Football / Fan's Eye View: Of Dons, don'ts and cranks: No. 69 Aberdeen

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ONE of the most enduring myths held dear by fans of nearly every football club is that attachment to their particular team is more emotionally trying, painful and therefore somehow more admirable than supporting any other club. It is, of course, a nonsense designed to raise the self-esteem of the supporter and at the same time blind him to his team's shortcomings.

Not so Aberdeen, whose supporters know at the beginning of every season exactly where their team will finish in the League (second), roughly how many cup finals they wlll lose (about 1.4) and precisely which round of the Uefa Cup they will suffer an 'unfortunate away-goals defeat' (second again).

Despite all this, Aberdeen remain a reasonably useful side with an infinite capacity to duff up Dundee and Raith Rovers in meaningless League encounters. They can also be relied on to cosh Euro-tiddlers over the head in the first round of the Uefa Cup. But the good times headed off down the M6 when Alex Ferguson left for Manchester United.

There have been three managers since then, Ian Porterfield, Alex Smith and the present boss Willie Miller, all of whom have occupied the position with varying degrees of failure. Although in truth the transition of Aberdeen from one of the best sides in Europe in 1983 to one of those joke teams beloved of football nerds everywhere (Ujpesti Dosza spring to mind here) started sometime before Ferguson's exit.

The board's well-earned reputation for meanness was exposed with fairly predictable consequences following victory in the 1983 Cup-Winners' Cup. With success in that tournament came the realisation from the players that they could be paid much better down south for doing exactly the same thing. That team had been built around the usual mix of seasoned pros, rejects who unaccountably came good for a season and some 'promising' youngsters (all youngsters in Scotland are promising). And the board felt if they'd done it once they could do it again.

They got away with it while the team continued to collect Scottish championships but once Souness arrived at Ibrox the game was up. The novelty of being Scotland's perennial runners-up soon wore thin and was compounded by the fact that in the face of this challenge Aberdeen's board stubbornly refused to 'spend big'.

The directors remained surprisingly touchy over accusations of meanness. This would manifest itself through a blanket denial of said accusations in the local paper when things had obviously gone horribly wrong.

Under the headline 'We'll Spend A Million', an official club apologist, employing phrases like 'casting our net far and wide', would carefully explain that it wasn't that the club didn't want to spend big it was just that the right player hadn't become available yet. And mysteriously enough he still hasn't.

Following a horrible 0-0 draw with Motherwell in the last game of the 1987-88 season, in which the Aberdeen fans only just avoided supporting Motherwell, Porterfield resigned. I decided to script a 'funny' application for the vacant position. The letter started reasonably enough listing my relevant O and A-levels but quickly degenerated into mindless sixth-form rant about life, the universe and the relative merits of a flat back-four. I might just as well have jammed a traffic cone on the chairman's head.

However, in an act of equal folly, the Aberdeen board failed to rise above my idiocy and one week later the local paper issued the following reproach: 'Aberdeen Football Club yesterday confirmed they had received only one written application for the vacant manager's position but that it was of the crank variety.'

Funnily enough my letter had no long-term effect on club policy. Shortly afterwards Alex Smith replaced most of the cheap English misfits with some cheap Dutch misfits (Snelders an honourable exception). Undeniably brilliant as this plan was it failed to dislodge Rangers from the top of the League.