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Scale of task facing Craig Brown all too apparent

Sone Aluko insists belief is not an issue at Aberdeen

Richard Wilson

12 Dec 2010

Craig Brown's mind must have been a confusion of thoughts: alarm, no doubt, maybe even a little dread, but also a growing understanding of the extent of his work.

In the Tynecastle main stand, on an afternoon when the air grew colder and the skies turned darker with every moment, the problems he must confront were suddenly harshly exposed.

There is no scope for Brown to clear out his squad when the transfer window opens – the Pittodrie board will be reluctant to pay off contracts, and there is no obvious sellable asset – so he will have to be resourceful; he will look to swap deals and loan transfers and has already reportedly targeted David McNamee, the former Livingston right-back. Brown was frustrated by the lack of money available at Motherwell, but there will not be much difference at Pittodrie, beyond a wage bill that can stretch a little further.

Against Hearts, there was only one source of optimism, in the shrewdness and heartfelt effort of Paul Hartley. The midfielder is the kind of authoritative, uncompromising figure that a side can be built around, but Brown's first imperative will be to identify the players he needs to sacrifice.

There are few options, and he will have to attempt to coax improving performances from the likes of Zander Diamond, Andrew Considine, Derek Young, Jamie Langfield and Chris Maguire. But the latter apart – as he is still young enough to develop – it is hard to see that the others have a future at the club, having diminished in form, and perhaps even hunger, in long careers at the club.

Others, like Sone Aluko, Jerel Ifil, Yoann Folly and Scott Vernon have to show that they can be more than fleetingly inferior contributors to a side that no longer believes in itself. Brown is a motivator, and can gift players confidence; for now, it is only that and his ability to organise and demand greater effort that he can rely upon.

"He was calm and relaxed. He said we need to set higher standards than that." said Aluko when asked what Brown told the players. "He's got a lot of experience and he won't accept that [performance]. He'll pull us out if it. It takes hard work, nothing else can get us out of it. Eventually, it will turn around. We believe in ourselves."

Losing two early goals with such facile resistance tells of a side unable to rouse itself. Being unable to assert themselves after being encouraged and instructed at half-time reveals the lack of belief.

Brown will have watched and considered what a new centre-back, a new central midfielder, a new striker and a new creative figure might bring to the side. But also with the knowledge that he will not have the resources to make such emphatic changes. Instead, he will have to count on the players' pride and self-esteem prompting a change.

"No player, no team likes to lose in that manner," said Aluko. "We have to dig ourselves out of this and show a bit of character. We can't get much worse, the lads won't accept it. It hurts to be down there. We've got to turn this around."

How might the new manager remove the sense of gloom around the team? Last Saturday night, he might have wondered the very same himself.

Taken from the Herald

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