Aberdeen did their utmost to get their house in order during the January transfer window, including dishing out some contract extensions to players with expiring deals. Craig Fowler buries past perceptions to find out what Andrew Considine has done to deserve a new deal to stay at Pittodrie.
Around two weeks ago, work related boredom caused a neglect in professionalism and the inevitable fixation with the latest stories being rushed out by Sky Sports News. The tabs at the bottom of the screen flicked away as I took in each snippet with varying degrees of interest. Then the screen arrived with the news that Aberdeen had reached contractual agreements with two existing players; Scott Vernon (fair enough) and Andrew Considine... Sorry, what? Re-reading the screen more than once was necessary for the absurdity of the words to sink in. Apparently the same happened to the technology operating these continuously looping “news tabs”, because it stuck on this particular tab for over five minutes. When it did restart it delivered further bewilderment by stating the length of the contract, running until 2015.
Surely the management team (for pushing this deal) and the board of directors (for sanctioning it) were making a mistake? Here was a player who has been a constant in an Aberdeen team over the past five years that, at best, could be described as mediocre, and who couldn't even be argued as the best of a bad bunch. Whether at full-back or centre half, he committed errors with alarming regularity and resembled something of poor man's Gary Caldwell – without the footballing ability. As they had done with Zander Diamond, surely it was time to ship out a chronically under-performing defender? The last I knew about their opinion regarding the player, Aberdeen supporters were not fans of their home-grown defender, and had to be up in arms with this latest news.
Well, in case you needed a reminder, a lot can happen in football in a short space of time. Dons fans are, on the whole, happy with the fact that Considine could potentially be an Aberdeen player for at least another three years, and particularly pleased with the way the club got the situation sorted long before the summer. Not only that, fans seemed perfectly content when the defender was handed the captain's armband on a temporary basis around the same time. Written off by many as a total bomb-scare at the end of last season, Considine was now seen as dependable enough to lead the team into battle each week.
Well, how did this happen? The reason is obvious, but with an element of surprise: Considine has matured as a defender. His positioning and anticipation has improved while his habit of suffering dreadful lapses in concentration has decreased. It's what you expect from a maturing defender as they garner enough playing time to develop their game, but you'd presume Considine was of age where he'd all ready matured as much as he was ever going to? Well here's the pay-off: Andrew Considine is still only 24.
It feels like the 6ft 4inn Aberdonian has been around for ever. He made his début against Dundee in May 2004, just over a month after his 17th birthday and was a first team regular before he turned 20; racking up over 30 appearances as Aberdeen secured 3rd spot and a place in the UEFA Cup at the end of the 06/07' season. Consistent progression in his development would have seen Considine feature for Scotland by now, but the individual errors began to pile up and the patience from the fans - granted to academy graduates awkwardly trying to find their feet - evaporated. That, combined with a strange insistence from his two previous managers (Calderwood and McGhee) of trying him out at full-back, ruined his confidence.
It'd probably be a little harsh to point out the coincidence of Zander Diamond leaving town and Considine getting better - as a central defensive partner Youl Maweene was hardly Ledley King - but their form does suggest that the team has eventually begun to execute Craig Brown's game-plan, and Considine is benefiting from that. He's playing consistently in his favoured position, in a side that are well organised and like to defend as a team. Not to mention the fact he has had Kari Arnason and Issac Osbourne patrolling the grounds in front of him all season. Those two offer defensive protection and a physical presence that few other midfields can rival. On the whole, Considine has found himself being isolated less and his play improving week by week as he rebuilds his confidence. The bomb-scare moments have still popped in every now and again, but for the first time in his career the frequency is diminishing.
Aberdeen's run currently stands at one loss in eleven fixtures, including five clean sheets, and they currently sit in sixth place with a better defensive record than any of the teams chasing them. The addition of Mark Reynolds has solidified things further in the month of January, and the corps have also been bolstered by the arrival of Russell Anderson. The former skipper was immediately awarded the captain's armband upon his return and Brown's preference for a flat back four may cause Considine some concern, with the possibility one of the three may get shunted out to full-back. But the fact that there is even an argument over who should start when picking two of those three players shows how much he has rebuilt his reputation in such a short space of time.
Anderson was a great player first time around, but he is now 33 years old and it would make no sense to unsettle the younger player's improvement for the sake of a short -term fix. And Considine has done enough this season to earn that spot in the starting eleven, and that new contract.