The inside line on Sunderland managerial target Derek McInnes – ‘he deserves his chance at a top job in England’

Derek McInnes issues instructions to his Aberdeen side in November's Betfred Scottish League Cup final defeat to Celtic.
Derek McInnes issues instructions to his Aberdeen side in November's Betfred Scottish League Cup final defeat to Celtic.
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The one blot on Derek McInnes’s managerial copybook is his failure at Bristol City.

And it’s fair to say his placement on the Sunderland top job shortlist by Martin Bain has certainly raised a few eyebrows among the Black Cats’ faithful.

Peter Macdonald (white shirt) in action for Clyde this season.

Peter Macdonald (white shirt) in action for Clyde this season.

But former team-mate Peter MacDonald, who also played under McInnes, has revealed the real reason why the Aberdeen manager struggled to make an impact at Ashton Gate – and it’s all to do with broken promises and budget cuts.

In January 2013, McInnes was sacked by the City board with the Robins languishing at the foot of the second tier table, without a clean sheet all season and having come off the back of a club record-equalling seven-game losing streak.

The above hardly makes for the most inspiring reading for Sunderland fans keen for a lift after a year of capitulations, heartless performances and little to no excitement under David Moyes.

But all was not as it seemed at Bristol City under McInnes, according to former Rangers and St Johnstone team-mate MacDonald.

He says McInnes had the rug pulled from underneath him financially and, as a result, was doomed to failure.

This is not something that should define his career, believes MacDonald.

“All was rosy then he had his budget cut that summer,” said 36-year-old former Dundee frontman MacDonald, currently a youth coach at Rangers.

“Del did a great job at St Johnstone then went down there and carried on where he left off.

“He went on a great unbeaten run (eight games) at the end of his first season there to keep them up with a game to spare.

“Then it all changed in the summer. The job he had on his hands was difficult enough without the board pulling the rug from under him.

“He did not do a bad job at Bristol City. A lot of what went on was out of his control.”

In fact, while many might not think McInnes, whose side produced an impressive battling performance only to be beaten by Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic in stoppage time in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park on Saturday afternoon, is a good fit at the Stadium of Light, MacDonald thinks his former boss is made for it.

“Del has earned his chance at a top job in England,” said MacDonald.

“He did a very good job at Saints and then Aberdeen and has shown he build a team, a club and compete for trophies.

“Sunderland might be a bit of a mess from the outside looking in, but that will suit Del.

“He is astute in the transfer market, can transform squads and mentalities and most of all he is a winner.

“The last thing in the world he would accept is a player, or group of professionals, not giving their all.

“What has gone on at Sunderland would not happen under his watch.”

The budget, and the distinct lack of it, is said to have brought an end to the Moyes’ reign at the Stadium of Light.

Working with little to no money is something that McInnes has become an expert at since his last spell in England.

In his first job, McInnes took over the Saints after Owen Coyle’s departure to Burnley.

And while it is widely believes that Coyle did a decent job at McDiarmid Park, he had failed to win the Scottish First Division title or promotion to the top flight.

That all changed when McInnes hung up the boots and moved into the Perth hot seat.

“The work he did with St Johnstone as manager was outstanding,” said MacDonald, who led the line for McInnes in his first full season in 2008/09 – the year Saints secured a return to SPL football.

“We went from being quite unprofessional to having sports science applied to our training, structured regimes, diets, everything – he turned the club around really.

“A lot of the success of St Johnstone now, with their Europa League runs, Scottish Cup wins and their back-to-back top six Premiership finishes under Steve Lomas and Tommy Wright is down to the ground work put in by McInnes all those years ago.

“If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think St Johnstone would be the club they are today.

“The same goes for the work he has done at Aberdeen.

“He took a team who were fighting at the bottom of the table under Craig Brown and turned them into a force at the top of the table.

“He has won things for them, too.

“They have been and continue to be the second best team in Scotland – even with Rangers back where they belong.

“He will not have it easy at Sunderland, but if they want a manager who knows how to organise, motivate, manage players right and win things – they’ve found the right man in Del.”