Aberdeen avoided a stressful transfer deadline day late scramble after valuable lessons were clearly learnt in the January window.
Manager Stephen Glass completed his summer rebuild well in advance of the window closing to avoid a last-gasp, and possibly futile, hunt for signings.
Ultimately Aberdeen emerged from Glass’ first window as manager stronger, but the new additions have to start delivering wins.
It is now five games without victory for the Dons, who have exited the League Cup to lower-league Raith Rovers and saw hopes of Europa Conference League group stage football end after a play-off lesson from Qarabag.
There was a late burst of four signings recently with the addition of Marley Watkins, David Bates (Hamburg) and loan deals for Matty Longstaff (Newcastle United) and Austin Samuels (Wolves).
👏🏼 Marley Watkins made his second debut for The Dons yesterday.
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) August 30, 2021
However, those signings were akin to adding the roof on a rebuild, not digging out the foundations on the last day of the deadline to deliver the house.
It is in stark contrast to the winter window last season when Aberdeen waited until the final day to attempt to fix a weakness that had been glaringly obvious for months.
The inability to score goals was damaging under former manager Derek McInnes – yet it was not addressed until Sam Cosgrove was sold for £2 million to Birmingham City.
That transfer triggered a domino effect where strikers Curtis Main and Bruce Anderson were allowed to leave with three centre-forwards – Florian Kamberi, Callum Hendry and Fraser Hornby.- subsequently arriving on loan in a frantic final day of the window.
It was a frantic scramble to secure goal scorers. All three were short of game time and match sharpness and it showed.
Aberdeen were defeated 2-0 at Easter Road in a game which was to have huge repercussions in the race to finish third – which Hibs won and Aberdeen lost.
By the time the three loan strikers got up to speed, it was effectively too late and Aberdeen finished fourth in the Premiership table – again.
Their addition was like placing a sticking plaster on a gaping wound and the Reds equalled the lowest-ever league goal return in a season in the club’s 118-year history.
Glass moved quickly in the summer to fix that goalscoring problem with the addition of Christian Ramirez and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. They both bring their own evident strengths.
However, when it became apparent Aberdeen’s attack still lacked another dimension, particularly rapid pace, as well as a lack of depth from creative midfield roles, Glass and the board moved to rectify this with the signing of Samuels, Longstaff and Watkins.
Aberdeen were pro-active rather than reactive in the window.
They also secured a potential, albeit only season-long, replacement for Lewis Ferguson in Longstaff to cover all bases if a bid for the midfielder came in on deadline day that was too good to turn down for a player that had handed in a transfer request in May.
Glass and the Pittodrie board began their transfer work long before the window even opened with the capture of Scott Brown and Scotland international centre-back Declan Gallagher on pre-contract agreements.
Celtic were so desperate to retain their inspirational captain, they launched a late, failed bid to resign Brown. Landing him was a major coup for Aberdeen.
After a prolific start, the goals had dried up for United States international Christian Ramirez until his late equaliser against Ross County.
However, it is clear Ramirez will score if given the chances. It will be fascinating to see if Watkins and Ramirez can forge a quick and fruitful understanding up top.
Aberdeen look to have found the right balance between permanent signings and loan market additions during this window.
Three young, exciting talents have been introduced from the English Premier league in Longstaff, Samuels and Teddy Jenks (Brighton and Hove Albion).
Loans are not long-term solutions and both Longstaff and Jenks will have to be replaced next summer.
That may not be the case with Samuels as Aberdeen have the option to buy at the conclusion of the striker’s loan deal.
On the early evidence of his impressive debut in the 1-1 draw with Ross County, that could be an option worth pursuing.
Players of the caliber of Longstaff, who has racked up 10 starts in the English Premier league, are way beyond the budget of the Dons.
Securing this quality can only be achieved through the loan market, which can be highly effective but must be used sparingly.
There is little point overloading a squad with season-long loan deals in the pursuit of short-term success and moving the bump on to next summer.
The resurrection of midfielder Funso Ojo this season under Glass is also equivalent to a new signing.
Ojo looked destined to exit Pittodrie in the summer following a loan move to League One Wigan.
The midfielder even admitted he was so disillusioned he considered quitting football to take up a career in real estate or personal training.
However, he has thrived in a more forward, attacking role under Glass and has been a key component in the starting XI.
Glass and the board have strengthened Aberdeen in the summer, but the team have yet to fully gel and reach their potential. There is a sense the best has yet to come.
World Cup bid far tougher than Euros
Scotland’s bid to qualify for the World Cup finals already looks to be an uphill struggle after just three Group F games.
Unfortunately Covid-19 issues and injury set-backs have made it even tougher ahead of the toughest game of the qualifying campaign – away to group leaders Denmark tonight.
Automatic qualification is only achievable via one route – winning the group.
Recent Euro 2020 finalists Denmark already look in control of the group with a maximum nine points from three games with 14 goals scored and none conceded.
Should Denmark win in Copenhagen tonight they will be a massive seven points ahead of the Scots – it would surely be game over in terms of automatic qualification.
Should the Scots pull off a shock win it will reignite hopes of topping the group.
Here’s hoping because the playoff route, with a semi-final and final in March 2022, is also precarious.
Should Scotland finish second, their current standing, Clarke’s squad will join nine other runners-up in the playoffs, which will be played in March next year.
The two best Nations League Group winners who haven’t finished in the top two of their qualifying groups will also enter the playoffs..
Unfortunately the Nations League route is no longer available to Scotland after a disastrous late collapse in their group led to them surrendering top spot to finish second behind Czech Republic.
Scotland’s build-up to the Denmark clash has been hit by the absence of John McGinn and Nathan Patterson. McGinn has tested positive for Covid-19, whilst Patterson has had to self-isolate after being identified as a close contact.
Celtic duo James Forrest and Greg Taylor will miss the three ties along with Manchester United’s Scott McTominay and Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong due to injuries.
Scotland face a monumental task tonight to keep hopes of automatic qualification alive.
Please end circus sideshow ‘boxing’
The continued high exposure for the pay-per-view broadcast of farcical “boxing” bouts involving YouTubers is increasingly galling – please make it stop.
YouTuber Jake Paul tweeted: “Updated status: Retired boxer”, following his points defeat of UFC Hall of Famer Tyron Woodley.
— Jake Paul (@jakepaul) August 30, 2021
Hopefully he sticks to his word and stays out of the ring.
Paul’s fight with Woodley brought in 1.3 million sales, and $75 million.
That is an insult to boxers world-wide who have dedicated their lives to the sport and made constant, daily sacrifices.
The reward for many professional boxers who balance their ring career with a full-time job is a miniscule fraction of what Paul earned for a farcical circus sideshow that has zero sporting credibility.