THE problem with speculation is that it is just that – guesswork by another name.

The word has a Latin root that means, in effect, spying but I prefer to think of a more biblical derivation, namely, looking through a glass darkly. Football loves speculation. Indeed, the sport thrives on it. Pundits and fans alike can guess more or less anything they like and get away with it because in the end players, agents, chairmen and managers can always say it is just pure speculation.

There comes a time, however, when speculation becomes something rather more sinister, and we are seeing a perfect example of this sort of speculation in the case of Derek McInnes, the manager of Aberdeen. The world and his auntie knows that McInnes, a former Rangers player, has been strongly linked to the vacant managerial position at Ibrox (at least, it was vacant at the time of writing, but with Rangers these days you never know what’s coming next or when).

Suffice to say that even if they have approached Aberdeen to talk to McInnes within the last few hours, as was being speculated yesterday, the matter will not be resolved today as there’s just too much at stake for all the parties involved – McInnes, Rangers and Aberdeen.

It is now nearly six weeks since Pedro Cashedinhischips left unlamented. Since then various names have been bandied about as to who will take the Rangers job, but all the time McInnes has been the favourite.

That is not his fault. The Aberdeen manager has proven over the years he is a very very competent coach, and he’s ambitious enough to want to manage a club of the stature of Rangers. In no way is that a denigration of Aberdeen, it is just a fact of Scottish football life.

It is also a fact that, over the years, many vacant jobs in football have been linked to potential candidates. That is the same as happens in most industries. It’s just that when Rangers and Celtic are concerned, the speculation is played out on numerous pages of sports sections in the newspapers and increasingly on social media where fans prove they have no more of a clue than sportswriters about who is getting what job.

There is little doubt the speculation surrounding their manager has affected the Aberdeen squad. You only need to look at their performances over the last month for the evidence that players really do get the collywobbles when their successful manager is the target of another club. That stands to reason for, if your leader and the man who signed you and has given you your place in the team may be about to exit, then you’re going to have at least a small crisis of confidence if not a full blown panic that your face may not fit the incoming manager’s plans.

Short of banning newspapers and social media from covering the game – not even the authorities at the SFA want to do that – then there is nothing to be done about speculation. As long as any club or individual involved does not secretly approach a target or openly name names – known as “tapping up” – then the SFA can do nothing.

Rangers have quite rightly said they’re going to take time over the appointment of a new manager. I contend that it is the most important decision the club has had to make in years, and it is certainly the most important decision chairman Dave King and his current board have faced. Mark Warburton was ineffective, Pedro a disaster, and Rangers simply cannot afford to appoint the wrong man a third time.

It is no exaggeration to say that the very future of Rangers may depend on King and Co getting the right man, and then giving him the money to do the job properly over the promised three years of the contract.

Note those words “the money”. Just to sign McInnes or any other manager currently employed by another club will cost Rangers and, given the state of the club accounts as revealed at the AGM, there must be a doubt as to whether there can be the sort of budget that McInnes would require to build a new Rangers. Dave King says he can sort it, and the shareholders at last week’s AGM believed him, so now he has to deliver, starting with a new manager who understands the club and the nature of the job – which clearly Warburton and Caixinha did not – that is why I am prepared to speculate that the new manager will be a Scot and/or someone previously associated with Rangers. Dave King said as much at the AGM.

The Ibrox club has been extremely careful not to make any statement associating themselves with an offer to McInnes. You will find no quote to that effect in the press from any employee of Rangers. Their consultants and agents and friendly pundits may have said plenty, and King’s statement at the AGM was shrewd – “our short-listed candidates include individuals presently under contract” – though it may have been construed as hinting at McInnes, but with the SFA handing Celtic a record £100,000 fine for “tapping up” Tommy Burns in 1994, you can bet every word said on the matter by any Rangers official had been thoroughly vetted before it was stated.

The speculation surrounding McInnes has left a sour taste in Aberdonian mouths, but unless someone can prove that Rangers authorised statements about their manager, then all that you have read is pure speculation.

Me? I suspect it will be McInnes, but I would love it to be anyone else, just to prove the bookies wrong.