This week Aberdeen qualified for European football with two months spare after St.Johnstone and Ross County shared the spoils at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday night. This will be the Dons 31st venture into Europe and how very apt that it came in the week when the club remembered the unforgettable victory against Bayern Munich in the Cup Winners Cup quarter-final second leg 33 years ago.
Over the years there have been some incredible performances by Scottish sides in Europe on home soil, Celtic beating Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Leeds Utd immediately spring to mind as does Dundee United’s marvelous effort against Barcelona back in 1987 where a Kevin Gallagher goal was enough to see off Terry Venables and co on a freezing night at Tannadice. You could also argue Hibernian’s 5-0 victory over Italian giants Napoli in UEFA competition when trailing 4-1 from the 1st leg in 1967 is one Hibs fans of that generation will never forget.
All have been memorable for one reason or another, but the Bayern victory for me is right up there with the very best.
I appreciate there have been others involving the Dons including knocking out UEFA Cup holders Ipswich Town in 1981 and coming from two goals down to beat Ujpest Dozsa 3-0 after extra-time in the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners Cup in 1984 and smashing FC Copenhagen 4-0 to progress to the knock-out stage of the Europa League a few years back – but nothing beats that cold Wednesday night at the old stadium.
Back in March 1983, I was 10 years old and already a Dons fanatic. My late father via the now defunct voucher system managed to secure three tickets for himself, my mum and yours truly! On that night our seats were situated in the Main Stand directly above the player’s tunnel, I had the almost perfect vantage point to see all my heroes up close and personal. This was a dream!
As a ten-year-old I was still to fully understand the game and how European competition worked. I do believe with this type of innocence I was able to enjoy the game say more than my parents who knew exactly what was at stake.
For a start, I had no comprehension of the away goal rule, just as well really as I was relaxed as I’ve ever been when Klaus Augenthaler smashed one in from 25 yards to put Bayern one up within the opening ten minutes. I had every confidence the lads would get back into the game and so it proved when Neil Simpson equalized just before the break, cue a marvelous rendition of “here we go” to welcome the half-time whistle.
During the break while Dad and I tucked into a sausage roll and Bovril (only allowed on a match-day) he explained to me that the Dons still needed to score otherwise they would go out. I was a tad confused until he broke down the away-goal rule for me, he told me years after the look on my face was as if Mum had just confiscated my favourite Star Wars toy!
Still as I stood on my seat clutching mum’s hand for the start of the second half I had every confidence the victory would be ours. That said when Bayern scored their second after Hans Pfluegler scored a brilliant volley past the despairing dive of Jim Leighton I feared the worst. There was a collective moan from the Pittodrie faithful as the ball hit the back of the net. I looked to Dad for some sort of reasoning but he had his head in his hands!
“We need to score twice kiddo” he said to me. I looked at him blankly.
Then the most incredible fifteen minutes of football I have ever witnessed at Pittodrie and probably ever like to.
From a brilliantly worked Gordon Strachan/John McMaster free-kick which I am yet to see executed to perfection since Alex McLeish headed the Dons back into the game. I was off my seat screaming at the top of my voice!
Over the mellow Dad looked down at me and said ‘we need another” then in the blink of an eye Dad looked back to the park and in that moment I swear life stood still. I saw the ball head towards the box, Eric Black rise and John Hewitt slip but somehow make connection – then pandemonium!
I had no idea what had happened as right in-front of me was the biggest steel pillar blocking my view! I grabbed Dad screaming at him “what’s happened, what’s happened”?? He looked down at me, lifted me and told me the Dons had scored again!!
It all made sense in that moment. I looked at the park again and the players were going nuts, the fans all round me jumping for joy, hugging each other, cheering as loud as their lungs would allow them.
I swear Pittodrie moved! Christ what a moment!
All that was left was for the boys to see out the game which they did without too much bother. The final whistle was greeted with cheers as loud as John Hewitt’s goal. Pittodrie was alive that night, nobody left their seats until well after the full-time whistle. It was stuff of dreams and we all know what happened next.
I feel incredibly blessed to have witnessed such an event and if you watch the game again, fast forward to a few minutes after the winner, above the player’s tunnel you can see one solitary scarf dancing in the sea of faces, that scarf belonged to yours truly!
Ally Begg’s column is sponsored by Dolly Digital, a freelance Graphic and New Media Design Studio based in Aberdeen. Check out their Aberdeen FC-related products now.