ABERDEEN have not had much luck at the start of the season.
A tepid opening day performance against Rangers was followed by the embarrassment of eight players breaking Scottish Government regulations on social distancing at a local bar, with two of them contracting Coronavirus. As a result, and of the stupidity of Boli Bolingoli giving two fingers to the rules by flying to Spain on his day off then not self isolating, three games were cancelled and the players involved were fined after a club investigation. Add to that the city going back into lockdown thanks to a spike in positive cases, flooding and a train crash in nearby Stonehaven, it really has been an unlucky period for the city as well as the club.
For us Aberdeen fans, it’s been an uneasy period and a lot of anger has boiled over on social media. They feel let down by the eight players (Scott McKenna, Dylan McGeough, Michael Devlin, Bruce Anderson, Sam Cosgrove, Johnny Hayes, Matty Kennedy and Craig Bryson) for breaking the club rules on social distancing when they visited a bar, especially as it came after a poor showing against the club they dislike the most. Amidst all the anger, there have been internet rumours about players refusing to accept the punishment from the club and having their contracts mutually terminated. This doesn’t help the situation, it’s bad enough having the negative publicity from the press, rival clubs and the Scottish Government without elements of our support claiming to be in the know and starting rumours without substance. Lewis Ferguson was rumoured to be one of the eight players before the players statement was released, so these rumours should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Whatever’s gone on, there has to be a line drawn somewhere and, for me, with our delayed game against St Johnstone being played tomorrow, that line should be drawn now.
The club could not have dealt with the matter any more than what they did. They condemned the actions of the players, took their time and handed out the necessary punishments to the players. Dave Cormack also added that they will take whatever punishment the SFA and SPFL give, though I don’t know how the governing bodies are going to get around handing out bans or fines that weren’t in place.
What Cormack added at the end of his five minute video last Friday was that the players have suffered enough and that it’s time to move on, and that is something we should echo. Yes the eight players breached the social distancing rules put in place by the Scottish Government, yes they let the club down and caused anger across Scottish Football for part-causing three games to be postponed, though it was the Bolingoli story that contributed to the other two. But let’s put this into context, was what they did the worst crime in the world and worthy of them losing their jobs as some have suggested?
They deserve their fines, they deserve to be ridiculed, they will deserve to be subjected to rival fans mocking them at games when fans are allowed back in. That’s adequate punishment for them. The way some people go on, you’d think breaching those guidelines was worse than failing a drugs test or elbowing an opponent when the referee and assistants weren’t looking. Remember, going for a drink is now permitted by the Scottish Government (in my opinion, wrongly, pubs should’ve been the LAST businesses to open post-lockdown), so they didn’t break rules by going for a pint. Where they did go wrong was not observing the two metre social distance rules and were crowded together, and it happened at a time where a spike in positive Coronavirus cases broke in the city and were linked to several bars, one of which they were in.
In summary, they disregarded the rules, got caught and have been adequately punished by the club. Now it’s time to move onto matters on the pitch, and this is where the eight players have to make things up to the fans they have let down. Starting with the rearranged game with St Johnstone tomorrow night.
People argue that Aberdeen got away with the original game being postponed with those eight players, plus suspended Andy Considine, being in self isolation and are now available for selection, bar the injured Devlin and Cosgrove. However, with only one competitive game under their belt after a five month curtailment caused by the pandemic, and having had no training for two weeks, the players will be rusty going into a game against a St Johnstone side on a high from their weekend win at Kilmarnock. Add in the fact Curtis Main and new loan signing Ryan Edmondson, in addition to Cosgrove, are also injured, they are short in striking options, which makes the task harder.
St Johnstone is the first of four games in eleven days for the Dons, with the first Europa League qualifier against either Barry Town or NSI Runavik sandwiched in between league games against Livingston and Hibs. The players need to get themselves up to speed pretty quickly if they are to make progress in Europe and not play early catchup to their rivals for the top four positions. After events of the last few weeks, the determination level from the eight players in particular will need to be intensified if they are to win back support from the fans and put this unfortunate mess behind them.
It’s hard for Aberdeen fans just now after all that’s gone on and the fact they are unable to get to games is difficult to get used to. However, now is the time to put this behind them, stop spreading wild rumours online and have something positive to look forward to. After events of the past few weeks, the city needs positivity again and its up to Aberdeen FC in particular to provide that.