‘I don’t know what he means’ – Aberdeen boss McInnes won’t be drawn into war of words with Kilmarnock boss Clarke over Stewart deal

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes shakes hands with Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes shakes hands with Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke.

Pittodrie boss Derek McInnes insists he doesn’t know what Kilmarnock’s Steve Clarke meant with his recent swipe that Aberdeen’s loan deal for Greg Stewart had a “strange smell”.

The Dons beat Kilmarnock to the loan capture of in-form attacker Stewart who has joined until the end of the season.

Stewart had spent the first half of the season on loan at Rugby Park but Birmingham made the shock decision to recall him on January 11.

Rugby Park boss Clarke had hoped to secure Stewart, who scored eight times in 17 games at Killie, for the rest of the season but ultimately lost out to the Reds.

Clarke reacted with a pop at the deal insisting “the whole deal had a slightly strange smell right from the very start”.

McInnes has refused to be drawn into a war of words with Clarke, who takes Kilmarnock to Pittodrie on Saturday.

The Aberdeen gaffer said Killie matched Aberdeen’s initial loan offer on Friday and the decision was left to Stewart.

The 28-year-old chose Aberdeen over Killie and McInnes insists it had nothing to do with money.

On Clarke’s comments, he said: “I don’t know exactly what he means by that.

“But I am not really interested anyway.”

McInnes had initially attempted to secure Stewart, who is out of contract in the summer, on a permanent contract.

Stewart and his representative opted to go into the summer a free agent but McInnes will use the loan spell to try to secure him permanently.

McInnes said: “I am delighted to get Greg because we can all admire and like players but to actually go and land them is difficult.

“There were challenges to get Greg here but we submitted our best offer on Friday at Birmingham’s request.

“We were then told Kilmarnock matched the offer and it was up to the player.

“Just to take away any doubt about how it played out Greg decided he wanted to come to us.

“By Friday afternoon Greg had come to the decision that he wanted to come to us.

“That was brilliant for us because sometimes you put a lot of work into these things and they don’t come to fruition.

“We have suffered a lot in the past where we have put a lot of work in and not got what we wanted.

“It is good that we have managed to get Greg with us and it also pleases me that he has shown that desire to be here.”

Stewart spent the whole of the 2017-18 on loan at Pittodrie and scored four times. He rediscovered the form at Kilmarnock in the No 10 position that saw him twice short-listed for the Scottish Player of the Year while at previous club Dundee.

Stewart played in that No 10 position for the Dons in his second debut in the 1-1 Scottish Cup draw with Stenhousemuir.

McInnes had also attempted to secure Stewart last summer.

McInnes said: “Greg did play in the No 10 position a lot for us (in first loan spell) but he came to us unfit by his own admission.

“When we were back into the swing of things Ryan Christie was winning the fight to play in that position. Greg finished the season well with us. In the summer we thought about trying to bring Greg back and get him through a pre-season.

“But we were after Ryan Christie at the time and were given encouragement that was the deal that could maybe be done.

“While waiting for Ryan, Greg goes to kilmarnock and we ended up losing out on both players.

“Now we have Greg back. We have a very confident and fit player and will reap the benefits.”

Aberdeen also secured the return of left-back Max Lowe on loan from Derby County until the end of the season.

Lowe scored on his return in the Scottish Cup tie with Stenhousemuir.

“The chances of that had gone,” said McInnes.

“There was only ever a change when Frank (Lampard, Derby boss) said to me that an opportunity had presented itself to maybe bringing in Ashley Cole short term.

“That allowed Max and Derby the freedom to come back to us.

“Frank had said to me all along that if he could find a short-term solution that would allow Max to stay out then that is what they would try to do.

“He saw the benefit of Max staying with us and didn’t really want to take him back.

“It was with a heavy heart that he brought him back.

“Derby managed to resolve their situation which allowed us to bring Max back.

“He was great on Saturday and scored his goal.”

While two players have arrived at Pittodrie, midfielder Chris Forrester has exited.

A £200,000 signing from Peterborough United last summer, Forrester failed to make the expected impact and made just one start, with seven appearances off the bench.

His contract was terminated.

McInnes said: “It is with a lot of sadness and regret that we’ve terminated Chris’ contract.

“At his request we’ve allowed him to be back with his family in Ireland.

“He’s had a lot to contend with in his personal life and, as a club, we have an understanding of the situation and we wish him well with his future career.”

Aberdeen are also in the hunt to secure Celtic winger Lewis Morgan on a loan deal until the end of the season.

Hibs and Championship side Hull City are also tracking the Scotland international with a view to a loan deal.

McInnes remained tight lipped when asked about the Morgan link. He said: “No comment. We have lots of conversations with managers and a lot of these things remain private.

“Just because you have conversations does not mean you are linked with their players or there is anything in it.”