Being born at the tail end of ’84 I unfortunately missed the halcyon days of Alex Ferguson and the great Aberdeen Football Club. Being born the year after the historic victory over Real Madrid at a sodden Ullevi in Gothenburg scuppered my chances of attending the most famous night in the club’s history. What also did not help was the “gaffer” was to leave for some no mark club south of Hadrian’s Wall just shy of two years after my arrival. A league title, two Scottish cups and two league cups were to appear in the Pittodrie trophy room between my inception and the eighties making way for the new decade, but really what I was being born into was years of limited highs and constant lows following my beloved Dons home, away and abroad. But one thing was clear, there was no question of where my allegiances would lie with my family being heavily of a red and white persuasion. To support anyone else would have inevitably earned me a lifetime of ribbing from family members
Turn the clock back to the 7th of August 1991; the Dons took to the pristine Pittodrie turf for the first time in the 91/92 season against Dunfermline Athletic. A team comprising of Theo Snelders, Stephen Wright, David Winnie, Brian Grant, Brian Irvine, Stewart McKimmie, Willem Van Der Ark, Jim Bett, Scott Booth, Robert Connor and Hans Gillhaus emerged out the tunnel to a crowd of 13849 in the warm summer sun. As Jim McCluskey blew his whistle to get things under way an ecstatic yet unsure six-year-old me sat in the Merkland Road Stand surrounded by various family members about to witness my first ever football match in my first ever ground. I still remember entering the place and immediately inhaling the first whiff of the much-missed pungent aroma of Bovril mixed with cigars that filled the air. This while the tannoy constant crackled while blaring out shite music, with the almost inaudible announcer putting in his tuppence worth every so often. There was also club legend Drew Jarvie (complete with ever present Dons “bunnet”) warming up big Theo by rocketing balls off target into the “Paddock” causing a scramble of kids trying to retrieve the stray shots. Unbeknown at the time this was in fact turned a bi-weekly occurrence for years to come. My memories of the game itself are slightly hazy but I do remember the sun was shining, I remember celebrating the goals. There was also my auntie and cousins on one side constantly checking to see if I was ok and my brother on the other side teaching me the songs. As the full-time whistle sounded after a convincing 3-0 victory my Pittodrie career was off to a flyer. This confirmed with a first half strike from Jim Bett and two late goals from Brian Grant and Eoin Jess (whom along with Peter van de Ven was a used substitute)
From then I was hooked, and I never looked back. Supporting Aberdeen at Pittodrie has been a constant from that day. The main constant in my life. A playing career, mates and even a wife have come and gone but my support for the Reds never dwindled. During my playing days, or the North Easts Paolo Maldini days as I prefer to call them, my active supporting was down due to me strutting my stuff at the same time as the pros. But it didn’t stop me visiting the old girl for midweek games, Sunday games and numerous Saturdays in winter when the Junior and Amateur leagues were decimated week in, week out. The latter leading to numerous speed limit breakages after last minute postponements to make the three pm kick off. Eventually a combination of injury and work commitments robbed the footballing world of my silky skills, but it added a season ticket to the numbers at Pittodrie. Unlike when I was a nipper it was now in the South Stand as opposed to the Merkland Road. I pretty much thought that would be it for good. Following the Dons until I bid this world adieu was the plan.
In the twenty-nine years i have attended Pittodrie.I have witnessed some fantastic highs. The 2-2 draw with a Bayern Munich team which included world class players in their ranks such as Ze Roberto, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luca Toni and the man with the most goals in World Cup history Miroslav Klose. Smashing Copenhagen 4-0 in 2007 to set up a date with Bayern is also up there with the best. In October 1993 Duncan Shearers overhead kick at the Dick End against Dundees second team, United, is probably the most special “holy shit”” moment I have had. The best goal I have seen scored on the hallowed turf by a fair distance. The Arabs keeper Alan Main couldn’t have had any complaints picking that worldie out of his net. Also, to be noted Mixu Paatelianens goal wasn’t too shabby that afternoon either. May ’95 also threw up the most tense and relieving match in my whole Pittodrie career with Dundee United the visitors again. Must win or we were staring relegation in the face. Two nil up through Duncan Shearer and Billy Dodds when future Dons player Robbie Winters pulled one back with five minutes to go setting up the tensest atmospheres I have witnessed on the Pittodrie terraces. But we held on and Dundee United went down that season and with us staying up via the playoffs. As already mentioned there have been lows, If I was to start on the years in the doldrums, I could write a book on the subject its self. I witnessed the run of Alex Miller, Ebbe Skovdahl, and Steve Patterson reigns which was a truly fucking terrible period for the club. More caused by the beaks than the management, they hired them after all. You can only piss with the cock you’ve got springs to mind and that’s what we had to do and it was a turgid disaster. The less said about that calamitous run of seasons the better though. I am certain many a Dons supporting brains has suffered from selective memory loss in order to eradicate that mess from their minds. Repressed memories I think it’s called. I also had the misfortune to witness the Mark McGhee era. The era of the manager who said publicly he was really wanting the celtic job in his first press conference at Pittodrie. Inexcusable and he should have been sacked on the spot, but he was not, and he went on to bring me my ultimate low at the bottom of Merkland Road East. Sigma fucking Olomouc, which still holds the record of my sharpest Pittodrie exit. Truly disgraceful stuff. Going to Pittodrie has been going on for around 85% of my years on the planet. Despite the low points out numbering the high points by a seriously depressing ratio I still wouldn’t have changed it. It has obviously been about the football. It has also been about the local pride of supporting the team from where I was born. It has been about family. From the days of my Dad (armed with Extra Strong Mints), my brother and I sitting in the Merkland as season ticket holders which then turned into my brother and me in the South Stand. Most importantly I have now introduced my son and he loves seeing a game as well as meeting his hero Angus the Bull. But I also have other family members I have watched games with too. It is pretty much the only time I see them, so it keeps some sort of contact. A day out at Pittodrie has also acted as a starting point for a few sociable ales on a Saturday or even the more pissed “I’ll just get the next bus”, “I’ll just get the next bus”, “I’ll just get the next bus”, “ach shite there are no more busses” type nights out. Heading to Pittodrie was in fact my social life. Then things changed. Drastically.
Season 18/19 was a chore to watch as was the previous. I was at the stage where did not enjoy anything about Pittodrie. I was just attending through habit. I had lost faith in the manager and I refused to get sucked into the accepting mediocrity brigade. The last game I made an appearance was on the 3rd of March against the phoenix r*****s. My work prevented me attending a couple, but I ignored the rest of the season as I was burst. I even organised a last minute trip to visit Twente and Rot-Weiss Oberhausen to avoid us potentially handing celtic the title on our patch. Which in predictable fashion, we did and did meekly. Football is about entertainment and I struggled to get any watching Aberdeen under the current regime, the football was grim if I am brutally honest. Something was festering in my brain throughout the miserable season and I was veering toward it………….
Season 2019/20 I am now a season ticketless Aberdeen fan. The cut-off date for renewal has been and gone and my seat is open for anyone to have. I did not renew for the first time in years. Bloody hell, that is something I never expected to be saying. I always thought that frequenting Pittodrie would be the routine. Turns out I never factored in that life changes, changes through no fault of my own. Well having a son is half my fault I suppose but attitudes can change, outlooks and priorities can change, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. These changes gradually crept up on me, with a fitba daft son being paramount and the timing went hand and hand with the decreasing faith in what was going on at Pittodrie. When they were all added together they were to pull me out of section Y of the South Stand for the foreseeable and into planes, trains and taxis from Cumnock to Blyth to Le Havre to Largs and to be honest, I can’t fucking wait. A change is as good as a break so they say. Whether this is a full time change or just a break is yet to be seen. Maybe things need to change down Pittodrie Street before I find out.