Groundhop 1881 – Aberdeen FC

Scottish League Cup, Quarter Final
Aberdeen FC v St Mirren FC
Tuesday, 23rd October 2012, 7.45pm
Entrance with Press Pass (£20), Programme £3
Distance 529 miles, Attendance 7610
Coming to, through the windows on the right I could just make out the uninviting sea and, to the left a very familiar scene; lush green fields punctuated by grey stone and golf bunkers before imposing mountains rise to kiss low cloud cover. Miles above the early autumn sun had shone bright; down here the Scottish climate presented a totally different picture. It was my third trip north of the border in as many months but, the first time I would be on the beach.
Of all the 1881 clubs, Aberdeen is easily the most successful and by far the most northerly. Formed by three Woodside School teachers, the original Aberdeen FC amalgamated with Orion FC and Victoria United in 1903 to form the Aberdeen Football Club that we know today. Pittodrie – The Dons’ home since – cuts an imposing figure; rising castle-like on the North Sea coastline to defend from invaders.
121030 SLC QF Aberdeen v St Mirren (138)My gracious host for the afternoon was Chris Gavin – a former Club Director, and now Secretary of Aberdeen FC Heritage Trust, and Former Players Association – whose enthusiasm for the club is unwavering. As we embarked on a breath-taking guided tour, it was clear this would become the stuff boyhood dreams.
121030 SLC QF Aberdeen v St Mirren (118)wStarting in the older Main Stand, we weaved through a rabbit warren of corridors, via canteens and Teddy Scott’s kit room; tracing the history of this great club round the whole stadium to the very top of the commanding Richard Donald Stand. En route, anecdotes flew forth, as visions of boardrooms stacked high with memorabilia, fought for memory space with endless trophies, monochrome images, and even a mural commemorating Elton John’s concert on the pitch. It was breath-taking. Really it’s just impossible to fully explain one’s feelings walking out of the boot room and hearing the tale of “Terry Butcher’s door”.

121030 SLC QF Aberdeen v St Mirren (114)

Along with four league titles and twelve domestic cups, the highlight of their success came in 1983, when Aberdeen – under guidance of Alex Ferguson – won both the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Super Cup. Arriving for the match that evening, my first stop was a book signing commemorating the former, where “Glory In Gothenburg” author Richard Gordon was accompanied by legends Doug Rougvie and Willie Miller. Inside the ground – embarrassingly having been interviewed by the Aberdeen Evening Express – I settled back for the action.

121030 SLC QF Aberdeen v St Mirren (39)w   121030 SLC QF Aberdeen v St Mirren (152)w

In what was a fantastic Cup Quarter Final, St Mirren were immediately put under pressure by the spritely Dons’ forward line but, against the run of play, the visitors scored on the break as Parkin stabbed home a looping header. Fifteen minutes later Aberdeen were deservedly level when Isaac Osbourne’s shot was blocked, and Scott Vernon headed the rebound over the stranded keeper.
The second half saw Johnny Hayes, Niall McGinn and Vernon all look promising up front as The Dons pushed forward but, Saints regained the lead after Russell Anderson’s clearance was blocked and McLean stroked the ball home. With St Mirren desperately time-wasting and COME ON YOU REDS downing out the edge-of-your-seat game, deep into injury time Josh Magennis tapped in a loose ball sending the crowd (including me) wild.
In extra time the crowd stood rooted to the spot as the teams continued to push end-to-end for a winner. Both teams would waste guilt-edged opportunities in the dying minutes before the game was eventually decided by penalties. Whilst Saints’ players celebrated with the visiting support, Aberdeen could only rue missing both the first and forth spot kicks.

121030 SLC QF Aberdeen v St Mirren (222)w

The Dons might have lost but I’d been totally won over. In total contrast to the North Sea, the warmth and generosity shown to me by Scotland’s most successful European club side was quite humbling. This one club city is the home of the first dugouts, and the “Stand Free” campaign, and in the AFC Heritage Trust has an ever increasing wealth of documented history that the fans can be rightly proud of. Walking away into the night, without question my 1881 journey had got even better.

121030 SLC QF Aberdeen v St Mirren (82)

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Initially appearing in this season’s Watford FC matchday programmes, consequently Groundhop 1881 reports will appear late on here. At the end of the journey, a book will be published telling the full story.
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