MARK McGhee last night praised Derek McInnes for turning down the chance to manage Sunderland to remain at Aberdeen – but predicted it will only be a matter of time before the “red hot” Scot is lured back down to England.

McInnes had appeared set to join the Stadium of Light club, who had agreed to pay compensation in the region of £1 million to their Pittodrie counterparts, last week after holding talks with their chief executive Martin Bain in Florida.

However, the 45-year-old, who has led the north-east club to second-placed finishes in the Ladbrokes Premiership in each of the past three seasons, surprised both English and Scottish football on Thursday when he when opted to remain in his current position.

McGhee, the Scotland assistant manager who spent a spell in charge of Aberdeen, admitted he had been surprised the former Rangers, West Bromwich Albion and Dundee United midfielder had rejected the opportunity.

But the ex-Leicester City, Wolves, Millwall and Brighton manager feels McInnes will receive a more tempting offer than Sunderland, who have just been relegated from the Barclays Premier League and look set to be sold, from down south in the near future.

“I’ve been in that position lots of times and usually I made the wrong decision,” he said. “It is easy to do that. I still look back and think I shouldn’t have walked out on Leicester City. I looked at it and saw a massive opportunity at a huge club in Wolves. I felt it was something I had to take, but looking back I shouldn’t have.

“Sunderland are so much bigger than Aberdeen in so many ways, but Derek was able to look and see there was something that didn’t suit his needs. It shows a lot of intelligence that he is thinking it through and not just jumping at the next job that comes along.

“But I’m astonished that Aberdeen managed to keep him given the interest from down south. Derek has his reasons, but he is red hot and it won’t be long before someone else is trying to get him. It might only be a matter of time before there is something Derek fancies.

“He has made a name for himself after coming back from Bristol City. I know how difficult a job Aberdeen is. It is not easy.”

McInnes made his decision just days after it emerged that Dave Cormack, the Aberdeen-born United States-based multi-millionaire businessman, had made a significant investment in the Pittodrie club and had rejoined the board.

McGhee is confident the former St. Johnstone and Bristol City manager will be able to rebuild his side after losing Jonny Hayes, Ryan Jack, Niall McGinn, Peter Pawlett and Ash Taylor and finish runners-up ahead of Rangers once again in the 2017/18 campaign if he remains in his current role.

“I think any funds he gets can keep them ahead of the rest, definitely,” he said. “I don’t think Derek would have stayed on if he didn’t have contingency plans to make further success possible.

“It is going to be a difficult thing to close the gap on Celtic as they have the Champions League money. To keep his profile high Derek has to keep ahead of Rangers. It is totally conceivable they will stay ahead of them. He has already done it and reached two cup finals last season.

Meanwhile, McGhee, the former Celtic striker, has admitted he can understand Brendan Rodgers’ decision to sign Republic of Ireland internationalist Jonny Hayes from Aberdeen in a £1.3 million deal this weekend.

“Apart from anything else, he will make Aberdeen less of a threat,” said McGhee. “So there’s that. He is a different type from (James) Forrest of (Patrick) Roberts who they have lost. They needed somebody to come in and make up the numbers and help with the way that Brendan likes to swap it around a bit in those areas. He maintains the strength of the squad as much as anything given that they have lost Roberts.”

Mark McGhee was speaking at the McDonald’s & Scottish FA Community Football Day in Giffnock, encouraging youngsters to play football at a grassroots level and celebrating Quality Mark clubs in the area. For more information visit http://www.mcdonalds.co.uk/betterplay.

HeraldScotland | Sport

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