When McLeish almost denied Ferguson

Glenn Moore
Tuesday 29 October 2013 06:01

The central defensive partnership of Alex McLeish and Willie Miller was at the heart of Aberdeen's success under Alex Ferguson but the club's greatest triumph was nearly ruined by the man now managing Rangers.

Twenty years ago, when the European Cup-Winners' Cup was still a respectable competition, Aberdeen reached the final in Gothenburg against Real Madrid. They took an early lead through Eric Black after McLeish's header, from a Gordon Strachan corner, was blocked on the line. Then came McLeish's nightmare, his poor back-pass being intercepted by Santillana. Jim Leighton was forced to concede a penalty which was scored by Juanito.

The match went into extra time and, eight minutes from the end, Mark McGhee crossed from the left, goalkeeper Augustin flailed, and John Hewitt, the substitute, headed in.

After Ferguson left Aberdeen, in 1986, the club declined but two decades on his impact is clear and remarkable. Every one of the 12 involved in Gothenburg was inspired to try his hand at coaching or management. Six managed professional clubs in England or Scotland with four starting the season in situ, a figure recently reduced by McGhee's sacking at Millwall. McLeish, Strachan (Southampton) and Neale Cooper (Hartlepool) remain.

A similar wave of disciples is now emerging from Old Trafford, but the other remarkable feature of Ferguson's 1983 team is how many he has fallen out with. He and McLeish may still be friends but he rarely speaks to several others, notably McGhee, Strachan, Doug Rougvie and Leighton, who has never forgiven Ferguson for ruthlessly dropping him for the 1990 FA Cup final replay.

School for managers: Ferguson's Aberdeen class of 1983

Jim Leighton (gk) Goalkeeping coach, Aberdeen

Doug Rougvie (f-b) Former player-manager, Huntly, Cove Rangers. Now an instrument designer.

John McMaster (f-b) Former assistant manager, Morton. Now a scout for Aberdeen.

Neale Cooper (m) Manager, Hartlepool; previously managed Ross County.

Alex McLeish (c-b) Manager, Rangers; previously managed Motherwell, Hibernian.

Willie Miller (c-b) Former manager Aberdeen. Now local businessman.

Gordon Strachan (m) Manager South-ampton and previously Coventry.

Neil Simpson (m) Senior community coach, Aberdeen

Mark McGhee (f) Ex-manager Reading, Leicester, Wolves, Millwall

Eric Black (f) Asst manager, Coventry. Ex-manager, Motherwell.

Peter Weir (m) Ex-coach Celtic, Morton. Now a driver.

John Hewitt Ex-asst manager, Cove Rangers. Now works in recruitment.

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