Sone Aluko: Crossing the Dons-Gers divide


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Former Aberdeen and Rangers player David Robertson warned that the Nigerian international should prepare ‘himself for a backlash if he signs for Rangers’.

Robertson left Aberdeen in 1991 to join Rangers and suffered years of abuse from angry Aberdeen fans.

The rivalry between the two sides surfaced when the Pittodrie side were managed by Alex Ferguson and increased to seething hatred during the 1988-89 season when Neil Simpson scythed through Ian Durrant, which resulted in Durrant being stretchered off an out of the game for two years. Durrant was never the same again and eventually retired through injury.

Robertson told the Daily Mail: “I was surprised at the level of abuse I received as I had been at Aberdeen for five years. It’s different now as Aberdeen are no longer pushing near the top of the league, but Aluko will still get pelters if he signs with Rangers.

“You just have to look at Richard Foster getting stick from some fans after his spell at Ibrox was up. And he was only at Ibrox on a season-long loan.

“Both myself and Stephen Wright got a lot of criticism for moving from Aberdeen to Rangers. It was particularly bad for me as I had grown up in Aberdeen. I was a little naive about the reaction moving to Rangers would bring. I was only 21 at the time, not much younger than Aluko.

“At that time it was also the era under Graeme Souness where they became the big spenders in Scotland. Maybe that is why there was so much anger, because Rangers were taking over, but I saw it as a positive career move, even though Aberdeen were a good team at the time.

“Aluko can expect a lot of stick from Aberdeen fans. When you say your reason for leaving is to go back to England, and then suddenly you are back in Scotland with Rangers, that may stick in some of the fans’ craws. It could cause an issue. Unfortunately there is still a bit of hatred between Aberdeen and Rangers fans, although thankfully not as bad as before.

“Yet there is still that needle in games and also in the build-up to matches. Aberdeen fans are passionate and want the best. They do not want their players going to their rivals.”

From Richard Foster to David Robertson, Theo Snelders to Jim Forrest and Dave Smith to Steven Smith, the list of players who have crossed the country between the two clubs has been numerous to say the least, and has now been increased by Sone Aluko’s switch.

Richard Foster
Aberdeen 2003-Present: 266 games [8 goals]
Rangers 2010-2011: 24 games

The Aberdeen captain made his debut for the Pittodrie side in May 2003 at the age of 17, becoming a first team regular under Jimmy Calderwood.

Last season, Forster made on a season-long loan deal to Rangers, with Rangers striker Andrius Velicka moving to Pittodrie. Most of his appearances came in Europe, and at the end of the season he picked up an SPL winner’s medal.

He returned to Aberdeen in the summer, but despite talk of him returning to Ibrox permanently he stayed at Pittodrie and soon after was appointed as Paul Hartley’s successor as Aberdeen captain for this season.

David Robertson
Aberdeen 1986-1991: 158 games [3 goals]
Rangers 1991-1997: 246 games [19 goals]

Robertson signed for Aberdeen in 1986, winning a League Cup medal against Rangers in 1989-90 and a Scottish Cup medal in 1990 against Celtic.

In 1991 Robertson moved to Rangers for £970,000, helping the club to nine league titles in a row. In total Robertson won six league titles, three Scottish cups and three League cups with the Ibrox side.

Dave Smith

Aberdeen 1961-1966: 133 games [8 goals]
Rangers 1966-1974: 195 games [8 goals]

The left midfielder kicked off his career at Aberdeen, but moved to Rangers in August 1966 for £50,000. He made 303 appearances for Rangers, winning the League cup in 1971, the Scottish cup in 1973 and the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1972.

He also won the Scottish Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year award in 1972, before leaving two years later.

Jim Forrest

Aberdeen 1962-1967: 105 games [83 goals]
Rangers 1968-1973: 128 games [44 goals]

Forrest joined Rangers as a schoolboy, scoring 145 goals in 163 games for Rangers. He was two goals short of Jimmy McGrory’s goal scoring record for Celtic in season 1964-65 when he scored 57 goals.

However his time at Rangers was cut short following the Scottish Cup defeat to Berwick Rangers in 1967. Forrest and George McLean were made out to be the scapegoats for that defeat and were dropped, then sold within weeks.

He returned to Scotland, after a year with Preston, joining Aberdeen for five years where he won a 1970 Scottish Cup winner’s medal.

His cousin Alex Willoughby played alongside Forrest at both Aberdeen and Rangers.

Steven Smith

Rangers 2002-2010: 56 games [1 goal]
Aberdeen – on loan 2011: 16 games

Smith signed professional terms with Rangers in 2002, making his debut against Hearts in November 2004. He went on to secure the left back position during the start of season 2006-07 under Paul Le Guen. But he picked up a pelvic injury, which would see him out for over a year.

He suffered further injury woes in 2008 and when he returned, he found it difficult to break back into the first team squad. Smith won his first trophy as a Rangers player when the Ibrox side defeated St.Mirren in the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden in 2010.

Smith made the move to Norwich, but was back in Scotland in January 2011, when he signed on loan for Aberdeen for the remainder of the season. Despite Craig Brown wanting to keep Smith after his loan deal expired, the Pittodrie side were priced out of a permanent move for the full back.

Theo Snelders

Rangers 1996-99: 20 games
Aberdeen 1988-96: 229 games

Snelders made the move from Holland to Aberdeen in season 1988-89 as a replacement for Jim Leighton, and won the Scottish PFA Players’ Player of the Year award that season. In the 1990 Scottish Cup Final he was the Dons hero when he saved a penalty from Anton Rogan.

He moved to Rangers in 1996, but made just 20 appearances for the Ibrox side before being released in 1999.

Jim Bett

Rangers 1980-83: 104 games [21 goals]
Aberdeen 1985-94: 291 games [33 goals]

Rangers manager John Greig paid £150,000 to sign the midfielder in 1980, and during his three seasons at Ibrox he won a Scottish Cup winners medal and a League cup winners medal.

He left Rangers in 1983, returning to Scotland two years later joining Aberdeen in 1985 for £300,000. He won two winners medals in 1985-86 and 1989-90 for the League cup and the Scottish cup.

He left Aberdeen in 1994, but in 2003 he was one of the founding members of the Aberdeen Hall of Fame.

There are other notable players who made the switch, such as Steve MacLean, Billy Dodds, Neale Cooper, Davie Dodds, Barry Nicholson, Maurice Ross and even Eoin Jess. Many of them had mixed fortunes in terms of abuse from one set of fans or the other and Sone Sluko should expect to receive a sizeable amount of abuse from the Aberdeen supporters, who detest anything and anyone to do with Rangers Football Club. Even more so if they used to play for Aberdeen.

For Aluko though he completed the deal to sign for Rangers today until the end of the season with an option to extend further, after a compensation agreement was reached with Aberdeen. Thus ending his hunt for a club since the end of last season. The midfielder made 129 appearances for Aberdeen, scoring 13 goals.

However Aluko had to dip into his own pocket to make his movie reality. He told the official Rangers website: “It’s good to be here. It was great to get everything sorted out and as soon as I got the opportunity to come here, it was what I wanted.

“Anyone who has played in Scotland for longer than five minutes knows all about Rangers and Celtic and this is the biggest team in the country in my opinion.

“I had three days to wait before I actually got to come here for my trial so I’d had a chance to calm down by the time I arrived.

“I’ve not played a lot in the last four months but I knew that if I got an opportunity like this I had to be ready for it so I’ve kept working hard.

“There was a bit of a stand-off between the clubs for a while over compensation and that could have dragged on with tribunals and all the rest.

“But at some point someone is going to have to compromise and make a sacrifice and I’m the one who did that.

“I’ve almost bent over backwards to be here. Once I got the chance, I was adamant I wanted to be at Rangers and I can’t thank the people around me enough for helping me get here.

“Now I’m ready to play if the manager needs me. I’ll do that any time and although I’m a bit behind the boys, I’ll do my best and give my all.”

He will now be eligible to face Kilmarnock on Sunday.


About Author


Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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