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Aberdeen manager is planning ahead, but so is his club

Andrew Shinnie has been a name on many people's lips this season.

Craig Brown and Archie Knox oversee a training session, but their future at Pittodrie is uncertain
Craig Brown and Archie Knox oversee a training session, but their future at Pittodrie is uncertain

He has also found his way on to a few lists compiled by managers of players to have a word with in the summer, when the forward's contract at Inverness Caledonian Thistle expires. One of those belongs to Craig Brown, who has drawn up a list of 22 players who will become free agents at the end of the season.

The Aberdeen manager's announcement yesterday that Shinnie is someone he is keen to bring to Pittodrie seemed unremarkable since the Inverness forward had been complicit in a win over Aberdeen on Saturday. It is also unlikely to reclaim supporters who have grown increasingly disillusioned by watching a team unable to overcome chronic inconsistency.

Shinnie an example of ones that got away. Born in the city, he slipped away unseen by the Pittodrie club to join Rangers as an aspiring youngster. He has since reignited his career in the Highlands as an integral part of a team assembled from a group of players in need of a new direction. They are pulling Inverness towards a place in Europe at the moment.

"We have drawn up a list of 22 players who'll be free agents in the summer and who we would like to sign and Shinnie's name is on it," said Brown.

That was a PR communique and not one which will pacify the 1200 Aberdeen fans who made the trip to the Highlands only to see their team outclassed by their hosts.

The need to reinvigorate this Aberdeen team is clear, then, but what is not is whether it will be Brown's problem. Vice-chairman George Yule has been tasked with breathing new life into a club which has under-achieved for too long and he has spoken of "succession planning" when discussing Brown's future. The manager sees nothing wrong with such a strategy.

Yule would like to introduce a "dynamic young coach" to the Pittodrie set-up while insisting Brown still has a future at the club "but not necessarily at the track-side". That may point towards moving Brown upstairs to take on a role which will aid a new man at the helm.

Ask most supporters and the name of Derek Adams invariably, and perhaps understandably, crops up as his possible successor; a former Aberdeen midfielder, raised in the city and a success in steering Ross County into the Clydesdale Bank Premier League on a budget dwarfed by that available to Brown. He is also yet to sign the new contract on offer in Dingwall which might suggest he is open to a move away.

There are other possible permutations, of course. Brown, now 72 years old and held in high regard at the club, could remain as a mentor to someone like Paul Hartley, a former Pittodrie player and still popular around the place, who has proven to be a success at Alloa Athletic.

Stewart Milne, the Aberdeen chairman, was uncomfortable at the recent annual general meeting when asked if Brown would be retained next season and repeated only that talks would take place "early in the new year". As recently as last Friday, no such discussions had taken place. However, Brown remains unfazed, aware that he and assistant Archie Knox have brought stability side since taking over.

The recent murmurings, however, that Knox is considering retirement at the end of this campaign will have a bearing on Yule's thoughts, while on the pitch there could be an overhaul as so many players are at an advanced stage of their careers.

Will such a turnover be left in the hands of the current management team? Brown's reply has been unequivocal. "No-one has told me I cannot make arrangements for new players to come in."

He has faith that his side are still capable finishing runners-up in the top flight for the first time since 1994. Neither Yule not the weary fans will accept anything less.

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