More than £500K of a difference between Premiership second and fourth but pride more important for Aberdeen boss McInnes

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As the race to finish Premiership runners-up enters the home straight Derek McInnes insists the pride of being the nation’s second force is Aberdeen’s main motivation – not cash.

Aberdeen are locked in a three-way scrap with Rangers and Hibs to finish runners-up.

The difference between being best of the rest behind Celtic or slumping to fourth is substantial, financially – more than half a million.

Second lands a prize payment of £2.28 million from the SPFL, £320,000 more than third (£1.96m) and £560,000 more than fourth (1.72m).

McInnes acknowledges the benefit an increased payment can give the club, especially with a hectic summer transfer window looming.

Second could also bring a later entry into the Europa League at the second qualifying round – should Celtic overcome Motherwell in the Scottish Cup final.

However, for the Pittodrie manager the primary motivation in securing runners-up spot is the kudos of remaining Scotland’s second best team.

Aberdeen have held that mantle in the previous three seasons and McInnes aims to retain that status.

He said: “There is the financial gains of it.

“That (money) is a factor and second could also give us a later start in Europe which would allow us to plot and plan a proper pre-season for the first time in a long time – since my first season really. It would give us that breathing space.

“However, more importantly it is the pride and the reward of finishing second.

“We would all feel that.

“I am sure the supporters would if we finish second ahead of other good teams.”

After the disappointment of the 3-0 Scottish Cup semi-final exit to Motherwell earlier this month, McInnes confirmed there would be a large turnover of players during the summer window.

He accepted the semi defeat, where Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Shaleum Logan were suspended, underlined the squad was not strong enough to cope with the loss of key players.

McInnes also claimed he was partly culpable for that semi loss due to his signings in the previous two transfer windows.

He will move to strengthen his squad in the close-season in time for what is hoped will be a fifth successive Euro campaign.

There will be scope to make changes as 11 players could exit at the end of the season.

The loan deals for Ryan Christie (Celtic), Greg Stewart (Birmingham City), Chidi Nwakali (Manchester City), Dominic Ball (Rotherham United) and Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United) are all set to expire.

The contracts of defender Anthony O’Connor, World Cup-bound Icelandic international centre-back Kari Arnason, striker Nicky Maynard and keeper Danny Rogers are up at the end of the campaign.

All four are likely to move on.

Kenny McLean will go to Championship side Norwich City having signed a three-and-a-half year deal with the Canaries in the January window.

The Scotland cap was loaned back to the Dons for the rest of this campaign.

Midfielder Greg Tansey, who signed a three-and-a-half year contract at Pittodrie last summer, has also spent the second half of this season on loan at relegation-battling Ross County.

McInnes has already made one key signing for next season having landed Hamilton centre-back Mikey Devlin until summer 2021 in January.

When signing for the Dons, the former Accies skipper, 24, was recovering from cruciate ligament injury that has ruled him out since last May.

McInnes secured him with a view to next season, as was the case with Carlisle United striker Sam Cosgrove.

For now though McInnes insists all his focus is on steering the Reds to second.

On the summer, and players’ futures, McInnes said: “The fact we still have games still to play is our primary focus and we will concentrate on that.

“You learn about your players all the time throughout the season.

“This has been the first season with this squad and all we are concentrating on is finishing second in the Premiership if we can, and getting the results to do that.”

The fight for second could go to the final weekend of fixtures as the three protagonists, Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibs, all held their nerve at the weekend to secure wins in the first post-split fixtures.

Rangers and Aberdeen are level on points although the Ibrox club hold pole position by virtue of a superior goal difference.

Hibs, who shocked champions elect Celtic 2-1 at the weekend, are three points further behind.

Aberdeen’s big game mentality had been questioned in the aftermath of the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat.

The Reds rallied from that shocker to end Kilmarnock’s six-game league winning streak with a 2-0 away win.

For McInnes that was proof positive his squad have the mentality needed for the season’s high stakes finale.

He said: “We’ve got good players.

“It’s too easy to count them out and too easy to write them off at times.

“We are capable of winning games against good opponents and Kilmarnock have been that certainly in the last while.

“I was looking at the response from my players, from a totally Aberdeen perspective, and I saw the effort and the endeavour to get the job done against Kilmarnock after what had been a tough week.

“The players got the reward.”

Aberdeen have the opportunity to pile the pressure on Rangers and Hibs as McInnes’ side host Hearts on Friday night.

Hibs are at home to Kilmarnock on Saturday with Rangers away to Celtic, who can clinch the title, on Sunday.

McInnes said: “If we find our form, we can win games against any of those teams. But it is all about finding that form.

“It has all the makings of an exciting finish as there are good teams involved in it.

“We have to make sure we are right in amongst it and now focus on Hearts.”



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