My Team & I: Aberdeen

By Seb Gevers

Twitter: @inside_left


Why Aberdeen?

Normally you’re supposed to say something here about how your family supported the club as far back as the Saturday after the team was founded back in 18-oatcake. In my case that wasn’t really possible, seeing as I wasn’t introduced to Aberdeen FC until much later on in life when, at a young age I moved from my native Holland to the north-east of Scotland. Back in Holland I lived in a bit of a footballing back-water, and although I played football for my local club – in total lasting all of two training sessions – I was never that much interested in it. I liked the concept of football more than I do the actual playing (a view I hold to this day). It was only after I moved to Aberdeen that my interest in football really started on account of the enthusiasm of the boys on the school playground. Possibly after much nagging, my dad took me to my first game on one of his breaks from working offshore. I think it was a game against Airdrie.

Favourite Player?

Having been present throughout Aberdeen’s glory period, I’ve a rich vein of talent from which to choose. From the glory days that featured the likes of Jarvie, Strachan, Weir, Hewitt, Miller, McLeish, Black, Rougvie, McMaster, McGhee, and Leighton, to the later period players like Nicholas, Gillhaus, Bett, Jess, Dodds and Windass, Irvine, Shearer, Anderson and Zerouali, to players in more recent seasons: Severin, Diamond, Langfield, Aluko, and so on.

All great players in (mostly) great teams.

But in choosing my favourite player I must admit some bias and a conflict of interest. As a former goalkeeper, and as a cloggie, my favourite Aberdeen player was Theo Snelders. Snelders was recruited from FC Twente on the advice of Alex Ferguson (who had just taken Jim Leighton to Manchester United). During his career at Pittodrie between 1988 and 1996 he was part of the squads that won both the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup, as well as coming pretty damned close to winning the league on several occasions. A top-notch keeper whose warm-up before the game used to make me wince, such was the ferocity of it, he was quick, agile, acrobatic and above all very brave. The cheekbone injury he sustained at the feet of Ally McCoist in the ’90 League Cup final affected his form (in the way it’s affected Petr Cech’s form at Chelsea) and while still and outstanding keeper following his recovery, he was never the same afterwards. His departure to Rangers as understudy to Andy Goram was a disgrace, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Theo Snelders made me spend hour after hour kicking balls against the garage wall and catching them, as acrobatically as possible, in the style of the great man himself.

Favourite Game?

I’m not going to say the various Cup wins. That’s just plain lazy. My favourite game involved a team from the Old Country. The date: October 21 1987, the occasion: UEFA Cup, Second Round, First Leg. The opponents: Feyenoord. Having scraped a win against Irish side Bohemians in the first round, Aberdeen welcomed Dutch side Feyenoord to the north-east. Managed by the legendary coach Rinus Israel, the side included future Celtic player Regi Blinker, but where otherwise a shadow of the side they’d been in the 70’s, the one I had heard so much about from my parents. I was keen to see a legendary team from my home country play against the Dons, and my mother, nominally a Feyenoord supporter was keen just to see Feyenoord play. I was disappointed by the fact that Feyenoord didn’t wear their home strip (the red and white), and also by their physical play, a style far removed from what I was expecting. Feyenoord took the lead from the penalty spot following a clumsy challenge by Jim Leighton on Dave Mitchell. From the moment they took the lead, their game became even more physical, with a series of brutal challenges on the Dons players. All around us we could hear the fans in the South Stand vent their anger at the atrocious and frankly embarrassing Feyenoord display, some of it aimed at us, three Dutch speaking supporters who cheered a little too loudly after Feyenoord had scored. Parity was restored when Falconer equalised before half-time, and victory was assured when Joe Miller put the Dons into the lead. By that time Feyenoord had been reduced to 10 men, and Aberdeen should have had a third goal, but it was not to be – a 2-1 win it was. In the end it wouldn’t be enough to take the Dons through; they lost the return leg in Rotterdam by 1-0, going out on the away rule.

So, not exactly a great game in terms of footballing fare, but my favourite game because it was the first – and only – game my mother ever went to. Sitting in the South Stand that cold wet evening, the three of us supporting Feyenoord (though secretly I was supporting Aberdeen), we cheered collectively when Feyenoord scored and commiserated when Aberdeen equalised and then won the game. Inside though, I was cheering, my loyalty to Aberdeen already confirmed in previous seasons. It was a pivotal moment for me, the moment I suddenly realised I had become more Aberdonian, and more Scottish than I was Dutch – a feeling I retain to this day.

Favourite Strip?

The first time I saw Aberdeen play, Joe Harper was still carrying his portly figure around the park wearing the strip with the two white stripes down the side and the wide collars. T’was a nice kit, but not one I’d have been seen dead in. So for me, it has to be the kit worn between ’82 and ’84-ish, the one with the white pin-stripes down the front. It was a nightmare for anyone with a weight problem (and let’s face it, that’s quite a few of us) because as anyone will tell you, fat people and vertical strips don’t mix. It accentuates the curves, see, making you look like a walking topographical map of Bennachie rather than a hard core football fan. Still, it’s the first footie-kit I ever owned and still cherish.

Worst Thing About Being an Aberdeen Fan?

It’s 1995 when the Dons won their last bit of silverware, meaning there’s a generation of fans going to Pittodrie that have never seen Aberdeen win anything. For a club with a proud history like ours, it’s a shame that they may well have to wait many years before we win anything again. Aberdeen have suffered from an alarming lack of investment in recent years that has seriously impacted our ability to compete with the big(ger) boys in the league. If you want to compete, you have to spend, but spending is not something that the current Board are keen to do. In some ways I can’t blame them (we don’t need another Gretna/Dundee/Livingston), but it shows a lack of ambition which seems to have become terminal.

Funniest Moment?

There’s been a lot of LOL moments at Aberdeen FC these past few years, but one that still makes me chuckle whenever I see it is Neale Cooper’s goal against Rangers in the ’82 Scottish Cup final. In a tense game that went to extra time, it was two quick goals from McGhee and Strachan that put Aberdeen into a commanding 3-1 lead. With only 10 minutes left on the clock, Neale Cooper latched on to a through ball from Dougie Bell and, with a helpful tackle from a Rangers defender (Dawson?), found himself one-on-one with the onrushing Jim Stewart. I suspect Cooper tried to blast it past him, but it hit the keeper, then hit Cooper again, the final deflection taking it past Stewart and presenting Cooper with an open goal. Charging forward, he blasted the ball into the net from three yards out. 4-1 Aberdeen, which I remember reading somewhere is the heaviest Cup defeat ever inflicted on a Rangers side. Bliss. Worthy of a chuckle.

Favourite Moment?

My favourite moment is that moment when, having paid your money at the gate on Merkland Lane, and having walked up the concrete steps, you see Pittodrie before you. The grass, the lights, the stands, the noise of the crowd, the 80’s music on the same tinny tannoy they’ve had since the mid 60’s; it’s a silly thing to admit to, but whenever I go back to Pittodrie, that never fails to be a magic, chill-down-the-spine moment for me.

And then the game starts, and the magic gets up and goes and stands in the queue for the half-time pie.

One Response to “My Team & I: Aberdeen”

  1. I loved Snelders when I was a kid!

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