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Nov 12, 2010

Teetering on the brink

Mark McGhee will lead Aberdeen out against Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday as he clings on to his job as manager.

Pittodrie chairman Stewart Milne issued a statement on Thursday backing the embattled boss in the aftermath of the demoralising 9-0 defeat to Celtic and the home loss to Inverness Caley Thistle.

Milne and the Dons board of directors have taken a leap of faith by backing McGhee and his assistants Scott Leitch and Colin Meldrum despite calls from supporters for the management trio to be removed from their posts.

The statement from Milne reads: "Mark's position as manager remains and he, along with everyone else at this club, is fully focussed on improving results on the park. Following the weekend result and the current league form, the board and Mark have taken some considerable time to reflect on where we are at present, what challenges lie ahead and the actions required to get the maximum out of not just the playing squad, but indeed everyone at the club.

"While there is a recognition that we do require to change some aspects of the way we operate, as a result of these talks, Mark's position as manager remains and he, along with everyone else at this club, is fully focussed on improving results on the park. This has been a very difficult spell for everyone involved with Aberdeen Football Club, not least the supporters, but with a vital run of games coming up, I would urge everyone to get right behind Mark and the players moving forward."

McGhee refused to buckle under the growing pressure following calls for his head immediately after the humiliating Celtic defeat. That result, the worst in the club's 107 year history, had placed a huge question mark over his future and created headlines throughout Scotland for all the wrong reasons. To heap further misery on McGhee his men lost 2-1 at home to Caley in front of a crowd of just under 6,000.

However, McGhee, who famously served the Dons during their golden era under Sir Alex Ferguson, has maintained a defiant stance. The 53-year-old now faces the unenviable task of taking Aberdeen to Ibrox on Saturday: a stadium the Reds have not won at since in the league since 1991.

"I remain prepared to continue doing the job - I can understand why people were saying I could be sacked if we lost to Inverness. But that wasn't the impression I was given by the people who make the decisions," said McGhee. "We're on a shocking run in terms of winning games and picking up points but I feel anyone intelligent enough will look at the facts and recognise the difficulties we've had with injuries."

Perhaps the fighting spirit displayed by the 11 Reds in the firing line against Caley proved enough to sway the directors into giving McGhee another chance. They were clearly keen to avenge their crushing defeat at Celtic and showed the right kind of desire against Terry Butcher's Inverness Caley side.

However, the Highlanders, thanks to a controversial Adam Rooney penalty and a Grant Munro header sandwiched around an Andrius Velicka strike, inflicted further misery on McGhee. The Dons, meanwhile, have to face up the reality of staring straight at a relegation dogfight. It now seems like an eternity since they won their opening two league fixtures to top the table and give their long suffering fans real hope.

McGhee, hampered by a string of injury problems, will have been left disappointed by the Caley defeat and now has to inspire his troops ahead of the ominous trip to Glasgow. In a further setback he'll be faced to cope without Darren Mackie who has been added to the ever growing injury list after suffering a serious knee injury in the Caley clash. But skipper Paul Hartley, sent off at Parkhead, is now suspension free after serving his one match ban against Inverness.

McGhee added: "I know that statistics can lose managers their job, regardless of the mitigating circumstances. I know that can happen. It may well yet happen to me yet, which would come as a huge disappointment to me. But until I'm told that is the case I will continue to do the job I'm paid for. I've done the best I could in the circumstances.

"Of course there are decisions I made that I didn't get right but even Sir Alex Ferguson gets them wrong as well from time to time. All I'm thinking about right now is the next decision which for me is what the team will be on Saturday at Ibrox against Rangers."

McGhee is only well aware he faces a fight to keep his job on a long term basis after winning just 17 of the 58 games he's been in charge. The best way to start to stem the tide of pessimism would be by creating history for the right reasons by winning at Ibrox this weekend.

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