New firm spin

THE Fat Lady is not quite singing but she is clearing her throat. The business end of the season approaches and it is a time for the New Firm to look at the books.

It is an intriguing era in the north. Stephen Thompson’s extraordinary statement this week illustrates the turmoil at Tannadice. It is difficult to regard it as anything other than a piece of venting emotion. Thompson has been under pressure since he sold Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven to Celtic when United looked ahead with expectation.

One year on his side looks hopeless and is destined for the drop. His decision to sell two of the club’s players to a rival was bound to attract flak but I believe Thompson was right. He had to accept offers as United, simply but irrefutably, are a selling club.

However, it is difficult to support his statement this week. A simple apology to the fans would have sufficed. But to criticise players so heavily is to invite nothing but further trouble. A dressing-room desperately seeking confidence will not be aided by the chairman’s words.

Thompson now has to confront an end of season that will surely see further defeats, disaffection from fans and the need to prepare for life in the Championship. It is a depressing prospect for one half of the New Firm.

But what of the other half? In a culture of sudden outbreaks of vitriolic criticism – Ronny Delia slaughtered in the week he picks up the manager of the month award – Derek McInnes seems strangely immune from searching scrutiny. The performance of Willie Collum the other night has distracted attention from the fact that yet again Aberdeen have failed when in a position to prosper.

Controversy over decisions cannot disguise a poor Aberdeen performance that faded badly after a promising start. Inverness Caledonian Thistle were simply the better team. The absence of Rangers from the top flight was an invitation for teams to lift trophies at the expense of Celtic.

Aberdeen, with the second largest budget in the land, have won a league cup. They have also conspired this season to exit the Scottish Cup early, admittedly to Hearts, and the league cup to opponents from a lower division. They need to maintain a challenge in the league to keep a season alive and to protect McInnes from questions that will surely come if Celtic are allowed to stroll to the title.
BY HUGH MACDONALD

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