Sep 222017
 

Take the plot of a 1968 Italian-shot slap-stick Hollywood sex-comedy, add in a big bunch of ABBA hits and what have you got? That would-be Mama Mia! of course.Duncan Harley reviews.

The original Hollywood story-line involved Gina Lollobrigida as Italian housewife Mrs Carla Campbell who, following a short but ultimately successful war-time tryst with three US servicemen, tries to frantically to maintain a cover story which has led to three separate sets of child-support winging their way across the Atlantic for the past 20 odd years.

The film was titled Buona Sera Mrs Campbell, Carla Campbell was named after a famous soup brand and the alleged fathers included Phil Silvers and Telly Savalas. You really couldn’t make it up.

Mama Mia! the Musical of course is set in the 70’s, involves a bunch of liberated ex-back-packers reunited at a Greek wedding and, instead of highlighting benefit fraud, focuses more on female emancipation and freedom of action. Laudable sentiments indeed.

Basically, the musical begins on an Aegean Island. Single-parented child Sophie Sheridan, played by Lucy May Barker, is due to marry fiancée Sky but has no dad to walk her down the aisle. Fortunately, Mum’s secret diary has been compromised and bride to be Sophie has invited three paternal candidates – Sam, Bill and Harry –  to the wedding. Seemingly dads in Sophie-world are like buses, you don’t see one for a couple of decades and then they all come at once.

Unfortunately, ex-pat taverna owner mum, Donna –  Helen Hobson – is not amused. Elements of farce follow; closely interspersed with a jukebox-full of Dancing Queens, Super Troupers and Voulez-Vous. Unsurprisingly, the wedding does not go off as planned.

Entertaining from the word go, this colourful and extravagantly costumed musical punches high. Fans of high-heels, wide-flares and Lycra will not be disappointed. Nor will aficionados of dancing men in dresses or indeed dashingly athletic men in wet-suits and flippers.

Yes, there is an occasional bumpy moment where the transition between the dialogue and the musical numbers appears just a smidgen contrived and yes there is that panto-land-parody climax where everything really seems awfully rushed and everyone is suddenly getting hitched.

But in the big scheme of things this is simple good old-fashioned entertainment on a grand scale and it works surprisingly well.

Jukebox-wise, the show squeezes in around twenty Benny and Bjorn numbers. Super Trouper, Take a Chance on Me and Dancing Queen vie with Thank You for the Music, SOS and Winner Takes It All for prominence alongside that ABBA classic Mamma Mia.

The Broadway version of Lollobrigida’s Buona Sera Mrs Campbell seemingly stalled at the box-office but no such fate awaits the touring version of Mama Mia!
This is a show which will have you rummaging frantically through your cupboard looking for those long-lost dancing shoes.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Mamma Mia! plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday October 14th.

Sep 012017
 

By Duncan Harley with thanks to Erica Banks – Communications Officer at HMT Aberdeen

Strictly Come Dancing’s Natalie Lowe stars at HMT next Monday alongside Strictly champions Louis Smith MBE and Jay McGuiness in a brand-new theatre show called ‘Rip It Up’.
Rip It Up’s promise is to bring the fabulous sounds of the 1950’s to life in an explosion of song and dance that will see Natalie, Jay and Louis swing, bop, jitterbug, lindy hop, jive and ballroom their way through the greatest songs from the greatest decade of music; from romantic ballads and crooner classics to many of the era’s defining pop and rock ’n’ roll hits.

Brought to you from the producers and director of 2017’s smash tour Remembering Fred, which stars Come Dancing’s Janette Manrara and Aljaz Skorjanec.

Says Natalie,

“To be able to work with these two incredible Strictly champions and choreograph routines with them to the music from music’s greatest decade is something that we are all very excited to be working on. Together we will dance through some of the most fantastic songs ever created.”

Jay McGuiness is best known as a vocalist in the boy band The Wanted, whose debut single ‘All Time Low’ hit the No. 1 spot on the U.K. singles chart in 2010. The band went on to have a further three No. 1 singles, including the global hit ‘Glad You Came’. In 2015, she was confirmed as a celebrity contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, partnering professional dancer Aliona Vilani.

The couple were to steal the public’s hearts with their routines, becoming the series winners to lift the Glitterball trophy. The pair’s now infamous jive to the Pulp Fiction-inspired medley of Chuck Berry’s ‘You Never Can Tell’ and Dick Dale & The Del Tones’ ‘Misirlou’ has become the show’s most watched routine ever, amassing over 5 million hits on YouTube.

Looking forward to being part of ‘Rip It Up’, Jay said,

“To perform with Radio Two’s Leo Green and his band, as well as share the stage with Natalie and Louis and such a talented cast of singers and dancers should be quite an experience. We have some great ideas and are looking forward to bringing them to the theatres around the country, singing and dancing to some of the greatest songs from one of the greatest decades.”

Louis Smith MBE is one of Britain’s sporting superstars after winning medals at three separate Olympic Games. He shot to fame at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by winning a bronze medal in the pommel horse, before winning silver medals at both the London 2012 and Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

After the London 2012 Olympics, Louis took part in and won that year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing, lifting the coveted Glitterball trophy with his professional dance partner Flavia Cacace.

Louis will be returning to training shortly in an attempt to win a medal at his 4th Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Before that, however, he is delighted to be part of the cast of ‘Rip It Up’.

Louis said,

“A lot of people think of the music of the ‘50’s as just rock ‘n’ roll. Whilst this was the decade that brought us Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Little Richard and more, we will also be celebrating the music of Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and all the beautiful vocal harmony groups from that special decade.”

Classics such as Why Do Fools Fall in Love and Good Golly Miss Molly feature in the show alongside Unchained Melody, Mona Lisa and of course that classic Put Your Head on My Shoulder.

What more could anyone want?

At HMT Aberdeen for the one night only – Monday 4th September – tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122

Sep 012017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Jane Eyre @ HMT, Aberdeen.

Locking-up a mad spouse in the attic is rarely a good idea.

If she’s not busy sharpening the axe, she’ll likely be playing with matches and, as Mr Rochester finds out to his cost, the malevolent spectre in the loft is never likely to go to rest peacefully.

Indeed, pyrotechnics are to the fore in this National Theatre/Bristol Old Vic collaboration, which brings Bronte’s Jane to life in a new adaptation of the novel for the stage.

It’s difficult to say anything much new about Jane Eyre. I mean, Bronte covered just about all of the bases.

Set in the Reign of Mad King George, the story has been told and re-told endlessly in print – the original ran to 400 pages or so, three volumes and 38 chapters – and the tale of resilience against overwhelming odds has seen film, television and opera take up the challenge of re-telling and re-interpretation.

Somewhat refreshingly, this staged version takes the raw essence of the original and portrays the essential Bronte themes in an intense and often moving way.

The central theme remains Jane’s mighty journey and, appropriately perhaps, the play opens with her birth.

Along her path to fulfilment we meet disillusionment, anger, grief and betrayal. Throughout however, Rochester’s dog ‘Pilot’ – played with delightfully canine humour by a whip-stock brandishing Paul Mundell – reminds us that there is indeed such a thing as unconditional love. As Tim Delap’s Rochester clumsily flirts with Jane, Pilot lends hilarity to the proceedings and lightens what is otherwise a largely gloomy tale.

Not that this is your standard period drama. Far from it! With a set fresh from flat-pack heaven and a delightful musical score including gems like Coward’s Mad about the Boy, nothing about this production is at all standard.

Yes, the period costumes are to the fore and yes, we are talking regional accents here; but the dressing room is the stage and the Bronte words are neatly cocooned within composer Benji Bower’s lively score.

In a recent interview, Nadia Clifford – who plays Jane – explained to sincerelyamy.com that she wanted to make Jane as human as possible in order to allow the audience to relate to her. If last night’s performance is anything to go by, she has certainly succeeded in this ambition and it would be difficult to fault her performance in any way.

Diva-wise, Melanie Marshall’s violently insane Bertha Mason is central to this stage adaptation and her haunting presence as the mad -spouse-in-the-attic works splendidly. With a list of credits including Broadway and Guys and Dolls her musical pedigree shines through.

All in all, Jane Eyre is one of those touring productions which comes under the category of must see. Highlights include a distinctly un-Brontian set of loud expletives uttered by an unsaddled and severely rattled Rochester plus of course the rare opportunity to witness the on-stage pyrotechnics as Thornfield Hall burns to the ground.

Directed by Sally Cookson, Bronte’s masterpiece plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday September 2nd.

Aug 112017
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – at HM Theatre, Aberdeen.

The last time I reviewed Curious I was over the moon.
A complete blast from beginning to end, the production enthralled, captivated and amazed.
Intense doesn’t even begin to describe the audience experience.

It’s more of an immersive introduction to the reality of not being able eat the yellow portions of a Battenberg cake – the pink squares are OK –  and finding that the toilet is out of bounds because a complete stranger has used it.

Based on the book of the same nameThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time highlights some of the issues faced by those who come into contact with those who differ markedly from the norm and of course many of the issues faced by those who are by nature quite different.

The book’s author Mark Haddon comments that:

“Curious is not really about Christopher at all, it’s about us.”

He may have a point.

Christopher, played by Scott Reid, exhibits what can really only be described as mind-blowingly challenging behavioural traits. He cannot bear to be touched, he becomes unbearably swamped by external stimuli, he cannot use a stranger’s toilet, he cannot tell a lie and takes everything completely literally – the list goes on and inevitably ticks all of the diagnostic boxes.

The play presents as a reading of Christopher’s own written thoughts, read aloud in segments mainly by his mentor and school-teacher Siobhan, played beautifully by Lucianne McEvoy. The unfolding story takes place within a high-tech multi-media cuboid-set representing a gateway into Christopher’s consciousness. The drama literally takes place in Christopher’s head.

When Wellington, the next-door neighbour’s dog, is found impaled; fifteen-year-old Christopher Boone, a brilliant mathematician with some pretty complex personal issues, turns sleuth.
Emulating his hero Sherlock Holmes, he must solve the mystery of who killed Mrs Shears’ pet and absolve himself of complicity.

After a long and often painful journey, including the realisation that Holmes was in fact a fictional detective, he solves the crime and is absolved. However, in the course of the exhaustive investigation he discovers skeletons galore in the family cupboard.

At times funny, often terrifyingly intense and always challenging, Curious is a superb production and Scott Reid’s performance as Christopher is both electrifying in its intensity and engaging in its complexity.

There are lighter moments. Animal lovers will drool over the cute Andrex Puppy.

They may even take a fancy to Toby, Christopher’s pet rat.

David Michaels and Emma Beattie excel as the long suffering and often desperate parents, kindly neighbours peek into his life and at one point a cheerily upbeat railway policeman takes time out to help him on his quest but it has to be said that this is essentially a stage show all about Christopher.

The technical aspects of the production are worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster and have to be experienced to be believed. Aboyne born video designer Finn Ross has worked on everything from Festival Fringe through to Broadway and his expertise in combining live and pre-recorded imagery takes this live performance into exciting new realms. Lighting, sound and set design are likewise superb.

Ultimately this play examines the nature of abnormality and the challenge of defining limitations. Having solved the gruesome dog murder and dismissed lingering doubts regarding his mathematical ability Christopher asks teacher Siobhan “Does this mean I can do anything?”
She does not reply.

Somehow, Aspergers will never quite seem the same ever again …

Directed by Marianne Elliott, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 12th August.

Words © Duncan Harley and images courtesy of Aberdeen Performing Arts.

Jul 212017
 

By Duncan Harley.

In this comprehensive guide to Scottish mountain bothies, Edinburgh writer Geoff Allan reveals the unique network of mountain huts and bothy cabins which inhabit our wild places.
Geoff has variously hiked or biked to every known Scottish bothy and in this stunningly illustrated book he details all of the 81 Mountain Bothy Association maintained bothies and, in addition, points the way towards the lesser-known wilderness gems.

Defined in the pre-amble as “A simple shelter in remote country for the use and benefit of all those who love being in wild and lonely places” remote bothies are often romanticised and Geoff’s short but concise take on the beginnings of the bothy movement cuts to the chase and advises the reader what to expect of typical bothy accommodation.

Facilities are quite rudimentary. “As a bare minimum” he cautions “bothies will have a table and a couple of chairs.” Answering calls of nature will however involve a short walk plus the use of a spade “Select a location at least 200yds from the bothie, dig a hole at least six inches deep and bury your deposit.”

It is this Spartan attention to detail which makes this outdoors guide invaluable. Not only does Geoff list those bothies which actually have loos, there are eight in the entirety of Scotland, but he takes care to inform the reader about the essentials of bothy etiquette and of the common sense philosophy of leaving the building in the condition in which you might wish to find it.

Essential equipment such as kit, food and fuel is discussed in minute detail and the Mountain Bothy Code is set-out for the benefit of those heather-crunchers intent on taking the high road to those solitary places for the first-time. Regard for surroundings and respect for fellow users head the list and a cautionary warning for the unwary suggests that all rubbish should be placed in the nearest rucksack and carted home!

The core of this book is of course a detailed description of the bothy shelters. Split into regions, the 100 or so buildings are described by size, facilities and location. A useful general history of each building follows and walking routes are detailed alongside breathtaking images emphasising the remoteness of these hidden treasures.

Superbly illustrated throughout, this clearly written travel-guide will both inform the casual coffee-table user and provide an exhaustive reference source for outdoor folk intent on extreme bothy bagging.

The Scottish Bothy Bible (304pp) by Geoff Allan is published by Wild Things Publishing Ltd at £16.99 ISBN 9781910636107

First published in the July edition of Leopard Magazine

Jul 032017
 

David Innes reviews  St Valéry And Its Aftermath by Stewart Mitchell.

Although it is almost inevitable that events are overtaken by time, and that the effect of history on localities dissipates, the name St Valéry-en-Caux, a small Normandy fishing village, continues to resonate in NE Scotland, even 77 years on from the scenes that accord that tiny French port a special place in Scottish military history.

It is said that there is scarcely an NE family which hasn’t been touched in some way by the events of June 1940, the surrender of the stranded and embattled 51st (Highland) Division, and the incarceration of thousands of Scottish soldiers in prisoner of war camps for the duration of the Second World War.

These were our forgotten casualties of that conflict, and it was a gross unfairness and insult to these brave, fortitudinous men who suffered the privations of capture, forced march and imprisonment to be described as having enjoyed an Easy War.

Stewart Mitchell, who named the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum’s excellent 2011 POW exhibition The Easy War, re-tells the story of the lead-up to Dunkirk and St Valéry, using personal accounts, some of which are now in the public domain for the first time, without resorting to military tactical terminology and technical jargon, often confusing to the lay reader.

Those of us who have had a long fascination with this episode of military and social history will have read accounts of the 51st’s manoeuvres, capture, treatment and liberation and of the social outcomes of returning home after half a decade of imprisonment. Tony Rennell, Sean Longden, Saul David, Alan Allport, Julie Summers, and Banffshire’s own Charles Morrison have all contributed to building a picture of a time of uncertainty, fortitude and, all too often, personal and familial misfortune.

It is in the re-telling of personal accounts that Mitchell excels, and he succeeds in making St Valéry more than just another military history. We hear of regular soldiers, Territorials and militiamen called up to serve when war was declared in September 1939, their backstories often of innocent city, village and country loons thrown into the jaws of an unforgiving mechanised conflict, and losing some of their most promising youthful years behind barbed wire.

Yet, there are personal recollections of derring-do, heroism, resourcefulness, smeddum and survival against heavily-stacked odds, told in fitting tribute to often forgotten men.

The volume’s appendix is unique in imbuing a personal touch to what is a harrowing, yet spirit-affirming story. Mitchell’s painstaking research has seen him identify from military records, every Gordon Highlander captured or killed in France in 1940.

My own maternal grandfather, army number 2870474 among the oldest of the Territorials called up at 37, who was 38 by the time of capture, and 44 before he was liberated, is included. That that saw my emotions well up 77 years after that fateful morning in Normandy, verifies that this a book that goes way beyond normal military history, as a chronicle of a part-generation of NE men. For that, it deserves your support.

Stewart Mitchell is making a generous contribution from the book’s sales to the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum Appeal. Please consider giving this splendid local cultural venue your support too.

STEWART MITCHELL
St Valéry And Its Aftermath
The Gordon Highlanders Captured In France In 1940
Pen & Sword Military
235 pp
Hardback ISBN 978 1 47388 658 2
£25.00

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Jun 302017
 

Duncan Harley reviews ‘Chess – The Musical’ at His Majesty’s Theatre. 

Chess plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 1 July 2017.

Chess – The Musical comes to the HMT stage this week courtesy of Aberdeen Opera Company Productions in collaboration with Scott School of Dancing and despite the slightly clunky original storyline and often clichéd characterisation this production of the pop-opera easily transcends the limitations of the scrip and delivers a powerful and entertaining take on the politics of the Cold War era.

It’s Friday night and the lights are low. Everybody’s playing the game but nobody’s rules are the same.

In fact, “Nobody’s on nobody’s side” and those long daggers are drawn for all to see. For those who missed out on the Cold War, welcome to the dark world of international chess seventies style.

A musical game of stealth, dark deals and exploitation takes the theatre audience on a wild trip through the murky and mysterious world of international pre-internet gaming. As the USSR and the USA battle it out in icy Merano and steamy Bangkok, Indian Attacks and Paris Gambits are to the fore as the grandmasters battle it out.

Essentially a love story, Chess features a love triangle subjected to some pretty cynical manipulation by the forces of politics and commerce.

Scott Jamieson’s brilliantly dysfunctional grandmaster, the aptly named Frederick Trumper, loses both his title and his lady to Gavin McKay’s dignified Anatoly Sergievsky. As the minders look on and the manipulators take charge, Florence Vassy, played by Rachael Watson, switches sides and seizes the starring role with powerful numbers such as ‘Heaven Help My Heart’ and, in duet with Amanda Massie’s Svetlana, ‘I Know Him So Well’.

The Chess-set is utilitarian verging on the Brutalist, the music ranges from rock to light opera and the choreography is, to say the least, fast-paced and razor-sharp. The tournament scenes are simply spell-binding and stage-lighting is simple but stunning!

Fresh from the 2016 hit production of Sunshine in Leith, the AOC theatre group has once again delivered a triumphant piece of entertainment. A must see.

Directed by Judith Stephen and based on an idea by Tim Rice with music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Chess plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 1 July 2017

Words © Duncan Harley. Images © Rhea McKenzie Photography

Jun 232017
 

Duncan Harley reviews The Wedding Singer at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

Once you get to grips with the schmaltzy ‘girls just wanna get married’ portrayal of the eighties which haunts this musical from the very start, The Wedding Singer is actually a whole load of fun.

Despite a story-line thin enough to gladden the heart of a coronary bypass surgeon and sufficient cheesy humour to keep McDonalds going in triple cheeseburger’s for a month, the entertainment value more than makes up for this sugar-sweet take on the Reagan decade.

Based on the hit 1998 film of the same name, the musical tells the tale of wedding singer and emcee Robbie Hart.

Robbie and his band ‘Simply Wed’ – yes you read that correctly – play the New Jersey wedding circuit making a precarious living on the back of those who have popped the question. Jilted and depressed he abandons the wedding gigs and comes of age on the bar mitzvah circuit. Predictably he gets the girl and equally predictably he gets invited to sing at his own wedding.

Starring Jon Robyns as the multi-talented Robbie Hart and X Factor/singer songwriter Cassie Compton as love interest Julia Sullivan, it would be difficult to imagine this production going far wrong really. Well known for roles including secretly-gay Rod in Avenue Q and Sir Galahad in Spamalot Jon’s performance literally shines.

Add in a mix of stars including Ray Quinn, as Glen Gulia, and Barbara Rafferty in the role of Rosie the rapping-granny and The Wedding Singer is off like the clappers.  A clutch of iconic dance-numbers including Saturday Night in the City and All About the Green plus some pretty dang impressive lighting and audio complete the line-up.

Alongside the main characters, the cast list includes a motley crew of ‘fake’ characters including Ronnie Reagan, Billy Idol, Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper. Additionally, and I could be wrong, amongst the line-up in the bar scene I swear I spotted a suitably inebriated Charles Bukowski

As a feel-good, Aspartame sweetened heart-warming trip into the past, The Wedding Singer works really well although the story-line does pose awkward questions for those who were actually around at the time.

Will Hart get the girl? And does Julia really want to be Mrs Gulia? For a definitive answer or two you will just have to join the audience. Oh! And watch out for those brick-size cell-phones and, of course, that singing cake!

Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell/Sound Designer Ben Harrison.
The Wedding Singer plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 24 June
Tickets from Aberdeen Performing Arts Tel: 01224- 641122
Words © Duncan Harley and Images © APA

Jun 082017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Mark Jackson’s Red White and Blue.

Mark Jackson’s take on the beautiful game, of rugby, is a welcome distraction from that stereotypical play on sweating giants in short shorts which generally populates the sporting-fiction bookshelf.

Set against a backdrop of rarefied privilege in the lead up to the 1924 Paris Olympiad the story follows American student Jack Morgan as, on the trail of burning ambition, he vows to secure selection for the US Olympic team. Along the way he must pick up a Rugby Blue, bag the girl of his dreams and, of course, win that Gold.

Following a meeting at Stamford University, during which he accepts the challenge “Climb that Everest and perchance other mountains may be scaled”, he secures a scholarship at Oxford and sets off on his quest.

Morgan is young, wealthy and gifted. When he arrives at Oxford in 1923, he is paired, by the sniffy College porter, with new room-mate Saul Warburg.

“What are you here for?” asked Morgan
“Isn’t it obvious? Law. It’s the Inns of Court for Saul Warburg QC. You?” replied Saul.
“Get my degree and win a Blue.”
“Ah, the odd-shaped ball.”
“It’s the Great Game,” countered Morgan.

As if the odds were not already sufficiently stacked against him, Jack soon sets sights on the beautiful Rose. She, an ‘English Rose’, is of course none other than the Varsity team captain’s ‘girl’; and his quest for that coveted Oxford Blue appears to be already in jeopardy.

The setting, in a 1920’s privileged England, echoes realism and while the Red White and Blue storyline is strong, character development is perhaps not so. Heading towards the last page there were still unanswered questions regarding the main character. Additionally, the historical-political context outwith the narrow confine of the international rugby world seemed sparse.

Staccato dialogue inhabits these chapters and a perceptible spectre of a Spillane-like Mike Hammer, minus the whisky-swilling-machismo, hummed along in the background. Indeed the upbeat and sometimes stirring rugby commentary raises suspicion that author Mark Jackson, a newspaperman, was perhaps in some previous life a sports-commentator.

Hopefully this powerful foray into the rainbow world of Varsity conflict is just the first of a long series which will see the mighty Morgan’s sporting career flourish. Perhaps in part two we might hear of his exploits in introducing both the odd-shaped-ball and Jesse Owens to the Berlin Olympiad.

Red White and Blue (163pp) is published by Matador at £8.99  
ISBN: 9781785892851

First published in the May Edition of Leopard Magazine – A magazine which celebrates the people, the culture and the places of North-east Scotland

Jun 022017
 

 By Red Fin Hall.

Well that’s another season over, and what a season it was. Stretching back to 26th June last year when Aberdeen travelled to Brechin for a friendly, ahead of first competitive game in the Europa Cup at home to Fola Esch of Luxembourg, ending last Saturday with the epic and exciting Scottish Cup final against Celtic.

Nobody expected The Dons to get as close to being victorious in that final as they did.

This team, started by Craig Brown and moulded by Derek McInnes, has finally come to a crossroads, with Ash Taylor, Ryan Jack and Nial Mcginn, three first team regulars all looking for new clubs, and Peter Pawlett already signed for M.K.Dons. Rumours abound on social media about the future of Jonny Hayes and Derek McInnes, with Celtic and Sunderland seemingly interested in being their next employers.

It wouldn’t take much for these rumours to be squashed with an official statement from the club.

This has been our most successful season without winning anything since Willie Miller was manager, but this time the future looks rosier, with the prospective of further finals and perhaps progressing past the qualifying rounds of the Europa League a distinct possibility.

The main stream media though are having none of it, doing their usual speculating and writing us off because “The Rangers” will be busy in the transfer market and Hibs will be back in the SPFL.

Also, the fact that we have lost so many players and only, so far, having signed Greg Tansey, means we will be weaker. But The Rangers will be in a bigger transition period than the Dons, if stories are to believed, with more than half their team being kicked out, or should I say, released. Their manager has already stated that he wants to bring in players he knows; and if this is true, then their is a greater chance they will be Portuguese with no knowledge of the Scottish game.

Aberdeen have been pretty consistent all season long with only the occasional lapse of form, none more so than the League Cup final against Celtic where the players went into the match on a great run of nine wins out of ten, the only loss being to Celtic.

Bad luck played it’s part too, especially the away match to League survivors, Hamilton, in February of this year. Aberdeen had well over 20 corners, but couldn’t put the ball into the home team’s net and cancal out an 8th minute goal by Mikey Devlin. The Hamilton captain is a player that, apparently, McInnes is keen on.

Although Aberdeen had little chance of catching up with the champions, they have been in scintillating form. It was widely expected that the gap between the Dons and The Rangers, who finished in third place, would have been much closer.

However, it could have been wider had it not been for a few silly draws and especially those crazy 10 minute spells in our last three home games. Firstly, against The Rangers, we conceded 3 goals in that period despite being the dominant team throughout the match. The following home game, and the first after the split, saw us go to sleep for a few minutes, allowing St Johnstone to put two past us.

Thirteen days later visitors, Celtic were 3 goals up in the first 11 minutes. However, Jonny Hayes’ 12th minute goal was a vital turning point. The players seemed to finally realise how good they were, and made the Celtic defence work harder than they had domestically all season, pushing them all the way. Away romps and consecutive victories against the other two Glasgow clubs, saw the team go into the final in fine fettle and full of confidence.

Well, we all know what happened there, so no further analysis is needed other than, perhaps, the manager’s choice of substitutes.

In my opinion, the decisions to bring on Rooney (our top scorer, but a bit one dimensional at times) and replacing McGinn (a player that rarely plays his best in the big games, but still gives us width) with O’Connor, a midfielder, instead of Scott Wright (who scored a hat trick at Partick Thistle, and a natural keen and pacey replacement for the Northern Irishman) remain questionable.

It is pleasing that the supporters are still buzzing and confident and fully behind the team, and anxious for July to come around.

All in all, it has been a satisfactory season, and with the first game in the Europa League not taking place until July, this will be the first time since 2015 that the team have had a month without playing a game.

Unless a friendly is arranged in June that is.

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