I have always wondered what my Dons best XI would be like but I have never really put a conscious effort into jotting it down. I have always had favourites that would habitually make the final cut, but never a full eleven. For the time being I have no random fitba to write about so I have found myself filling the blog with a disorderly hybridized array of chunters for the last five months. So why not a best Dons XI from my days at Pittodrie flung into the mix.
To start I think it is important that I inform the reader that I have not even reached the mid-point in my life (touch wood) and am still relatively young. Basically in a nutshell, I missed the glory days and have watched an aggravating amount of garbage for long spells. Two League Cups, flirtations with relegation, laying down to celtic and not much else of note has pretty much been the outcome of closing in on thirty years heading down Merkland Road East.
I’m sure the more grizzled in the Red Army ranks could knock this out the park in seconds and would find it a money for jam task. I, on the other hand have been faced with realising we have had very little stand outs since the early 90’s. I started attending as Willie Miller retired which tells the story that I appeared in the transition period where we started to head downhill. To add to this, we still dont have a left back after twenty-nine years, this riddiculous fact masks the issue that we have struggled for right midfielders/wingers over this period too. Looking through old teams was demoralizing to be truthful. The shite well out numbered the stars by a staggering ratio and the history books will always state that Neil McFarlane once plied his trade at the club. To pick a best XI was hard enough but a shite XI would be as good as impossible due to the magnitude of sub standard charlatans that have kicked a ball for our club. But its not all bad, there have been some great players pulled on the red, some of whom are unlucky to miss out. Dutch duo Hans Gillhaus and Theo Snelders(who would never allowed in after his choice of next clubs) were both excellent. There was also Dean Windass who I idolised as a nipper. Arild Stavrum who was far too quick thinking to be in that team of the turn of the century. 83.7% of his offsides were caused by being miles ahead in the fitba brain department than the likes of Darren Young, David Lilley or David Rowson. Lee Richardson was another whom I thought the world of too. His no fucks given attitude was always going to put him in high regard with the Red Army. That and his howitzer v Torino. Fellow Englishman Craig Hignett was clearly a player and a half too. Although he played under twenty games he was still a class above and not destined to stick around long. As quick as he turned up he was away to Barnsley. Paul Mason gets an honourary mention too as he was a player. I only caught two seasons of that fine Englishman and it was hard to keep him out in all honesty. Unfortunately though that’s about it outwith the final XI. So from out of the garbage I give you the Fitbawbags Seem In the Flesh Dons XI.
Obviously opinions differ and thats fair enough but this is mine and I am sticking to it.
Jim Leighton (Goalkeeper)
1976-1988 and 1997-2000 (535 apps)
Was he the best keeper ability wise? It’s open for debate. Did his heroics over two spells earn him unquestioned legendary status? Absolutely. (Well maybe not the second so much). As I have already mentioned, I am quite young, this meaning I only saw him in his second stint. There were not many highlights from those times. What I actually remember most about seeing him at Pittodrie was during a pen shoot out in a Scottish cup replay against Hibs in 1997 where he danced on his line and get in the heads of the Aberdeen players and it worked. The Dons crashing out after a 0-0 during the match. Unfortunately his second term as our custodian was during a spell where we were in the mire with league finishes of 6/10, 8/10 and 10/10, a totally different ball game from what he was used to as a Don .I suppose the biggest memory for most to come out his final three years as a Red was the “accidental” collision with the knee of Rod Wallace. But with nine winners medals in his hipper its his legacy that gets him in here. That and he did not sign for r*****s. Bona-fide legend.
Stewart McKimmie (Right Back)
1983-1997 (561 apps, 9 goals)
Another one of the last players to play for us that deserves the title of legend (Despite what all the people who throw it about recklessly will tell you). Played in my first ever game v Dunfermline and was pretty much a mainstay for the following six seasons before pulling on the Dundee dayglo for a year. It comes as a surprise to me he is yet to join the Hall of Fame thus far, surely one day his time will arrive. When his Dons career was coming to an end I remember some of the punters around us were quick to have a go at him every week. Always seemed to be him that got the first. Harsh at the time and still to this day. One of if not the steadiest player to pull on the red in my time and the first player I saw lift a trophy. With 561 appearances and nine major trophies and an international class player, there can only be one right back in this team. One of the last greats.
Russell Anderson (Centre Half)
1996-2007 and 2011-2015 (407 apps, 21 goals)
The second man I saw lift a trophy. Mr Cadger. A great player. As a centre half in my playing days I tend to keep my eyes on centre halves when watching games and I was always impressed with Russell. Not the quickest but slower players need a good brain which the man clearly possessed. Very rough around the edges (i.e a bit rubbish) in the right back early days but he matured well and became a cracking player. Deserved his move when he got it. I for one as I am sure anyone associated to the club were the same, were more than happy to have him back. A diamond in the rough for sure as he was surrounded by some aberrations of players throughout the years. Unfortunatley his further fitba career cannot be supported by myself as I still hold a long standing grudge with his current employers Formartine United. Fifteen plus years that’s been going. Bloody shower of unsporting children. Anyway I have a sad feeling he will be the second captain I have seen lift a trophy and last for a fair while. Six years and counting. I hope to be proved wrong……..
Alex McLeish (Centre Half)
1977-1994 (692 apps, 30 goals )
Big Eck. What a man. Did not play in my first season and a chunk of the following due to injury. This meaning I only caught the last couple of years of his time. Still a top centre half. You never lose the brain. Proper legend of the club like the aforementioned Leighton and McKimmie. One of the best defenders Britain has ever produced, that’s categorically a fact. It’s a shame Willie retired as I started attending Pittodrie as seeing that partnership would have been fantastic but age can be a cruel thing. A warrior, a leader and a bloody good centre half. Had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times too and he was always affable . Lets not talk about his future endeavours after leaving the Dons though. We all make silly mistakes in life. Anyone who saw him would surely have him in their XI
Unknown (Left Back)
Why should I pick a left back. No other manager has dealt with the issue. David Robertson left in 1991 and he still has never been replaced.
Niall McGinn (Right Midfield)
2012-2017 and 2017-Present (317 Apps, 85 goals at time of writing)
Niall McGinn. What a find from Craig Brown. This man clearly loves the club(his recent appearance on a podcast cemented that). Looking back, the right hand side of the pitch has been an area that has lacked quality in my years in the Merkland and South Stand. McGinn and Joe Miller are about the only players worthy of a mention and Joe wasn’t exactly a world beater. But its quality over quantity and I think we would have been hard pushed to find anyone better. Niall exploded on to the scene with an impressive haul of twenty one goals in his first season but a change of position turned him creator more than goal scorer but to his credit, he still bagged double figures in three other seasons. With his Droopy the Dog like features at times people tend to get frustrated with what seems to be strops when the games not in his favour(I have been guilty of this to be honest) but he has been a fantastic servant to the club. Aberdeen sounds like it has become a home to him. His assists for Rooney, Cosgrove and anyone else lucky enough to play alongside him have been invaluable at times. He has also scored some blinding goals. Hearts away being my pick of the bunch. Hopefully there are a couple more years left in the Dungannon loon yet. Will be a sad day when he leaves (and not just for a holiday in Korea)
Eoin Jess (Centre Midfield)
1987-1996 and 1997-2001 (380 apps 94 goals)
Another player to shine in amongst shite. The guy could be unplayable at times. Was there at the start of my Pittodrie career and had some dazzling performances untill he broke his leg(right in front of me) against Clydebank. He came back and continued to be our best player. I still find it bizzare a player of such quality was part of our nightmare 1994/95 season and the uttery bizarre 1999/00 horror show cup final year in two separate spells. Clearly a glutton for punishment. Jess was also the architect of one of the greatest birthday presents I have recieved. Ibrox 1995. That goal. The keepy ups at Hampden will also forever be etched into my memory. The best in this team? I’ll leave that open to discussion. What a player.
Jim Bett (Centre Midfield)
1985-1994 (338 apps 47 goals)
The first player to be selected by myself as my favourite player in my Dons Youngsters passport and another to play in my first game. What a class act. To be honest due to my age I suppose I didn’t really appreciate Jim as much as I do now. I liked him at the time as he seemed to always have the ball. As the years passed I realised how magic he was as I understood the game a bit more. How we could do with a Jazzer these days, coolness, panache, bite and awesome passing ability. Watching old highlights of Jim is a must, as a reminder of the fine player he was. The first player that gutted me when he left. Then to see him go to Hearts then Dundee United after too was too much for the eleven year old me. He was tremendous, that about sums him up perfectly.
Jonny Hayes (Left Midfield)
2012-2017 and 2020 – Present (208 apps, 30 goals at time of writing)
The prodigal son. Jonny had to go in here as I cant remember a player who caused as many people to shift to the edge of their seat as much as I have seen him do. Another fantastic signing by Craig Brown. Like Russell Anderson, Jonny was far from great at first but he soon came good and was vital to our team and gave us all excitement. In my opinion the current decline we find ourselves in coincides with the man making his “dream move”. (Yes he said it). We lacked that directness and we don’t use the wings nearly as much in the Jonny less years. We resort to hoof ball instead. I am hoping during this second stint he can pick up where he left off. Crucial to that is , can he still take the punishment he was subjected to and usually shook off?. A huge part of his game. Welcome back Jonny min and good luck to you
Duncan Shearer (Centre Forward)
1992-1997 (194 apps, 79 goals)
My favourite Don I have seen? Big Dunc. When you are young you always want to be the hero, whether it was playing for your boys club, playing cuppy in the park or smashing a floater about in the playground. I saw Shearer as that hero. I still do to be honest. He just seemed to score all the time, not strictly true but as a nipper your brain works differently. He was around a goal every other game-ish which is still not to be sniffed at considering. I remember on a couple of occasions being truly horrified when he was not in the squad for suspension or injury or whatever. I hated it when he wasn’t there. Duncan has the claim to the scorer of the two best goals I have seen at Pittodrie. The overhead v Dundee United at the Dick End. It was super human. To make it better, my old boy had acquired season tickets in the Richard Donald that day just for a change, taking us out of the Merkland. What a day to do it. The other goal was when the Dons pretended they were 1970 Brazil and passed r*****s to death with Dunc there to finish off a world class move. Fitba made to look simple. So again I ask myself, is he favourite Don ever? You know what, I will say aye.
Adam Rooney (Centre Forward)
2014-2018 (197 apps 88 goals)
A very similar record to Shearer and another player I had immense respect for . Adam knew how to score. He knew his job and he did it with aplomb , well I though so, unlike his manager who dicked him about on numerous occasions. Every manager I ever had throughout twenty odd years said “play to your strengths” here and there. Rooney was robbed of a lot of goals by being played out of position (Right wing ,really?). His goal record could have been even higher still if certain lesser players weren’t picked ahead of him. So for him to still be not far off a goal every two games is testament to how lethal he was. It wasnt just the finishing, it was also the astuteness of how he could gain that inch of space to get shots away. His debut at Tynecastle in the semi was quality and unbeknown to him, he set himself up to be the man who erupted Parkred. A richt mannies goal scorer, no doubt about it. Which incredibly was not enough for some of the support and clearly his gaffer. Still can’t believe he was let go with such ease.