The whispers in and around the corridors of Pittodrie were that Derek McInnes would leave the club at the end of the season.
That he has departed sooner rather than later, however, has blindsided everybody.
In the end, it probably came down to economics as much as anything, with Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack worried that, with the growing disquiet of the fans over the team’s often pathetic performances, selling season tickets in sufficient numbers for the 2021-22 campaign would prove too difficult with McInnes in charge.
The Covid crisis has damaged all in football and while Cormack announced at the start of the first lockdown that his club’s war chest would see it through fiscally, the second phase of restrictions has put the Dons’ finances under severe strain.
What to do?
Those on whom you depend – the supporters – are the ones whose cash you need. They are unhappy their team has faltered with just one goal scored in nine Scottish Premiership games and only two wins in 13.
There have been questions over the management of the squad, signings that have proved unsuccessful, tactics of questionable value, and mostly, performances that have been far from eye-catching.
The goalless home draw against Hamilton – bottom of the league at the time – at the weekend, as the Reds bid to finish the season above Hibs who are currently in third place in the league, was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The answer, as far as USA-based Aberdonian Cormack was concerned, was to show an unpopular manager the door, despite him guiding the club into European football via the Europa League in seven of his eight years.
Yes, they won the Scottish League Cup in 2014, a year after he took charge, but that was too far in the distant past for the Aberdeen disciples.
McInnes’ relationship with previous chairman Stewart Milne was close, hence his decision to reject job offers from Sunderland and then Rangers.
His loyalty was rewarded and while Cormack made all the right noises when he took over the club and pitched-in with £9m for a new training complex, named after him, he felt compelled to announce at the start of the season the fans would see a more attacking, aggressive team.
The meaning was clear; he did not like what he was seeing from McInnes’ sides, and neither did his fellow followers of the team.
Now Cormack, a flamboyant software multi-millionaire based in Atlanta, will allow coaches Paul Sheerin and Barry Robson to see out the season in charge as he seeks a new face.
The club’s finances will dictate whether a marquee signing will be recruited, one whose appointment will shift season tickets.
I suspect Cormack will go down that path.
So it is arguable that, even with a major reduction for his successor, Aberdeen could still attract a prominent name.
Let the guessing game begin.
Who could be the next Aberdeen manager?
Sky Sports News reporter Charles Paterson runs through the potential candidates to become the new Aberdeen manager…
“It’s very interesting when you look at Aberdeen’s relationship with their sister club in the United States, Atlanta United. Atlanta is where Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack lives and where his businesses are based.
“Their reserve team coach is former Aberdeen midfielder Stephen Glass, who played for the club in the 1990s. He also played for Newcastle United and Watford as well. Glass has been touted as a future Aberdeen manager and that natural link-up between the two clubs would suggest that he is a strong, viable option.
“There will also be other strong candidates linked to the job, such as former Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson, who is out of work at the moment. Plenty of other big names within Scottish football have already been linked with the role, such as the Scottish FA’s performance director Malky Mackay and former Celtic boss Neil Lennon has been linked with the role as well. He was also linked with the role in the past before he eventually returned to Celtic.
“So, it will be interesting to see which way Aberdeen go, given they haven’t appointed a manager in nearly eight years. This is a fresh challenge for anyone who comes in but, they have a new training ground to work with, which opened a couple of years ago. They have a squad that is used to competing at the top of the Scottish Premiership and the prize for finishing third in the league this year is almost guaranteed football in Europe until Christmas because of the new UEFA competition that starts up next season.
“There is a lot to play for between now and the end of the season for Aberdeen. There are only six league games left and the Scottish Cup. Paul Shearon is in interim charge and if he can guide Aberdeen into third place ahead of Hibernian, perhaps he will be a candidate that Dave Cormack considers.
“It’s very interesting times in the north-east.”