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SoS article: When the world woke up to Fergie's heroes


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A good read in the Scotland on Sunday about an insight into the Dons camp the night before the Gothenburg game.

 

http://sport.scotsman.com/sport/When-the-world-woke-up.4049319.jp

 

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25 years after Aberdeen defeated the mighty Real Madrid in Gothenburg to lift the European Cup Winners Cup, the memories are still as strong for the now legendary side who made up Alex Ferguson's class of 1983, finds Tom English

YOU SLEEPING?" asked Neale Cooper.

 

"Nah, cannae," replied John Hewitt.

 

"You hear it, then?"

 

"Hear what?"

 

"The rain. It's pissing down out there."

 

Not everybody heard it that afternoon in Gothenburg. Some of the Aberdeen team were snoozADVERTISEMENTing their last snooze before facing Real Madrid in the European Cup-Winners' Cup final, some like Doug Rougvie and Alex McLeish were so deep in slumber that the world could have ended outside the window of their bedroom at the Farsaat Complex and they wouldn't have known. There was no such karma for Cooper and Hewitt and, in an adjoining room, none either for Neil Simpson.

 

It wasn't nerves that kept Simpson awake, not the worry of facing some of the biggest names in European football later in the day or the fear of letting everybody down. He knew he'd be fine on that score. No, what ailed him was the miniature bed he was lying in; was it off the set of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves he wondered. Was it Grumpy's nest he'd been given? Or Dopey's? His legs hung out over the end and his arms stuck out the side. "You comfortable, Simmy?" laughed his room-mate Jim Leighton. "Oh aye," said Simmy. "A few nails in the mattress and I'm sorted."

 

Rougvie was the flipside. He slept like a King. He yawned his gummy yawn after two hours of pure peace, opened the curtains and saw the foulness for himself. He watched the rain belting off his windows and thought of home. "It's like Aberdeen," he said. If Rougvie awoke feeling

refreshed, Alex McLeish felt like a new man. A few weeks earlier, McLeish had done himself a mischief when lifting paving stones in his garden. The pain shot across the top of his back and formed an agonising knot below his shoulder blade, where it would remain for a worryingly long time.

 

The night before Gothenburg he slept on the floor of the hotel and got his first reasonable night's rest in a fortnight. On the afternoon of the final he chanced the bed again and it worked. "I had a lovely two hours. Honestly, it was fantastic. The relief of it was massive. I got a huge mental boost from not having woken up with my back in bits. I felt a rush at that point. I was ready to play."

 

McLeish didn't worry about the rain. Not at first. Rain? Been there, done it, kept a clean sheet in it. "It wasn't like I hadn't played in the wet before, right?"

 

ALL OF THIS happened 25 years ago on Sunday. A timeless classic. The last time a Scottish club conquered Europe, although Rangers may have something to say about that pretty soon. Throughout each of those 25 years the Aberdeen players have wondered how manager

Alex Ferguson got into their minds to such an extent that the stars of Real Madrid were almost an irrelevancy before the final began. As they drifted one by one into

management and coaching jobs themselves they thought of Ferguson's genius and his magnetism that week. They were playing one of the great behemoths of the European game, but Aberdeen felt like nothing could beat them.

 

Mark McGhee: "Fergie took the mystery away completely. I don't remember their big names getting a mention beforehand. Stielike, Angel, Juanito, Santillana, Gallego, Camacho. They just weren't an issue with us. I look back now and think 'how the hell were we not nervous about playing Real Madrid?'"

 

Neil Simpson: "I think we were brainwashed."

 

Neale Cooper: "Aye. I mean Fergie showed me a picture of Stielike before the final and I didn't think 'world class player', which he was. I thought, 'he looks like Basil Fawlty'."

 

Willie Miller: "Fergie changed that week. Normally he was obsessive about analysis. He'd study the opposition high-up and low-down and he'd prepare dossiers on tactics and individuals, all sorts of one-on-one stuff for us to think about. In Gothenburg, there was none of that. I don't know if he was as relaxed as he seemed but he came across as the happiest, coolest man in Europe."

 

Jim Leighton: "I think he said at one point that the only thing that could beat us was the Real Madrid badge, the aura. That was all I remember him saying about them. Don't let the badge beat you."

 

Mark McGhee: "There was no danger of that. You look back now and you see what Fergie had in that team. Great defence, aggression all over the park, leaders all over the park, pace, trickery, goalscorers. He had the lot. And

another thing he had. Fitness. We were the fittest team going. You know, Archie Knox kept a record of every fitness test we did at Aberdeen, every time we recorded for every run; 200m, 400m, 800m, 1200m. He gave me a copy of his files. No team I've managed has ever matched the numbers we recorded in 1983 and before. Fergie knew we'd run all night. Thinking about it, maybe it's no wonder he wasn't talking about Real Madrid."

 

Alex McLeish: "One other thing he said really struck home with me. He said that Real Madrid as a club were not taking this seriously. 'They're not bringing any fans,' he said, 'there's not much excitement in Spain, there's no great honour for them in winning a Cup-Winners' Cup after all they've won'. Meanwhile, the city of Aberdeen was alive."

 

Doug Rougvie: "Hypered."

 

Neale Cooper: "I'd describe it as indescribable."

 

Alex McLeish: "As supporters and players this was the biggest thing ever for us. Thousands coming over on trains and boats and planes. Spending fortunes, living every second of it. No, Fergie was right. It meant more to us than it did to them. Real Madrid didn't respect it the way we did."

 

McLEISH WAS feeling good about himself early in the game. There wasn't a slightest twinge in his back but there was a goal on the scoreboard and he had created it for Eric Black. Down his end, there was nothing happening for Real. In games like this he had an understanding with Miller. Just in case their illustrious opponents had ideas above their station, they'd be given a warning. "We played against the best strikers in the world," says Miller, "and we weren't fazed by any of them. Look at them in awe? No. Feel inferior? Not a chance. We tried to dominate them. We'd pick their best player and early on and we'd go and intimidate him."

 

In this case, they had two on their minds. Juanito and Santillana; combined, they won four UEFA Cup winners medals with Real, 14 La Ligas, scored 301 goals and earned 90 Spanish caps. "A dangerous combination, for sure," says Miller.

 

Alex McLeish: "I was always meticulous about my preparation. I'd always test the ground and make sure I had the right studs on. If the pitch was wet I would always stress and stress again that passes would get stuck in the surface. 'Give the passes a bit of air, boys,' I'd say. 'You'll have to lift it a wee bit on this pitch'. More than any other game that I've played that was the case in Gothenburg. I told everybody beforehand about the dangers of passing it along the ground."

 

Willie Miller: "I wasn't sure what was happening in that precise moment. The ball broke off me, I think, and fell to the big man."

 

Alex McLeish: "I played it along the ground. I did the exact thing I warned the lads not to do. It was instinct. Just an automatic thing. Stroke it back to Jim Leighton."

 

Willie Miller: "He let out a grunt as soon as he hit it. I heard him. The Big Eck grunt. He knew."

 

Jim Leighton: "Did it get caught up in the rain? A wee bit. I still thought I could get there. In fairness, though, I was never the quickest." Santillana seized on the loose ball and was brought down by Leighton.

 

Juanito stuck away the penalty and things got a little edgy for the rest of the first half. McLeish walked to the dressing room at the break in the full knowledge of a Fergie rant in the air.

 

"Later in the first half, I got into a bit of a tight spot near my own penalty area and I dribbled my way out of trouble. I must have beaten about three men and played it up the park. I could see Fergie going apoplectic on the sideline but I felt good about myself after that. I never knew I had so much skill! Anyway, we get to the dressing room and Alex got on my case about their goal. If you spoke that way to a player nowadays it might destabilise him but I understood him well and had a go back. Oh aye. I stood my ground. 'Don't worry about me boss, I'll be OK.' He had another go. 'Look, I didn't mean to give them a goal. Didn't do it on purpose, did I?' Archie calmed him down in the end. I could have gone back out a crushed man but I didn't. I went out hugely determined to show him that I was the right guy for the job."

 

He wasn't the only one, of course. If Aberdeen had the better of things in the first half, they virtually owned the ball in the time that followed. Chances came and chances went and all the time the aggression levels rose, the little private one-on-one battles getting nastier and nastier.

 

Neil Simpson: "I got my nose broken by the guy Bonet, one of their hard cases. I was running alongside him and then across came the elbow and bam!"

 

Neale Cooper: "Same thing happened with me and big Basil. He wasn't a dirty player but he stuck the elbow in my face all the same."

 

Doug Rougvie: "The more we got on top, the more stuff happened.

 

"I was nose-to-nose with Juanito at one point. I belted him in the tackle and he wasn't pleased. He jumped up and started shouting at me. 'Aye, in your dreams, wee man', I said."

 

Mark McGhee: "Camacho was marking me and it was a running battle all night. He hit me, I hit him back. Neither of us went down. It was like that. Hard. They took him off eventually and the guy who replaced him comes on and absolutely cements me at a corner. He's hit me with this big right hook that's left a big lump on the side of my head for six weeks. They'd obviously told him, 'go and f***ing sort him out'. And fair play to the boy, he did his best."

 

Willie Miller: "Rough stuff? Nobody tried it on with me. They probably knew better."

 

END OF normal time. Ferguson comes out to speak to his team and reminds, in case they needed reminding, that only one team out there was creating chances and only one team will win, just so long as they keep doing what they're doing. Fitness will count, he said. And there was no team fitter than Aberdeen. Rougvie remembers him saying it was "only a matter of time before you score". Miller recalls him telling them they were on the verge of history. "It was organised chaos out there. We had a team of big characters who all had something to say and we had Fergie who wanted us to gather round and listen up. Mostly, we just bonded. There was no time for tactics, it was just a few moments to gather ourselves again and get ready for the final push."

 

When was this goal coming? More chances and still no breakthrough.

 

Rougvie says at one point, when the play was well away from him, he started thinking about penalties. Who'd take them? John Hewitt will fancy one, he was sure. McGhee and Weir, probably. Strachan, perhaps.

 

Now there was a problem. Who else? Miller always avoided them and he didn't think McLeish would volunteer. Damn it, he'd put his hand up himself. Why the hell not. Rougvie had the shoot-out sussed when Weir played it up to McGhee on the left side of the pitch and away McGhee went.

 

Mark McGhee: "I beat the replacement full-back, not that the lads gave me any credit for it. I'm not sure they rated the new full-back. They reckoned Real had brought on a Spanish waiter by mistake. That's the thanks I got."

 

Alex McLeish: "John Hewitt was a fantastic striker with an unbelievable instinct. I could see him running straight at the goal as Mark was going down the wing. Fergie always told him to dart to the near post but he went straight. Legend has it that Fergie was roaring at him to make a run to the post."

 

Mark McGhee: "I'm not sure they gave me credit for the cross either come to think of it."

 

Jim Leighton: "I could see it unfolding. John's run, the cross, the header. Amazing. Just amazing."

 

Neil Simpson: "We got the goal we deserved and we should have had another. I had a great chance and I should have put it away. I just stroked past the goalkeeper's right hand post. It should have been three."

 

There was a scare to come. A Real free-kick late, late in the game after a Miller foul on Angel. It was taken and then retaken. Weir said his prayers in the wall as the substitute Salguero let fly. His shot was venomous – and wide. "A bee's wing wide," said Leighton. "It would be easy for me to say I would have stopped it had it been on target but I wouldn't have."

 

"Aye," says Rougvie. "Shur, big Leighton wouldn't keep hens out of a midden. That's a joke by the way."

 

THEY'LL ALL gather in the coming weeks for celebrations and they'll have a laugh. They'll all talk of what was rather than what might have been, the regret side of it being something that Rougvie has no qualms about addressing. He left Pittodrie soon after, saying that the club refused to pay him a wage he could make a respectable living off. He didn't want to go. The meanness and the small minds of the people running the football club forced him to go, he says.

 

"We were a provincial club but for one brief moment in time we were the best team in Europe. But Aberdeen's way was that if they had assets to sell, they'd sell them. They always thought that the next one coming through was going to be as good as the one they'd let go, there would always be another Strachan or McGhee. The Donalds should have given BT or Shell a piece of the action. But, no. They said it was their baby and they had the mentality of a small club. Run it on a shoestring, don't spend and hope that another Strachan is coming through the system.

 

"It was a pity. The reason I left was because Fergie wouldn't give me a decent wage. He was making fortunes for the club, but they wouldn't spend it. I'd say Richard Donald is in heaven kicking himself. A bit of wisdom at that time might have shaken the club out of its rural thinking but it didn't happen."

 

They are left with Gothenburg. For many, it is enough. More than enough.

 

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Does no-one else read the first 6 lines of these epic diotribes and just scroll down to see how long they are and just give up ? I feel like less of a fan when I see the 'great article' posts but I simply can't be arsed  :-\

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Does no-one else read the first 6 lines of these epic diotribes and just scroll down to see how long they are and just give up ? I feel like less of a fan when I see the 'great article' posts but I simply can't be arsed  :-\

 

It's worth the time to read it.

 

Class article with some great quotes.

 

My personal fav. is from McGee:

 

Mark McGhee: "Camacho was marking me and it was a running battle all night. He hit me, I hit him back. Neither of us went down. It was like that. Hard. They took him off eventually and the guy who replaced him comes on and absolutely cements me at a corner. He's hit me with this big right hook that's left a big lump on the side of my head for six weeks. They'd obviously told him, 'go and f***ing sort him out'. And fair play to the boy, he did his best."

 

:lolabove:

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"There was no danger of that. You look back now and you see what Fergie had in that team. Great defence' date=' aggression all over the park, leaders all over the park, pace, trickery, goalscorers. He had the lot. And another thing he had. Fitness. We were the fittest team going. You know, Archie Knox kept a record of every fitness test we did at Aberdeen, every time we recorded for every run; 200m, 400m, 800m, 1200m. He gave me a copy of his files. No team I've managed has ever matched the numbers we recorded in 1983 and before. Fergie knew we'd run all night. Thinking about it, maybe it's no wonder he wasn't talking about Real Madrid."[/quote']

 

Every successful team Fergie's had epitomises this quote.  Just watch the workrate o' the Man United team just now for example.

 

The guy's something else like.

 

:thumbsup:

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Does no-one else read the first 6 lines of these epic diotribes and just scroll down to see how long they are and just give up ? I feel like less of a fan when I see the 'great article' posts but I simply can't be arsed  :-\

 

Two possible reasons. Well three, but as I have already discounted that you are not a thick idiot, from your generally otherwise very good posts, two options only...

 

1) Computer Games generation = reduced attention span. Can't even read short articles, let alone dissertations, and forget books.

 

2) Cool to appear "to be thick". Scotland's comprehensive school system does a wonderful job of allowing peer pressure to influence others to underachieve. Tall poppy.

 

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I found it quite interesting that this is about the first article I've read which has the odacity to find fault in Dick Donald and his board.

 

If they had grabbed the cash-cow that was oil at a time when the North Sea oil boom was arguably at its biggest, perhaps we wouldn't be scouring bargain basements today in a vein effort at re-pairing the Young brothers again. Hell, the Young brothers might not've actually been a part of Aberdeen in the first place if Donald had the vision to approach one ... JUST ONE of the major oil firms who set up stall in Aberdeen.

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Two possible reasons. Well three, but as I have already discounted that you are not a thick idiot, from your generally otherwise very good posts, two options only...

 

1) Computer Games generation = reduced attention span. Can't even read short articles, let alone dissertations, and forget books.

 

2) Cool to appear "to be thick". Scotland's comprehensive school system does a wonderful job of allowing peer pressure to influence others to underachieve. Tall poppy.

 

 

:-\ Thanks for that. Not sure I fit into either, being almost 40. Daily Thomson's decathlon and Jet Set Willy may have influenced my attention span a little but I take your point.

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The meanness and the small minds of the people running the football club

 

Thing was that back then we were capable of spotting a talent and brining it to the club.

 

Now the club is controlled by the mean and small minded, but they don't have the capability to bring in quality any more.

 

In the season we make the play offs in europe, reach two cup semis and finish in the top 6 we're told that the budget is going to have to be slashed.

 

Even Dick donald wasn't that much of a scrooge, and he certainly was nowhere near as downright fucking stupid as the halfwits running the club now.

 

We're a club run by bad accountants, none of whom have anything like a footballing brain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the season we make the play offs in europe, reach two cup semis and finish in the top 6 we're told that the budget is going to have to be slashed.

 

I'm all for kicking Wiggy when he deserves it. But to be fair on him this time, he has actually told JC to go out and get the players he needs, knowing that financial backing will be there to rebuild his squad. Never at any point so far have I heard Wiggy or Willie say "the budget will be slashed this year".

 

Sure, JC slammed the players after the Scottish Cup semi by saying "they've just cost me a whack of my summer budget", but that's because if we had gone to the final we would've had a better budget to play with ... just like any club that makes it to the final of the Scottish Cup. That part is a no-brainer (unless you're Darren Jackson, in which case sorrry for the no-brain joke). But nobody at the club has said "we'll be slashing the budget"!

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Guest fatshaft

I'm all for kicking Wiggy when he deserves it. But to be fair on him this time, he has actually told JC to go out and get the players he needs, knowing that financial backing will be there to rebuild his squad. Never at any point so far have I heard Wiggy or Willie say "the budget will be slashed this year".

Many just like to slag Wiggy for the sake of it. Dick Donald gets far too much credit, when it was Chris Anderson who was the real success behind the scenes. Once he sadly died, the Aberdeen decline began.
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Guest fatshaft

Even Dick donald wasn't that much of a scrooge,

He was a monumental tight arse, when did HE ever spend any of HIS money on the Dons? If he was around today, he'd be absolutely hammered for his tight-fistedness.
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Many just like to slag Wiggy for the sake of it. Dick Donald gets far too much credit, when it was Chris Anderson who was the real success behind the scenes. Once he sadly died, the Aberdeen decline began.

 

Absolutely spot on. Sad sad day to lose Anderson.....he was so much to AFC. Losing him to Motor Neurone disease was the start of the decline of Aberdeen Football Club.

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Absolutely spot on. Sad sad day to lose Anderson.....he was so much to AFC. Losing him to Motor Neurone disease was the start of the decline of Aberdeen Football Club.

 

I can't offer my support directly as I never knew the respective men, but popular opinion would seem to suggest that you're both correct.

 

Interesting that you both acknowledge that AFC plc is in decline, something I've been thinking myself. Will you acknowledge that the reason we're in decline is not exclusively the fact that the business of football has changed dramatically in the last 30 years? The opinion that I offered, that many vehemently argued against, was that our chairman isn't the most ambitious for the football club, and may have a different set of priorities from the fans.

 

The decline has been, coincidentally, ever since Milne got on board. Ian Wood, who does not have aspirations to AFC plc, philanthropically gave £50m away last year. Milne is not like this, by all acounts. He is more of the "grasping" businessman mould.

 

So if it's not the chairman's fault, and you say that AFC plc is in decline, why are we in decline?

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I can't offer my support directly as I never knew the respective men, but popular opinion would seem to suggest that you're both correct.

 

Interesting that you both acknowledge that AFC plc is in decline, something I've been thinking myself. Will you acknowledge that the reason we're in decline is not exclusively the fact that the business of football has changed dramatically in the last 30 years? The opinion that I offered, that many vehemently argued against, was that our chairman isn't the most ambitious for the football club, and may have a different set of priorities from the fans.

 

The decline has been, coincidentally, ever since Milne got on board. Ian Wood, who does not have aspirations to AFC plc, philanthropically gave £50m away last year. Milne is not like this, by all acounts. He is more of the "grasping" businessman mould.

 

So if it's not the chairman's fault, and you say that AFC plc is in decline, why are we in decline?

 

Might be worth starting a new topic with that question, as its deviating slighty from the Gothenburg Greats.......

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