things. Firstly, that there is all to play for and this is good for fans as it means there is real competition. The other is that if you want a job that brings security and very little stress, do not be a football manager.

It’s not called a dugout for nothing…

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