Happy Gothenburg Day: Aberdeen’s European Cup Winners’ Cup Heroes

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On May 11 1983, Aberdeen completed a historic triumph against all the odds, beating Spanish giants Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final at Gothenburg’s Ullevi Stadium.

Along the way, they defeated Sion, Dinamo Tirana, Lech Poznan, German giants Bayern Munich and highly-rated Belgians Waterschei Thor.

The Dons duly defeated Alfredo Di Stefano’s Blancos side 2-1 after extra time. 19-year-old Eric Black opened the scoring with an instinctive tap-in before a penalty from Juanito levelled the scoring. However, Reds youngster John Hewitt headed home in extra-time to secure an incredible victory.

We look back at the 12 men – and legendary gaffer – who made this triumph possible.

GK: Jim Leighton

One of Alex Ferguson’s most loyal servants, imposing youth product Leighton played 59 times during the 1982-83 campaign.

The ‘keeper later followed his boss to Manchester United, but struggled to maintain top form – though he did manage a 1990 FA Cup winners medal. Returned to Pittodrie for the last three years of his playing career and was goalkeeping coach for the Dons until 2015.

RB: Doug Rougvie

A reliable force on the right flank, tough-tackling Rougvie also came through the Reds youth setup, before heading south to join Chelsea in 1984. Rougvie’s finest moment of this Aberdeen campaign came when he scored a rare brace in a 5-1 victory over that year’s champions, Dundee United – though he was excellent throughout the European triumph.

CB: Alex McLeish

The man affectionately known as ‘Big ‘Eck’, the steely centre-back with the shock of red hair, he was snapped up by Ferguson’s predecessor Ally McLeod in 1978.

A rock at the back until he left the Dandies for Motherwell in 1994, he later won two SPL titles with Rangers, notched up a League Cup as Birmingham City boss and most recently managed Egyptian giants Zamalek.

CB: Willie Miller

No player more deserves the tag of ‘Mr. Aberdeen’ than Miller, who spent his entire playing career with the Dons, from 1972-1990. An elder statesman of this young Europe-conquering side, then 28-year-old Miller captained the side to their biggest triumphs of the 1980s.

Since then, he’s managed his beloved Dons (1992-95), kept busy with a media career and written several books about his footballing experiences.

LB: John McMaster

Another youth product whose time with the club encompassed the whole Fergie era, the versatile McMaster was frequently effective in the middle of the park, but slotted comfortably into a back four. He left Aberdeen for hometown club Morton in 1987, and since retiring, has been a successful scout for the Dons and Swansea City.

RM: Neale Cooper

A talented midfielder whose career perhaps never fulfilled its original promise, he was an integral part of the 1983-84 and 1984-85 title wins and also played his part in this continental triumph.

Left north-east Scotland in 1986, but struggled for game time at Aston Villa, Rangers and later Reading before experiencing an Indian summer at East End Park. Most recently had a spell as Hartlepool United boss.

CM: Gordon Strachan

Reporter: “What is your impression of Jermaine Pennant?”
Strachan: “I don’t do impressions”

As well known for his witty quips as his footballing prowess, 5’6” Strachan may have looked an unlikely midfield maestro, but played the game with incredible flair and possessed a scoring record many strikers would envy. He scored in the 7-0 home win over Sion and whipped in the corner which led to Eric Black’s opener in Gothenburg.

Later followed Ferguson to Old Trafford, won the English top-flight with Leeds United and won three successive titles as Celtic boss before going on to manage the national side. Not too shabby.

CM: Neil Simpson

More deep-lying than Strachan, Simpson was reliable at doing the dirty work with a minimum of fuss. For younger fans reading, the most similar player in the modern game is probably Manchester United’s Michael Carrick.

Spent a brief spell at Newcastle United after leaving the Dons in 1990. Simpson has also been involved with the Pittodrie youth set-up recently – one of many to return to this community club.

LM: Peter Weir

One of the few members of this squad not to join the Dandies as a youngster, Weir began by plying his trade at Ferguson’s previous club, St Mirren, he became a then-club record signing at Pittodrie, costing £300,000 plus the services of Ian Scanlon.

Struck twice in the Cup Winners’ Cup run, netting against Polish heavyweights Lech Poznan and Waterschei. Later headed back to Pittodrie (they all do!) to help with the Dons’ production line of young talent.

CF: Eric Black

Currently caretaker boss of struggling Aston Villa, 33 years ago today, teenager Black was the toast of the Granite City.

The fearless youngster burst onto the scene in this campaign with European goals against Sion and Waterschei matched by a hat-trick in a 3-1 league thumping of Celtic.

Black left for Metz in 1986, winning the French Cup with Les Grenats, before retiring due to injury. Spent time as assistant manager at numerous clubs, and had stints in the Motherwell and Coventry City hotseats.

CF: Mark McGhee

It’s arguable that nobody did more to ensure Aberdeen’s cup triumph than McGhee.

He created Weir’s winner in Gothenburg and scored five times on the run that led the Dons to their first ever European final, including two instinctive strikes in the 5-1 semi-final thumping of Waterschei.

Left Aberdeen in 1984 to head to German giants Hamburg, before returning home to win two more SPL titles with Celtic. Currently enjoying success in his second stint as Well manager.

FW: John Hewitt

A squad player for Ferguson’s side, the brave header that won this unforgettable triumph remains super sub Hewitt’s most iconic moment.

However, the Aberdeen-born attacker also broke the record for the fastest goal in Scottish Cup history (9.6 seconds) and scored a brace in the 3-0 Scottish Cup final victory over Hearts in 1986. No longer involved in football, but certainly not forgotten.

Manager: Alex Ferguson

These were pre-‘Sir’ days for the legendary boss, but the quick-witted, inspiring and sometimes abrasive Ferguson was already a revered figure in this corner of Scotland.

Adopting an ‘us and them’ mentality to guide his team of spirited underdogs to triumphs over the Old Firm, and then Europe’s elite, the Govan-born gaffer won nine major honours at the Dons’ helm.

He left Aberdeen in 1986 and took over the reins at a club by the name of Manchester United…

Derek McInnes’ current Dons crop welcome Hearts to Pittodrie tomorrow night. It’s 20/21 that Aberdeen win, with 13/5 for Hearts and the draw also a 13/5 shot.

Meanwhile, those who believe that the impressive Reds of today can match the club’s former glories, you can back them at 12/1 to win the 2016-17 Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Dave Burin

Dave graduated with an MA in English Literature at Durham University, and worked in marketing before joining the Ladbrokes News team. A Man United fan and avid groundhopper, he’s also an ardent follower of Rugby League. You can usually find him at a ground near you, clutching a big cup of tea.