May 202014

With thanks to Paul Eckersley, Black & White Publishing.Scotland 74 sq

Former Dons and Scotland manager, Craig Brown, currently on the Pittodrie board, will visit WH Smith, St Nicholas Centre, Aberdeen on Thursday 22 May 2014 at 18.30.
He will be helping Richard Gordon, not-so-closet Dons fan, impeccably-neutral broadcaster, and author of Glory In Gothenburg, publicise his latest fitba volume Scotland ’74: A World Cup Story.

This is an early chapter in the continuing story of Scotland’s ability to find new ways of being eliminated from international tournaments.

This is a great opportunity to meet Craig, a Scottish sporting legend, and head coach last time we qualified for a major final in France 1998. He and Richard will share stories from West Germany 1974, when proper mannies’ fitba was played, commemorated in Richard’s book.

It’s an evening not to be missed – unlike that half-chance Billy Bremner had against Brazil. Forty years on, the therapy’s beginning to work.

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Dec 032010

So, another one bites the dust…The cycle continues… Sack. Hire. Don’t back. Fire.
Put that to a 120BPM scratch beat and you’ve got a rap smash. Shall we say 20%?

Angry and Frustrated of .com (OK, OK, it’s resident fitba curmudgeon David Innes) gives his take on this week’s everyday tale of Pittodrie folk.

This time it’s Mark McGhee, brought to the club in June 2009 to “take us to the next level”. Was he capable? We’ll never know, for once again, we’ll be doling out a considerable six figure sum to bin a management team rather than allocate it to where it’s most needed – the playing budget.

With £400,000 at his disposal, I’m sure McGhee would have had us far higher up the table than we are. What we can almost guarantee is that having spent what appears to be over £2 million in compensating both Jimmies and Sandy Clark, weighing in with a wedge to prise Dingus from Fir Park and now filling his and the bank accounts of Leitch and Meldrum, we won’t be spending on contractual compensation when it comes to hiring this time.

Where does that leave us? Pretty much with those who are not in meaningful full-time club employment and who won’t need their clubs compensating. John Hughes? Binned by Hibs for a horrendous start to the season – would he do any better here? Billy Stark? Relegated St Johnstone and manages under-21 loons for fewer than ten games per year. Gordon Strachan – I think he wants to stay as far away from football as possible. That might of course make him a contender, since there’s not been much coincident with the finer points of the game at AB24 5QH in the past few years.

I had high hopes for Mark. His introductory press conference oozed ambition. He didn’t want to start the season droning the losers’ mantra about finishing third. He wanted to challenge “them”, he wanted to use home-reared players to add energy and spark to a squad and if necessary sell them on to allow purchase of others for the overall good of the squad. Hard-bitten hacks were almost in tears and I swear that Willie Miller was behind the scenes manipulating a C90 cassette tape as the haunting melodies of The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen and Jerusalem played softly in the background. Maybe I made up that last bit.

Given that he inherited a squad decimated by transfers – Nicholson, Severin, Hart, Clark – and had no time to get replacements signed before the transfer window closed last season, McGhee was forgiven by those who actually think about the situation if not by those whose first instinct is to replace the manager. In summer 2010, he signed a formidable number of players, some of whom have been successes – Folly, Hartley and Vernon – and others who have found it more difficult to match their skills to the SPL. November’s been a torrid month. Apart from the results, the injury list has not eased and there have been key suspensions. The squad must currently number around 18, and the average squad age cannot be much more than that.

Hicham Zerouali lit up the SPL with his outrageous fitba conjuring act

I’m not making excuses, I’m just pointing out that those who make the decisions have panicked and followed the only path they know, with little thought, it seems, given to where we go now. They have failed to match the manager’s ambition, and he’s the fall guy.

Ten years ago, we endured the depths of despair as Ebbe Skovdahl’s first season saw us finish bottom of the SPL, even though we reached both cup finals and experienced some thrills as the likes of the late Hicham Zerouali lit up the SPL with his outrageous fitba conjuring act. As we gnashed our teeth, our families’ teeth, the teeth of close friends and neighbours, we were promised that the new post-Bosman reality had kicked in and that the Dons were at the forefront in pioneering a new financial model which would match wages to hard facts economics and that we would outstrip our high-spending, deep-in-debt rivals as they too had to change.

Well, since then we’ve had the misery of bottom six finishes, harrowing cup defeats, dreadful football, some of the worst players in my forty five years supporting the Dons wear the sacred red and a litany of managers who have not counted among their abilities the skills necessary to turn base metal or straw into gold, or even silverware. Those profligate rivals occupy the ten places above us in the SPL.

There have been two constants during this time – the Board of Directors and the club’s continuing willingness to soak the fans for ever-higher admission prices with improvement neither to the standard of football nor the club’s position.

Imagine, if you will, we had, say, a leading builder on the board, would he continue to charge the same or higher prices for his houses during a recession and a dip in demand? If, perchance, a couple of international financial investment gurus were on our board, do you think that they would fail to speculate to accumulate when they returned from the board lunch to manage their clients’ investment portfolios?

Other opinions are available, but mine is right.

Aug 132010

On Fire With Fergie – Me, My Dad and the Dons – Stuart Donald.

Hachette Scotland 338 pages £12.99

As promised last week, when Aberdeen Voice appeared to be unique in giving media coverage to the launch of this and the Heritage Trust’s books, Voice’s David Innes, rises from his settee where he’s been glued to On Fire With Fergie since he took it home.

Stuart Donald’s three-pronged approach in writing On Fire With Fergie, documenting his personal rites of passage story of falling in and out of love with the 80s Dons, recording those incredible victories and celebrations whilst paying tribute to his late dad, Gordon Donald, “The Chancellor” to whom the book is dedicated, is beautifully successful.

Although of much older vintage than the author, I can identify with almost every sentence of Stuart’s narrative. The childhood naivety, the swelling hope, the tears, the tantrums, the eventual realisation that The Man in the grotesque guise of the Old Firm will flex his financial muscle, call in old favours and render our spike on the success graph as a temporary and unsustainable blip. But by hookey, it was fun while it lasted.

This is much more than a fitba book – it’s a well-written tale of familial relationships, adolescence, quiet rebellion and growing up and it’s among the best terracing-derived accounts of club football that I have read.

The passages of reported and remembered conversations, especially those featuring Donald senior are rib-tickling and have display stout granite-like profundity typical of wise NE Everydad. That they are reproduced in Doric renders them all the more relevant to the Dons and all the more pointed. I think that most Dons fans would have been able to relate to the sage but passionate Chancellor. It would surely have been a pleasure to have known him.

It’s heartening too that Stuart Donald is unafraid to say what he (and most Dons fans) thought thirty years ago – in turn describing in scornful terms Old Firm violence and bigotry, peer jealousy, despicable Dundee United’s status as a minor irritant to the Dons with whom they were always crazily bracketed by lazy hacks and who always crumpled, papier mache-like, in the face of the Old Firm when the chips were down. I trust he has not mellowed on any of these scores, for these have not changed much.

This is much more than a fitba book – it’s a well-written tale of familial relationships, adolescence, quiet rebellion and growing up and it’s among the best terracing-derived accounts of club football that I have read. I recommend it to anyone who lived through those sweet, heady days or to anyone curious about how fans viewed the most glorious period of our shared fitba and community heritage.